GP Paddle Size / Technique Questions???

I have been dabbling a bit with the GP and still have a lot to learn. I am not yet completely sold on it but am considering “switching over.”

Here are my questions…I have a nice GP made by Beale. It is 84 inches long with a 21 inch loom and 3.5 inch width.

From my measurements for loom length I should use between a 21 and 22 inch loom (I have pretty broad shoulders). I opted for the narrower loom since a 22 inch is pretty wide.

The length of the paddle is “correct” in that I can just curl my fingers around the blade when standing.

What I have been finding with my paddling is that I like to hold the paddle a bit wider with my thumbs on the loom and the rest of my fingers to include my foreginger on the blade. This puts my hands at 22 inches apart.

I am not sure if this is a function of just being more comfortable in this hand position or if I really need a bit longer loom. I feel more in control of the blade this way though.

As to the length…when I hold the paddle in this position I feel like I have very little blade in the water.

I also find that with my hands at this wider position that I am hitting the boat less with the paddle. With my hands on the paddle the way “they are supposed to be” I often hit the boat side, especially when using a canted stroke. I have a 21 inch beam boat (Kajaksport Viviane).

Might I be better off with an 86 inch long paddle given such a wide grip?

Might I be better off with a wider loom?



Cannot speak to length without seeing you paddle and I do not really know how you are supposed to hold a GP. That said I use one a great deal in a variety of situations, and I always have my thumb right at the shoulder so it curves around onto the “back” of the blade and my palm and fingers are resting on the “front” of the blade and slightly hooked around for the dry hand. I push with my palm on the blade and that tends to cant the blade OK. Keeping it canted is very important. I don’t actually grip the GP most of the time. More like a soft touch cradling it between thumb and forefinger. Do the same with the EP, but shaft provides less to push against. The wet hand is just a variation of the same.

3.5" blades are standard, but they feel really big to me and I like under 3" blades. I do agree that you give up power, but for routine paddling they work great. FWIW, at 5’ 10" and longish arms I find both 86" and 84" work fine and prefer 84". The widest boat I have is 20.75" beam and that might be a factor although I paddled a Whiskey 16 at 22" beam recently and did not notice anything different.

Do you feel you’re more comfortable with the 22-inch grip because of the width or because you have more of your hand on the blade? What length do you get with the armspan-plus-a-cubit method?

My understanding is that the dimensions are just ballpark anyhow; I’m planning to make some paddles this winter shorter than would be prescribed by the standard “fingers-curled-over-the-end” method. I can pretty much do all the same tricks with my cousin’s 84" that I can with my own 88".

You are doing it
right. The correct way to hold a shouldered GP is to grasp the loom between your thumb and fore fingers, slide your hands outwards until they contact the shoulder, then grasp the blade with the remaining fingers. Your knuckles should be aligned with the top edge of the blade.

Here is a link
Matt, you may find this helpful.

And Okole, do you slide your thumb and forefinger onto the shoulder slightly? I grabbed a paddle and realized I did as you said. I curled my thumb and forefinger on the loom and then moved outward to find a secure/comfy place a the beginning of the shoulder before grasping it with rest of hand.

Not usually
The thumb/finger just rest against the shoulder, it would depend on how abrupt the shoulder is. I make mine like Don Beale about 1" from loom to blade root.

Basically jut get a comfortable grip (not to hard) with the knuckles aligned, then you always know how your blade is oriented.

Shoulder shape differs
"I make mine like Don Beale about 1" from loom to blade root."

That explains it, mine are more gradual/longer.

Hi Matt,

I bet that I could round up Bill Bremer of Lumpy paddles and Rex (Kudzu) and between us we could put a bunch of different paddles in your hands plus help you with the transition from a Euro to a GP. GPs are like bike seat setup–everyone is an individual and it takes a while to dial in the perfect setup. I started out with 85" 3 1/2 in blades and 22" loom and ended up with 87 or 88" 3" and 21" with small shoulders and a medium size softly rounded loom. You’ll likely be different.

If you approach this from a mastery is fun perspective, you’ll just be adding to your range of skills. Some of the best paddlers I know (Flatpick for example) go back and forth all the time. Greg Stamer just circumnavigated Iceland and then Newfoundland with a GP. Roland Woolven, an NDK sponsored paddler, is doing the UK as we speak. It’s not like you’ll be giving up anything.

Let me know if you’re interested,


Just keep paddling… and beware the…
… gurus.

I agree with Okole - it sounds like you’ve simple found the most common/effective grip with a GP. Thumb and forefinger around loom/shoulders transistion - rest of hand on blade roots.

You’ll also still find people using hands all on loom (defeats purpose of the Greenland design IMO - different story with Aleuts and others), all on blade roots (probably would benefit from wider looms or unshouldered paddles), etc.

Your personal preference
for sizing of a greenland paddle will probably change as you use one more and your skills develop. If you feel that a wider loom suites your style better, then thats what you should have. If you feel that your not getting enough bite from your stroke or the cadence is too fast, then a longer or wider blade will suite you better. Get good instructions and use as many different styles and sizes as you can to find whats best for you. Like the Lay’s commercial says, you can’t have just one.

Lumpy Bill Told Me…

– Last Updated: Aug-25-08 5:26 PM EST –

when he introduced me to the GP... "put your hands right down to the water." I have found that to be good advice. Always plenty of bite even with a shorter paddle.

Also "Elbows down." This makes for straight, healthy wrists.

Paddle length... I'm using an 85" paddle as my downwind paddle (high gear) and an 80" paddle as my upwind paddle (low gear).

I think once you get some GP time under your belt you'll find that you very quickly adapt from one paddle to the other regardless of minor changes in paddle length or loom length.

What jsmarch said... I agree... come on down and visit and try out a bunch of paddles.

various responses…
First, thanks to all.

As far as my grip…I am not gripping with the thumb and foreginger on the loom, but rather with just the thumb on the bottom of the loom / shoulder transition and ALL fingers on the blade to include the forefinger.

This results in about a one inch wider grip than if your forefingers rest on the loom as per my measurements.

I am not sure if I am gripping the paddle this way because the grip is more comfortable or because the spacing is better for me…or maybe both. I’m not sure.

I don’t really have enough time with the GP to know for sure, just was hoping that someone would be easily to recognize a problem or issue based upon my question, but sounds like I need more time to figure it all out and that it is not a clear cut issue.

I would be interested in working with Jsmarch and lumpy on this issue, but I live quite a bit north of you.

I am considering going to the Delmarva paddlers retreat if my work schedule will permit and if I do decide to stick with this GP thing (I am still resistant to the idea a little).

On the armspan plus a cubit measurement…

When you measure your armspan is it from finger tip to finger tip (middle finger) that represents your arm span, or is it palm to palm, etc?

How about the cubit measurement?



Okay, assuming that my assumption above is correct in terms of measurement I measured my armspan from midde finger tip to middle finger tip. I got 70.5 inches.

I then placed my elbow on the counter top and meausred from the counter top to the tip of my middle finger and got 19.5 inches for a sum of 90 inches.

Now that is pretty long.

I am 5’8 inches. Curling my fingers around my 84 inch paddle requires my full extension (almost a stretch).

I do have short legs as this might imply (longer arm span than my height). I also do not have an average build at all. I am quite stocky at a pretty solid 5’8 and 200 pounds, and with pretty broad shoulders and a relatively powerful upper body.

So…what do you think?

Sounds like maybe an 84 inch paddle may be short for me.


Although we may be built differently,
I am 5’9" and 84" is perfect for me (22" beam). I also do not have long legs. I really cannot envision a person of our height having a significantly longer paddle.

I have a 20" or 21" loom (I forgot which) because I have narrow shoulders.

I keep the thumb and index finger at the end of the loom and the other fingers lightly grip the blade.

I opted for a 3" blade as my hands are not large. I think the thinner blade causes me to be precise with my stroke. Thicker blades that I have tried seem to be more forgiving.

In the ball park
If you asked Don Beale, I suspect he would say try lots of different paddles and go with the one you like best. There is no “rule” only guidelines. I suggest you paddle with yours for a year and then reevaluate.

For what it’s worth my Beale is 86" x 3 1/4" with a 22" loom and so far the only dimension I’d think about changing is going to 3" width. I paddle a Tempest 160 and have scrawny shoulders, so you might think about going wider with the next one. But I’d think about whether hitting the boat is an indication of poor technique rather than the paddle.

Of course the other option is to get a narrower kayak :slight_smile:

By the measurements I should be using a 94" or 95-1/2" paddle depending on the method of measurement. Reality is that I’m quite happy with an 88" paddle with 3-1/4" blades. A few days ago I paddled with an 83" paddle and didn’t even notice until had trouble with a couple of rolls. In my limited experience there seems to be a lot of flexibility in paddle sizing. Try as many as you can.

Hitting the deck…
The boat I have been using is reasonably narrow at 21 inches, but the foredeck is fairly high and does not have recessed fittings so it is somewhat easier to hit with your paddle than other boats. If it continues to be a problem I might take off the deck fittings closest to the cockpit, but don’t want to go that route if I don’t have to.


You shouldn’t have to do that
It’s OK with a GP to go a little more vertical with your stroke if your boat requires it. My paddle angle on the power stroke is about 45 degrees from horizontal in all of my boats.

And if you watch video of Maligiaq Padilla and other Greenlanders, they have a pretty similar paddle angle as well. The “Low angle” dogma is an American thing. Sure it works, but sometimes either your boat or your physiology are better off higher.

Spend more time with it
Since you’ve only been playing with it for a short time, you’re still in the transition period and it will feel a bit strange. After you’ve put in more time with it, if you still feel like you need a wider loom, you can carefully remove 1/2" of material from the shoulders at each end. It will help with your clearance issues, too.

The overall length sounds like it’s about right for you, so I wouldn’t worry about that at this point.

Wayne’s point about paddle angle is important. The “low angle, knuckles scraping the deck” stuff is pure BS; Greenlanders don’t paddle that way. A GP works at any angle, so use whatever is comfortable and gives you adequate clearance.

Going short
I’m with you, Jay - my measurements put me at 96" for a paddle. I started with that length, and have been shortening up ever since. My current fav is an 87" that I originally made for someone else. That’s a full 9" under the guideline measurement for me. It’s also a diagonal grain board- something they say never to use. It’s got only the tiniest bit of warp.

Cheers, Alan