GP shouldered or unshouldered

-- Last Updated: Aug-06-07 6:03 PM EST --

Greenland paddle converts another. I just picked
up a GP and was quickly & easily hitting rolls.
Paddle is made by turtle paddles 85"lenght
19"loom 3.5"wide and shouldered. This paddle
works great for rolling & working on skills but
was thinking an unshouldered paddle might be
more comfortable for all day general touring.
You lose knowing where paddle is at all times
with loss of shoulder but for me a more comfortable hand position. Any thoughts?

What’s your hand position now?
I find the shoulders very useful for touring stroke - but I prefer VERY soft shoulders on my paddles.

I have a Beale (pretty soft), a couple Superiors (softer still - sort of my benchmark), and my self caved GPs (even softer still…). Been a while since I held Turtle GP, but I think the shoulders were pretty decent. I’ve seen some others that were pretty abrupt and really not conducive to fast or distance paddling - at least not for me. Easy fix for those.

I use typical Greenland grip (as I understand it): Thumb and forefinger around loom - rest of hand on blade roots. Blade root fills my palm ( and I think my shouldered paddles do this a little better). Finger pull like a hook with little or no active grasping. Thumb is more for support, not holding, except in odd water moments. With the shoulders, my hands stay put and I can get into a rhythm with no thought to hand placement. Very natural/automatic. When I do slide/extend, the shoulder does not impede this in any way.

I have an unshouldered Storm I like a lot, but my shouldered Storm works fine too. Both require a sliding stroke - and both work fine, just slightly different. I’m not doing a lot of miles with my Storms - so shouldered/unshouldered matters less to me than with my full size.

Trick is to shape this areas to suit you. If you feel the shoulders being uncomfortable at all - or causing any issues/blisters over distance - I suggest you do two things:

  1. Looser grip!!! Particularly first several months with GP while unlearning Euro habits. Over-gripping will cause all sorts of comfort issues - and potentially tendon problems in forearm, wrist and fingers. You hear about the forearm issues once in a while, but rarely the finger/thumb issues, and these can be misinterpreted as shoulder issues more than grip issues. After getting used to a very relaxed grip…

  2. Take a bit off the high spots. You’ll know where these are and what to shave/sand down through use. Sand or shape things a little bit (goes a long way), and try again until it feels right. Everyone’s hands are different. Make it YOUR paddle.

    It all really depends on the paddle, and paddler. Just don’t decide too quickly. I recommend shouldered for 1st GP, and I think you may benefit from spending more time with that before you go changing to something else.

I’ve Done Some Long Trips
No discomfort from the shouldered paddle.

Shouldered works fine

– Last Updated: Aug-06-07 7:20 PM EST –

But was thinking of getting another GP made
from a local builder & was considering unshouldered paddle as 2nd paddle. Also tried a feathercraft GP, it had diamond shape down
entire lenght of blade & had a really nice bite
in water & very user friendly. Was thinking about
having next GP made with diamond shape down
entire blade as well.

I have a strong preference for shouldered paddles for long distance paddling IFF the shoulders fit my hands properly AND the loom is the proper length. Shoulders keep your hands in a consistant position which can be good, but this is worthwhile only if the shoulders are in the proper place. Unshouldered lets you “fudge” hand position somewhat – since your hands are not “fixed” in one spot.

IMO shoulders are an optimization for the forward stroke, not something made to make rolling easier. I prefer fairly subtle shoulders on my paddles.

Shoulders make the canted blade stroke easier to perform (the blades will tilt naturally with proper hand placement), they add comfort (unshouldered paddles sometimes create a blister on the web between my thumb and forefinger). Shoulders also give you a better grip and more tactile clues when you are wearing gloves/mitts or the paddle is iced up. The latter advantages made a real difference on a recent trip to Iceland, where I had to wear mittens on most days.

That said, it is all personal preference. You find both shouldered and unshouldered paddles in Greenland so this isn’t a question of being “traditional” or not.

Greg Stamer

soft shoulders
Maybe a softer shoulder might be all I need.

Keeping blade at proper angle would seem easier

especially with gloves on with shouldered paddle.

My first greenland paddle
didn’t have shoulders and then after I tried someone else’s paddle with shoulders and they showed me the canted paddle stroke I was hooked. The canted stroke can give you a lot more bit from a paddle and that suited me better. If your not interested in using a canted paddle stroke then maybe a shoulderless paddle will work fine for you. You can only learn something by trying something new.

almost shoulderless
I prefer an almost shoulder-less paddle where the shoulder becomes a taper across my entire palm. My thumb and forefinger still grip around the loom and with my palms on the roots of the blades so positioning for the canted stroke is still the same as a shouldered but I find it more comfortable.

I made my most recent paddle with more abrupt shoulders but have decided to redo them with more slope. If you do make a shouldered paddle you can always cut it down later but it’s hard to change an unshouldered paddle to a shouldered.

I tried one and agree it paddled very well. Mostly due to nice sharp blade edges - but they carry that sharpness all the way through the shoulders making them sharp edged too. If I had one, those would get rounded over more - and since there’s not much meat there it would become unshouldered pretty quickly (but then not enough meat to fill palm without widening grip). Makes no sense to me to have an edge like that on the shoulder. Big fat oval cross section there is much better - transitioning to more of a diamond, then to a flat oval toward ends. The shape transitions are key for me - as each has function.

Softer grip
I was holding paddle a bit to tight so I loosened

up & just played with hand postions. That made

a real difference. I think a softer or more tapered shoulder would work out for a very

comfortable grip. Thanks for all the input.

It’s largely personal preference
I’ve made shouldered and shoulderless paddles in many configurations and I still prefer shouldered paddles. I also strongly recommend them for new GP converts, as they make canted stroke technique easier and help you orient the paddle, as others have said.

Hand size may be a factor to some degree. My girlfriend has small hands and prefers shoulderless paddles. I have fairly large hands and I find that shoulderless paddles just don’t give me the level of feel and control I like and as Greg said - although it may seem counterintuitive - they can actually rub one’s thumb more than shouldered paddles.