Updated on June 23, 2015
Intro: Greenland Paddles
I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been asked if “that paddle will really move me anywhere” from other boaters on the water.
I first stumbled upon Greenland paddles because I was looking for a wooden paddle for my new kayak two years ago. As frequent readers may already know I am drawn towards simple traditional solutions and equipment. Bias aside I believe this type of paddle has clear advantages for any kayaker outside of whitewater.
It should come at no surprise that this paddles hails from Greenland and where used by the Eskimos who inhabited the region. According to Eskimo Life by Fridtjof Nansen the Greenland paddle and the kayak (Qajak) evolved together as a vehicle for seal hunting in the harsh ocean of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
The kayaks top deck was created to prevent swamping and capsizing in the rough waters, which combined with the cold would be extremely dangerous. The narrow paddle shape provides less wind resistance the more common European paddles designs. Nansen also suggests that the paddles shape is influence by the necessity of crafting them from driftwood in areas where trees did not grow.
This is my paddle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My paddles was made by Dave at The Weathered Paddle. Like most greenland paddles it was built size based on my physical measurements and the beam of my Tempest 170. It is made from a solid Western Red Cedar 2×4. Dave offers customization options including lamination, hardwood tips, and edge armor. He also offers a tested two piece take down design.
The physical measurements used for sizing the paddle included various arm and hand measurements in addition to the boat model. The one downside of the tailor fit paddles is that my wife’s (5’0″) paddle is considerably smaller in length and blade width to my own. This give her a considerably lower cruising speed and we have to make constant adjustments if we wish to stay close.
Most online reports claim that despite displacing less water per stroke the kayak cruising speed does not seem to be impeded by the transition to Greenland paddles. When you switch you will quickly notice that your first strokes “slip” through the water and acceleration is affected. For older paddlers or any worried about shoulder injuries; this slipping combined with the give of a wooden paddle can make a big difference. With a European paddle I can pull hard enough to feel the strain in my shoulders; with the Greenland paddle I cannot. This characteristic could be dangerous if used in white water or rock gardens where explosive maneuvering is important.
The stroke is different and at first you will probably notice flutter until your body learns to paddle efficiently with the new blade profile. Bracing will also require additional care at first as the paddle will tend to dive pulling you down rather than supporting if the blade angle is not correct. I am still exploring the limits of my brace with this paddle and kayak combination.
Rolling is not “supposed” to be any more of a problem than it is with any other paddle, but it will likely feel different. As I am fairly new to sea kayaking… I can’t roll with any style of paddle, but I will continue to work on that.
Places to Buy
The Weathered Paddle – Baltimore, MD
Lumpy Paddles – Benson, NC
Thomas Paddles – Eugene, OR
RavenWoods – OR