Difference Between Oar and Paddle

Key Difference – Oar vs Paddle
 

Oar and paddle are both used to row or steer a boat through the water. Although both these are used for the same purpose, there is a technical difference between oar and paddle based on the way they move through the water. Oars propel the boat in the opposite direction as the rower is facing whereas paddles propel the boat in the same direction as the paddler is facing. This is the key difference between oar and paddle.

What is an Oar?

An oar is a pole with a flat blade that is used to steer a boat. Oars are always used for rowing, not paddling. Therefore, oars are usually used in rowboats, sculls, and sweep oar boats.

Oars are used to propel the boat in the opposite direction from the direction the rower is seated. Therefore, the person who rows the boat travels backward.

The oars that are used for rowing are usually attached to the boat. They are placed on the oarlocks which act as a fulcrum for the pushing and pulling rowing motion. Since the oars are attached to the boat, the rowers, you, can hold two oars with your two hands. In fact, two blades are required in rowing to keep the boat in a straight line. The rowing stroke is driven by the rower’s legs and arms.

Key Difference - Oar vs Paddle

What is a Paddle?

A paddle is also used to steer a boat, but they are usually used for paddling, not rowing. Paddles are mainly used for boats like kayaks, canoes, rafts, and stand-up paddleboards.

The main difference between oar and paddle is that paddles propel the boat in the same direction the paddler is facing, as opposed to oars, which propels the boat in the opposite direction the rower is facing. Therefore, the paddler travels forward.

Unlike oars, paddles are not attached to the boat. They are only supported by the paddler’s hands. In fact, a paddle is held by both hands. If the boat has only one paddler, he or she uses the paddle left and right in turns to move straight ahead. The paddler’s strokes are not driven by the paddler’s legs and arms, but by his or her torso.

Difference Between Oar and Paddle

What is the difference between Oar and Paddle?

Rowing vs Paddling:

Oars are used for rowing.

Paddles are used for paddling.

Direction:

Oars propel the boat in the opposite direction as the rower is facing.

Paddles propel the boat in the same direction as the paddler is facing.

Attached to the Boat:

Oars are attached to oarlock in the boat.

Paddles are not attached to the boat.

Type of Boat:

Oars are used in rowboats, sculls, and sweep oar boats.

Paddles are used in kayaks, canoes, rafts, and stand-up paddleboards.

Image Courtesy:
“Red Bull Jungfrau Stafette, 9th stage – kayaking (7)” By Fanny Schertzer – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia 
“‘Tambar’ a Faroese rowing boat, 20 ft” By RK.FO – RK.FO (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia