GP For Small Paddler

I’m carving a GP for a friend who wants to learn some Greenland skills. I took her measurements last weekend and am a little skeptical of following the usual recipe - she is on the small side and I’m afraid if I built this paddle per the measurements it would be way too small. I’m wondering if this methodology doesn’t work well for really large and really small paddlers.

Length: 74"

Width: 2.5"

Loom: 14"

I know right off the bat I need to make the loom longer, as she paddles a 21.5" wide boat. I am quite tempted to make the blades longer and wider as well, I’m just not sure by how much.


Two thoughts
What length paddle does she use now? I would go close to that. You can shorten it if it turns out to be to long.

14" loom?? Does she paddle with one hand on top of another? Man that seems small! I assume you measured correctly but I would have to double check that. But same thing, you can lengthen the loom if it is to small. Much easier than trying to shrink it.

On my GP’s I never liked the traditional grip with the fingers around the blades. So I make my looms just past the outsides of my hands. But I also square the paddle shaft and then round the corners. Leaving 4 flats so I can orient the paddle in my hand. And I find the squareish grip more comfortable than a round shaft.

I agree
I agree with your suggestion that the traditional body measurements do not work well for people on the smaller and larger ends of the scale. A 74" paddle would be a bit less than 190cm, pretty short compared to Euro paddles. I’d suggest making something around 80-82" - that would be 204-209cm.

Personally, I’m on the larger end of the spectrum - traditional measures give me a paddle 96" long. I now use GP’s at least a foot shorter, pretty dramatically different.

Because the blade tapers very slowly near the end, you can shorten a GP quite a bit with little change in width, so I’d start long.

For loom, I’d start with 18"; it’s easy to widen that if desired. In like fashion, width can be decreased easily. I used 3" for a petite friend, and it works well for her.

Your friend is fortunate if you are nearby to make modifications. Ordering a paddle from someone far away would make sizing more of an issue, eh?

Cheers, Alan

What are her actual dimensions?
My girlfriend is only 5’1", 115# and she prefers paddles in the 78-82" range. She started with a 16" loom, but found that she needed to use a sliding stroke with it. Even with an 18" loom, she would hit the gunwales on her boats, including one with a 19.5" beam. She now uses either a 19" loom (shouldered) or a shoulderless paddle.

If the person in question is shorter and smaller overall, a smaller paddle may be justified, but if not, I would suggest starting at 80-82" with an 18" loom.

Blade width can vary substantially, with many average-sized adult men using blades under 3" wide. It’s more of a personal preference than anything else, as long as the blades are narrow enough to allow easy sliding of the paddle. Unless the person in question has VERY small hands, a blade width of 3-3 1/4" is a good place to start.

You can easily make the paddle shorter and/or narrower, or the loom longer, but going the other way is difficult.

An cheap way to make a test paddle

– Last Updated: Nov-30-08 10:37 AM EST –

Consider getting an 8ft closet rod at home depot. You can mark out various loom lenghts and let her paddle with her hands at various postions. You can also mark where the paddle actually enters the water. You can then add a standard blade size length to that to get your overall paddle length.

You can actually paddle pretty well with the pole although not as fast as with the real paddle.

Be carefull on lenghting the loom too much. A longer loom causes the upper hand to be higher during the stroke. If the loom is too long the upper hand will be well above the shoulder level. I think that you lose some of the "comfort" of the GP if the upper hand is too high on the stroke.

Another thing to check on the blade width is the ability to rotate the blade angle when sculling. I find that even though I could grip a 3.5 in blade the size caused me to roll back my wrist. I did not have enough flex left in the wrist to change the blade angle when doing the forward part of the sculling stroke. When I changed to a 31/8 in blade I had no trouble maintaining the correct angle when sculling.



– Last Updated: Nov-30-08 10:49 AM EST –

Thanks for the thoughts guys. Regrettably, I neglected to get her height / weight, but yes, she is petite. There seems to be somewhat of a consensus here on the lengthened dimensions, which sounds reasonable to me. I think I will start with a 3" wide blade and go from there.

As an aside, I recently overhauled my very first "real" paddle (which wasn't very good) into what is now my favorite one. I thinned and narrowed the blades and improved the shoulder area. It now has a very quiet catch with little to no ventilation, which rather surprised me (pleasantly ;) The shoulder remains the most difficult thing for me to get "right".


Consult an expert
Consult Bill Bremer. He knows Greenland paddles and can suggest the most effective solution.

loom dimensions
I think the loom length is more a function of the boat width than the person width. With a hard shell boat you probably will want a longer shaft. Of course if you have a SOF made to her anthropogenic dimensions, then the boat width and the paddler width are interrelated.

I agree that you probably won’t want to shorten the blades too much, either.

I’m fairly small and happy with
an 80" paddle, 18" loom and 2.5" blade.

BTW, I had to try a few before I knew what was comfortable for me. The one that was “supposed” to suit me, didn’t.

Here are guidelines from the Lumpy
Paddles site:

small paddler, long narrow paddle
I’m 5 feet 3 inches and have very small hands. Since I wanted to be able to extend my paddle for rollling it was important to me to have a secure grip out on the blade near the tip. I ended up with a paddle 86 inches long, 3 inches wide, and shoulderless. I love an unshouldered paddle. I like a 20-inch loom.

My next paddle, a Lumpy by Bill Bremer, will be 86 inches long (84 inches just didn’t feel right) and 3 inches wide. The biggest difference will be the sharpness of the blades. I can really feel the difference between my old paddle and Bill’s thinner ones.

My 2 cents’ worth! An 84-inch length with a 3 to 3 and 1/8 inch width might be nice for the small woman you’re making the paddle for. Unshouldered is nice because you can move your hands around so easily.

Well …
By these measurements I consistently come to 19" or 20" and this seems awfully narrow to me. I bought a pre-manufactured (accidentally available locally) 21" loom Lumpy for me thinking it would be good. It feels rather narrow to me. When I recently took a lesson with an experienced GP instructor I was told that indeed I needed more than that. And it was not the width of the boat that was the contraining factor but my arms position overall felt better a little wider than the 21" the paddle allowed.

Conclusion - the loom length is very individual. I suppose - may be some can figure it out over the phone or the internet and take a good guess, but till it is paddled for a while one would not know for sure…

Loom length
Individuals do vary. The “methods” get you a ballpark number - then, as Bill and others do, you have to figure many will likely prefer another inch or two. From there is can help to also look at shoulder size, arm length, ratio of upper to lower arm, head height above water level, etc…

That will get it pretty darn close dimensionally for calm water/casual pace folks (most) - who’s uses aren’t demanding enough to really be able to nitpick what’s “right” beyond that level of fit/function anyway (Sorry, someone has to say it. Anything works OK at 3 knots over short distances! This describes the majority, so the happiest and most vocal buyers of GPs tend to fall into this range. As long as a paddle feels reasonably comfortable it’s all good - and easy to tell yourself the latest paddle, or change in dimension really made the difference. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t - but without a brisk pace and some mileage you’re not likely to sort it out beyond that. Nothing wrong with that, just noted FWIW).

So, that introduces another key set of variables. The paddler’s power (to weight ratio), the kayak type, total displacement, and both how and where they typically paddle. These are the real reasons we all like different paddle types and sizes (assuming we’re really evaluating and choosing on fit and use vs. cool aide drinking), and why we often prefer different paddles in different kayaks.

With GPs, the anthropometric sizing actually covers a good bit of this (and being methods and not rules allow for variability between users) - as long as we understand GPs were designed to pair with fairly narrow and LV craft. Outside of that, the sizing methods may not work so well (and GPs themselves may not work so well.

There’s one more wag I like to toss in: Add about another 1/2" to 1" (beyond the extra 1-2" already mentioned) to loom length for every 0.5 KT over 3KT average speed you like to cruise at. If that number is getting above 4 KT consistently, might consider and Aleut, Hybrid, or Wing paddle - depending on type of kayak, what you like to do, and waters paddled.

Another variable to consider…
…is that Inuit people, like other polar people, have a body type that’s not typical of people in more temperate climates. Specifically, they are shorter and have relatively short limbs and stocky torsos, which are evolutionary adaptations that help reduce heat loss in cold environments. When using the anthropometric measurement system they developed, you have to consider your body proportions relative to theirs. That’s why I, being relatively tall, thin and long-limbed, use much shorter paddles and boats than anthropometric measurements suggest.

I’m not sure I agree with the suggestion to lengthen the loom based on speed. If that works for you, fine, but I don’t know of anyone else in the GP crowd that varies their loom length with the speed they plan to paddle. Rather, they find a size that works for them and stick with it. Whatever works at higher speeds will work fine at lower speeds, too.

If I were to hazard a guess, I would bet that your technique becomes more “wing-like” than “GP-like” when you’re really pushing the pace, which is why a paddle with a longer loom feels better. If you use the more pronounced forward crunch and downward-diagonal push in “classic” GP technique for high speeds, a longer loom is of little or no benefit.

I’m certainly not saying that you’re doing anything wrong, rather that it’s worthwhile to examine everything thoroughly so we can all understand what’s going on.

thread has probably reached the point that if you would actually like some size sugestions…then post her size (other than just the word smaller) and possiably the boat she paddles. (because of deck height)

my guess is that there are very few people, useing less than an 80 inch long paddle and very few have a loom shorter than about 17 inches…blade widths for smaller people usually are no wider than 3.25 inches

just some ball parks based on the word “Smaller”

Best Wishes


Saying same thing I suspect
"I’m not sure I agree with the suggestion to lengthen the loom based on speed. If that works for you, fine, but I don’t know of anyone else in the GP crowd that varies their loom length with the speed they plan to paddle. Rather, they find a size that works for them and stick with it. Whatever works at higher speeds will work fine at lower speeds, too. "

We’re saying sort of the same thing - but folks you know have likely already factored it in. Of course they don’t “vary” the length they already have for this variable, as the length they’ve selected already fit’s their cruising speed - and, as we both noted, anything works OK SLOWER than that. I’m really talking about differences between 3 kt and 4+ knot paddlers. Maybe it’s just part of the same “inch or so” wider than grip distance for many, a little more for some (over-used example being Maligiaq with 24" loom).

The other way I’m sure you heard it said is that stronger/faster/more energetic paddlers may tend to prefer a little wider loom (relatively).

No, my GP technique is not winglike at speed. I’ll throw that in occasionally for variety, but for more speed with GP I tend to just get more vertical and dig deeper - with paddle close to kayak - and more kick aft. I also us a rather unremarkable 21" loom on an 88" paddle. A little long overall for my height, but my span is 3" more than my height, and I have fairly wide shoulders for my height.

I do use wing technique - but with my hybrid paddles - and of course wings.

Back to your stocky/cold weather adapted Inuit comments - I’ve long suspected that heat conservation has a lot to do with the closer grip widths on GPs as compared to other paddle types.

Being in a rather warm climate myself - likely that shorter looms have slight thermal drawbacks. Maybe part of the reason I’ve gone to the Aleuts (not much longer loomed - but technique changes a bit) - and Hybrids with euro width grip - for most of my mileage now.