Types according to purpose
Recreational Recreational canoe paddles are used for general and casual paddling.
They are usually made of aluminum, plastic, or cheaper wood varieties.
Most quality recreational paddles are made of laminated softwood, which are light and durable. They also have an aesthetic appeal, and are often hung on walls as decoration.
The blades can have rounded or squared off edges.
Lakewater canoe paddles are used for paddling in lakes and are designed for continuous smooth strokes.
They usually have long, narrow blades suitable for paddling over deep, flat waters.
Most models are made of hardwood, although this is mainly for aesthetic purposes. Commonly used woods are cherry, ash, walnut, maple, mahogany, and poplar.
They can be made from single slabs of wood or laminated from several pieces.
Whitewater canoe paddles have short blades with straight tips.
They have shorter blades and longer shafts compared to lakewater paddles.
They are also fitted with larger T-shaped grips.
They are designed for the quick, powerful strokes necessary for shallow, aerated whitewater.
They are usually made of much tougher materials, such as wood, fiberglass, and carbon. This is to give them more protection against rocks and rough waters.
The blades are big and wide, and are either flat or spooned, for pulling large amounts of water.
Performance canoe paddles are used for racing or fitness paddling.
They are designed for speed and are much lighter than other paddle types.
They are usually made of composite materials such as carbon fiber or Kevlar, which provides durability without adding to the weight.
The shafts are usually slightly bent forward to keep them vertical during extremely powerful strokes.
Types according to blade shape
These blade shapes apply mostly to wooden paddles.
Western Cree paddles have straight-sided blades with slightly rounded edges and rounded grips. They are the simplest type of paddle blades and are used for general-purpose canoeing.
Voyageur blades are narrower than the Western Cree, with less rounded tips and flared grips. They are normally used for lakewater paddles and produce smooth, straight strokes.
Beothuk blades are teardrop-shaped, with very rounded sides and sharp tips. They also have slimmer handles and larger round grips.
Ottertail blades are longer and narrower than other types. They have slightly tapered sides, square tips, and wide, rounded grips. They are also preferred for lakewater paddling.
Ashwing paddles have slightly rounded sides and squared-off tips. They are shaped much like the Western Cree, except for a flatter and wider grip.