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04/19/2022 09:33PM  
From what I’ve read the shaft length is really the most important thing when it comes to a canoe paddle. However, there are some paddles (like the Sunburst ST by bending branches) that only has a 17 inch long blade (approx 8 x 17). With such a short blade, would you still use the same length of shaft (ie say the proper shaft length would be 35 inches for a person, would they get a 52 inch paddle if the blade is just 17 inches long?). On the bending branches website they actually recommend the same length of paddle regardless of the blade length. Some of the blades are 19 inches vs the sunburst 17 inch, but they would still recommend a 56 inch paddle for example for both the 19 inch blade paddle and 17 inch blade paddle.

I guess my question is if the blade is quite short like 17 inches, do you still only consider shaft length? The 52 paddle would have a 35 inch shaft length. But that sounds short! Does a really short blade warrant a longer shaft length? I’d assume if only the blade is under water when paddling and the blade is short, you don’t get much power because it’s mostly surface water. Should the shaft be an extra inch or two deep in water I’d the blade is so short?

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distinguished member(8091)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
04/19/2022 09:49PM  
I wouldn't sweat a couple of inches. My torso size is 29 inches. That should put me in a 52 inch bent paddle, maybe even as short as 50 inches. However, my Bending Branches Cruiser Plus, at 54 inches, is very comfortable. BTW, it has a shaft length of around 36 inches.

And, my willingness to forgive its length might have something to do with my having won it in a raffle... :-)
distinguished member (135)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/20/2022 08:26AM  
If you have the same shaft length from grip to throat the paddle will be the right size. This is true of short blades and longer traditional blades. Find a shaft length that allows you to fully immerse the blade while your top hand is at shoulder level. Keep in mind this may vary depending on the seat height in your canoe.

Once you have a shaft length you like you can use it to select paddles with any size blade. Paddles with different length blades will have different "catches" as you put them into the water. They won't feel the same but they will be the correct size.

This is more precise than the fit charts you see from paddle manufacturers. Those work great most of the time but with outliers in blade size it's better to focus on a paddle shaft length that you find comfortable.

This article outlines how paddle shaft length impacts kayak paddle sizing. It's not canoe paddles, but the principles are the same:

Brian from Wenonah
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04/23/2022 06:16PM  
I think there's some personal preference and "how do you plan to use the paddle?" involved. Those are my favorite type of paddle (pic)...I usually end up with a shaft length an inch or two longer than the shortest I could get away with. I like the power and leverage of a slightly longer (but still super short and handy) paddle and the lower, more relaxed paddling cadence vs a "short as possible" paddle. If you order a carbon fiber paddle I recommend getting it on the long side with the grip unglued so you can fine tune the length yourself (with a hacksaw).
distinguished member (174)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/24/2022 06:44AM  
Keep in mind that most paddling injuries are shoulder injuries. Because of the way nature designed the shoulder, any time your elbow is higher than your shoulder, it significantly increases the leverage on that joint and the likelihood of injury. As Brian Day stated, keep your top hand at or below your shoulder. I use a shorter paddle for that reason. Most people think you need a longer paddle for a longer reach - you don't. If your lower hand is at the paddle throat on a long shaft, this increases the distance between your hands and when the blade is properly in the water, places your upper hand in that danger zone. If your hands are properly spaced on a longer shaft, your lower hand is way above the throat and this increases the leverage/load on you and will cause you to work harder to get the same amount of thrust from the paddle. You will tire quicker and paddling is less efficient. Note - this is based on flatwater paddling with a single blade. Kayaking, whitewater, double-blades may require different advice that is not in my wheelhouse. Also note that most shorter blades are wider blades. Total surface area of the blade is important (enough for paddle mftg's to list it) as this imparts the level of thrust from each stroke - larger blade = more push, but also requires more effort typically. It's also important to match the blade size to your style of paddling and your physically size.

distinguished member(551)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
04/24/2022 02:03PM  
Yes I think Brian and portage dog are wise to keep the focus on ideal shaft length; I measured a few paddles and they are all closer to my ideal length than I thought. Pic shows my two highest use straight shafts on the right, I usually take this pair on day trips. The 55.25 inch Zaveral in the middle has a shaft length maybe 1/4 inch over my ideal of around 35. It's a great all around paddle; I'd guess it's around 110 square inches or a bit less. The Troublemaker on the right is 56 inches with 36 inch shaft and I'd guess around 115 sq inches. I have five kneeling solos and always bring extra seat cushions for comfort and to change positions. In boats with higher seating positions it's perfect. It's also great for freestyle where you can dominate a boat almost like a freestyle paddle. It's "much" more powerful than the Zaveral for controlling the canoe in river currents. And even in canoes with lower seat positions it's not hard to bury the blade a little more. Yes the power of the paddle can also tire you out. The paddle on the far left is a 53.5 inch with 34.5 shaft (with blade around 100 sq in) so on the short side for me. It's handy and a great paddle but personally I don't use it that much because it feels like it just lacks power relative to my other preferred paddles even though it may indeed be more efficient; maybe it's just the small blade size. It's great for paddling in super shallow water. All three are "all day" paddles.

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