Greenland paddle, bow rudder

How deep should the GP blade be submerged when doing (or attempting) a bow rudder?


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Rookie, I can’t think of any good situation when you don’t use the full blade of a GP, including the bow rudder. A GP works great for bow-rudders. You don’t have to have the blade as far forward as possible; for a “mainstream” Duffek-style bow rudder, the blade can be quite close to the cockpit (Nigel Foster likes to teach having the blade closer to the cockpit for rougher water). A cross-bow rudder (more popular among many Greenland paddlers) or the one-handed “bow jamb” (fun to perform) will be further forward as dictated by the mechanics of the stroke, with the blade buried as fully as possible.

The key to a good bow-rudder is to have the kayak already turning by having forward speed, edging and a sweep, BEFORE you apply the bow rudder (the bow rudder only amplifies the turn that has already been initiated) and to realize that this stroke works best for turning into the wind (on open water).

Greg Stamer


Thank you, Greg. It’s been a challenge with the GP, even with a hull speed of 3.5, edging and a sweep, most likely because I’m planting the blade too far forward and not deep enough. Euro habits with a GP = anemic, wimpy turns. Bow jamb? Is that a draw stroke?

Thanks, too, for the tip about using the bow rudder for turning into the wind. I didn’t know that.


A bow jamb is a one-handed bow rudder that is a classic canoe stroke:. I teach this in my GP classes and it brings out a lot of smiles and laughter (and yes, the occasional capsize)!

To perform with a GP, if you are turning to the left, you edge to the right, sweep right, and then, “throw the blade” forward so that you let go with your left hand, place the (left) blade flat against the right gunwale (with the blade shallowly submerged and under the kayak). While it’s not for rough conditions – since it’s one handed, it will spin a kayak like an Anas Acuta around on a dime.

More practical for most with a GPS will the the cross-bow bow rudder (it gives you a great stretch), but some paddlers prefer the Duffek (common Euro technique).

Regarding turning strokes, rather than memorize what works, simply remember that when you are moving forward that the bow of your kayak WANTS to turn into the wind (like a compass needle seeks magnetic North). Since grace and elegance comes from working with your kayak and the conditions the bow rudder will act upon your kayak’s natural tendency to want to turn into the wind and amplify it. Try it into the wind and away and you will see that there’s a big difference.


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Thanks for the video, Greg. I’ve never seen anything like it. A fascinating and graceful stroke.

I noticed the paddler moved his hand to the top of his paddle just before he skimmed the blade forward. Took my Lumpy outdoors, sat down, did a sweep, then moved my hand up the loom to move the blade forward. I can’t quite visualize it in a kayak with a double blade and imagine it takes some finesse to avoid clobbering yourself with the other end of the paddle.

I’m too much of a wuss to try it in 42F water, but I will play with the mechanics of each movement just to get a feel for it.

Most definitely I’ll pay more attention to what my kayak is telling me when I need to change direction in wind and waves, and experiment. I recall an outing on Lake Michigan last summer when I needed to turn around in a strong headwind and building waves and what I was trying wasn’t working very well. Think I know why now.

The ice just went out here at home 16 days ago so I’ve only been on the water about six times. I’ll be moving a kayak down to the beach this weekend which will make it easier to get in a couple hours of stroke play after work.

I appreciate your help, Greg, very much. Just wish I had started paddling ten years ago as it gets more interesting and educational each day.

Nigel’s book arrived in the mail today. Was happy to see his mention of a GP in his section on bow rudders.

Turning in wind… the easiest way to turn in wind will usually be to stabilize one end of the boat, paddle at the bow or the stern, and let the other end get blown the direction you want it to go. It is a bit trickier to plant the stern and let the bow get swung around or to do this all backwards, but when you gotta turn and are getting tired there is no reason to skip energy saving options. There is a point where you just have to make sure you get home with enough left to handle a landing in what may be near shore waves.

Rookie, to perform with a GP on your right side, after your edge (to the right) and sweep. continue to hold on with your right hand (don’t change grip at all) let go with your left hand, and just reach the blade forward (in the air) and slide the left blade under the hull, flat against the gunwale, near the bow. To make this easier, and to get the the paddle forward “throw” (push) it forward with your left hand, before you let go with that hand. This is different than in the canoe video. This is one that someone will probably have to show you but is a lot of fun.

no mention of the one where you tuck the non working blade in the armpit?

Better handling in wind is something I definitely need to work on because of a new area on Lake Michigan I’ve been paddling. Much windier than Little Traverse Bay. Oddly, that topic hasn’t come up in any classes I’ve taken. Learned a lesson about breaking shore waves and stony beaches last weekend with a jammed skeg. Fortunately the trip back was in a headwind.

That’s a nice breakdown of the steps. Printed and will go on my deck. I don’t think I have a natural affinity for paddling as I need to think about the components that go into a new stroke before and as I try it. Thank you.

Armpit? Trying to confuse me? :wink:

I think “feel” becomes important with a bow rudder, and you’ll understand engaging the full blade when you get that feel for it. The thing you want to feel when executing a bow rudder is support for your edging. If you were to sit next to a vertical pole, lean away from it, and support your weight by holding onto the pole - that is what you want to feel when you’re doing a bow rudder.
Another feel you can develop is by starting off placing your blade in as far forward as possible. When you do this, it tends to do a better job of forcing your knee into the side of your kayak. The knee is a better place to apply pressure if you’re trying to turn this way. Once you get the feel for applying this turning pressure up at the knee, it’s still possible to apply that pressure when you don’t plant the paddle so far forward. The difference is that the forward plant tends to force the knee pressure, where the closer plant tends to leave it more optional. I generally seem to not plant bow rudders very far forward, but I do once in a while just to remind myself what I should be feeling within the cockpit.
When you get that feel for hanging off of that vertical pole for support, you will intuitively seek to fully plant the blade in a way that gives you the most support and consistent turning pressure. That includes getting that top hand all the way across to your opposite shoulder when you shift it over, which allows you to “hang” off of the paddle without it slipping up from the water.

I’ve got to try that bow jam in a kayak. I’m almost sure I’ll capsize repeatedly. I played with something similar in a canoe last Thanksgiving weekend, but I kept both hands on the paddle.

Rooki…not to leave you hanging. Since nobody mentioned the one in the Armpit ,…I will. It works good in caves and other small areas where there is not height or width and you may need one hand free. working blade is held with one hand controlling it. Holding the paddle as to do a stroke, let loose the left hand, drop the left blade into the water alongside the right side of the kayaks bow. The non working blade is held in the right armpit. To turn right. same on the other side to turn left.

Best Wishes

Kayak is edged toward the working blade {loosens the bow} Skids the bow

Did a walk-through in my living room, Roy. Worked nicely indoors. Water and the paddle’s buoyancy will add dynamics, but definitely adding it to tomorrow’s playlist. Thanks!

The bow jamb was a hilarious exercise in futility. I hope no one was watching or I may get a wellness check visit from the Dept. of Social Services.

Aside from not throwing the paddle far enough forward (and clubbing myself with the other end), when I did manage to get it next to the hull, it was like hanging on to a bucking horse because it wanted to float. Admittedly I wasn’t aggressive in the 42F air temp and colder water. Even with a drysuit, didn’t seem like a good day for brain freeze. I’ll keep at it because I’m curious, but some experiments are best in warmer weather and water.

@CapeFear, I’ve seen a video of you paddling - you’ll easily knock out ten or more of those bow jambs in a row with not a drop of water on you.

Bow rudder with the GP went better, so long as I keep the blade just a bit forward of my knees. But still a doggy turn, compared to a bow rudder with my Cyprus. Definitely needs more practice.

The real game changer was a cross bow rudder, a stroke I had never tried with my GP (and got confused with Euro blade positioning last year). On the first try it clicked. That was my hallelujah moment of the day. I love it because body position is so secure, I can keep the turn at good speed, and the muscle stretch feels awesome. Not sure why yet, but the cross bow rudder gives me a much finer control over the angle of the blade. The icing on the cake was that I switched paddles and gave it a try with my Cyprus. No more confusion - worked perfectly. It’s like physical therapy while paddling.

Also tried Roy’s armpit stroke (great name for a stroke :slight_smile: ) That was a lot of fun as well and I put it to good use when I came across a dock that had just been installed, but the workers left a length of lumber hanging precariously off one end. Grabbed the lumber with one hand while keeping my kayak from hitting the dock with the other.

Thanks so much for all the help which led to a great day of learning!

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Ironically, this thread came up in a google search I initiated for “bow rudder not working with greenland paddle”. Because mine isn’t. My Valley Etain, while seeming to be a very capable boat, doesn’t want to turn worth a damn with my GP. My friend has an Aries and I can spin that thing like a top. Go back to the Etain and it’s like I’m paddling in wet concrete.

New kayak in your fleet?

I wonder if length and finding the sweet spot have anything to do with it. My GP bow rudder with my 17-footer is sluggish at best. Better with the Fathom and zippy with the Samba.

On the other hand, I haven’t put in a lot of stroke practice time this summer because it’s been such a strange season.

Yep, hull design makes a difference. The Aries (and the plastic version the Delphin) are designed as surf / play boats while your Etain is a touring boat designed to track & carry a load. It’s also close to 2 feet longer.

I had to dial back the power on my turning strokes this spring switching from a Pygmy Arctic Tern 17’ to a Delphin 150. On your Etain, find the edge that it likes & hold it during the turn while driving with your outside leg/foot.

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The Etain was my wife’s, but she decided she was done paddling, so I’ve appropriated it. I’m not finding it especially easy to edge, compared to my Fathom. It edges faster and easier, but isn’t nearly as confidence-inspiring on edge, so I’m admittedly skittish. Which is directly feeding into my turning, I’m sure, and I feel like the GP is adding to the problem. Since you need to bury the GP deeper than the Euro to get the same effect, you have to lean further out to do so, which gets back to my skittishness.

Given current water temps, don’t blame you a bit for being skittish.

No, I can’t use that as an excuse; I’ve been paddling it half the summer. And this has been the best paddling summer of my life, factually. I’ve been on the water at least 2-3x a week, and often more.