GP Paddle Thougths

Many of my paddling buddies use Greenland paddles as their primary (or only) paddle. Some are this way about wings. This naturally triggered my interest in wings some time ago and in GPs more recently, but unfortunately after the regular paddling season ended so I had not had any chance to paddle my own GP with them. Hence, the next best thing before my next pool session - asking here -:wink:

I was very quickly sold on the wing paddle concept as the best way to paddle forward at an active pace (as opposed to ever so slo-o-o-o-wly moving and observing nature -:wink: ) and that is what I’ve been using exclusively for the past few months. It took me only a few strokes to figure out for myself that there is “truth” to the claims about power and efficiency with wings, even though I knew I did not know how to use it back then. I soon (with proper instruction) learned how to use it in a decent way and was convinced enough to sell off all my other paddles.

Not so easy with the GP though. So I’m trying to come to grips about why/when would I want to use a GP. From the only few hours on the water I am inclined to think that it simply is not the best way for me to go from point A to B in most conditions except in very strong winds and especially with a “storm” paddle. I know folks are traveling at a good rate for long distances with GPs so I’m sure technique has a lot to do with it, but I see some immediate drawbacks to me in the conditions that I would mostly use it that are due to the construction and sizing that I simply cannot see a good way around - if you can explain to me, maybe I’ll change my mind -:wink:

For starters the hands position on the paddle. The Lumpy paddle I just got this weekend came at 21" loom, 1-1/8" diameter, 3-1/2" blades and 88" length. These measurements are within reason for me and my boat based on most postings about sizing I’ve seen. Yet I find that to get any power beyond what’s required for cruising I need to hold my hands more spread-out than the loom naturally positions them - the “normal” thumb/index finger at the end of the loom and the rest of the fingers on the shoulder of the blade seems too close and tires my shoulders more than a wider position on the blades. My Aleut paddle is a little longer, has a longer grip (27" and it could be a couple " more to be perfect) and that seems to work better – less fatigue in the shoulders than with the Lumpy.

Again, I’m intrigued enough to have made one and bought one of these, so bear with me – I’m far from a nay-sayer -:wink: I’ll be getting some instruction from experienced GP users in the near future hopefully, but everyone has their own ideas, so share…

After watching quite a few videos and live GP paddlers and trying to see why they paddled the way they did, I am beginning to think their technique is a natural adaptation to the paddle and boat they are in, not necessarily the best way to paddle if you could change all variables! For instance, they do very little upper body rotation (some do some twisting). When paddling hard, they have to do abs crunches forward. This is due to two factors it seems: first, the snug low boats do not allow torso rotation or leg action pretty much at all – you may twist but that’s it; second, the paddles are rather long. So to achieve good planting and to not suck air they require a lot of forward motion on the top hand – combine with the limited rotation options and you have to bend forward to do it (unless you are going slow and use a low angle stroke).

To me, regardless of the paddle used, this type of motion seems more wasteful of one’s energy than the rotation and leg push in say a surf ski type of cockpit (regardless of hull!). Add a wing paddle, which is more efficient in the water, and … you get my drift -:wink:

Granted, in high winds and rough water, especially if the goal is not to move forward but to have fun playing in the conditions, there are distinct advantages of the GP over a wing. I just do not see an advantage of using a GP for paddling forward in mild conditions…



It is about technique and cadence

– Last Updated: Nov-05-08 12:55 PM EST –

Recently three of us were out on a calm lake with little or no wind doing a short distance paddle after working on rolls and skills. We all three had Lumpy paddles made to our specs. The man in what should have been the slowest kayak using his non-power Lumpy had the best technique. The youngest man with the fastest boat has good technique and I had the middle speed kayak and at or just below the skill level of the youngster.

The older gentleman in the slowest boat and with the shortest paddle smoked both of us with less effort. He looked like a freakin windmill with little or no change to his stroke or cadence. The other thing is we were tired and looking a break at the end and he could have gone all day at his pace.

I feel the need to get on the level and tell you who the older gentleman is, he is Bill Bremer, the maker of Lumpy Paddles. I have the good fortune to paddle with him several times a year and the better fortune to have him teaching me how to properly use a GP. Before I met him and later purchased a Lumpy I had no skills, no roll, and no understanding of the paddle as a tool rather than a mode to move forward and backwards.

I believe Greg
Stamer made the comment that there are as many ways to paddle a greenland paddle as there are greenland style paddlers.

I really think this type of conversation is simply an exercise in futility. Each GP is an individual blend of historic tradition, skill in the woodworker, weight and strength of the wood itself, and dimensions that may or may not be optimized for each individual paddler. With all these variables (plus a few more I can think of) how can any discussion about merits be confirmed?

I have paddled several examples of each of the known GP carvers out there and I can tell you that there is a distinct difference even between each one of their own paddles let alone what someone else may want to try and do.

I will tell you this though. Every single paddle I have ever used, be it fiberglass wood or carbon, GP, Aleut, Euro, row boat, canoe with straight or bent shaft or even aluminum has indicated to me how it wants to be paddled for optimum efficiency and the least amount of stress on my body. this does take time though and switching from one paddle to another initially in your use of a paddle will invariably cause you to utilize some technique or process tht while working well with one paddle, just doesn’t cut it with another.

There are no rules and I for one get a little frustrated when I see people trying to put paddles, especially aleutian or Greenland into performance boxes and stamp a rating on them.

not saying you are doing that of course.

end of rant.


have you taken a class?
If not, I would recommend it. Or at least spend some time exploring on your own with a bit of guidance.

Snug, low boats, allow for torso rotation. The ab crunching is, in part, due to a design feature of Greenland kayaks. Being low profile, the legs are held more straight, which means there is less pumping action of the legs. This ‘pumping action’ is very common in racing kayaks and sea kayaks. Since you can’t pump your legs as much you crunch with your abs. This is made possible because of a curved deck piece (masik sp?) that fits right behind the knees. So you crunch (with the opposite knee). So there is leg action - just a different kind.

Getting a good plant with the blade has nothing to do with leaning forward. In fact with a Greenland paddle you don’t need a ‘good plant’ like you would with a spoon type paddle. One of the reasons for this is that with a spoon paddle the power is in the first 1/3 of the stroke. To visualize the thirds imagine dividing a sweep stroke into a front, middle, and back third. So… you need a good plant because the power comes from the first third. If you don’t have a solid plant you lose power. With a Greenland paddle the power comes in the second third of the stroke. The first third, with a Greenland paddle, is to get the blade in place (deep in the water).

Remember, during the second third your ‘on water’ hand should get wet. This happens because the blade dives into position. In order for the blade to dive you have to hold the blade slightly canted forward through the entire stroke. The blade enters the water canted and exits the water at roughly the same cant.

I am certainly no expert, and as Paul pointed out there is no ‘right way’. But the above are guidelines for one way to use a Greenland paddle that I have heard (and used).

Here is a link that might help you

Racers would agree

– Last Updated: Nov-05-08 1:06 PM EST –

If you believe that racing is a valid testing ground, wings appear to be the most effective tool for forward propulsion. If you want to go straight & fast they're probably your best choice.

The GP is a better tool for survival in the conditions in which it evolved. It had to be reasonably good at many aspects of paddling in a hostile enviornment, and sacrificing a bit of straight-line efficiency was probably an acceptable tradeoff.

Different missions, different tools, personal choice.

Thanks for the hints
I knew it would stir some passions to mention some of what I did, but that’s why I did it -:wink: Mostly written to clear my own ideas rather than make statements, especially since I’m a total newbie to the GP.

I remember the power curves discussion from a few weeks back and tend to agree that the useful forward momentum on a longer narrower paddle starts somewhat later and smoother than on a short wide blade or a wing. I’m talking about the force that propels the boat as opposed to the resistance the paddler feels!

There is still the question in my mind about putting power to the GP in the last third of the stroke, especially per the “Maliqag” technique that I read about. May be I was going too far with it when I experimented with this type of stroke, because there was a distinct feel that I’m sinking the boat down in that phase, even though I get a clean exit with no splash. Not so much of it if I exit earlier, so the pull down is there, not sure if it is supposed to be or is that phase just a preparation for the next stroke, much like a continued rotation after exit on the left with a wing is a preparation for the next stroke on the right.

Also, I have been trying to do the canted stroke and my paddle had been consistently sinking too deep for the past first few sessions. Guess what I found: I have already been doing a canted stroke subconsciously before that just by getting the best feel in the water (minimum flutter, max power, no splash), just when I intentionally tried to “do it” I canted too much, thus the effect.

Practice and instruction if I can get it as you all say shall help -:wink:

As for “paddling season” - boat rentals are over for the year. I’ve definitely been the only kayak the last few times I went out, save for a few sculls or trainer boats from nearby clubs. Doing it in a drizle or in some cases in strong winds did not help get much company too I suppose (small craft advisory with potential for gale force winds last week).

Just FYI… you still can do rentals…
Annapolis Canoe and Kayaks will rent year-round, provided that you show you have properly dressed for immersion.

You have some great instincts
Listen to them, and keep letting the water be the teacher.

BB nailed the important part. Every GP/Aleut/whatever I’ve tried has been quite different. Some really suck. Some are great. Even the great ones require you adapt and let them do their thing to get the most out of them.

Your comment about the automatic cant vs. applied cant is spot on. How much angle is a matter of loom/shoulder shape, blade size/shape, and other technique variables. With a well carved and good fitting paddle it’s built in. Nothing to do and a non-issue (that still really matters to performance).

As for the last third of the stroke/kick/whatever - take the same attitude toward that as cant. Don’t over read into it, go by feel. There are little tweaks/variations/added bits that can be useful (varies with kayaks/conditions), but exaggerating/forcing it will just lead to poor technique and wasted energy. Even when I do a long stroke (even if with added “s”) I don’t tend to get hand behind hip and am not lifting water the same way I would be if using a Euro like that (blade differences - surface distributions, vortex formation, etc - key here).

Also try paddling really high angle some of the time. So vertical that it feels like you’re paddling under the hull - and it seems like the entire paddle is out over the water on that side (and you’re half way to roll setup at the end of the stroke). I don’t recommend this as a standard cruising stroke, but it’s great for a change up, or a sprint, and it lets the paddle teach you a few more subtle things that apply overall.

The other thing you seem to have a good feel for is the leg position/drive difference. There is a lot of core and leg in the Greenland strokes - just different and less apparent to an observer (do 20 miles and see how your abs and back feel). Difference is moot when used as designed - to work with legs more together and relatively flat in a low narrow kayak (vs commercial kayak frog legged position). The body mechanics and paddle dimensions work very well together (though I have to think on top of that some of the reason for the GP’s closer hand spacing was conservation of body heat! L ).

It is another thing that makes sense automatically if you’re using a GP in a narrow LV kayak like it was designed for - or the wing in a K1 or ski as it was designed for - as these are both optimal pairings, with respective techniques to match.

Where it’s not so obvious, and these questions come up, is in commercial sea kayaks (that have not been outfitted to optimize for either). In sea kayaks, with a few exceptions, it gets to be much like the skeg/rudder/nothing debates. Totally depends on user, use, specific kayak, etc.

My SOF is pretty large relative to other SOF I’ve tried (that I can fit) as I have pretty big thighs and I wanted to paddle it, not just roll it. Still, I fill it side to side and only have enough room with legs flat to slip my hands in between thighs and masik. This fit is well suited to GP, and the alternating masik contact as I paddle allows me (in addition to great feedback/control) to really make use of the sort of stroke differences that allow the GP to work optimally . It’s also a little over 2" narrower than my QCC - and this too really improves what you can get out of the GP (stuff I didn’t know I was missing out on before - as it was good with the sea kayak). In this SOF, I don’t like using other paddle types (even though I favor Aleut and hybrid otherwise now - but go figure, as the others like a little more leg/twist and a QCC 700 is more like a Baidarka than a Greenland qajaq).

IMO - GP and wing both begin to suck in wider beamed kayaks. The narrower the better for paddling mechanics (and maintaining cruising speeds these paddles work best at. Hard to say what speed range that is universally given the variety out there, but for me the zone they feel dialed in is something like 3.5 to 5kt+ GP, 4 to 5.5kt+ Aleut, 4.5-6kt+ wing. Don’t confuse this with which is “faster”, as that’s 99% paddler and total drag they’re dealing with. This is more about where they sort of hook up and deliver best [paddle plus paddler] - their optimal zone, much like different hulls have - in a simplified/more generalized way).

The wing and GP both really come into their own (in their own ways) in kayaks even narrower than your shoulders.

What’s a “wider” kayak? I’d say anything more than 2-3" wider than your shoulders will compromise what the Greenland paddle can do - enough for it to make sense to use something other than GP. With some Aleut/hybrids, depending on loom/blades, maybe 4-5" (single kayaks - Aleuts for doubles tend to be a lot longer paddles). Wider kayak than that? Use a Euro (note how this automatically includes WW and surf).

Some make their GP looms longer in an attempt to make the paddle suit a wider beam, but this only works well up to a point - and within beam widths already close to OK for that paddle type. Make a loom longer and you have to either make the paddle longer (where it will push and lift too much water and mess with cadence) or blades shorter/smaller (compromising power and taking cadence higher).

Back to core differences - GP feels a little more push-up (triceps more involved) with some crunch (or as Maligiaq has said - 60% punch/40% pull) - and a fast walk/jog sort of exertion. Wing a little more pull up (more back/delts and slightly more bicep stabilizing) with twist - and more of a jog/run sort of energy level. Of course when both are done well they are really mostly core (like 80%+ overlap).

Reason I like the Aleut is it seems to use some of each type of core action - is even on arms and easier on shoulders - and suits kayaks with cockpits in between the extremes of KI/ski and Greenland as far as leg motion goes. That’s most of them…

Paddles are about preference

much the same as a Ford or Chevrolet unless it concerns a specific agenda. There is no right or wrong but if it works for you then use it.

Each type of paddle is wonderful if used properly.


I don’t know about the 'pull down’
you mentioned because it isn’t what I feel or try to do. BUT, what I do know is that I pretty much ‘follow’ the paddle through the stroke. For the most part the paddle chooses where it wants to go and I let it go there.

Earlier I mentioned the thirds of the stroke. What I think about is this —

1st third get the blade in place

2nd third propel the kayak - for me this is where most of the torso rotation and ‘levering arm’ happens

3rd third - I ignore what the wet blade is doing and concentrate on getting the dry blade in a setup position for the next stroke.

It works for me.

When you watch an efficient
greenland paddler, they use a very similar technique as most other paddlers using other types of paddles. Body rotation is the main part of paddling technique to develop an efficient stroke.

The narrower loom of the greenland paddle helps to reduce the amount of movement that your shoulders do during the paddle strokes and causes less fatigue. You might be trying to fight this different technique and causing some discomfort. When I’m paddling at a cruising speed, having my hands closer together works well for a less fatiguing stroke. When I want to catch a wave or accelerate fast, then I slide my hands out onto the shoulder of the paddle and I’ll have a much more aggressive stroke.

The fun part about using a greenland paddle is trying different techniques and many different types and sizes of paddles to see what works for you. I enjoy using greenland paddles of many different sizes for different conditions and paddle strokes. It keeps the sport interesting for me.

How bout a GP Wing?

– Last Updated: Nov-06-08 8:32 PM EST –

Convex on one side with a tapered concave on the other. Leading edge thicker and thinner toward the opposite like a bird's wing.

I wonder if Greenlanders sat around
all winter debating how their paddles worked?

no, they also invented beach bingo

Seems to me they would

– Last Updated: Nov-06-08 10:11 PM EST –

look to nature to see what worked for the critters and mimic. Anything with a fin, flipper, or wing would be logical place they got their ideas. Since there are no Penguins in the Northern Hemisphere, I'm guessing sea lions, whales, fish....

Limited resources, survival, and being in tune with nature may trump technology for play and speed.

I bet they did sit around and talk about it, that and Adea Funicello.

Wing/GP/Aleut hybrids
Like you said, hollowed on one side (and all taper is on other, like Aleut rather than on both sides like GP). No leading edge difference needed, symmetrical works just fine (GPs and Aleuts are acting like wings too).

Loom is long enough to use typical euro/wing hand spacing and stroke mechanics (and egg/rounded trapezoid cross section). Pretty standard wing stroke gives best results (can do more of and Aleut or GP stroke too, but as BB says “Why bother?”). Catch is naturally slightly softer, and it’s less aggressive and more forgiving than a regular wing, which for me makes it really nice.

Pictures are is of the first - 213cm/84" overall, 3.75"/9.5cm blade width, 81cm/32" loom length. My current favorite is 215cm/84.5" overall, 4"/10cm blade width, 86cm/34" loom length.

Real toss up whether I like these or the Aleuts best. Luckily, I don’t have to pick, and often carry both.

Auks, Puffins… NM

And the “stunning” conclusion is …
… that my GPS says that using my Lumpy GP or my own half-baked Aleut or the Werner Ikelos allowed me to maintain about the same just over 5 mph speed with similar effort.

All three paddles also allowed me to reach the same maximum sprint speed of just over 6 mph for very short bursts of under a minute.

All three seemed to allow comfortable cruising at about 4.5 mph.

Keep in mind these were in a sluggish plastic WS Tempest 170, which has poor glide IMO at anything above 4 to 4.5 mph and to me it is a lot of work to paddle at 5mph average speed for more than half an hour in calm water.

Now the differences to me:

  • the Werner Ikelos is light, buoyant and very smooth. It pretty much requires an almost vertical stroke to perform at its best and it must be released out very early or it digs and creates a noisy and inefficien exit. In my kayak with poor glide that meant that my effective stroke was very short and I had to keep my hands way too high. In contrast, the GP/Aleut exit more naturally and are more forgiving if I drag them a little more back or exit earlier. The Ikelos, being so wide-bladed, it was very noticeable how much more farther away from the boat I needed to start my stroke - almost the same as paddling a 8" or so wider-decked boat (the Wing is not that bad as it is shaped differently, for a close stroke)! Lots of power with the Ikelos so I could accelerate a little faster with it may be than with the other two.

  • The Lumpy paddle is amazingly smooth at all times and a joy to use. Very buoyant too. I did not get any of the shoulder muscle pains that I got on my previous outing, so I think I have adjusted my technique to it. I need to figure out the proper way to grip it as it seems my forearms are getting tired with it where they don’t with my other paddles - the loom/blade shoulder where I grab it with the pull hand seems almost too wide…

  • The “Aleut” is still unfinished (with sharp edges and both blade surfaces symmetrical - no ridge), so it creates a lot of splash in the water. It has a little less area than the Lumpy. As I had mentioned previously, the flat side feels more rigid but flutters more and the ridged side (sans the ridge, for now) feels smoother and flutters less. The GPS told me that I would be within the margin oferror as to which side is faster though. Each offers somewhat different hand position options and feel but both propelled me equally well. We’ll see how this changes when I finish the paddle with thinner and shaped blades and a ridge…

    And, btw., the Werner is for sale (and looks like I have a buyer). I still have one WW paddle left for when I want to go in rapids/rocks and can beat it up, but I do not think I’ll be getting another Euro anytime soon. I think I have it settled now to take the wing and a GP/Aleut to handle most conditions for which each excells.

    Thank you all for the commments. And a special thanks to Bill Bremer from Lumpy for spending some time with me over the phone and e-mail.

>>- The Lumpy paddle is amazingly smooth at all times and a joy to use. Very buoyant too. I did not get any of the shoulder muscle pains

Forearm issue with GP
Be careful here. I had this when I transitioned from a euro - and it quickly morphed into some tendinitis that was hard to shake and really put a crimp in my paddling for a while.

Two things caused it:

  1. Over-gripping! Very common problem. Partly a habit from smaller rounder shafts, and partly a natural tendency to grab harder on a less familiar tool (particularly ones with skinnier blades and different feel in the water).

  2. More open hand makes for slightly different strain on the tendons, and the parts that were already strong from paddling were in play a little less, and weaker parts a little more. Result was an imbalance - that was really aggravated by the over-gripping. Once adapted, GP seems to be easier on the forearm tendons, but it’s the adaptation period you have to watch.

    I also blame computer mice a little, as having to use one daily really seemed to aggravate things and make it take a lot longer to heal.

    Prevention is key, and easy. Keep a loose/lazy grip. Pull with fingers like hooks (don’t squeeze with thumb, just use it as a rest/prop) and open push hand to get stretch/circulation bonus. Also don’t overdo it (no long distance/racing/hard paddling) until the tendons have had a chance to adapt to the changes via shorter more casual paddles. Tendons grow 6-8 times slower than muscle - and heal even slower than that (often requiring non-use and rehab periods).

    In other words, do as I say, not as I did! L