So I made my first gp a month ago, and have tried it out a few times. I think I’ve joined the cult! My only issue is, I’m getting some flutter, more noticable on the softer strokes. I was wondering if there were some general design guidelines that tend to eliminate this for my next paddle.
Easier to draw than to write about …
but I’ll try.
If you lay a strait edge on the thickest point of the blade, running along the length of the blade, I suspect the high points of the cross section make a line slightly concave downward as you move down the blade. That shape is considered to be a “sweet” design by many experienced GPers. Less resistant to fluttering, but a little more catch throughout the stroke, because a little flatter cross section as you move down the blade. Also a little more spring in the paddle.
If you maintain a little more thickness in the center of the blade, as you go down the blade from the loom to the tip, water will shed off the blade easier, and be therefore more robust to fluttering. However, since the blade now sheds water a little easier, you don’t maintain quite as much catch throughout the stroke.
You probably know this, but on the forward stroke, you want the back of your hand to be inline with your forearm, forming one straight line. This should cause the blade to be naturally canted forward the right amount to resist fluttering.
My first GP paddle was an early Beale that I had borrowed and used for a couple weeks. I ran a straight edge down the center (thickest point) along the length of the blade, and that line was straight. That blade was super robust to fluttering. I was totally new to paddling and it never fluttered. I loved it! Then I ordered a new Beale and he had since incorporated the slightly concave down line. This is my current paddle. It fluttered some when I first started using it. It bothered me some. Now it doesn’t flutter at all. I wouldn’t trade it.
Hope this helps. Others may have more or better info.
Technique - canted stroke
A good source of technique information on using a GP is at http://www.qajaqusa.org/Technique/Strokes.html . Many people use the “canted” stroke with a GP, where the top edge of the paddle is tilted forward (a diving stroke). This technique eliminates or reduces flutter and ventilation and gives you more “bite”. Ventilation with a GP announces itself by a “scratching” noise and is cured with a proper catch.
The canted technique often happens naturally if your paddle fits you well, and you hold it with only your thumb and forefinger on the paddle shaft, with your other fingers draped over the roots of the blades. More information in the articles at the aforementioned link.
That was actually really clear and makes perfect sense. After reading the link provided below, I’m quite certain it’s more my technique than anything inherent in the paddle. The “spine” on the one I made is also quite straight, though not particularly pronounced particularly for the last 12" of the blade. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t something in design that I was missing before I start cutting my next one; tomorrow.
Some greenland paddles
do have less flutter than others but I don’t really know exactly what design features cause this. My greenland paddles were made from the Chuck Holst plans and they have minimal flutter. Like others have said, a canted blade will eliminate the flutter and allow you to greatly increase the bite of the paddle as you pull it through the water. It seems like my paddle is always canted to some degree for all of mt paddle strokes except when I use the paddle for a brace while sitting still. The canting or sculling effect of the greenland paddle is what gives it it’s unique qualities. If you have a chance to go to a symposium where there are a lot of greenland paddles, try to use as many different styles as you can. This will give you a great experience for what feels best for you.
Some of my terminology was probably so so, like my use of the word “catch,” but glad it was helpful.
great idea, but
my testing of kayaks and paddles is severely limited as I live in Alaska; life is full of trade offs huh? Actually, there is one large paddle-fest in Homer in the spring. I usually avoid it, but I think I might check it out this year.
I recently went out on a cold day and experienced some flutter with a paddle that had never behaved like that before. Didn’t take long to realize it was the bulky gloves causing the problem. I wasn’t feeling the paddle well enough to hold it properly.
I beg to differ somewhat
"If you lay a strait edge on the thickest point of the blade, running along the length of the blade, I suspect the high points of the cross section make a line slightly concave downward as you move down the blade. That shape is considered to be a “sweet” design by many experienced GPers. Less resistant to fluttering, but a little more catch throughout the stroke, because a little flatter cross section as you move down the blade. Also a little more spring in the paddle."
What I’ve found it that paddles designed this way are more prone to excessive blade flex (at least with cedar paddles), flutter and breakage. A paddle made this way will be lighter, but there’s no free lunch.
“If you maintain a little more thickness in the center of the blade, as you go down the blade from the loom to the tip, water will shed off the blade easier, and be therefore more robust to fluttering. However, since the blade now sheds water a little easier, you don’t maintain quite as much catch throughout the stroke.”
They’re more resistant to flutter, yes. However, it’s not a matter of shedding water, but providing surfaces that promote smooth flow of water over the blade. A GP is not meant to be used in a pure drag mode with the blade perpendicular to the line of pull (like a Euro paddle). When used with a canted stroke, water flows across the blade, rather than shedding off either side. Smoothly curved surfaces promote smooth water flow and increase lift, which provides significantly more bite in the water than flatter blades do.
In my experience, the best performing GPs have two things in common, thin edges and smoothly curved surfaces.
Another thing to think about besides cant and paddle design is where you insert the paddle and when you apply force. I started with a Euro and so tended at the beginning to insert the GP at my knees and to apply most of the power in the first third of the stroke. Presently, I place the paddle well inside my knees focusing on submerging the paddle using the cant angle to slice the paddle into the water. Most of the power is applied in the last 2/3 of the stroke, not the first third. Hands are held low with elbows bent and cant is maintained by the onside hand as it slides across the deck so that in the last 1/3 of the stroke you are still applying power to the blade. When I'm tired I still slide back into a more Eurostyle stroke, and this is the only time I see even a hint of flutter no matter what kind of GP I paddle. It isn't that you can't paddle a GP with the same stroke as, say, a racer with a wing, you can. Rather, there are some subtlties in GP technique that, once mastered, make paddling a GP a quite different (and for me easier and more efficient) paddling experience. You also might want to wander over to http://www.qajaqusa.org/cgi-bin/GreenlandTechniqueForum_config.pl . Though much of the discussion focuses on kayak building, there is a lot of good information on paddle design and technique and most of the mainstays in Greenland paddling are present on the board. Happy holidays and welcome to the skinny stick paddling community.
Some personal observations…
If you pull a broom stick through the water you will get a lot of flutter. If you pull a flat piece of 1 x 3" pine through the water, you will get very little. The flutter of the broom stick is a human condition. As it travels forward, it meets resistance and wants to travel to the side. As the paddler pulls it back in trying to control it's path, it travels to the other side. This happens in micro movements and that's flutter. If a machine was pulling the broom stick straight, the round shape in itself would not produce flutter.
I have found that fatter (not wider) GP's flutter more than flatter ones. The least fluttering commercially made is the Betsey Bay and it's extremely flat. But it's actually not really much like true GP's. With a very flat GP you won't get much sculling lift and down the line you will like that for various techniques.
Somewhere in this mix is a shape that agrees with you. My personal paddles are a tiny bit flatter than a lot I see. But since I've been using GP's for many years now, I get almost none from any paddle I use. Plus I don't use the canted stroke. I just don't like it that much. I have also tried many Euro paddles that flutter too. But I assume after using them for a while that would go away too.
I think your arms and wrists etc. just starts to adapt to a new tool in very subtle ways just like using a tennis racquet.
If your paddle flutters a bit, I wouldn't do anything other than paddle with it. I guarantee, it will go away without doing anything. Why? ... because you are slowly adapting to the paddle.
When I figured out when and how to apply pressure, the “flutter” went away.
Should be “paddler” vs “paddle” flutter
Whenever I see this question it’s nearly always euro paddler trying a first GP/soon to be convert! That means you’re in good company as that covers most GP users!
It takes a while to drop the euro habits of over-pulling and forcing the blade around vs. letting the blade find a more optimal path via stroke variations, cant angle, and mostly just the adaptation process jay mentioned.
I may be an anomaly in this, but I’ve yet to find a GP that flutters, or a euro that I can’t eliminate flutter from very quickly with minor adjustments (that also improve overall efficiency and ergonomics). Nice thing about GP is it will take care of all this stuff for you if you let it.
My experience is the opposite
I’ve found that thin, flat blades tend to flutter more, though any paddle will be flutter-free with the appropriate adjustments in technique. I suspect that differences in technique are most likely the reason that our observations are different.
Good Point NM
Thanks for the clarification.
It bothered me that I wasn’t including the idea that the water flows across the blade, rather than plowing through the water and shedding water on both sides. I wonder though when the blade flutters, if it’s because the blade is plowing, and so the blade is shedding water of both sides, rather than water flowing over the blade in one direction. If so, then the thicker blade might be more robust against fluttering because it sheds water more easily during the (improper) plowing stroke.
Maybe you’re right, of course, the thicker blade is just more resistant to turbulence in the one directional flow.
It would be great to do a scientific study on some of these blade shape parameters. I wonder if a wind tunnel would suffice?
Interesting. I’ll have to try that.
Jay wrote: “If you pull a broom stick through the water you will get a lot of flutter. If you pull a flat piece of 1 x 3” pine through the water, you will get very little. The flutter of the broom stick is a human condition. As it travels forward, it meets resistance and wants to travel to the side. As the paddler pulls it back in trying to control it’s path, it travels to the other side. This happens in micro movements and that’s flutter. "
Carve it like a prop, twirl like a baton
and you’ve got an airboat !