The old method of measuring was to bend the outmost digit of the 1st finger and open the thumb-down and the blade should fit in there. This way you can grip the blade for extended paddle use. But you can cheat a bit since it's easy to carve down the width later.
Don't negate pine for a GP. I have several and my favorite is a pine one. Still quite light and plenty strong. Clear pine is everywhere and not expensive. A 1 x 4 x 8 is always available at all lumber outlets. Feel the weight of boards because it varies as to the density of the tree. I laminate a piece of pine lattice down the center to get the extra thickness.
PFD's (Life Jackets)
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