We all know what an Aleutian paddle is - but I keep seeing arguments about which face is the power face. The common sense, when you look at the profile, says the flat face is the power face. Doubly so if you think that there are bent Aleutian paddles, concave towards the flat face. But then one sees Seakayaker Magazine say that is is the ridged face that is the power face - http://www.seakayakermag.com/2011/Dec11/paddles.htm -
“Though I’ve never seen evidence that would define which way the Aleut paddle is to be used, it is generally accepted that the ridged face is the power face. Wolfgang Brink, author of the construction manual The Aleut Kayak writes, “The correct way to hold an Aleutian paddle is with the ridge on the face of the blade facing back.”
My own experience with Aleut paddles suggests Wolfgang is correct. With the ridged side of the blade as the power face, the blade is forward of the shaft.”
So which was is the correct way? I’ve never used Aleutian and was thinking of adding one to my paddle collection. But how do I hold it? LOL
I Used One Once
Someone handed me one and I used it for a while. I asked the same question and the response I got was “Which way feels best to you?” My reply was that it felt better with the ridge as the power face.
It's just I read've exact opposite answers online... It's amazing though that there is no consensus on such simple issue!
Works well for me with the ridge as
the powerface. Its a bit longer than my GP and tends to slide and waver with the other face being used.
Works for me.. might not be the correct Internet answer.
I use mine on day trips in a pack canoe. Its too long for transport over portages.
Haven’t tried one
But I’ve looked at some interesting plans, such as this:
Despite being written in what seems to be Italian this shows designs where the power face of the paddle isn’t flat, but slightly concave (and on the same side as the ridge). The ridge seems a lot like a keel and may well work to improve tracking of the blade in the water.
Ridged on power face
From a fluid mechanics perspective, if the ridge is on the power face, it can act as a stagnation line for the incoming flow. It anchors the stagnation line in place, preventing it from wandering over the power face of the paddle. The wandering of the stagnation line can cause paddle flutter, which is best avoided.
If the ridge was on the back face, it will be in the wake of the paddle. It won’t do anything helpful there, as the wake will generally be a turbulent zone, so the flow doesn’t care if that face is ridged, smooth, rough, whatever.
Using the smooth side as the power face might be beneficial when the paddle is being used at lower power, when fluttering isn’t as much of an issue. In this case, it probably behaves similarly to a Greenland paddle. An Aleut paddle can perhaps be thought of as a hybrid in that respect.
I went to a GP clinic at my local club this past weekend, and they said it was the ridge side as power face. One of the benefits of the ridge is it helps make the paddle settle in easier, where a Greenland paddle you often have to keep at a slight angle to keep from fluttering.
One caveat to the information I got was that it it isn't from a new source to what the OP used - Wolfgang was one of the instructors at the clinic.
I figure that pretty much settles it. I wonder why I’ve heard several folks from British boards say that flat face is the power one?
And it is still a bit of mystery to me how you paddle bent-shaft Aleut - but I figure is is something one needs to try to see for himself.
Mine feels wonderful if I use the ridge face as the power face, and flutters if I use the not-ridge face as the power face.
Therefore, I use the ridge face as the power face.
The ridge definately has a purpose, otherwise they would have not bothered to add it. I have an Aluet paddle and have used several others. The ridge is the power face and it tells you why right away.
I agree that the ridged face works well as the powerface. That said, the non-symmetrical loom on the paddle I made from the drawing in Brinck’s book feels better to the hand if held with the flat face as the powerface. That drawing is from a museum specimen, I think.
North River Kayaks
I have been using Aleut paddles for about four years now and for me the power face is the flat side.
Aleut power face?
The Aleut paddle blades taper from the "ridge side" to the "Flat side" as it moves from the loom to the tip. So, if held with the ridge side backward facing (as the power face) the users hands are slightly behind the power face, reducing flutter. If held with the non-ridge side backwards (as the power face) the hands are slightly in front of the power face, promoting fluttering. Likewise, as noted the ridge splits the water flowing on the power face, also reducing fluttering.
It's an easy question to answer for this nine year Aleut paddle user and occasional Aleut paddle maker (9). I go with the orientation that reduces flutter rather than the one that promotes flutter.
However, there will always be some who, after reading statement "A", will instinctually argue that statement "B" is actually correct.
could shape affect direction?
Could the respective blade face profiles affect the way a given paddle feels or performs? I know with my GP’s even though similar in profile, one behaves far less tolerant of blade angle before fluttering. Perhaps a particular AP works better in a given direction than another? I have seen some with true flat face and others slightly convex. Likewise for ridged side with almost concave between ridge base and edge on some and then others to a lesser degree.
Certainly the blade profile will somewhat influence paddle feel. However, I doubt any paddle blade profile difference will overcome the influence of the Aleut paddle taper from loom to tip.
as the owner of (1) of the(9) paddles
Dave you are sending me scurrying to analyze (1) closer.
But ridged edge as powerface has always worked best for me
Aleutian paddle loom shape
As with all replica artifacts, some strive to exactly reproduce and others choose to “sort of stay in the spirit of” instead of exactly replication. I’ve done both, making Aleut paddles with egg shaped cross sections as shown on some drawings and with oval cross section as learned at the Skinboat School.
My hands prefer the elongated oval shape better although egg shape feels acceptable.
I got to pick my skinny Aleut out to try
I have not used that paddle in a long time, because I made it too skinny (great for very relaxed paddling, inefficient for anything approaching brisk pace). It's a true tooth-pick paddle in my case, with skinny blades and lots of flex.
However, from when I last used it about a year ago, I recall that both sides used as power faces work for me but they do so differently. With the ridged side as the power face the paddle is indeed more stable but also feels less powerful. With the flat side as the power face I have to use it with a bit of a canted stroke but it feels like I'm getting a bit more power from it thisway.
I've read here by Greyak (have not seen him post in a long time) something similar, if I recall right...
Anyway, since *my* paddle is neither a replica nor the product of extensive research (was the very first paddle I made) perhaps my observations do not hold water so to speak -;)
I’ll Start Some Shtuff…
How is an Aleut paddle any better than a Greenland paddle? It’s got that annoying ridge in it. It’s heavier. The only clear answer I ever got was that it didn’t flutter. Hell, my GPs don’t flutter.
There… did I stir it up some?
Why would an Aluet paddle be heavier? Mine is no heavier than any of my GP’s.
I don’t recall anyone saying it was better. It’s just different and requires a slightly different technique. There is some benefit including more direct power if used properly.
Why not have different toys to play with? I have five kayaks, Do I need that many? Nope, but it’s fun having different designs that do slightly different things.