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Thread: Which shaft length shd I choose?

  1. #1

    Default Which shaft length shd I choose?

    I am confused about the shaft length.

    The distance between a regular chair and my nose is 28 inches. The distance between the water and my nose is 38 inches when kneeled down and my butt leaning towards my canoe’s reclining seat or 36 inches when kneeled down but without the seat.


    I am 5ft11. I paddle solo with my Ally 13.7DR foldable, only lakes, never rivers.

    Which shaft length shd I choose, 32 or 34 or 36?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    I am confused about the shaft length.

    The distance between a regular chair and my nose is 28 inches. The distance between the water and my nose is 38 inches when kneeled down and my butt leaning towards my canoe’s reclining seat or 36 inches when kneeled down but without the seat.


    I am 5ft11. I paddle solo with my Ally 13.7DR foldable, only lakes, never rivers.

    Which shaft length shd I choose, 32 or 34 or 36?
    I am 6' (184 cm) and use paddles with a shaft length between 33" - 34".
    Only you can tell (feel) which length works best for you in your usual paddle position.
    Luckily there is some leeway with paddle length because our body is willing to adapt and adjust, and the most important thing is to find a paddle that is not too short and not too long for you most of the time. If you really care and have the budget for it, of course you can find the ideal paddle length for every particular paddling situation.
    In my empty solo touring canoe (see my avatar) my paddle (33" shaft ) sometimes can feel a bit short, but a longer paddle doesn't paddle easier though (I've tried that of course!). When that canoe is well loaded, the length of that paddle is exactly right.

    Dirk Barends
    Last edited by canonymous; 25th-July-2018 at 01:51 PM. Reason: language

  3. #3

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    I borrowed a paddle and performed a basic forward stroke. At the half point in time when
    the grip was somewhere around my mouth area, I measured the distance from the grip to the water.
    The result: 35 inches

    Is that my shaft length? Should go up or down, to 34 or 36?



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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    I borrowed a paddle and performed a basic forward stroke. At the half point in time when
    the grip was somewhere around my mouth area, I measured the distance from the grip to the water.
    The result: 35 inches

    Is that my shaft length? Should go up or down, to 34 or 36?


    Given your body length, I would say try 34" as that would be long enough in my vision,
    and it you do not like it, also try something shorter...

    I admit to advise paddle length a bit towards the shorter side, especially if it is a touring paddle people are after. Because in my experience many people in the beginning of their paddling career end up with longer paddles than necessary. The reason for this may be that:

    1. when confronted with all those different paddle length formulas, beginning paddlers will start reasoning that they wisely should choose an average of all those measurements. And because many of those paddle length formulas will give too long paddles, as they do not take different blade lengths in account, the average of that will be too long for paddles with short blades?

    2. Some people choose a bit longer paddle to be on the safe side: an approach that only works well for paddles with grips that are easy to shorten afterwards -- I don't see people easily cutting of their (expensive) paddle when the grip is fixed. And if you do decide that your paddle is a bit too short after all when you shortened your paddle, you have a problem too. So either way people can have a problem when choosing too long.

    3. A longer paddle can feel very effective in the short run, but can turn out to be not efficient enough in the long run, especially if that long run is against a strong headwind...

    Nevertheless, if would not recommend shorter than shoulder height when paddling from a relatively low position and/or a fully loaded canoe.



    Dirk Barends

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    I'm 5' 10", average limbs and torso length. I use a 32-33" shaft, paddling a Bell Prospector solo, heeled over from a kneeling thwart, and its perfect then. I also own an Ally 15DR and, as its harder to heel and the paddling station solo is a bit more central so I'm further from both gunwhale and water. Here, I'd probably choose that extra inch or so and go 34", as I would if I were doing more tandem paddling where I'm upright and central kneeling on seats. My whitewater paddles have also always had a longer shaft.

    I'd agree with him, that 34" sounds a reasonable option for you, but its impossible to really tell without seeing you paddling in your canoe.

    It is a personal thing to an extent and I tend to agree with Dirk that folk often end up with a slightly too long paddle. I've also found that I adapt to the different length of borrowed paddles very quickly, so an inch or two difference is never going to be disastrous.

  6. #6

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    I used various methods and consulted different sources. These are the proposals for my shaft length (I am 5”11 or 180cm):

    Paddle manufacturer A: 34 in
    Paddle manufacturer B: 36 in
    A retailer: 34 in
    Shoulder press method: 36 in
    Seat method: 37 in
    Armpit method: 37 in
    Pretend method: 37 in
    Upside down method: 36 in
    Chair method: 36 in
    Dirk’s method (above): 34 in
    Dirk: 34 in
    Mel: 34 in

    So here we go.

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    Whilst the above in mind advice is good here is some food for thought.

    Unless you have a paddle for all situations; there is always a compromise.
    Pictures speak a thousand words so here they come.

    My deep water paddle-
    When using this paddle I am usually kneeling and the canoe heeled over


    So in theory the shaft can be shorter as my shoulder is closer to the water.

    However -

    I also use the same paddle when paddling tandem,
    So now the boat is not healed over and I am sitting up, so a short shaft will not suit as well.


    Similarly with my moving/white water paddle the blade needs to be submerged without the shaft going in too deep whilst keeping the shaft at 90' it should also make good purchase with the water when cross decking.



    I also use this paddle in other boats.


    In a nutshell (bearing in mind this is my opinion) a paddle should be comfortable in all the situations you intend it to work it in.

    So my advice would be is to - before you spend some hard earned cash on a paddle, find your approximate size then see if you can try a paddle in that size in as many situations possible to see if you are comfortable with it and that it does what you want it to do.

    I hope this makes sense?

    I learnt the hard way and wasted money on a paddle that is too big, it was a nice paddle but felt cumbersome and a fella I used to know cut his Nantahala far too short again wasting money.
    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

  8. #8

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    Thank you Dirk, Mel and Tim.

    I went for paddling with a 38 in shaft noting that the shaft was always in the water. Usually around 2-3 inches. This suggest that my shaft shd be around 35-36 inches long. Correct? Should be I go down to 34 or up to 36? I am 5ft 11.

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    35 ins

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    35 ins
    As above if poss, or try them both and see which is the happy medium, a pain I know but if you can get to a canoe shop with water tank your canoe and try them both
    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

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    Tim, you may have misunderstood the nature of my response

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    Tim, you may have misunderstood the nature of my response
    Sorry Adrian I seem have my thick head on, I took a 38" paddle sinking 2.5" - 3" too deep = an ideal length shaft length of 35" so it sorta made sense (somewhere deep inside my head!)

    Cheers
    Tim


    Paddles a Prospector

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    35 ins
    Today I paddled with a 33” shaft. The blade was 1-2” above the water. I also paddled with a 38”, which was 2-3” in the water (the throat was in the water). Based on above I am between 34” and 36”, most likely 35” as suggested by Adrian. However, Grey Owl and Bending Branches sell only 34” or 36”. I hesitate to go down to 34” but some paddlers above suggest that I shd take the shorter one. I am 5ft11 (180cm) and paddle kneeled but leaning to my seat (not completely kneeled).

    Any views?
    Last edited by 5480; 28th-July-2018 at 01:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    [...]
    Any views?
    as already said:
    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    [...]
    its impossible to really tell without seeing you paddling in your canoe. [...]
    So it is probably better to ask yourself why:
    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    [...]
    I hesitate to go down to 34" [...]
    Dirk Barends

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    Which ever you choose, you will soon get used to and accomodate your paddling style to ensure the blade is immersed. Over thinking it will just cause anxiety. Just get a paddle which is more or less right and feels comfortable and go for it.

    Sam

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    if i was selecting a paddle and stuck between two shaft sizes then the factor that would i take into account would be the type of paddling i would be using if for.
    white water ,not in a folding canoe mind, i would go for the shorter shaft length. all other paddling i would take the longer length.

  17. #17

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    Some further academic discussions.

    I checked 2 books, Bill Mason and Gary & Joanie McGuffin. Both propose the same method: place the paddle upside down while seated. The paddle throat should be level with your chin (Bill Mason) or nose (Gary & Joanie McGuffin). However, nose is some 2 inches above chin! If I follow Bill Mason, my shaft should be 36 and if I follow Gary & Joanie McGuffin, my shaft should be 38. Dirk proposes above to use shoulders as benchmark. This would give even a lower number (34 inches).

    So should I use shoulders, chin or nose as benchmark?

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    I think you should refer yourself to post #13 and to post #9 .

    Post #13 is by far the better method of measuring than nose or chin.

  19. #19

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    Thank you Adrian. I also realise that #13 is probably the most accurate measurement. However, I am surprised that there are so many approximate benchmarks (e.g. shoulders, chin, nose). Even Bill Mason and Gary & Joanie McGuffin use different ways to measure the shaft length (chin and nose, respectively).

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    Some further academic discussions.
    I checked 2 books, Bill Mason and Gary & Joanie McGuffin. Both propose the same method: place the paddle upside down while seated.
    Whick book of Bill Mason may that be?
    In his first book, "Path of the Paddle" he wrote:
    "[...] The upper hand drives out from the shoulder [while doing a forward stroke] and rises no higher than the shoulder"



    Which in my opinion and experience is the best starting point for selecting a paddle for a touring paddler.
    (For e.g. a Sprint C1 paddler this obviously doesn't work!)

    Of course the flaw of this method is that it more or less implies having a good paddling technique.
    If you don't paddle well yet, you may favor a longer paddle that is more effective than it needs to be.

    The paddle throat should be level with your chin (Bill Mason) [...]. If I follow Bill Mason, my shaft should be 36 [...]
    Now this is interesting, because using this method myself, while being 6' long, I get about 30 inches...

    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    [...] I am surprised that there are so many approximate benchmarks (e.g. shoulders, chin, nose). Even Bill Mason and Gary & Joanie McGuffin use different ways to measure the shaft length (chin and nose, respectively).
    Yes, you are right and it is confusing.
    One of the reasons is that it is not convenient for people to choose the right paddle length while paddling in their own canoe. Because of that people have come up with all kind of "dry on land" formulas for paddle length selection. Problem with all those 'dry' paddle length formulas is that they are often incorrect or only applicable to a certain kind of paddling, often unnecessary complicated and their relation with actual paddling is often dubious, to say the least, or confusing anyway -- even if the result may be well enough.
    The first big mistake happened when people started applying "dry on land" formulas for long bladed paddles to short bladed paddles , which invariable lead to way too long paddles.

    Dirk Barends

    ADDIT:
    As a side note, like you I also wonder why so many people writing about canoes prescribe different paddle selection methods.
    But once I talked to another canoe author, and asked what he thought of my books about canoeing.
    The answer was that he did not read them, because he didn't want to be influenced...
    Last edited by canonymous; 30th-July-2018 at 11:09 AM.

  21. #21

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    Bill Mason’s Path of...(edition 1999), page 10: “...the throat should be level with your chin...”

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    My view is that paddling a canoe is an art rather than a science. If you watch, you will find that everyone paddles in a slightly different way even when using the same strokes. There are many ways to skin a cat. . . . but first get your cat!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    Bill Mason’s Path of...(edition 1999), page 10: “...the throat should be level with your chin...”
    That explains it, because I have the one from 1984, when Bill Mason was still alive...

    Dirk Barends

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    Quote Originally Posted by samB View Post
    My view is that paddling a canoe is an art rather than a science. [...]
    Both views are romantic:
    paddling can be an art, but most of the time it is just hard work as well

    As for the science, there is just not enough data available to really be scientific with paddling, certainly not recreational paddling where as far as I know has never been really scientific research.
    So all we have is experience and applying good logic.

    Dirk Barends

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    To add another dimension ;-) .... this commentary is sensible:

    https://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~burchi...ddle_size.html

    The armpit method has some merit insofar as it relates to your arm length which might be as significant as any other:

    The arm pit technique: Put the grip end of the paddle into your arm pit and with a straight arm grasp the paddle shaft. Grab the paddle shaft with your other hand below the first. Add nine inches (two more hand widths) to the start of the blade.

    I was shown this in Canada as being 'normal' but maybe everyone says this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    To add another dimension ;-) .... this commentary is sensible:

    https://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~burchi...ddle_size.html

    The armpit method has some merit insofar as it relates to your arm length which might be as significant as any other:

    The arm pit technique: Put the grip end of the paddle into your arm pit and with a straight arm grasp the paddle shaft. Grab the paddle shaft with your other hand below the first. Add nine inches (two more hand widths) to the start of the blade.

    I was shown this in Canada as being 'normal' but maybe everyone says this?
    I doubt it. And I wouldn't want to use it for selecting the right paddle length.
    But as a method to get a reasonable hand spacing on the paddle it (accidentally?) works quite well, in my experience. At least much better than the often proposed "paddle over the head - elbows bent at 90 degrees" measurement.

    Dirk Barends

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    I think you're over analysing this now, mate. There is no 100% correct answer, you'll never get that as each of us has slightly different styles and usages, including Bill Mason, I'd just try and borrow a 34 and a 36 and see what you prefer. If you can't try one, just buy which you think is nearest and go paddling. There's plenty of time in life to swap to another paddle in due course, I don't think you'll be worried at all, and will adapt if slightly short or long.

  28. #28

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    I am also 5'11" and have just bought a 51" paddle for my open canoe and for me it is just fine. I used the sit down on a straight back chair and measure from floor to nose system.

  29. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    I think you're over analysing this now, mate. There is no 100% correct answer, you'll never get that as each of us has slightly different styles and usages, including Bill Mason, I'd just try and borrow a 34 and a 36 and see what you prefer. If you can't try one, just buy which you think is nearest and go paddling. There's plenty of time in life to swap to another paddle in due course, I don't think you'll be worried at all, and will adapt if slightly short or long.
    I could not find 34” or 36” but I tried a 33” shaft. The blade was 1-2” above the water. I also tried a 38”, which was 2-3” in the water (the throat was in the water).


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    Don't forget: The 33" problem can be sorted by not allowing your top hand to go so high and the 38" can be solved by keeping your top hand higher. Follow Mals advice and get yourself a paddle!

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    Bought mine from Downcreek Paddles using their guide. It worked for me

    http://www.downcreekpaddles.com/down...es-size-guide/

  32. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by samB View Post
    Don't forget: The 33" problem can be sorted by not allowing your top hand to go so high and the 38" can be solved by keeping your top hand higher. Follow Mals advice and get yourself a paddle!
    Thank you, this would mitigate the problem.

    However, I am puzzled by Downcreek's guide (http://www.downcreekpaddles.com/down...es-size-guide/) because it ignores the distance between the chair and the water. The blade is supposed to be in the water but if the shaft reaches the seat only (and not the water), we have a problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    I could not find 34” or 36” but I tried a 33” shaft. The blade was 1-2” above the water. I also tried a 38”, which was 2-3” in the water (the throat was in the water).

    There's your answer then. Somewhere between 34 and 36, so either will be work I'm sure. You can, of course, get a bespoke 35" made up, but I would try something cheaper first to be sure you're happy. Just buy a paddle!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    Thank you, this would mitigate the problem.

    However, I am puzzled by Downcreek's guide (http://www.downcreekpaddles.com/down...es-size-guide/) because it ignores the distance between the chair and the water. The blade is supposed to be in the water but if the shaft reaches the seat only (and not the water), we have a problem.
    Try it, measure it. I'm 6'2" and get 34" shaft, the missus is 5'2" and gets 28". These are the shaft lengths we bought and they're spot on for our own use. Both blades are submerged when paddling. Remember you are measuring to your eyes and your top hand shouldn't really be that high when paddling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    [...]
    However, I am puzzled by Downcreek's guide (http://www.downcreekpaddles.com/down...es-size-guide/) because it ignores the distance between the chair and the water. The blade is supposed to be in the water but if the shaft reaches the seat only (and not the water), we have a problem.
    You are puzzled because you take this "dry" paddle length measurement too literally, while it is just meant as way to get you the right paddle length without actually having to paddle with it. I tried it, and it accidently works well for getting the right paddle length in my case. Choosing the right paddle length is not exact science, and has its own anomalies in my experience: I favor a relatively shorter paddle the higher I sit in a canoe and vice versa. Ultimately this is a good thing, as it means I can use the same paddle in a lot of different situations without ill effect.

    Dirk Barends

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    Just done a few VERY unscientific calculations

    Measuring the canoe I find that when on the water my ass is sitting 5" above the water line. Distance between eyes and shoulder tops is approx 6". If I paddle correctly my blade is submerged by 1" by using the Downcreek guide. To be fair, "master" paddle makers usually have a good idea of what works

    Have you tried the measurement 5480? What shaft length do you get?
    Last edited by meirion; 30th-July-2018 at 08:23 PM.

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    Suggestion: Go somewhere there are lots of friendly canoeists. Take a tape measure and your canoe. Borrow lots of different paddles and paddle with them. When you find one that suits, measure it and buy that size. Don't forget the thank all the friendly canoeists.

  38. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by meirion View Post
    Just done a few VERY unscientific calculations

    Measuring the canoe I find that when on the water my ass is sitting 5" above the water line. Distance between eyes and shoulder tops is approx 6". If I paddle correctly my blade is submerged by 1" by using the Downcreek guide. To be fair, "master" paddle makers usually have a good idea of what works

    Have you tried the measurement 5480? What shaft length do you get?
    The distance between a regular chair and my nose is 28" (I am 5ft11). So Downcreek suggests a shaft of 28", which does not make any sense. The reason is that Downcreek ignores the distance from the chair to the waterline (which is usually 6"-9", depending on your seat height). Pls see #13 or #17 for better way to calculate the shaft length.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    The distance between a regular chair and my nose is 28" (I am 5ft11). So Downcreek suggests a shaft of 28", which does not make any sense.
    Actually Downcreek says "eye level":
    Sit up straight on a firm flat chair with legs at 90 degrees and measure the distance from the seat to your eye level or bridge of the nose.
    which is somewhat higher: 29" in your case?
    (I am 6ft and get a 33" shaft length using this measurement, which would suit me very well.)

    The reason is that Downcreek ignores the distance from the chair to the waterline (which is usually 6"-9", depending on your seat height).
    The distance from the chair to the waterline is more or less implied with this measurement,
    and -- assuming your measurement is done correctly --
    a 29" inch shaft length then seems like it would give you a good length to paddle with.

    Dirk Barends


    ADDIT:

    XKCD had a fun post today in this respect:
    https://xkcd.com/2026/
    Last edited by canonymous; 31st-July-2018 at 10:26 AM. Reason: disclaimer added

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    35 ins
    Did you mean 42?

    How hard can it be?

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    If you like, it wasn't an answer which was meant to be taken literally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 5480 View Post
    Pls see #13 or #17 for better way to calculate the shaft length.
    Don't need to, already got my ideal paddles with said method

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    Something else to consider is that you can treat shaft as blade, but not blade as shaft. In other words, you can put your lower hand further up the shaft than you might, but you can't easily put it on the blade. I'm 6ft with long arms and short torso, and have a Grey Owl with 35" shaft and 22" blade which is a little short (it came with my first canoe). I also have a 3 piece carbon beavertail that I designed; at first glance, the shaft appears to be 38" and the blade 25", but that's because I nipped in the top of the blade to get the joint in the right place. So I treat it as 36" shaft - just that the top 50mm of blade is the same width as the shaft (the missing area is trivial).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian Cooper View Post
    If you like, it wasn't an answer which was meant to be taken literally.
    Nor was 42.
    Amazing how many people still don't get that though!

    How hard can it be?

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    Nor was 42
    Base 13, innit!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimW View Post
    Nor was 42.
    Don't worry Jim, I did 'get it', like I assume you 'got' mine.

  47. #47

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    So I went and bought a 34" shaft (Grey Owl), which works "just fine". A 36" shaft may have worked too. Many good advices, many ways to measure the paddle length. Most methods suggested between 34' and 36" (including Bill Mason and Gary & Joanie McGuffin), Downcreek's method was the most inaccurate (28"). Thks to all participants!

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    Only just come to this too late, but if 5480 had identified his base, anyone near with a collection of or adjustable paddles could have invited "large number " to visit and try out. I know what I like, use the same set of paddles of the same length, and have done for nearly 40 years. Occasionally I borrow someone else's but generally end up thinking "why". But then I just paddle, rarely switch, short J, cross deck, pry, draw, spoon blade, usually use t grips.. I don't "indian", freestyle, secret move, change paddles mid trip unless its very shallow when I may use a plastic blade. I do subscribe to the "inner game" theory, that would probable predict that left alone to just paddle, the paddler's mind will develop a style suited to the paddle used. This won't work if the mind is confused by changing paddles.

    I paddle a bit with others. We all paddle in a different manner. Only when I was racing did all fellow competitors paddle in the same style. Last autumn I was passed by a WWC1 racer at "full chat" and he looked just like racers of the 80s

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