GP - hands position on loom

I’ve been primarily paddling with a greenland paddle for the past may be 10 outings (have only been practicing with it since I first picked-up a GP may be couple of months ago).

And I like it more and more and my wing paddle has been sitting as a back-up on the rear deck most of the time lately.

But that GP thing is still new so I still have many questions. Here’s one: hands position on the loom. Granted, that depends on conditions and type how one paddles, so I’ll qualify.

It feels to me most comfortable to hold my hands at about 25" (inside distance) at cruising speeds and sometimes up to 30" if I want to go really fast for a short distance or against strong winds. Boat is 22" wide at the widest (near where I sit) and only 16-17" and the paddle entry point at my feet. I’m 6’4" with I would say fairly “proportional” arm span and shoulder width - neither too long nor too short arms or wide shoulders for my height.

I’ve experimented with holding at 21" (where the loom falls on one of my paddles, the other is wider) and it works but there is the feeling of less control and power and I do not necessarily find it any less tiring on a long day compared to 25" or more.

Can anyone advice why or why not would I want to teach myself to hold the paddle with the hands closer to 20" rather than to 30"?

I suppose one can vary the distance to utilise more push with the upper hand (when arms are closer) or less push (when arms are wider) but why I would or would not want to go down to 20-22" where I obviously have less power and control is the question?

One paddle is 88" with 3.5" blades (Lumpy paddle), the other is 90" or so with narrower blades of may be 3" (Aleutian style).

Again, state the conditions - all day touring vs. active paddling vs. sprint (I’m more interested in the “all day” and the 1-3 hour “active” paddling scenario).


When you get really good, you’ll hold
them right together at the center of the shaft, and you’ll twirl that sucker like a cheerleader’s baton.

Do what feels right
It sounds like you have the distance figured out right for yourself. No matter what the distance is for anyone, it always seems to be closer together for day paddling and spreading your hands farther apart will give a more aggressive stroke for fast acceleration or sprinting.

That’s my thinking as well
Just curious if I’m missing something fundamental or not, since there is a big difference in feel b/w keeping the hands close together vs. wider apart. I could spend a few months practicing with hands closer together in the abscense of a more specific guidance to see if I would find some benefit to it that eludes me at present. But I might as well not do it if someone has a good argument against it -:wink:

I can see having the hands at a 20-22" apart offering some distinct benefits: less taxing on the shoulders, perhaps keeping the warmth to my body better… but it feels more taxing on the wrists for me (wider range of motion required), requires more action from a weaker muscle (triceps) so it might as well strenghten it, … and only works well if I’m really not in any hurry and in mild conditions -:wink:

Guess that’s a major thing about GP - so many options and they all work well for some conditition or other. I’m just trying to see if folks who’ve spent much longer with the paddle can offer some insight about other benefits of a specific hand position that may not be as apparent as what I’ve mentioned and hopefully explain why.

For example, a very convincing explanation about why keeping the hands at about one cubit and two fists or so apart for maximum strength makes very good sense to me after trying it for a while on a wing paddle (or on the GP or Euro) for powerful vertical strokes. Conversely, keeping the hands closer together seems to offer a different benefit - less power but more stamina for a longer paddling session. Change b/w the two or other styles to rotate thru different muscle groups or to respond to varying conditions and that gives a wider paddling range in both distance and conditions-wise. May be it is just as simple as that, may be not -:wink:

That’s what I do to …
… get the water off the paddle after Im back on the beach -:wink: Works very well as long as I don’t hit my shin with the paddle -;(

You might be missing
executing the Padilla/Stammer technique to its optimum. When I widen my hands I find it more difficult to do the lower rotation, punch down type stroke that I learned from Greg Stammer. Widening the hands causes me to naturally go to more torso rotation, less of the down-ward punch, and a shorter length stroke than I get with the narrower hands. It feels to me like I wind up doing something between a Euro and the Stammer-GP stroke. It is still a good technique. But I feel that with narrower hands and concentrating on the proper push down with just a slight ab crunch I get more power with less shoulder strain than with the wider hands. There are 2 keys to getting this extra power without strain. First driving down with the shoulder rather than just pushing down with the triceps. I think it is much easier to do this with narrower hands. The other is carrying the stroke well behind me. I see lots of people trying out GP’s stopping the power portion of their stroke much earlier than what I was taught by Greg Stammer. The wider hands with more rotation gets the power generated earlier which feels more natural if you are coming from Euro or wing technique.

As Greg Stammer and others have said many times there is no one way to paddle with a GP. If you can have someone confirm than your technique with the wider hands is between the Stammer style and a Euro style, then maybe some extra time with narrower hands trying duplicate Greg’s style would have some benefit. Getting someone to video tape your stroke and comparing it to some of the GP technique videos might also indicate if there is something to gain by trying out a narrower hand position and changing the technique a little.

Best of luck.


What he said
Try more punch than pull (upper hand going down as well as across vs level across with wing), and a little more core crunch than twist. Nothing major or unnatural - and these elements work together.

You could also just do what you do and optimize with two paddles. One say 22" loom, and one 26" or more (whatever feels good to you) - but I think there are diminishing returns with GP when going a lot wider than the shoulder grip (where other types come in). OK to optimize to suit - but maybe best to give various methods with more traditional sizing more time before abandoning them too soon too.

I would also recommend trying an Aleut - with loom a few inches or more longer than your GP - as it works well used somewhere in between GP and a relaxed wing technique - but is it’s own thing too.

I rarely use my GPs now other than launching/landing (it’s toughest - so it gets the abuse) and for some rolling practice. Aleut seems more optimized to longer paddles, and technique I favor with it uses some of both types - so all muscle groups (and less on any one). Super natural after you adapt (no thought to paddle), and as easy on shoulders as GP. For more active stuff I use one of my hybrid paddles even more (made for wing stroke - and has loom long enough for euro/wing hand spacing).

I’ll often have one of each with me. Partly to have options for different conditions/moods/energy levels, partly for variety, partly to switch is something gets tired/sore/acts up, but mostly just because I can.

The closer your hands
are together will require less shoulder movement during the paddle stroke. This makes paddling less fatiguing and puts much less strain on the shoulders.

Makes sense, it seems …
… what you folks said about the ab crunch with hands closer together vs. more rotation with hands wider apart and finding a “happy” medium or alternate.

I’ve tried both ways plus a wing-like “reverse-canted” way with pretty much vertical blade that slides out and pulls-forward and out like a wing and they all work in different ways.

And yes, I’ve been mostly using my Aleut paddle for the simple reason that I made it lighter than any other paddle I have and it works really well for me. I’m still trying to decide the best way to use its two faces as well - they are distinctly different and I can’t find a clear “winner” nor can I find a big enough advantage of one over the other that overrides the disadvantages of that same side…

The Lumpy with its narrower loom (21") naturally pushes me more towards ab-crunch type paddling with hands closer together and I have noticed the effect in the several sessions I did with it - the abs and legs as well as the front of the shoulder/breast (?) muscles got the most work judging by what hurt after -;). I’m thinking of smoothing out the Lumpy’s loom shoulders so I can better use it with a wider hands position when desired but that will wait till I figure these things out better -;).

Try a partial sliding stroke
In the movie, “Amphibious Man”, John Petersen paddles with a partial sliding stroke all the time, moving his upper hand ~5-6" up the blade on each stroke. You can do this with any GP and use it as an additional “gear” if need be. There’s also a racing video on the Kayak USA site that shows one paddle passing another by using a full sliding stroke with a full-length paddle. That takes some serious strength!

FWIW, it’s pretty rare to see a loom longer than 24" on a GP. Perhaps you do need something longer, but 30" seems excessive to me.

The paddle and the paddler

– Last Updated: Jan-08-09 9:47 AM EST –

You have to remember that in it's origins, the paddler made the paddle and thus made it to fit themselves in both blade width and the loom they liked. Most GP users like to have their hands at the ends of the loom where the blade starts with their baby finger making contact with that part. It is a GP and one of the great advantages of it is the quick indexing of where the blade is with that edge contact of the hand. If you held it in too centered you would loose all of that.

I think there are no rules. You have to adapt to it but when you use a commercially made paddle you have to use their perimeters.

I hold my GP right where the loom makes the transition to the blade with most of my hand right on the rounded blade.

25 inches …
Measured today on my Aleut paddle and it turns out it is 25" or so. On a wing I sometime go wider and never narrower than this.

Experimenting a bit more today with the wooden paddle, I can certainle see some utility in keeping the hands a little closer for a stroke with a longer reach and slower cadence.

Thanks for the pointer to the partial slidingbstroke too.

Aleut is different…
… a bit longer loom than GP makes sense - So does what Brian said about much more than 24" on a GP (you loose too much body heat in Arctic waters with hands wide!).

Since and all fingers on loom grip is common with Aleut (not the only way - but Aleut loom is specialized as egg/rounded trapezoid for a reason - and roots are not as comfy as GP - both of which should give a clue…). A 25" Aleut loom would be something like a 19-20" GP loom - as far as paddler size it fits (really ballpark - generalizing).

If you use these paddles the same way, you’re missing out…

On the Aleut

– Last Updated: Jan-10-09 5:02 PM EST –

I usually keep my hands with thumbs/index fingers around the end of the loom where the blades start with the rest of my fingers at the blades. That's pretty comforttable for me.

I'm just beginning to experiment more with holding the hands closer together antirely at the loom on the Aleut. But may be I did not do the loom entirely ergonomic. And may be I did it too short at 25". Anyway, it has the egg shape but I think I made it thinner than optimal and it actually feels more comfy to hold it in the "reverse" position with the ridge towards me (e.g. with the wider of the egg forward and away from me). That's from a loom shape prospective only! - I use it both ways depending on the situation and am beginning to figurer out which works better when for me.

On the GP I do the same (hold at the beginning of the shoulder) and obviously this results in a different distance - 21" on the GP vs. 25" on the Aleut.

I only go out once a week or so and can't really get quick feedback on what I want to try - takes a week or two to figure out even simple things ... Hope to have it sorted out by Spring -;)

Lately I even can't take both paddles out on the same session since I have no good place to keep a full-sized spare on my current short-ish boat and that slows "comparative analysis" even more. I keep a two-piece wing as a spare if needed. And if I make a storm paddle it will fit as well but that's still in the works.