How to Choose a Canoe Paddle

4-minute read

Here at Bending Branches, our Canoe Paddle page lists many different options. Don’t let that scare you, though! Here’s how you can zero in on the one that’s right for you.

four canoe paddles leaning against a yellow canoe next to a lake

(photo courtesy of Kirsten Voorhees)

Why Your Canoe Paddle is an Investment

First, why not just go to the local big box store and buy the cheapest paddle they sell? Well, you can do that. Lots of people do. A cheap paddle will get you around the lake and down the river.

But if you love to canoe, it’s a joy to hold a well-crafted paddle in your hands. It’s comfortable. The shaft and grip will fit your hands. It’s beautiful. It’s light. It won’t feel clunky. It’ll last for decades. It’s easy to use.

Since the paddle is your engine—an extension of your own strength and technique—it’s worth it to invest in one you’ll love to use and that will serve your canoeing goals.

On to the questions…

What Type of Canoeing Will You Do?

Are you a recreational canoeist who enjoys getting out on the lake at the cabin? Or heading down a local river for a couple hours? Will you just be on the water a handful of times each season?

A low-to-mid range wood paddle is perfect for you. They combine craftsmanship and beauty with an affordable price.

Our BB Special, Arrow, Beavertail, Traveler and Loon paddles fit the bill.

woman looking back while paddling a canoe

(photo courtesy of And We Roam)

Do you plan on longer days, more days on the water and multi-day wilderness trips? You want a paddle that can handle the rigors of various terrain, and that’s as light as possible to save your energy.

A mid-to-high range wood, carbon or wood-carbon combination paddle is for you. You may consider a bent shaft paddle for extra efficiency. These paddles are extra tough, and in our case, also hand-crafted with beauty in mind.

Java ST canoe paddle by Bending Branches

Java ST canoe paddle (photo courtesy of Ian Finch)

Most of Bending Branches’ canoe paddles are in this category: Explorer Plus •  CatalystCruiser Plus 11JavaViperExpedition PlusSunburstBlack Pearl ST (most of these come in both straight and bent shaft).

Do You Want Straight Shaft or Bent Shaft?

Most people use a straight shaft canoe paddle with great success. People choose a bent shaft model for two main reasons: Extra efficiency on the water and extra comfort on shoulders and wrists. These translate to less fatigue and soreness.

Several of our canoe paddles are available in either straight or bent shaft models. One, the Viper, has a double bend in the shaft to help keep both your wrists aligned. You’ll notice the difference on long trips.

man canoeing on a blue mountain lake

Viper canoe paddle (photo courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt)

For more, see Bent vs. Straight Shaft Canoe Paddles.

What Material and Weight Do You Want?

The materials a paddle is made of determines its weight. The woods we use here at Bending Branches are all lightweight. The blades are reinforced with a fiberglass coating, and then tipped with our patented Rockgard edging.

If you want to go as light as you can, then you want a carbon paddle like the Black Pearl II or Black Pearl ST. Or go with a combo wood/carbon paddle like the Sunburst 11 or Sunburst ST—the lightness of a carbon shaft with the beauty of a wood blade.

man paddling a red canoe with Black Pearl 11 canoe paddle

Black Pearl ST canoe paddle (photo courtesy of Andrew Strain)

What’s Your Budget?

Remember, a good canoe paddle is an investment in many years of enjoyment—not just a season or two. You won’t regret buying a paddle you love to use!

All our paddles—from the entry-level Loon to the elite Black Pearl II—are made with the same care and craftsmanship. You’ll spend from $79.95 to $279.95 on a Bending Branches canoe paddle.

The more specialized, durable, light or customized the paddle is, the more expensive it is.

Are You a Solo Canoeist?

Many solo canoeists like to use a kayak paddle instead of a canoe paddle. We have one kayak paddles specifically designed for canoeing, the fully-wood Impression Solo. It’s longer than a standard kayak paddle since you sit higher off the water in a canoe.

Solo canoeists also like our kayak fishing paddles, as they’re also longer in order to accommodate wide fishing kayaks with their elevated seats.
man paddling a canoe solo
Impression solo (photo courtesy of @cliford.mervil)
You’ll find many more details here: Paddles for the Solo Canoeist

What About Your Kids?

Do you have kids who love to paddle? They don’t need to use an adult-size paddle! Our Twig wood canoe paddle is built just for them. And it’s hand-crafted just like our other wood paddles, with a T-grip that’s easy for little hands to use.

little boy with child-size canoe paddle

(photo courtesy of We Found Adventure)

Do you have more questions about canoe paddles? Get in touch with our friendly Customer Service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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