Getting up to speed with a GP

Thanks Dong- the 3" blade fits my

– Last Updated: Oct-07-08 10:36 AM EST –

hands very well and it feels very comfortable while cruising. I guess I'm reluctant to sacrifice fit and comfort for a potentially better bite at this time.


– Last Updated: Oct-07-08 9:43 AM EST –

You got me interested enough to try an Aleut design for my first GP attempt.

Any leads on design? I googled some links such as this:

But I'm still not sure how both sides of the blade look like. Or how to hold it - is the flat/concave side the power (back) face or the ribbed side is? (EDIT: I guess these answer that: and -;)

Also, it seems unwieldly long at close to 250cm or so. Does such a lengthy paddle really work for you?

EDIT: I guess I just came across your webshots: - these should give me a good start, especially if you care to share your measurements here or via e-mail. Thanks!

Yikes man - be careful who and what you reference.

Many of the rather few online examples are replicas (or derivatives) of museum specimens - several of which were originally made to go with large DOUBLE baidarkas (of types popularized and standardized during sea otter hunting for the Russians - so those artifacts survived and earlier singles and their paddles are rarer) and those paddles are like 96-104+" long.

NOT what you want. You’ll want something similar to or a couple inches longer than your favorite GP (if you knew what that was), and maybe 5-6" longer that a wing (I’d say euro - but too many are still swinging really long euros).

I size them about 2-3" longer than a GP. As a ballpark starting point - do the reach up thing as with measuring for a GP - but instead of wrapping fingers over the tip, keep fingers pointed and size to finger tip height/length.

Mostly the pointier tips on these paddles average out the feel on water vs them feeling longer. I also make my looms about 4-6" longer than on GP and have hands all on loom (shoulders - and the opposite feature on top of loom if you carve that too - offering indexing and other benefits - but aren’t as in hand as with GP shoulders). A bit wider loom for wider shoulders or bigger hands - narrower for smaller.

When you factor in the longer loom - blade area is actually less than that of a GP (of same blade width and 2-3" shorter overall) - yet I can get more out of them for less effort (by GPS/HRM - not by feel, as by feel GP seems to be more work at same cruising speeds - which without a way to measure you’d swear meant you were going faster when you’re not).

Loom shape is very important - sort of egg shaped - and the shape has a lot to do with dialing in the subtle stroke differences and the overall performance and comfort.

I’ve made two for myself. One is 90.5" x 3" with a 26" loom. The other, and current favorite, is 90" x 3.25" with a 26" loom (soon to be 27") - BrasilBrazil has it’s twin.

I’d recommend you think about carving and using GPs for a while before these. As simple as GPs are - most still underestimate the difference small details and shaping differences make and how these affect performance. With Aleuts there is a good deal more variety of form and subtlety of execution (and harder carving work) to get a really sweet paddle. Much of what’s learned carving GPs will help when doing an Aleut.

Not saying you can’t do a fine one right off, just saying your odds of being in the dark on what make a good paddle will be that much greater.

If you’re gonna give it a go, email me and I’ll try to find and forward you a copy of an email I send recently that lists some sources I found helpful (some you have, some you may not) as well what mix of these I’ve based mine on (they draw from multiple examples - or more correctly my interpretations of them - merged into a new interpretation/design - rather than replicating any in particular).

You might also look at Tom Yost’s site for his instructions on a simplified hybrid version that’s much simpler to carve and should perform OK for you for a first paddle.


PS - Most that use an Aleutian paddle (what, maybe a dozen or two? L) use the damn things backward too. While both sides have uses - and it is in essence two paddles in one - find old photos of actual ALEUTS on the water and you’ll see ridge forward - flatter/slightly convex side aft (also a LOT of variety in shapes and sizes). Ridge is in compression this way - and paddle is strongest. Also smoothest side is powered. Seems pretty obvious if you don’t have euro (with dihedral) bias. The other way with ridge aft (as dihedral) does have some good uses (notably towing, or with a very heavily loaded boat, or swimming with the paddle), but (at least with the types I’m carving) it’s not the best side for primary use in forward paddling.

PPS - There are other sources I’ve found but didn’t make use of. As you search you’ll likely see other designs with small sharp peaked ridges (check out Skinboat School) that look very nice and likely behave quite differently than what I carve. From what I can gather I think they began with the assumption of ridge as power face and adapted their design to suit this vs. adapting their paddling to the original design intent. Sort of explains the minimized and sharpened ridges L. Seriously though - they seem very nice and I know their owners find them to be exceptional. Love to check one out - but I don’t have the tools or patience for carving them that way or $ to buy one just to satisfy a mild curiosity - so I’ll stick to my more stone age friendly rounded ridge designs (I opted to keep ancient features, cest as I could figure tehm, and see what they did - which lead me to flip the paddle in pretty short order.

Lots of ways to move a kayak.

“little squiggle at the end"
Yeah - that thing! Tossing a few percent of sculling in - whatever the description or variation of application - it works.

With a 3” blade - Some may find it to have less a less grabby feel when trying to muscle it to early (euro habits)- and less of a “training wheels” feel in the slop - at least for a while when switching over (why 3.5 or even wider is is often recommended for beginner/euro converts).

Once past the basics though, a 3" blade will automatically encourage someone to develop better GP technique than wider (AKA - more euro-like blades). The little squiggle tricks and such will be that much more beneficial too. Narrower blades also tends to offer a benefit of less effort at typical cruising speeds (I had to do several trials with GPS to believe my slightly narrower GP was as fast, as it felt like cheating and I would have assumed it slower otherwise. Same again with an even narrower Aleut - that one actually faster for same effort).

Not saying “narrower” - or any specific width is optimal for everyone, but there are differences and they can be put to good use.

1/4" or even 1/8" differences can be pretty significant. 1/2" is huge - and would probably need a length change too to keep things in balance (in terms of load on the body over time/distance).

I agree that the 3" blade encourages
better technique. I have used wider blades and it appears that I do not have to be as precise with my stroke. If the 3" isn’t planted quickly and properly, it sucks air.

I also feel that there also appears to be minimal effort required when cruising with a narrower blade.

230 then?

– Last Updated: Oct-08-08 9:38 AM EST –

Sent you an e-mail. Thanks for the info.

Power side is an interesting question though. I thought the ridged side would be the primary power side, similar to dihedral EP or the way wings' blades are ahead of the shaft. Wouldn't it flutter more if you used the flat/convex side as power side, which would be behind the leading edge of the loom? Where if you used the ribbed side as power it would be forward of the loom axis, thus creating extra stability in the water?


– Last Updated: Oct-08-08 10:54 AM EST –


"With a 3" blade - Some may find it to have less a less grabby feel when trying to muscle it to early (euro habits)- and less of a "training wheels" feel in the slop - at least for a while when switching over (why 3.5 or even wider is is often recommended for beginner/euro converts)."

"Once past the basics though, a 3" blade will automatically encourage someone to develop better GP technique than wider (AKA - more euro-like blades). "


"Not saying "narrower" - or any specific width is optimal for everyone, but there are differences and they can be put to good use. "


Thanks for the disclaimer about other widths (other than 3 inch) being ok for some of us to use(audible sigh of relief).....The line of beginners was begining to look a little long using that criteria.

Best Wishes

Accomplished GP paddler
and expedition paddler Greg Stamer told me at Canoecopia that his GP has a 2 and 7/8 inch wide blade.

Flutter, etc.
Flutter is a technique thing.

For those who experience it with skinny blades (I don’t, but can make it happen if I want to) - it comes from trying to force the blade to do what you want vs. letting it find it’s optimal path.

More specifically flutter comes from either overpowering, applying power too soon, and both - with a bit of forced blade angle often in the equation as well. Perfectly straight pulls and blades face perpendicular to the pull tend to exacerbate it.

The ridge side actually will behave very much as you have surmised, and will eliminate some of this for those who haven’t figured out how to avoid it through subtle technique changes/paddle feedback. That doesn’t make it the optimal side for cruising. It does make it nice in situations where you have to overcome more drag and need to use a good deal of power while not getting anywhere fast (like towing). Otherwise, the flatter side is better for moderate speeds and above. There is a huge speed overlap where they both work OK, but the flatter power face takes less effort for same speed and gets progressively better as speed goes up. Also easier to get a cleaner/quieter release. Flatter side is slightly more “winglike” for lack of another way to describe it.

Look at it this way: A wing used backward would also have “dihedral” and pull straighter (note how back face is used for low brace/surfing) - but you don’t use them that way to paddle. You deal with some learning curve and figure out how to let it do what it does. Aleut can be forced to do what you want (ridge as power face) but it’s more beneficial to let it do what it wants.

Anyone coming to Aleut from a Euro background (and

GP if not speed distance paddlers that have found how to get more out of a GP) may automatically prefer the ridge at first because it offers a more familiar feel. It works pretty well like this, so they may not bother to give the other side enough time to dial it in and see the difference. Once you do, it’s faster, easier, smoother, and cleaner.

As for as bracing/support feel - ridge will feel better (aka - more familiar) at first, but once you get the other side figured out it easily offers as much or more support (similar to how a wing offers more than support than a euro). Even into a strong headwind and sloppy conditions making little headway I stick to the flatter power face.

Design-wise, the egg shaped loom pretty much tells the story. The wider side forward is OK - and matches the ridge/dihedral mode well (lessens pressure points/hotspots when gripping/powring hard), but it’s pretty clear the optimal grip for finesse and control is to have the slightly narrower end forward and maintaining a loose grip. Let’s the blade do its thing.

The ridge as power face make the paddle perform sort of like a Euro/GP hybrid (explains why many use them that way) and makes for an OK paddle. The flatter side as power face performs like and Aleut and makes for an exceptional paddle.

Same goes for the subtle technique differences. Use it like a Euro and it will perform OK - if you like an odd, skinny, and less than optimal euro. Use it like a GP, it will perform OK - if you like and oddly shaped and less than optimal GP. Use it like an Aleut and it rocks.

Basically it’s two paddles in one, but one way gets a lot more miles (and smiles).

For me it blows away everything but a wing, and even blows that away for me and the sort of paddling I like to do most of the time. Besides, I also have my hybrid design when I want to paddle with a wing stroke (this type will also work OK if used like EP or GP, but as BB noted about his: “Why bother”. With wing stroke it rocks).

I carry at least two paddles, often three as the variety is nice and they all work different muscles. I pretty much just use my GPs for some rolling practice (Aleut works fine too), and (CF GP) when getting in and out to save wear and tear on the other paddles.

The Aleut get top billing now partly because it seems to use more muscles and spread the work around more automatically (stroke has a subtle blend of wing and Greenland mechanics built in). Smoothest, most solid, and best speed for effort. Best part is the very natural “just paddling” feel. It just takes care of all the in water stuff for you, adapting on the fly, if you let it.

Sort of have to take that position…

– Last Updated: Oct-08-08 4:39 PM EST –

... when I nearly always have a 3.5" GP on deck ;) (though see my other post about not using it much for paddling), and often have a 4" wide Aleut wing hybrid along too - though that one's getting a bit apples/oranges as far as widths go - it's very much not a GP.

I don't consider a 3.5" GP a "beginner" width - just a good starting point for many "average" sized* - a pretty safe recommendation for someone not knowing what they want - and also a pretty good standard/average/baseline for a lot of Western GP users (any skill/experience level) who may be bigger and have different skill sets and uses than the Inuit originators who tended toward narrower blades. No reason to leave it at that though, since we're all very different.

* - "Average" also meaning males - I'd drop to 3.25", 3.125", or 3" for many women/smaller paddlers).

Though I have narrower GPs, which have benefits for some uses (particularly milder water cruising at reduced effort for same speed) I prefer my narrower Aleuts now for those uses and more.

… he seems to take 2-piece Superior CF GPs on the expeditions - which have 3.5" blades - but that is likely as much a pack-ability and durability/reliability choice as much as anything. Always compromises.

It is pretty amazing what you can get out of 3" and narrower blades though.

Custom made??
When your name is Greg Stamer and you are going to paddle around Iceland you might get a carbon GP the size you prefer from one of your sponsors :wink:

You might think - but no.
All their blades are the same - only looms vary - on all their CF paddles - which they have done for them by some aerospce composite outfit as far as I know.

is sponsored by Superior and uses their standard CF GP. No options to my knowledge for blade with, but you can with the two piece paddle adjust the loom length in 1" increments. He also carves his own and, at times, tries and uses paddles made by a few of the GP makers on this board.