Choosing a Canoe Paddle

Blade size, shape and materials vary depending on the type of paddling; whitewater, river or flatwater. Main considerations are weight, comfort, durability and cost.

BOW PADDLE: Bow paddling requires shorter more frequent strokes, a shorter paddle is suggested. As a general rule, a bow paddle should measure from the ground to the middle of the chest of a standing paddler.

STERN PADDLE: Stern paddling requires longer strokes, as well as maneuvering and steering the canoe, a longer paddle is suggested. As a general rule, a stern paddle should measure from the ground to the collar bone of a standing paddler.

Choosing a Kayak Paddle

Q: What paddle length should I purchase?

A: For any kayak paddle, the shorter the length the better. How short, is dependent on 2 factors:

1. Boat Width: the wider the kayak the longer the paddle.
2. Paddling style:

high angle
High-angle Paddlers
Use a shorter paddle, for whitewater or short distance touring.
low angle
Low-angle Paddlers
Use a longer paddle for long distance touring and for more relaxed paddling or low effort paddling technique.

Blade Design


Larger blades have more surface area, which works great for power strokes when you're surfing or rock gardening, but it takes a great deal of upper body strength and can cause injuries to less experienced paddlers. Smaller blades with less surface area are more efficient for long touring because the strokes are usually more consistent and repetitious.


More surface area at the tip of the blade offers more 'bite,' which means your paddle will automatically have a substantial initial grip to begin a big stroke. Most whitewater paddles offer this characteristic. Less surface area at the tip and more at the base, near the shaft, creates an easier more efficient stroke for those paddlers interested in a steady cadence (rhythm) while touring.


Dihedral and Spoon are the two most prominent blade shapes in the paddling market today. Dihedral separates the water and is generally easier to paddle and feels more stable, so it doesn't 'flutter' as non-dihedral paddles often do. Dihedral paddles make an excellent choice for beginners through experts. Spoon shaped blades have a concave surface which grips the water for more of a 'bite.' These blades tend to flutter a bit more when finishing your stroke and are better aligned with intermediate to expert paddlers.

Kayak Paddles
How to Choose a Paddle

Blade size, shape and materials vary depending on your type of paddling More info

Carlisle Legacy

More than 30 years ago, Ralph Stevens created the first Carlisle® paddles More info