GP length question

I have read in a couple of sources that GP length s/b from the ground to the curled fingers at the end of your extended arm. Then I read here that the same person sometimes uses an 86" paddle and sometimes an 84".

Another case of do what feels best?

GP length
I think that’s right: do what feels best.

I’m very short and the traditional way of measuring would indicate a paddle length for me of 77 inches. I actually use an 86-inch-long paddle with 3-inch wide blades. And it works for me.

Making a paddle
that is very short will give you a fast cadence and little bite during a paddle stroke unless you use a slide stroke. I recommend for people to try paddles of different lengths and see how they feel. It’s all about how it feels to you.

Beale method

– Last Updated: Sep-12-08 2:24 PM EST –

The Beale Paddles website has a good description of how to size a GP to yourself, with the rationale for the sizing explained nicely:

PS: I have 2 GPs that are exactly the same length. One is 1/4 narrower with sharper edges and a more rounded tip and is by far the superior paddle, it feels very different and is less tiring to use. Small tweaks can give major improvements.

Let me piggy-back on this thread as I think it is relevant. Plus I have no experience with this and want to learn, so others please share what you know.

So, how about blade max width and more important the overall blade surface?

I’ve seen the recomendations about gripping with a hand like “C” and measuring from there.

However, besides comfort for grip, and even more important than it, I wonder if one should probably consider other metrics? for instance, I have very long fingers and can comfortably grip something that by most standards will come-up wider than most suggested measures I’ve came across. At the same time I am not particularly strong for my height and my boat is slow-ish if not too wide.

Drawing an analogy with euro or wing blades, I would think that these factors should be just as important a consideration as the finger grip size.

Beale’s web site nicely tells something about width but does not go into much discussion about why a narrower paddle might be more diffcult to use (although I have my suspicions - think bracing, sculling, etc.). Nor does it say what’s optimum for what conditions, other than cadence.

With euro and wing paddles it seems relatively easy to pick a size based on the predominant use, paddler, and equipment. Mid-wing is just about as big as I can handle and small-mid wing size is even better for longer trips for me (and there are not too many if’s and but’s).

With greenland I have not really seen similar general guidelines, so it is still more of a try and see approach there… So, share -:wink:

Max doesn’t = right, or best
The grip measure is for finding the max width that still allows comfortable grip when fully extended - allowing the paddle to be versatile and optimal for the full range of Greenland techniques - but by no means should be taken to imply that going to the full the max width is best or even recommended.

Experiment. Some do like ‘em wide. Others find narrower is more efficient for them (often working this out over time - beginning with something around 3.5" which seems to have become sort of a default/commercial/beginner size). Some like to have several for different things.

Same goes for length. The reach thing is a ballpark measure - and a good average for average sized people. I think many folks under say 5’4 may want to go a little bit longer than this method indicates (and stay narrower to avoid having too much blade), and people over 6’2" may want to go a bit shorter (and take advantage of their hand size to use widths that give them enough blade). Few really need or will benefit from a Greenland paddle under 80" (except small children, and for Storm paddles) or over 91"

Another thing to look at is your height vs arm span. I’m 5’9" - but my arm span is close to 6’ - so it makes sense that I tend to like paddles I can just barely get my fingertips over when standing. 86" probably “right” based on easy reach method, but 88" feels better. For folks with the reverse relation, it would likely go the other way. I also have fairly wide shoulders and like at least a 21" loom - so if I go shorter overall I can end up with pretty small blades. Some would compensate for this with wider blades to regain surface area, but doing this starts to feel “euroish” to me (and makes dropping euro habits - key to getting most out of a GP - that much harder). I find narrower blades to be better over distance as well as encouraging better GP technique (through better feedback and less slop tolerance).

I do have paddles with shorter wider blades (and much longer looms) - but they’re not GPs - they’re hybrids made to use with a wing stroke.

The only paddles that seem to be a bit counter intuitive on the length/width stuff are my Aleuts - which are slightly longer than my GPs, but as narrow or narrower, and with longer looms - so their blade areas are smaller - yet feel more powerful and are faster for same effort (by GPS - not feel, by feel alone not likely I’d believe it).

Difference I’m talking about when using words like “narrower” or “shorter” can be very small dimensionally, yet big functionally. As already noted, very small size/shape/volume changes can make for very different paddles. Blade volume and distribution matters a lot in terms of feel in teh water, and edge fineness seems to be key to sweetness/power/speed (unless all you do is roll with it - then chunky works just fine - and may allow more volume/buoyancy as well as more comfortable finger grip when extended).

You’re Going to Carry a Spare, Right?
Why not carry a different gear? For me, the ‘curled finger’ paddle is a bit much. It makes a very good downwind, slower cadence paddle. I also carry a GP about 5 inches shorter that is ideal for stiff headwinds and those times when you just feel like speeding up your cadence.

You were going to take a spare along anyway, weren’t you?

I am about to make my 4th, none of which
is for me. The first was for me and I didn’t like the flex.It is on the wall. The 2nd was for my son who has yet to try it.The 3rd, which has seen the most use, was for a friend. I adjusted it based on his obvservations after paddling, and he loves it.

The 4th, which is a blank 2x4, will be for my daughter in law who is the smallest of the bunch.

Here’s a Suggestion:
I actually did this. My buddy, who has skills, made me a paddle and I thought it was too flexy. I shortened it considerably and it took away a lot of that flex. It makes a great ‘low gear’. Faster cadence. Nice in a headwind.

Something to consider, anyway.

What you like rules
I’m 5’7", and I use an 86" paddle. All of my GP’s are 86", because that’s the length I’ve found works best for me. I originally came to that by using the armspan plus a cubit method, and nailed it the first time.

I’ve tried longer and shorter, and haven’t found any length that feels more natural. YMMV.

By the BTW, 86" is 218.4 CM. My EP’s are 200 (WW paddle, but I do use it in an SK every so often, mostly for rocks), 215 and 220, and I like the 215 best. 215-220 must be my “butter zone” with paddles of all kinds.

My fave paddle’s dimensions are 218.4 long and 3.25" wide. Just my size!

I’ve kinda been wondering whether ‘gearing’ is better achieved though length changes or width changes. I alternate between a Beale and a self-made paddle, both 88" in length but 1/4" different in width. Tonight I just started on an 86" to see how that feels in comparison.

I prefer the narrower Beale for distance paddling, and my own for rolling practice. My ultimate goal is to find just the right size and then get one in CF, with the understanding that the commercial CF paddles are 3.5" wide.

Changing either vs both
Changing one variable at a time gives you more reliable feedback.

A good case can easily be made to have a slightly longer one (standard measure or an inch or two longer) that’s a little narrower, and a slightly shorter one (standard measure or an inch or two shorter) that’s slightly wider (width difference being relative to each other - and not some magic number).

This way the power match to the paddler ends up about the same, but each paddle is a little better suited to different things. One a bit more optimal for speed over distance, one a bit nicer for sloppier conditions and rolling (with a big overlap so each is reasonably good at everything).

For me this would probably be something like an 88 x 3.125 to 3.25 and an 86" x 3.5"

Longer or narrower than that I’d prefer an Aleut over GP, shorter and wider I’d prefer one of my hybrids over a GP - and for most of my paddling (outside pure roll play) I prefer these other types over GPs anyway now (but tend to always have a GP along too - for change of pace and security blanket effect! L).

Unles it is only for rolling or pure exercise, I am quickly becoming enamored with the aleut that Greyak made for me as an all rounder. Use the slightly concave side and you have speed speed speed and a easier paddle on the body for distances especially compared to any euro. Sloppier conditions, easy touring and towing you turn the paddle over and you have great control and stability. You can roll with either side up. Two or even three paddles in one. the blades are thinner so less surface for the wind.

If you ever have a chance to paddle with one I woudl highly recommend it.


Flex issues…
…are usually caused by making the blades too thin. Contrary to popular belief, most of the flex in a GP is in the blades, not the loom or shoulder. My observations indicate that the point of greatest flex is near mid-blade.

The are three primary determining factors in the stiffness of a GP:

1- The type and grain of wood used. Most people use western red cedar, which is relatively flexible. Stiffer woods like spruce or white pine make stiffer, albeit heavier paddles. Paddles made with vertical grain wood are significantly stiffer than paddles made with flat grain wood.

2- The length of the paddle. All else being equal, shorter paddles will be stiffer than longer paddles.

3- The initial taper of the blades. I commonly see people making their blades too thin, then complaining about flex. Assuming a paddle blank that’s ~1 1/2" thick (a typical 2x4), tapering to 3/4" at the tip will leave enough meat in the blade to make it adequately stiff for a typical adult male. It will still have some “snap” to it, but won’t flex unduly. If you want a snappier paddle, tapering to 5/8" should do the trick. Women and smaller paddlers will usually find a paddle tapered to 1/2" or even 3/8" will suit them best. Their paddles are typically shorter and stiffer to begin with, so the thinner blades compensate for the increased stiffness from the reduced length.

I strongly recommend that the taper of the blade should be a straight line from loom to tip. I’ve seen many paddles that a thinned abruptly from the loom to the blade, with the result being overly thin and flexible blades and a high stress point at the blade root - a common point of breakage.

3/4" at the tip? Much thicker than
I would have thought.

I think he means…
… just after making the initial tapers/removing the wedges - and so talking about the thickness in the center of the blades - and certainly not the tip/edges after final shaping (though some thichness could be left dead center at the tip as long as the blade edges are sharp enough - but looking at his pictures I am not seeing that - he does more refinement there) .

I was referring to the initial tapering of the blank, not the final shape, though I do maintain that thickness in the center of the blade down to within ~2" of the tip. The point is to leave enough material down the “spine” of the blade to provide adequate stiffness. Although 3/4" may sound like a lot, the finished blade doesn’t look thick at all - due to being tapered to fine edges - and handles very well in the water.

More thoughts & ?s
I’m almost ready to cut the plank for my first GP. However, I’m not at all convinced how long to make it!

I’ve read a ton of measurement articles, but I’m suspicious about the applicability of these measurements to tall folks. Here’s why. Based on most measurement methods I’ve seen, I come-up with a 90" paddle. That’s almost 229cm.

Well, most “wizards” calculate a Euro paddle for me at 219cm. And that certainly works well in some conditions, but in others I actually like it at 210cm or 215 cm.

So is a typical GP geared primarily to touring or day paddling in mild conditions supposed to be that much longer than a Euro or a Wing paddle for the same person and boat and conditions?

Based on how close to the boat GPs seem to be used in a high-angle stroke, I think I will have trouble during the release if it is that long…

What do you think? May be the measurements are OK for shorter people but I need to only marginally longer if at all paddle?

The idea being that when we sit in the kayak we all can touch the water no matter how short or tall we are, so why would I want a longer paddle, other than whatever width difference comes from the loom width (for me about 20" loom seems about right).

May be I should make an adjustable length GP till I figure it out -;)))

Start with 90" . Easy to shorten.
From what I gather, the best length for you is determined by feel.

This is probably not the best forum to get in-depth information on G-style paddling and gear, even though Greg Stamer stops by once in a while.

Take a look here:

Greg, fairly tall person, was using 85-87’’ stick for Newfoundland trip, I think. ( He started with 85 and adjusted it towards 87 as the trip went along).