Can You Use A Canoe Paddle In A Kayak?

If you’ve recently got into kayaking, canoeing, or both, you might be wondering how interchangeable the gear is between the two sports. For example, can you use a canoe paddle in a kayak? And will it work the same, or do you need a dedicated kayak paddle?

Can You Use A Canoe Paddle In A Kayak?

You can use a canoe paddle for a kayak, but it won’t be as efficient as using a kayak paddle. You may also find that your canoe paddle is a bit too long to use in a kayak comfortably and that the overall experience isn’t as smooth and steady. However, if a canoe paddle is what you have or your preference, you can use it to paddle a kayak.

Differences Between Canoe And Kayak Paddles?

Both of these watercraft vessels have many similarities, and so do the paddles used to propel them through the water. That might leave you wondering what the actual differences are.

There are a few significant differences between a canoe paddle and a kayak paddle. The first is that a canoe paddle generally only has one blade; the other end is the handle, and it is not used in the water but instead is grasped firmly in the paddler’s hand.


A kayaking paddle, by contrast, has a blade on both ends. And both are used in the water in a rhythmic motion that propels the boat forward. The handle is in the middle; this is where the paddler’s hands stay.

This difference is mostly because a kayaker sits much lower in the water than someone in a canoe. This means that paddling with a single-bladed paddle is much less efficient. A kayaker should have a paddle they can tilt from side to side and dip into the water without having to rearrange and reangle it on every stroke.


A kayaking paddle is often longer overall because both blades need to touch the water without the stem being moved from one side of the boat to the other.

However, when it comes to how far the blades reach into the water, canoe paddles tend to be longer. This is because the boater is further away from the water’s surface and may need more reach. While the overall stem is shorter, the blade dips down further when you place a hand on the “T” grip at the end.

That means that if you’re trying to use a canoe paddle in a kayak, you might find it’s awkward and too long to handle comfortably.

What Are The Advantages Of Using A Canoe Paddle In A Kayak?

There aren’t many advantages to choosing a canoe paddle for use in a kayak (or we would all use canoe paddles instead of kayaking paddles), but there are a few!

One good thing is that if you are using a canoe paddle, you aren’t holding a long blade above the boat all day, which can be easier on your muscles.

While canoe paddles have a more extended reach into the water, remember that a kayak paddle tends to be longer overall (because both blades need to be able to reach and dip under the surface easily).

That may make your kayaking paddle heavier and more awkward to carry, so in some circumstances, a canoe paddle may prove preferable.

Another advantage is that the canoe paddle will cause fewer drips of water to run down into the kayak’s cockpit, meaning you might stay drier.

When you are using a kayak paddle, you dip one of the blades in the water and then lift it up into the air to tip the other side down. 

This causes water to run down the stem of the paddle and straight into your kayak and cockpit. It’s also why so many people end up wet, even if they don’t get out of the kayak. Here’s how to keep your butt dry in your kayak

Depending on your stroke, this is less likely to happen with a canoe paddle. Although you will have to transfer the paddle from one side of the boat to the other, you can do so with care to avoid dripping water into the boat. 

Although this depends on the situation, it is possible to stay a little drier when using a canoe paddle.

Some people also argue that because a canoe paddle requires you to keep changing your grip and swapping sides, it allows your muscles more rest because they are performing different movements.

When using a kayaking paddle, you repeat the same movement repeatedly, without changing the angle of your arms or body very much. This can be tiring and lead to muscle strain. In some circumstances, therefore, you might find that a canoe paddle is preferable.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Using A Canoe Paddle In A Kayak?

The biggest disadvantage is quite a major one; you will need to switch hands on every stroke. This is because kayaks are designed to be pushed from one side and then the other in alternating strokes provided by a dedicated kayaking paddle.

If you start using a single-bladed paddle, you will find that you still need the traditional movement to keep your kayak tracking straight in the water. That means moving the canoe paddle from side to side of your kayak on every stroke, switching your grip on it to provide enough push.

This is very inefficient and will slow you down considerably, making it much harder to get anywhere. You may find it’s quite a frustrating and also a tiring way to travel, even if you practice the movement a lot.

The constant passing back and forth may also prove more tiring than paddling with the stem of the paddle held relatively still in front of you. In addition, it is more wearing on your shoulders and arms, involving more side-to-side movement.

Furthermore, because you have to keep changing sides (with a time delay every time you shift the paddle into the correct position and arrange your hands on it), you may find it difficult to maneuver quickly.

In sticky situations, a canoe paddle can be much less flexible, and you may find that you can’t move it fast enough to direct your boat as you want to. 

With a kayaking paddle, there is no need to swap your hands around. You can simply dip whichever blade is needed into the water, and direct the boat.

This often makes turning much faster and more controlled. If you oversteer, you simply paddle with the other side without changing your hands and passing the paddle over the boat. 

You cannot adjust your course as quickly with a canoe paddle because you have to move the paddle.

Final Word

A canoe paddle can be used in a kayak, but you may find it awkward and have to exert more energy. Again, it will depend heavily on your paddling style and what you wish to prioritize. 

Some people prefer a canoe paddle overall, while others find that a kayaking paddle is more comfortable and efficient.

You might want to try out both and see which works for you. Always test new paddling methods in calm water to start with to maximize your safety.

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