Different Types of Paddles

(A work in progress - To be Completed)

There are two primary types of paddles either double ended as used with kayaks or single ended as used in open canoes.  Within each type there are many variations to suit individual preferences and usage.

Double ended Kayak Paddles

The Euro Paddle

 Basically the standard modern kind of asymmetric bladed paddle that most people will think of as a kayak paddle.  Available in many sizes and materials.  The cheaper ones tend to have aluminium shafts with plastic/polypropylene/nylon paddle blades while going up in price you get fibreglass shafts and plastic blades, fibreglass shafts with fibreglass blades, Carbon fibreshafts with fibreglass blades and carbon fibres shafts with cartbon fibres blades.  The more expensive the paddle usually the more exotic materials and the lighter it is.  You may not think weight counts for much but remember you have to move that weight with every paddle stroke so by the end of a long day on the water you may feel like you have done a lot more work with the heavier paddles.  Aluminium shafts can be colder than composite/fibreglass type shafts and transmit the cold to your hands especially if paddling in cold winter water so you may find  a fibreglass or carbon fibre shaft is kinder to your hands.

Getting the right size/length of paddle can be an art in itself but depends on your size (particularly your height from seat to shoulder), the size/width of your kayak, your paddling style and the type of paddling you are doing.  There are many sources of paddle sizing on the internet so I will not re-iterate them here and most suppliers will be able to give you good advice.  Even better if you can try several sizes and styles of paddle out to see what suits you best.  Failing that in a typical beginners recreational kayak (which tend to be reasonably wide) then as a rule of thumb most people won't go far wrong choosing a 220cm long paddle as a starting point.  Two piece paddles can be more convenient for travelling as they are easier to transport than a long one piece and some two piece paddles also allow you to set a variable tength so you can find your ideal size. .  Once you are past the beginner stage then you will have already worked out the best size for your particular paddling style. Be aware that Carbon Fibre, although immensely stiff and strong and light, can be brittle and  prone to chipping so Fibreglass and particularly Carbon Fibre blades do need to be looked after and treated more gently than a plastic/nylon paddle.

Bent shaft paddle

 Bent shaft paddles tend to be something of a Marmite choice, some people love them, some hate them.  The idea behind them is to keep the arm/wrist/hand in a more natural position during the paddle stroke thus making them more efficient and reducing fatigue and muscle strain etc.  Bent shaft paddles are often recommended for people who have suffered shoulder strain/damage.  Some people can find the bent shaft not as easy or intuitive to orientate especially when rolling.  Bent shaft paddles also tend to be more expensive and only available in more exotic materials. 

If you are looking at bent shaft paddles specifically to avoid muscle strain or because you have suffered an injury then my personal recommendation, for a touring or sea paddler, would be to check out a Greenland Paddle, especially one made of wood and with a little flex in it as they reduce strain and the impact of each paddle stroke and are particulalry kind to the body.


The Greenland Paddle, sometimes referred to as a Greenland Stick or GP, is the type of kayak paddle used by the original inventors of the kayak (Greenlandic qajaq = "Hunting Boat")  the native Inuit and Aleut (or Eskimos as we used to know them when I was a boy).  We have a lot to thank them for!  In recent years the Greenland Paddle has developed a growing following amongst kayaking enthusiasts, particularly sea kayakers.

The Greenland Paddle is my personal favourite and the one I now almost always use when kayaking relegating my expensive Werner carbon fibre shafted euro paddle tor use purely as my on deck spare (Not even that now as I have a two piece Greenland Paddle as my spare which also fits on the deck better than a Euro Paddle). 

While you can buy expensive carbon fibre Greenland Paddles it is also relatively easy to make your own at low cost with some simple woodworking tools, or get a friendly local woodworking enthusiast to make one for you!   Each paddle is individually sized (length, blade width, loom length [the length of the straight shaft joining the two blades]) to the paddler. There are numerous guides available on the internet giving you the traditional sizing methods.  There are also several styles with square or rounded tips and tapered or more pronounced shoulders.

Commercially produced wooden Greenland Paddles are now available in two pieces making transport easier or you can make your own wooden two piece paddle using a spigot joint like the one produced by "Kayak Sport" among others.

Despite also having Carbon Fibre Greenland Paddles I find the wooden paddles just more aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable especially as you can carve and sand sand the loom (Shaft) to perfectly fit your hands.Even top of the range commercially produced wooden Greenland Paddles tend to be cheaper than the more exotic Euro Paddles and are often barely any heavier and of course wood can be much more sustainable and ultimately recyclable.

Greenland Paddle 1024px

The videos below give a good introduction to the Greenland Paddle and it's advantages and check out the Cape Falcon web site and their other videos for instructions on how to make your own. 

When I first saw a Greenland Paddle, after more than 20 years of solely using a Euro paddle, I was very sceptical about it (surely a paddle that thin can't have any power?!) but all I can say is what they explain about the Greenland Paddle in the videos below is all true.  A friend of mine lent me his home made Greenland Paddle and within a very short time I was a complete convert and I have been using one as my primary paddle ever since (about 7 years and several hundred miles now).   I find it easier on my body during a day's paddling, more forgiving to use in the water (less likely to catch an edge or lose orientation), easier to brace and scull with and much easier to roll with.  Plus aesthetically I find it very pleasing and my beautiful hand made, oil finished (just multiple coats of Danish Oil and Pure Tung Oil, no paint or varnish), wooden paddle can actually be found hanging on my wall at home as a piece of decorative art between kayak trips (See photo above)!

If you try a Greenland Paddle don't be put off if it feels strange to start with, persevere a little as it doesn't take long to get the paddle style right.  If you feel flutter then you either have the wrong size paddle or you are not using the right "cant" angle in the paddle stroke (or you just have a bad example of a Greenland Paddle).  When used correctly it should feel smooth, efficient, intuitive and just be an overall pleasant experience.  The Greenland Paddle is also made to be extended by just holding one end so the extra lift and leverage this gives when rolling almost makes it feel like cheating so many beginners will find it easier to do their first roll with a Greenland Paddle than a Euro Paddle.  My advice is to keep an open mind and give it a try, like me you may find it is the best thing you have ever done!  All I can say is my three regular kayaking buddies are now all Greenland Paddle converts by choice as well despite having all previously been Euro Paddle users!



 And here is Paulo from "Dancing With The Sea" with his take on the Greenland Paddle


In addition to my wooden paddle I now  have a Lomo two part Carbon fibre Greenland paddle which is easier to transport when the two parts are split and also works really well and is one of the cheapest Carbon Fibre Greenland Paddles on the market.

My Lomo two part split Carbon Fibre Greenland Paddle

Lomo Carbon Fibre Split Greenland Paddle


I also now have the more sophisticated and very nicely finished, but expensive, Gearlab Kalleq Carbon Fibre Paddle in a 230cm size.  Despite the blade area looking no greater than my other Greenland Paddles this is the most powerful Greenland Paddle I have used so far which I can only put down to the super thin perfectly profiled blades. The square joint means there is no slop in it and the joint itself and push button mechanism is almost imperceptible in use.

Gearlab Kalleq

Gearlab Kalleq Greenland Paddle 1024px




Single Bladed Canoe Paddles



Single ended Canoe Paddles

Generic Paddle

Beaver Tail Paddle

Otter Tail Paddle

Bent shaft