How to Size a Straight & Bent Shaft Canoe Paddle

3-minute read + 4-minute video

Straight shaft and bent shaft canoe paddles are sized differently. Be sure you choose the size paddle that’s right for you, with help from our friends at Happy Paddlin.

 two men canoeing on a river

(Photo courtesy of @hokkaidowilds)

Our friends at central Oregon’s Happy Paddlin put together this short video to help you size a canoe paddle properly, whether it’s a straight shaft or bent shaft model.

After watching it you’ll have learned several new tips and will be confident in your choice of paddle size:


Why Your Paddle needs to be the Right Size

As Ethan points out in the video, your goal is “to get your top hand in a position of power.”

If your paddle is too long, your top hand is too high to get the leverage you need with each stroke. If it’s too short, you’re forced to use short, choppy strokes that isn’t as effective as it needs to be.

How to Find the “Sweet Spot” Paddle Size for a Straight Shaft

The key to getting the right size paddle is to know your torso length. You can use your torso as a guideline whether you’re in a shop and have paddles in front of you, or you’re at home and use a tape measure.

When you sit, place a straight shaft paddle—grip down—on the seat between your legs. Where the blade meets the shaft—the shoulder—should come to about your hairline or your forehead.

graphic of person sitting on a chair, line that measures from seat to forehead

If you’re at home, measure the distance from your seat to your nose. That’s your torso size. Use the chart below to find your straight shaft paddle length.

If you tend to paddle from your knees in the canoe instead of your seat, you’ll want to consider adding an inch or two to the paddle size. Or if you have a solo canoe with a lower seat, you’ll likely want your paddle a bit shorter.

They key is for your top hand to begin each stroke at about the bridge of your nose in order to get the most power.

Find the Sweet Spot for a Bent Shaft Paddle

A bent shaft paddle’s design keeps the blade vertical longer with each stroke, and so you need less length to get the same power.

The general rule of thumb is to go about four inches shorter with a bent shaft than with a straight shaft. Again, factor in the type of canoe you’ll be paddling and your own personal preference.

Take a look at the chart below if you’re sizing from home and ordering a paddle online:

canoe paddle sizing chart

Straight Shaft or Bent Shaft? Yes!

While either paddle type will perform very well in almost all canoeing situations, many avid canoeists prefer to have both types at their disposal.

Some like a straight shaft for the best maneuverability and when using plenty of correctional strokes (especially the stern paddler). And some like the bent shaft’s ease of use in high cadence situations or when on multi-day trips. They can take advantage of the bent shaft’s efficiency and ease on their shoulders and back.

For more details on choosing a paddle—including features to look for, grip styles, blade shape and more—see How to Size & Choose a Canoe Paddle.

See more videos from Happy Paddlin on their YouTube Channel.

Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]

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