Parts of a Canoe Paddle: Grip to Tip

Parts of a Canoe Paddle

There’s a reason they say, “Up the creek without a paddle.” Because basically, you and your canoe are going nowhere without a canoe paddle. So let’s get down to the basics of understanding all the parts of a canoe paddle, because after all, you and your paddle are the main propulsion system on your canoe.

What are the parts of a canoe paddle? A canoe paddle has six main parts:

  1. Grip – The grip is the top of the paddle. The primary “handle” of a canoe paddle.
  2. Shaft – The long skinny part that runs most of the length of the paddle, from the grip to the throat, is the shaft of a canoe paddle.
  3. Throat – The bottom of the shaft, where the paddle first starts to widen into the blade, is called the throat of a canoe paddle.
  4. Shoulder – The shoulder of a canoe paddle is the widening section between the throat and the main blade of a canoe paddle.
  5. Blade – The flat, wide bottom end of a canoe paddle—the parts that goes in the water—is called the blade.
  6. Tip – The very bottom of a canoe paddle at the end of the blade is called the tip of a canoe paddle.

Read on for a more in-depth explanation of canoe paddle parts.

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Grip of a Canoe Paddle

What is the grip of a canoe paddle? The grip of a canoe paddle is that part that you hold onto with your upper hand when you paddle. The grip it usually “T” or triangle–shaped and designed to fit in the palm of your upper paddling hand to provide hours of comfortable, smooth, and efficient paddling power.

There are two types of canoe paddle grips:

  1. Palm Grip
  2. T-grip

Asymmetrical Palm Grip

The asymmetrical palm grip is mostly used on bent-shaft canoe paddles that are designed to only be paddled in one direction. This grip is still triangle-shaped but is arched to only feel comfortable from one side of the paddle.

This grip is a great grip for all day touring and multi-day touring canoeing trips.

Symmetrical Palm Grip

The symmetrical palm grip is triangle-shaped and can be used backward or forward in either direction as it’s shaped the same on both sides. Symmetrical palm grips are designed for long recreational paddling days where you’ll be paddling hundreds of smooth and easy strokes.

This grip is great for canoeing beginners because no matter how you pick it up, you’re holding it the right direction. One less thing to figure out while you’re learning.


The “T”-grip is designed to give a paddler the maximum amount of control over the direction of the paddle. Prying strokes and canoe strokes that require a lot of leverage are where a T-shaped paddle excels.

T-grip canoe paddle handles are used in whitewater canoeing where the paddler need to react quickly and stroke hard against running water in order to maneuver.

Shaft of a Canoe Paddle

What is the shaft of a canoe paddle? The shaft of a canoe paddle is the long thin part of the paddle that extends from just beneath the canoe paddle’s grip down to just before the throat. The shaft is essentially where your lower paddling hand grips the paddle and pulls or pushes to propel the blade of the paddle through the water.

The canoe paddle shaft provides, comfort, control, and strength. There are two types of cross-sections on canoe shafts:

  1. Round Shafts – These canoe shafts are less controllable than oval shafts as they can rotate in your hand easier than an oval shaft. And thus they’re less efficient than oval shafts and they twist in your hand when you stroke, which causes you to lose paddling power.
  2. Oval Shafts – Oval shafts have a cross-section shape like that of an egg. They’re ergonomically designed to fit in you hand in the most comfortable position. this helps you know you have the right grip on your lower paddling hand and it makes long periods of paddling, easier, more efficient, and less tiring on all-day trips.

Throat of a Canoe Paddle

What is the throat of a canoe paddle? The throat of a canoe paddle is where the blade of the paddle meets the canoe paddle’s shaft. It’s the lower part of the shaft at the exact point that the shaft begins to widen into the paddle’s blade.

Shoulder of a Canoe Paddle

What is the shoulder of a canoe paddle? The shoulder of the canoe paddle is the top part of the blade of the paddle that starts at the throat. It’s the angled section that widens as you go lower on the paddle until the width of the blade stays the same as you go lower.

Blade of a Canoe Paddle

Canoe Paddle Blade Shapes
Canoe Paddle Blade Shapes

What’s the blade of a canoe paddle? The canoe paddle blade is the wide part of the paddle at the end. It’s the part that’s actually submerged in the water and then used to push or pull against the water to propel a canoe forward or backward.

There are two main types of canoe paddle blades:

  1. Beavertail – Beavertail canoe paddle blades are widest at the bottom of the blade near the tip.
  2. Ottertail – Ottertail canoe paddle blades are widest at the the top of the canoe paddle blade, closest to the shaft.

Modern canoe blades have evolved into wider and short variants of these two types of canoe paddle blades. But the shape of a canoe paddle blade isn’t as important as the surface area.

Canoe paddle blades with a larger surface area are harder to paddle but give you more power with each stroke. While blades with less surface are are easier to paddle, but deliver less power with each stroke.

Knowing that, you’d think that you would want a paddle with a larger surface area. However, keep in mind that you’ll have to pull a larger surface area paddle through the water on each stroke no matter how fast you want to go. It’s better to have a slightly smaller surface area on your paddle and then choose to pick up your paddling pace if you want to go faster.

Tip of a Canoe Paddle

What is the tip of a canoe paddle? The tip of a canoe paddle is the very bottom-most portion of the paddle. It’s the part of the paddle that goes in the water first and comes out last.

Whichever type canoe blade you choose, the tips of most of them are rounded on the ends and corners. Rounded ends and corners at the tip of a canoe paddle make the ends stronger and less likely to get cracked. In addition, the rounding at the tip of a canoe paddle makes it enter and exit the water more smoothly and quietly.


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

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