Paddle shaft sizing guide

Shaft and Grip Size selection:

Paddle Shaft diameter/circumference and handgrip sizing can assist in making paddling more enjoyable. A small hand holding a large shaft will make the fingers and hand ache resulting in an uncomfortable paddling experience.

Therefore it’s important to discuss with me any such issues so I can make the paddle unique to you and improve your paddling.

Paddle shaft guide

This is a guide that will help you size your paddle correctly.

With access to your canoe and water:

Ideally the best way to work out paddle size involves water and your canoe!

  • Sit in the canoe that you want to use the paddle with.
  • Get a stick or random paddle.
  • Float
  • Get in to paddling position, rotated etc.
  • Plant the paddle in the water as you would at the catch of a stroke.
  • Look where the water comes to on the stick/random paddle.
  • This is where the shoulders of the paddle should be, which is the only point that really matters.
  • Measure from there to the top.

How long the blade is, or how long from the shoulders to where the shaft joins on really don’t matter.  In white water you will be more rotated and boxy so the paddle will be shorter than when you are chilling out touring.


Without access to water methods are described below for different types of paddle. However, other factors to consider which might affect the length are extra wide or narrow canoes, height of seat and kneeling thwarts.


Standard Canoe Paddles (Thirlmere, Rydal, Derwent & Leven):

Sit up straight on a chair and measure the distance from the seat to your shoulder or chin plus 2-3” (50-75mm); this measurement will give you the required shaft length. Add to this the given blade length for the paddle you want.

Some allowance should be made if the paddle is intended for a dedicated position in the boat. Bow paddlers generally use shorter strokes, thus finding a shorter paddle more efficient. Stern and solo paddlers prefer a slightly longer paddle to assist in steering the canoe.


Deep water Canoe Paddles (Windermere, Buttermere, Ullswater and Ennerdale)

These are exceptions to the above advice. For both Northwoods-style and Algonquin-style paddles I have found that in general adding 4″- 6″ works well, allowing both sliding overhand and conventional grip positions to be used.


Freestyle and quiet water(Coniston) are generally a shorter paddle but most freestyle paddlers know what they want in paddle shaft length.