Aleut paddle questions

-- Last Updated: Oct-27-08 9:02 AM EST --

I just tried my newly carved "to-be" Aleut style paddle on the water last night and got some questions.

First off, I have not quite finished it yet, on purpose. As it is now, both sides are flat with square adges and square tip. I wanted to try it first to see how it feels before refining it, being my first "stick".

First impression is that indeed both sides feel different because of the loom shape. The side that is supposed to have a flat side (no ridge) seems to have "more bite" and a more solid resistance compared to the soon to be concave/ridged side which feels somehow softer catching and with generally a little less resistance in the water. The latter also seemed to have less flutter initially, but by the end of the hour neither fluttered much. Remember the blades are currently symmetrical, so the only difference is the loom no matter which way I hold it.

Am I imagining things? The feel is quite distinct but I see no good explanation for it (other than the better flutter/stability due to loom shape). Both sides should have the same power as they have the same blade shape and size, shouldn't they? May be the grain on the wood is such that it favors one side...

Second, I finished the pine stick with Tung oil - two coats over 2-1/2 days with 400 grit light sanding inbetween and it looked and smelled like dry at the end. However, when I used it on the water it took on some water and the surface swelled and showed the sanding imprefections. That's actually good, as I skipped the "wet it" step and can now smooth out the paddle properly. But I'm worried that it is not well waterproofed as it is. Should I put more coats of Tung oil on it, am I doing it wrong, or what? I applied the oil both times liberally with a rag and wiped it so that there are no drips or standing oil before letting it dry. The wood seems to be "thirsty" and takes the oil in, but the second application was not nearly as wet as the first - there was clearly some effect from the first layer...

Thirdly, can someone point to good online videos or tutorials on paddling with these things? I've seen the "canted" stroke articles but they are not quite clear to me - need to see it rather than read about it. Right now I'm using it very much like I use my wing paddle and it seems to work well - with exit away from the hull as with the wing. Is this how it is supposed to be used? Everyone who paddles GPs around me seems to be using them slightly differently...

I tried the "S" stroke Grayak suggested some time ago but may be I misunderstood his post. Not sure if I did it right or not. Suppose I'm describing the stroke on the right hand side. I plant the paddle with some angle so it dives towards the hull as I pull it (first 1/3 or so of the S), then as it moves back I rotate it "out" (clockwise) along the long axis so that it does the second half of the S as it enters the peak power area (fully submerged and to the side of me/slightly forward) and it exits away from the hull as a wing paddle does. The thing is, that to do this rotation of the paddle I seem to need to use my wrists and I thought that this would be bad in the long term. Ideas?

Lastly, there was a lot of splash on entry, but that was due in large part to the fat square ends. Once I decide which side I pefer as the power side (relative to the loom), I'll carve the blades thinner and do a ridge on the other side. Canted entry seems to help minimize splash at entry if done to the inside and worsen the splash if rotated out. But I could not figure out how to maintain the inside angle and still have good pull on the canted stroke, hence I tried the "S" as explained above...


couple of things
I found Greyaks description pretty descriptive but for me it works a bit better like a “C” with a bit of a curve at the end? Not sure that is any better description.

I spoke to some who insist that the ridged side aft as the power face is the only way to properly paddle the Aleutian paddle. Like you i find more power and more speed with the “flat” side and the ridge side with a bit more of a delicate control. In other words, if i want to go fast the flat side is what i will use. And I do see an increase in speed by GPS.

the Aleut and the GP were both designed specifically for conditions in the areas where they were made, with boats specific to that area. We don’t know the thought process when they were originally built and have no way of knowing how they preferred to use them. With that in mind, any suggestion as to what is “right” goes flying right out the window.


That’s it -:wink:
What’s right is murky, so I’m trying to get some feedback of what folks think and compare to my initial impressions. I think logically it makes sense - the ridged side when used as power does lie behind the front loom axsis and is both dihedral and sloped slightly forward so it having less flutter and less power only makes sense. The flat side stressing the grains on compression in a way that stiffens the entire paddle length also makes sense to produce a stiffer and more powerful feel on the water.

Since neither side flutters considerably anyway, I think I will put the ridge on this week and finish the paddle as soon as I find a spoke shave tool that is… Will also make the ends round/pointy. Carving some more wood out will make the paddle quite light and hopefully will eliminate the splash due to diving a fat square object in the water during initial planting.

Lastly, I think I would like the loom a couple of inches longer than it is now and make it may be just a fist or two narrower than what I have on my wing. I already have it at least 5-6" wider than a typical GP’s 20-22" or so but I think I can use a little more.

I made the blades rather skinny (under 3") due to a manufacturing error -) but I think they are actually big enough and seem to be perfect for cruising.

power face on Aleut paddles

– Last Updated: Oct-27-08 10:53 PM EST –

As noted, there is very little information readily available on Aleut paddles. We will have to wait for the definitive book from Harvey.

I have been using the Aleut paddle I made at the Skinboat School since 2003 as my primary paddle. I don't know the source of the design or if it is "traditional" or something Cory drew up-I just know that it works for me.

I think that due to the blade sloping towards the flat side of the paddle, paddling with the ridge towards the paddler puts the blades behind the hands during the stroke and therefore minimizes flutter. If the ridge were facing forward (away from paddler) the blades would be in front of the loom during the stroke and therefore in a position that would tend to promote flutter. I can't think of a reason why they would be developed to be used this way.

My conclusions are not based on any documentation, just my "common sense". I'm aware that some folks feel that they work better used with the ridge forward. Different strokes for different folks.


I have paddled with two so far
Greyaks and David Niles. Both very different which further proves that there is no right way.

Under 3 inches sounds great. No manufacturing error, just your subconscious telling you what you need. :slight_smile:

If you look at the Yost site youwill see a hybrid aleut which is essentially a flat side with a gp side. pretty interesting. I made one and made it a two piece and it paddles fine.


Power face
You voice my “theoretical” reasoning as well and my first impressions tend to support it. This was the reason why I did both front and back blade sides symmetrical (no ridge or curves) to see how the offset factors in. I was surprised I felt so much difference only due to the loom position relative to the blade surface in terms of power and so little in terms of flutter. There seems to be a touch less flutter at the catch pase with the “ridge back/used as power face” and the difference disappears as the stroke progresses. Overall, flutter did not seem to bother me either way and the difference seemed inconsequential compared the very distinct more “spongy” feeling of the curved side compared to using the flat side as power.

I think this is the beauty of this design - one has a choice how to use it.

I’ll see how it feels when I finish it. But since this is the first time I’m really paddling a stick I want to get some input on how to use it properly, rather than discuss too much the paddle itself. Needless to say, my impressions are probably influenced by my inexperience with this paddle as much as they are by the design of it -:wink: - want to take the inexperience out of the equation as much as I can, so chime-in on how to use it best.

Different stroke for different paddles
Skinboat school paddles, from (very pretty) pictures/instructions I’ve seen, have small but very sharp ridges - so face is more like dihedral on a euro - and this design evolved by people using the ridge as power face and THEN refining their design to suit paddling this way (plus having power tools no Aleut had).

With mine, ridge side is OK and nice to paddle with. Would certainly feel more “right” or familiar to most to use it that way at first. Using ridge side as power face it behaves sort of like a GP/EP hybrid. That’s OK, and has it’s uses, but lacks any magic. Flatter side (mine aren’t flat) is where it’s at for smoothness and efficiency.

If you look at the ridge as a spine for strength with weight savings - it tells 1/3 of the story. If you look at the loom shape - it tells another third. If you let the paddle do what it wants to in the water - and don’t force EP or GP habits on it, it really shines. Why eat soup with a fork? :wink:

“Flat” face question

If you had to do it again, would you still shape the “flat” side to be actually a little convex, would you keep it flat, or would you do it a little concave?

Also is using “wing paddle style” stroke wrong for this paddle?

correct…should have mentioned
That the “flat” side is not flat.

Just like any other paddle, if you are a paddler that is, you adapt and get used to your paddle. I can (and have) paddled a couple of really crappy paddles (one I made) and done just fine.

I have seen curved and warped GP’s, unbalanced, non symetrical, and paddles that just looked wrong in pictures and these were paddles that were used daily for survival

Greyaks Aleut is not only extremely functional but it is also a thing of beauty. Just ask anyone who has seen it. I have to constantly tell myself that it is just a paddle and force myself to give it the same consideration while paddling (none) as I do with my GPs. :slight_smile:


“S” comments were for GP, not Aleut
What Paul said. A soft C shape is a better description. Or call just it sort of a soft path out from the gunnel and then back the lower/pull hand takes.

More overblown description: Start sort of like wing and flare out a bit - top hand crossing deck as you rotate. Then punch upper hand down as you bring pull hand back toward the gunnel - like a Greenland crunch/kick finish. As the pull hand comes back in and the push hand punches down the paddle goes back a bit more parallel to the kayak which helps set up a clean release (and the crunch/kick stuff doesn’t work too well other than closer/more parallel). Wing/GP hybrid stroke - sort of - but really its own thing and much simpler, and I only use those comparisons as descriptive tools.

With GP you sort of punch upper hand across and down at the same time - upper hand takes a fairly straight angled path. With Aleut the upper hand sort of follows a slightly more arced/arched path. A bit more cross movement (and more rotation). The soft curve the hand traces through the air is similar to the curve the paddle traces on the surface of the water.

These stroke differences are subtle and very natural feeling. Mostly what the paddle and water want to do if you let them. Stuff you feel more than see, and someone paddling next to you won’t likely see at all. Get it dialed in, and it may get hard for them to stay next to you.

Above assumes hands on loom, not shoulder/root like GP (at least not all the time). Hands need to be on loom for the egg/rounded trapezoid loom shape to do it’s part. The shoulders, and slope down from loom (plus step/hump on top of loom if you do that feature) provide great hand positioners and prevent slips. The slope down from the loom can also allow a bit less flare on outer two fingers allowing an even more relaxed grip - and lets them contribute a bit (the hump can add to this and further fine tune the feel - my pinkie sort of lays at the bottom of it).

Once you finish the tips and edges (finer edges pay off same or more than with GPs - comfortable to hold the blade when extended, barely) it should be pretty much silent on catch like GP. The trick is finding the quiet exit (aka - clean and efficient release). Using flatter side as power face, with the little differences in the stroke above, should get you there quicker.

Paddling at a decent clip also helps bring all this together. Can’t really play with this stroke stuff only going 3 knots and expect to get things worked out. Anything works at 3 knots - and you can tell yourself anything about what’s going on. Consider the original users weren’t lily dippers - or one hour paddlers. Probably couldn’t get by using them upside down on the slower and structurally weaker side either - like modern recreational paddlers can ;). Aleut seems to start singing between 4 to 5 knots with much more there if you can bring it. Feels best (most solid/cleanest/dialed in) at a moderate to fast cruise - and makes it easy to stay there. That’s where it’s more efficient, where I like to paddle, and I prefer it over any of my other paddles (my hybrid Aleut/Wing is a close second when I want to work a little more and use a more full on wing stroke - which for now is just on shorter paddles or a change of pace along the way).

Aleut just sort of disappears in use. No longer paddle/paddler/paddling - just paddling.

One weird observation: I use all sorts of little stroke variations with a GP - which is sort of a Jack-of-all-trades and most things work OK with it (but GP does work best as GP - with GP tricks). However, I do not like using these slight Aleut stroke differences with a GP. Doesn’t feel right - even though similar to some GP tricks - and gives no efficiency or speed benefits as it does the Aleut. I suspect that’s partly the loom/grip difference, partly the blades and their relation to the loom. Somewhat makes sense, still somewhat weird. I also try other variations with the Aleut (which is how it got me to the stroke I use now) - but while other stroke variations work OK - GP/EP/Winglike whatever - it reduces it to feeling more like a less than optimal GP or Euro. Like a borrowed paddle - or dealing with a rental while traveling. As Paul often says: “Why bother?” I agree, and just do what it likes (same with the “lazy” wing stroke of the hybrid paddle). Unlike many other paddles - feel in hand/water and speed on GPS all agree on what works with the Aleut.

My first was 3" or a bit under
Skinnier will help you find/feel the unique differences faster/better. Bit less forgiving/more demanding of keeping things dialed in - which is a good thing most of the time. With wider, it’s easier to be sloppy and/or force old habits.

My current one (twin to Paul’s) is 3 1/4". Lot more power, bit better speed, more forgiving/reassuring in slop - but the skinny one was my fastest (and easiest at speed) paddle before this one (and the hybrids) - and great in weather - despite it having narrower and shortest blades (longer loom = shorter blades vs GP, even though it was 2.5" longer overall than my GPs).

Water likes curves
Yes, I would keep some convexity to the flatter face.

It’s not a lot (not a big curve like in the Italian drawings), but I do think it’s beneficial. Maybe critical for behavior/performance using that side as power face.

It’s acting like a foil to some degree, same as “power face” on a GP. Totally flat surface would have a tendency to be a bit squirrelly as a power face - and sloppier/more vortex inducing as a backside too - all else equal. More air entrainment issues through catch, harder to get clean release at exit.

Mine look pretty flat on casual inspection - but I removed a very shallow wedge extending maybe an inch or so in toward center with the edges taken down an 1/8" on that face. Then the edges were rounded over and all sanded so it’s more smooth/lenticular (not as much as typical GP, but still there).

Depending on methods, just sanding may get enough curve to break the surface.

Besides all that - it just looks/feels right.

Wing-like stroke
Try it (I recommend flatter side for this - try both you’ll likely see why). I think you’ll find you can just flare out in a winglike manner - much like with GP - and it works - well - OK. Again, as Paul’s says though, it’s sort of another case of “why bother”

Trouble is you’re wasting half the available power of the long narrow Aleut blade with just the flare, you’ll likely get a sloppy release, and mediocre performance at best. Longer stroke with blade immersed much of it with the other stroke I describe - with upright and crunch type rotation benefits in same stroke - gets you more bang for same effort.

I do go to a somewhat winglike stroke with my GP sometimes to switch things up on the muscles (or the “S”, or a super vertical stroke, or…). I find I don’t need to with Aleut as this mixing up and load spreading seems to be more built in.

When I want to go to more of a full on wing stroke, I use my hybrid paddle - made specifically for that (it works with other strokes OK too, but it’s another case of “why bother”).

Playing with all sort of stuff like this - highly recommended. All things with all paddles Doing it with GPS to check actual speeds - even better. No right/wrong stuff - and water is best teacher. There are things that work better than others. The more you play the more things you find, and the more they sort out as what goes best with what.

Ridge forward worked for these folks

As usual greyak
makes my head hurt.


After a couple hours on water, I’ll add this.

However that stuff reads, divide by 10. Differences are much bigger in words than on water (but still there and worthwhile).

Feels pretty much like “just a paddle”, until I switch to the GP - which I don’t do for long (and I do love that GP, even if it has become more of a deck ornament/outrigger/rolling toy).

Another headache/can of worms: I do cant the Aleut (both sides - but talking flatter power face here), or I should say it cants itself. Less than GP, but it gives nice smooth power and makes the grip more comfortable/solid/stable as it puts more of your fingers on the long side and less wrapped over the tip to the other side. This keeps the narrower loom side from digging more squarely into the finger between 1st and 2nd joint (from tip). Again, super small difference - but nice.

One more question - Tung Oil
I asked that but no one mentioned it…

How many coats of 100% tung oil would pine take initially to be well waterproofed? My 2 coats seems to do OK, but the surface of the paddle still gets wet (but dries fast, so the water does not go deep apparently), so I think I probably need another couple of coats. Would it ever feel waterproof or would it always fel wet after use? Should it?


Thanks for the the discussion
Having recently made a couple of Yost hybrids, I love this discussion. Here are some observations: 1. When I hold the paddle with a loose grip it seems to teach me how to use it. A couple of times the paddle twisted in my hand to the best angle at the end of the stroke, as an example. 2. I haven’t used a GPS, but is does seem to have more power than my GP, certainly more than the GP side of the hybrid. 3. I made a hybrid spare paddle, some would call a storm paddle. It fits on the back deck great, with the flat side down, seems very secure. 4. I have used a GP for a couple of years, but I am now sold on the Aleut. I can’t wait to borrow Paul’s Aleut made by Greyak. I can almost guarantee that after that I will be placing an order for a paddle. Thanks guys.

Hey Tom
you will be amazed by the Greyak Aleut. get your checkbook ready.


(I gotta get a hold of greyak and talk commission soon)

anyone got good close-ups of these
paddle faces?