Greenland Paddle: Hand Ergonomics

-- Last Updated: Jun-05-07 8:58 PM EST --

I find that, although GPs have plenty of positive attributes, one large negative for me has been the hand position. It is simply not ergonomically correct.

See photo from G. Stamer article, originally in Anorak Magazine:

Here is a Superior Paddle with similar hand placement:

To properly hold a GP, as I understand it, one holds the loom with the index finger and thumb, and the other three fingers and palm are postioned on the blade root. This is true if shouldered or unshouldered GP. Problem: this actually places the hand, because of the taper of the blade from narrow near the loom to wider at the blade tip, in a very slight--perhaps 5 degree--inverted position. The thumb side is very slightly lower than the pinkie side of the hand when gently grasping the paddle. Medically, this is known as slight pronation at the wrist (as opposed to supination, which is with the palm upward toward the sky).

I feel, after paddling GPs exclusively this season to date, that this is exacerbating my typically latent carpal tunnel syndrome. Notice, it is precisely the opposite of a bent shaft Euro paddle; those place the wrist in slight supination, with the thumb side very slightly higher than than pinkie side. This is, ergonomically speaking, the strongest and most natural wrist position, much like the hand postion when you would throw a punch.

What do other GP paddlers think? Is there a different hand position. Are you totally hands-on-the-loom for straight forward stroke distance paddling? Thanks.

my experience
I put the index and middle finger on the loom and wrap the ring and pinkie finger around the base of the blade. With this position it also means the blades are canted slightly forward, not perpendicular to the water. It also helps to have a GP made specifically for you.

Here is the biggest thing over looked in body positioning - EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT! Sorry for yelling but people forget that. Steve Maynard prefers a short paddle, but he has arms longer than mine. The effect is that he can reach further forward than I can if we are using exactly the same paddle.

Bent shaft paddles help colddoctor1’s wrists and put them in the ‘correct’ position. If I paddle more than 30 minutes with a bent shaft paddle I am laid up for a couple of days. A friend of mine almost gave up paddling because of carpel tunnel issues, then he switched to a GP and hasn’t had a problem since.

As they say in Washington its ‘Body, Boat, Blade’ - don’t forget that your body probably isn’t built to uniform factory specifications like you boat or blade.

Seems are GPs where you hold just loom

– Last Updated: Jun-06-07 5:18 PM EST –

If you read through this thread, , you will see references to other GP holds.

Look at link in my post "Try again, ..." (the 12th reply) to see comparison of some GP paddles to the BBK GP which is apparently designed to be held with hands completely on the loom. It also appears the Nashwaak (now out of production) may have been made to be held by the loom which could help explain the 25" wide loom it has.



Pronation assumes level shaft

– Last Updated: Jun-06-07 12:50 AM EST –

Hands spend very little time flat/level while paddling. To see this pronation you have to be sitting still with paddle parallel to water surface. If doing that - the tendons are under no stress and mild pronation in that position is not an issue.

In use only push hand pronates - and this is no different then any other paddle type - and largely negated by keeping push hand open. Pull hand, which is where grip/wrist/forearm tendons are in tension - is in a good neutral orientation.

The ergonomics are actually quite good in use, though some tendon issues while adapting are not uncommon. I had a pretty good flare up - partly due to over-gripping - partly tendons being pre-biased to a less open hand from using euro - and aggravated/complicated by computer mouse use (many hours a day).

Best thing starting out with GP is to be VERY aware of maintaining a lose grip. Hooked finger pull with thumb doing nothing but act as a rest during turnover. No thumb gripping needed. Open hand push. Push palm controls cant - not pull hand - so it happens largely automatically with the root grip (note angle of palm/upper blade with a neutral grip).

Holding a GP: ergonomics

FWIW, that’s not a Superior carbon paddle in your image, but a carbon paddle made by Duane Strosaker. He has a nice page available on how to make one.

I like a wider loom than shown in that image. Having the loom too short can cause wrist issues in my experience. For the loom length, I stand, let my arms hang, and then raise my forearms so that they are parallel to each other and horizontal to the ground. Making “circles” with your thumbs and index fingers mark a ballpark measurement for the paddle shoulders. Please note that this assumes that you have a narrow, low-foredeck, Greenland kayak. If not, you may need to widen the loom. The loom needs to be at least as wide as your kayak.

In use, I lighty hold the paddle with my thumbs slightly closer to the center of the shaft than my index fingers. The blades are canted forward, so that when I hold the blade my finger joints (above my knuckles) are just forward of the paddle edge. My knuckles are behind the paddle edge. My fingers are spread out on the blade roots. This gives a nice, neutral wrist position.

As Greyak mentions, I also open my “pushing” hand, and “pull back” with a “hook”. Hold the paddle only tight enough so that you don’t lose it. My grip on the blade is usually very, very light.

FWIW, I find the ergomonmics of the GP to be fantastic, which is one reason that I prefer them. As always your milage may vary…

You can get an injury when you switch equipment or paddle longer than accustomed. It’s always best to build up your distance slowly (sometimes easier said than done!).

Greg Stamer

agree with greg
and would emphasize 3 things: (1) keep your hands loose, especially on the pushing hand which should drive down and across allowing your fingers to splay across the blade as they find their natural position, (2) really emphasize holding the cant through the entire stroke equally on both sides with cant angle controlled by the pushing hand, and (3) watchout for closing the fingers, wrist pronation, and loss of cant on the hand that was your Euro control hand–subtle habit that takes attention to break. Finally, the blade root can be blockish and vary in size. I find the Superior to be larger and more blockish that I like, which is one reason I prefer my Lumpy as its smaller more roundish root allows my fingers / palm to slide easily up the blade a bit during the stroke as that movement is not blocked at the thumb.

What he didn’t tell you…
was that he shortened the loom length,and now has to justify his mistake by asking the GP experts. He is the size of the guy in the picture,and is holding the paddle straight out from his shoulders,as Mitchell recommends{factory direct phone call} as a good measure for paddle fit. The boat appears to be about 21" wide,and that loom of the paddle appears to be close to 20". Cooldoc hacked out 2",and is now “pinching” his grip,and probably causing his problems.


Paddling a GP with a short loom
FWIW, some Greenlanders prefer a loom that is only as wide as your torso. Years ago I made them that size without a clear understanding of how to use them (and figured that the more extreme the better – bad advice). I never liked these shorter loom paddles until Maligiaq Padilla instructed me that they are for use with a partial sliding stroke, where the paddle is “slid” only a few inches or so, on each stroke. This technique is a good one to learn if you find yourself using a GP where the loom is slightly too short for you.

This technique is shown to great effect by John Petersen in “Amphibious Man” (a great video – available from John Heath’s website).

If you don’t use this technique with a short loom GP then you can develop some wrist problems as your wrist must bend from side-to-side on each stroke (more damaging that flexing the wrist backward according to many sources).

Greg Stamer

Also agree with Greg S.
If ergonomics is the science of adapting the job and tool to fit the person, then my GP is an ergonomic home run.

As others have said, my hands fall into a neutral position and fingers need not be tightly squeezed. Proof of the pudding is in the eating, and GP paddling essentially eliminated my tendonitis.


Thanks for the tips!

Appreciate all the authentic input in this thread. Very interesting about loom lengths, grip tightness and such.

I will look forward to trying these on the water this evening as I plan on a couple hour paddle. I do keep a fairly wide distance apart with my hands, and perhaps with a shorter loom this is a factor in making my hands overpronate. Of course, one of the advantages of a short loom is that I can get out the power sander and refine it further to exact measurements for my personal ergonomics.

I think that my paddle technique though, before I grind the loom out and wish I hadn’t, needs to be reassessed. I favor a very wide grip on my Euro paddle with a high angle stroke, and although I try to keep the GP stroke low-angle, I wonder if I am migrating to high-angle.

I’ll check it out at the lake tonight. Thanks, y’all.

(PS Be safe out in Iceland, Greg.)

My Experience
If I just paddle at a touring pace I have no wrist problems. If there’s a race to the bridge my right wrist is going to hurt for the next day or two whether I use a GP or a straight shaft Euro.

Look at the facial expressions
in the pictures of your links, and you’ll

notice that their looks are forceful and

stern. They appear to be under strain, and

don’t want to appear that way. Their looks

are symptomatic of paddling induced stress.

Sounds like it’s time for a change,

so go Onno, if you can buy one now.

Happy Paddling!

Sounds like…
… you might do better with a little longer loom. Longer (a purely relative term) favors a more aggressive stroke. Too short and it’s like choking up on a baseball bat to bunt.

Definitely mixing issues here too: lengths, thicknesses, angles…

PS - I would not look at either of those photos for anything but examples of loom length/grip width. I don’t find them instructive as far as hand location/grip (relative to axis/blade tilt etc.) When just sitting like that - with long axis parallel to water - my blade are canted maybe 40-45 degrees up - not because I care about the angle - it’s just what results from my grip on roots with neutral wrists. I’m not saying the picture are “wrong” just that a head on angle of someone posing for a picture is not something to rely on for info about grip for paddling. I’ll often twirl the paddle in my hands and have it at all sorts of different ways when not doing forward stroke. You’d need to paddle along side - and have me do slow mo or stop action - for you to see what my hands are really doing - which is not much at all (and which I’m not saying is “right” either - but it really helps to see these things to demystify them). 5 seconds on the water with anyone who has used GP with “Greenland” grip for a few years would likely erase a lot of stuff in you head that doesn’t need to be there.

Great info to go along with what I got
from the thread I posted earlier on the paddler’s place board.

This thread verified my hand position, grip, shape of blade shoulder, and provided more on determining my loom width. Great help!

Thanks everyone!



I also agree with Greg S.
the safe thing to do when it comes to GP-paddling

I enjoy using greenland paddles
with different length looms just to mix up my paddling and use different techniques. Narrower looms will promote a lower angle stroke and will reduce shoulder movement. The wider loom will promote a higher angle stroke with more shoulder movement. I use six different greenland paddles that all have varying sizes. That’s what I like about greenland paddles, you can’t have just one.