What Size Oars Do I Need for a Canoe?

If you’re planning on paddling a canoe, you’ll need a good set of oars. But what size oars do you need? This is a common question for new canoe enthusiasts, and it’s important to know the answer before hitting the water.

Why Oar Size Matters

Oar size matters because it affects your ability to maneuver your canoe. If your oars are too short, you won’t be able to reach the water effectively, which will make paddling difficult. On the other hand, if your oars are too long, they’ll be hard to control and can even cause damage to your canoe.

Factors That Affect Oar Size

Several factors can affect the size of oars you need for your canoe:

  • The width of your canoe
  • Your height and arm length
  • The type of paddling you plan on doing (e.g., recreational vs. whitewater)

Calculating Oar Length

To calculate the appropriate oar length for your canoe, follow these steps:

Step 1: Measure Your Canoe Width

Measure the width of your canoe at its widest point. This is typically near the middle of the boat.

Step 2: Determine Your Paddling Position

Decide where you will be sitting in the canoe when paddling. This will depend on whether you’re paddling solo or with a partner.

Step 3: Calculate Oar Length

Use this formula to calculate your oar length:

Oar Length = 1/2 (Canoe Width + Distance from Waterline to Gunwale)

The distance from waterline to gunwale is determined by where you’ll be sitting in the canoe. If you’re sitting on a seat, measure from the seat to the waterline. If you’re sitting on the bottom of the canoe, measure from your bottom to the waterline.

Choosing Oar Material

In addition to size, you’ll also need to choose the right material for your oars. Common materials include wood, aluminum, and carbon fiber.

Wooden oars are traditional and offer a classic look and feel. They’re also relatively inexpensive. However, they require more maintenance than other materials and can be heavier.

Aluminum oars are lightweight and durable. They require minimal maintenance and are great for recreational paddling. However, they can be less comfortable than wooden oars due to their hard grip handles.

Carbon fiber oars are extremely lightweight and strong. They’re great for competitive paddling and whitewater kayaking. However, they’re also the most expensive option.


Choosing the right size oars for your canoe is important for a successful paddling experience. By following these steps and considering your personal preferences, you’ll be able to find the perfect set of oars that will make your time on the water enjoyable and efficient!

Photo of author

Michael Allen