I am thinking about getting a Kayak, I am very comfortable paddling my canoe with a single paddle.

My motivation is that I can canoe silently with a single canoe paddle that does not need to break the water with each stroke See Indian stroke & J Stroke it is very quiet

Kayaks always seem to use the double ended paddles, but I wonder if I could use a single Canoe paddle instead?

  • 8
    The answer to "can you" is invariably yes. The answer to "should you" is the difficult bit
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 19:54

6 Answers 6


Yes, but you might want to use a short paddle.

While the difference between a canoe and a kayak in practice is only the seat, and people do swap out kayak seats for canoe saddles in playboats, you'll find that you're much closer to the water and a standard length canoe paddle is a bit awkward.

You also have less freedom of body movement as a result of the seating position meaning that cross bow strokes are harder, though that might not matter to your style of paddling as they're quite aggressive strokes in a closed boat. It can also make it a little harder to get the paddle fully vertical, depending on the width of your chosen boat.

Your other options:

The Indian and J-strokes can easily be done with one blade of a kayak paddle, leaving you the freedom to use the other end of the paddle as well if desired for kayak style paddling. K1 (Kayak) is faster if you need to get somewhere more quickly.

As mentioned above you could take out the kayak seat and fit a saddle to convert your K1 to a C1. This eliminates the bulk of the above mentioned problems, though you'll need to choose a boat with a larger cockpit to be able to get the kneeling position set up.

  • 1
    If you're going to use a kayak paddle for this, it's probably best to avoid asymmetric paddles, and the grip may not be comfortable for long periods. I can vouch for it working, including using a kayak paddle with a blade snapped off (and I'm much more of a kayaker than a canoeist). It's perfectly possible to J-stroke a kayak, but short ones will make it tricky.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 18:46
  • I've successfully used a dragon boat paddle, which is significantly shorter than a canoe paddle but of similar design, to propel a sea kayak.
    – Martin F
    Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 21:57


You can use a canoe paddle without issue, kayak paddles are simply more efficient.

They actually make adapter grips so you can convert your two piece kayak paddle into a traditional style canoe paddle:

Hobie Paddle T-Handle enter image description here enter image description here


Yes–historically single bladed paddles were common

In Alaska, kayaks varied greatly by region and evolved over thousands of years into many shapes and styles. Single bladed paddles were often the primary type depending on the form and function of the kayak.

enter image description here Southern Iñupiaq kayak, early 20th century. (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-128941)

From Kayaks of Alaska by Harvey Golden:

As with their kayaks, the paddles made and used by the Unangan, Yup'ik, and Iñupiaq peoples are very diverse. Many different shapes and sizes occur, and often a hunter would carry two or even three types, each one being particularly suited for certain hunting/paddling conditions.

Try it out

Go to a calm pond or lake with a friend and give it a try. Compare with a double bladed paddle.

I have been experimenting with various paddle shapes. I carved an Unangan x̂aasi-x̂, a double-bladed paddle, and found it to be comfortable and efficient. Just recently used it on a 130 mile sea kayak trip without using the typical, European style paddle.

My next project is a single bladed paddle. I often sea kayak without the rudder. A single bladed paddle may be useful when the kayak is weathercocking strongly in high winds.

Lastly, your canoe paddle could serve as a backup paddle in a pinch if you don't own two double bladed paddles.

  • x̂aasi-x̂ just translates as kayak paddle as far as I can find, is it the style we'd call a "Greenland Stick"?
    – Separatrix
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 7:13
  • 1
    @Separatrix No, but they are somewhat similar in shape despite the geographic distance. Main difference is that the Unangan ("Aleutian") paddle is asymmetric: flat on one side and gradually tapered on the other. If you're interested in making a Greenland style paddle here are some good instructions. I have not seen any evidence of Unangan single bladed paddles so it wouldn't surprise me if x̂aasi-x̂ translates to "kayak paddle" without any differentiation in blade number.
    – llogan
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 18:18

Yes but try a traditional Greenland kayak paddle

You absolutely can although as mentioned above you are sitting closer to the water and may therefore need a shorter paddle.

That said, as your seated posture is different (if you really want to take advantage of the narrow kayak hull it’s best to be low and “locked in “ to the hull with your thighs) you may find the paddling ergonomics vary enough that you may not see the benefit of all your muscle memory.

You can also sit in a canoe-seat posture in a kayak, which gives you your strong familiar paddle ergonomics but raises your center of gravity and wind profile substantially. if the kayak is wide and stable this may serve you well, you will have a canoe-like craft which has lower freeboard so it will catch less wind, and better protection from chop (especially if you use a spray skirt).

However, a kayak paddle gives you the ability for instantaneous, instinctive brace strokes (strokes to keep you upright if tipping) on either side of the boat without having to move the blade over your body. That’s part of what allows you to paddle a more narrow, more tippy hull in rough water with great confidence. In turn, the narrow hull pierces the wind and chop, and the low-seated paddler hides from the wind. This is great for the ocean of course but it’s also great for a long day exploring a lake where breezes can kick up short steep waves before you get back home.

You may also really enjoy learning a new paddle (just as you apparently have embraced learning skills with the canoe paddle).

I would recommend at least trying Greenland paddles (pictured—-full length and “storm” length which is paddled much like a canoe paddle), they are equipment designed by subsistence hunters and can be paddled very quietly.

Also, if you’re shopping for a kayak: Borrow a few or find a shop that lets you demo gear before a final purchase and spend enough time in higher performance hulls to get past the initial feeeling of instability, before deciding on the amount of tippiness that fits your needs. I for example love fast boats but in practice want to be able to take a photo or eat a sandwich so I stay with touring hulls vs either racers or recreational boats.

enter image description here

From https://greenlandpaddlebook.com/Paddle_Gallery.html


I have a kayak with a rudder & it’s easy to paddle with a canoe paddle. (My kayak is narrow)

I think the double ended paddle is faster, but more effort.

I find that I get less dripping water on my lap, it’s less tiring to hold a canoe paddle, & I feel like there is less wind resistance in a headwind.

I share another poster’s concern noted above: if you start to tip having a long paddle allows instant & instinctive Corrections to your stability.

Because of stability concerns I only use the canoe paddle in ideal calm conditions.


Answering my own question based on recent experience.

I went and bought an inexpensive Sit On Top kayak, and took it to the lake with my shortest canoe paddle. Lessons learned.

  1. Yes you can, it is slower then you might expect though
  2. Kayaks are much more responsive than canoes, If you give a big strong paddle in a kayak like you are used to in the canoe, you will turn several degrees. Maybe 90+ degrees, 3 or 4 strong strokes will turn you all the way around
  3. Using canoe paddle with a J Stroke, you definitely want the canoe style handle. Subtle twists with the top hand are critical to stay the course.
  4. As with a canoe, keeping the paddle on one side and using a J stroke for long distances, is not a problem.
  5. On my first day out, I found I was going much slower then I expected. To keep the straight course and keep quiet, I found I was moving at half walking speed or slower (walking trail near the lakeshore, I got passed by foot traffic), probably about the same speed as quiet J stroke in a canoe.
  • The trouble with SOTs that they're particularly wide, that means it's hard to get the necessary close and vertical blade for easy forward passage and you lose a lot of power correcting, but even at the best of times single blade is slower than double.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 7:59
  • Slow and quiet, or fast and noisey. Always there are trade offs... Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 10:47
  • You can be silent with a double blade, the best way is to learn how to use wings in a fast boat. A good sea kayak will do, you don't need to go as far as racing boats.
    – Separatrix
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 10:48

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