18ft Old Town Canoe recommended paddle length?

Benson Gray

Canoe History Enthusiast
Staff member
The traditional standards are from the ground to the bottom of your nose or chin. However, this makes a lot of assumptions about your arm length, seat height, paddling style, and other various factors. I usually kneel and prefer paddles slightly shorter than this standard. You are likely to form your own opinion after you have paddled for a while. Good luck,


Dan Lindberg

Ex Wood Hoarder
To add to what Benson said, it also depends on the style of paddling you do.
If you are more traditional, often a longer paddle, but if "hit & switch", then a shorter paddle.

Try some and see what feels comfortable.

Todd Bradshaw

One of the ways we used to suggest paddle length for general cruising was to hold the paddle above your head with right angles at your elbows to determine your proper shaft length. Then you could add whatever shape and length of blade you wanted to arrive at the total length. It isn't always perfect for every possible boat, but it's pretty good. Excuse the crude drawing as I was drawing in Photoshop and too lazy to crank up a drawing program, but it looks kind of like this


And it matters if you are in the bow or stern.....shorter in the bow, longer in the stern.
The type of paddling you do makes a big difference when you select a paddle. If you are racing tandem, there is very minimal steerage done between hits...so the paddles tend to be more equal in length and shorter than paddles you might use for tripping or general dipsy doodling. Bent paddles also have their own sizing formula to consider if you use them.
My father used a ridiculously long paddle in the stern. When he guided the standard canoe they used was a 20 foot White. The long paddle gave him extra leverage during his stroke, something you need on a fully loaded big canoe. It also allowed him to paddle while he was standing. I accomplish the extra leverage thing by using a wider than standard blade on a shorter paddle. It's not as easy to paddle while standing, but the shorter paddle means I do not need to reach as much on each stroke.


Unrepentant Canoeist
There are dozens of ways to determine the "correct" paddle length, but they are all guidelines; the above info scratches the surface, and is all good. This is why many people have many paddles, of different lengths and shapes. I typically kneel, and like a paddle that has a shaft length (leave the blade off for now) that is the distance from about my shoulder or chin to the water's surface. Blade length is added to that. But how high I perch in any given canoe, also bow or stern of a tandem, varies, so... "I need just one more paddle"... that might sound familiar! lol

The important part is how it feels to the individual, and their style of paddling. On shallow rivers, I like a shorter blade length and overall length, than on deeper water. Try to borrow a lot of paddles at events such as Assembly, so you can try many different lengths and blade styles, before you end up with 20 or 30 paddles, most of which you don't use...