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Choosing Your Canoe Paddles: The Different Styles and Types of Canoe Paddles | Duluth Pack

Choosing Your Canoe Paddle

A method of water transportation that has stood the test of time, canoeing is a way of life here in the land of 10,000 lakes. And of course, to canoe, you will need a canoe paddle. Now, canoe paddles are less complicated than kayak paddles, but there are a few different styles and types to consider when choosing your paddle. Depending on where you will be canoeing, or how often you will be canoeing, or the intensity of your trips, any one of these varieties may be right for you. So, without further ado, let's find you the right canoe paddle for your upcoming adventure.




Think of recreational paddles as general-purpose paddles, the standard paddle that can get you around the lake, smaller or calm rivers and streams, and even take you on less intensive, shorter trips. Because these paddles are for the more casual paddler, they're often made of less expensive material such as plastic or cheaper woods. Wood varieties are constructed with the same shape as lake paddles but are made much more simply, often with cheaper or heavier wood. Plastic and aluminum varieties come in a variety of shapes and are often inexpensive and durable. However, what you gain from the price you lose from the aesthetic, lightness, and performance feel of more fine crafted paddles. Now, if that's not a concern for you or you rarely canoe and just need a paddle for a couple of small trips, look no further! These will be right up your alley. However, for those of you looking for a more specific or well-made paddle, read on for more.


As the name suggests, lakewater paddles are intended for use primarily on lakes, such as traversing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and Wilderness. Typical designs have long, narrow blades that allow for smooth strokes in deep, flat lake water. Often made of wood, these paddles tend to be the most aesthetic and traditional looking. Lightweight for performance and finely crafted for durability and looks, these paddles are among the best for those who are serious paddlers that hit the lakes often. However, do keep in mind if you most often find yourself in rivers or fast-moving waters, these may not be for you. But, if you find yourself on lakes most often like us here in Minnesota, then do yourself a favor and invest in a quality lakewater paddle. 



As you might guess from the name, whitewater paddles are specifically designed for shallow or rough waters. With short, square blades that allow you to make quick and powerful strokes, something that is necessary for rough waters, these paddles are built to withstand abuse from rocks and are made to be durable. Whitewater paddles can be made of wood, fiberglass, carbon, or even Kevlar. Due to the rough conditions they're used in, durability is the name of the game. Another key difference with these paddles compared to lake paddles is the length of the shaft. Whereas the blade is shorter on these compared to lakewater paddles, the shaft is longer, allowing better control for those rough currents. If you canoe in rivers with strong currents or shallow waters with large rocks, then these paddles are exactly what you’re looking for. 


Built for speed, if you are getting a paddle for racing or fitness paddling, then performance paddles are ideal. Lightweight and often made of more expensive materials, these paddles are built for a specific purpose so if you are not canoeing for fitness or racing, then these paddles likely are not the best option for you. However, if these are your goals then look no further than performance paddles.

Finding the right size

Finding the right size paddle is as tricky as you want to make it. Though several calculators take into account things such as torso size, arm size, and height, there is a simple and effective way to walk up to any paddle and see if it's right. Look for a paddle that stands between your nose and your chin and voila, hit the lake! A very proven method of picking the right paddle and making sure it fits you properly, we recommend this instead of over-complicated calculations. 


Taking all of these factors into account will help you determine which paddle is right for you. Where you will be canoeing, how often you will be canoeing, and things like your height and physical dimensions all play a role in determining which paddle is right for you. Now, grab that paddle and hit the water!


Happy canoeing, friends!