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Choosing a paddle size.

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At the shop we've use a simple graphic to show folks why sizing should be for shaft length. Three paddles - overall lengths of 54" (BB Arrow), 57" (BB Beavertail) and 63" (Adirondack Guideboat "sneak" paddle). One picture has them leaning on the car blade down - height difference is plain. Second picture has them leaning up against the car, grip down. Shaft length is clearly the same.

The mantra is: shaft length is for size, blade choice is for use. And yes, that's an oversimplification, as other comments attest, but it's a good starting point for new folks.

If water temp and weather is suitable, we try to get folks into a canoe with a paddle to get best length. We've got a pretty representative demo fleet, so that helps.

If we can't get them in a boat, we generally use the chair method for new paddlers. As described, sit on the hard chair, grip between the legs, measure to the eyebrows for straight shaft. The goal is to end up with a shaft length that puts the grip hand between shoulder and chin, hand along the gunwale and enough shaft to sink the blade into the water. All of the methods are approximate (Grey Owl says +/- 2 inches). We recommend new folks start with a solid, but not expensive, blade that will serve as a good spare if they find there's a better length.

I did find it interesting that when I shifted to kneeling in the chine to get closer to the water, that that small change was enough to make me look for a slightly shorter shaft.
 
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I think you all proved why we all have so many paddles. There is no perfect canoe or perfect paddle for all uses. At some point along the canoe craft experience enough skill build we find and appreciation for the subtlties of a paddle. I can make most paddles do what I need but the right one for the right waters feels like the magical wand that propels my magic carpet.
 
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I did all the research and bought a blade I love using in my magic, but it is too short for my prospector. I’m thinking of ordering another 2” longer, but it’s a crap shoot.
 
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I did all the research and bought a blade I love using in my magic, but it is too short for my prospector. I’m thinking of ordering another 2” longer, but it’s a crap shoot.
Why not use the one you have and get a longer one for when it's windy, or you're doing whitewater. My rule of thumb is for a 16' boat I'm good with 60", an 18' I'd go 63" and a 20' a 66". I always take two paddles, one for comfortable paddling and the longer one.
 
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Yeah, it’s more the width than the length. The Magic Is a foot longer than the prospector 15, but tumblehome and boat width cause the magic to require less shaft.
 
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Why longer paddles with longer boats? Are the boats commensurately deeper as well? I thought paddle length needed to be proportional to your distance from the water (as well as torso and shoulder metrics).
Basically, it is just for more leverage in wind, and it will help with maneuvers. Hull shape does effect it, but the bigger the boat, the longer the paddle. Like I said I always take two paddles so one can be the right size for efficient strokes. When the wind picks up I will have an easier time bringing your bow around with a longer paddle.
 
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