greenland paddle question

I’ve gone on those websites and taken “custom” measurements for my first greenland paddle. Then I saw a friend’s Betsie Bay GP - the loam is much smaller than the “custom” size for my hand (short and stubby). In fact, the custom size for my hand is bigger than any Euro blade I use. Why is this? Can I make the GP’s loam smaller to fit better? Thanks for the input . . .

you can make it any length you like. Or have it made.

Betsie Bay GPs are different…
… and designed for a bit different technique with hands all on loom (aka “VanDoren” or “Midwest” school/style) and canted or not (but cant needs to be added). They have longer/different looms to suit this (more like euro shafts).

Since hands are more on blade roots with other GPs (also making cant pretty much an automatic thing and integral to stroke), the loom can be both shorter and a bit more substantial/more indexed [ovaled/squared]).

To me the Betsie Bays are more like narrow bladed double ended canoe paddles than Greenland paddles, and I would not use them as a benchmark for anything, but are well made and work well for their own style use so to each his own.

Maybe it was a “storm” paddle
Are you sure your friend’s GP wasn’t a “storm” paddle? They have a “short and stubby” loom and are used with a grip-sliding stroke.

A common “generic” GP size is 80" to 84" long with a 19" loom. I’ve seen some arguments about those “traditional” sizing protocols, with as many cons as pros (some argue that the traditions were based on the needs of aboriginal hunters with body metrics and functional needs that differ enough from those of most recreational paddlers that they are not are not useful for precise sizing.)

I think, as with any paddle, it’s pretty much a trial and error process and highly personal. If you start on the long side with the paddle and the short and thick side with the loom, you can adjust by carving the ends shorter or the loom farther out and thinner.

Everyone is a little different
but the most common loom lengths I see (And I’ve seen a LOT of homemade and commercial GP’s) are between 19 and 23 inches, with most around 20 or 21. All depends on how big you are.

I’m 5’7" with average length arms for my height, and I use a 7’2" paddle with a 20" loom. On my shouldered paddles, I have my two outermost fingers on the blade and my index and signaling :wink: fingers on the loom.

As has been said Betsie Bay paddles are their own animal. Some people like them. That’s all that matters to them.

Betsie Bay GP is one size fits all

– Last Updated: Nov-24-09 8:04 PM EST –

The Betsie Bay GP is a one size fits all paddle, made to be sold commercially to those without much knowledge of Greenland style paddling. I paddled with one for about six months until I got a custom fitted GP. The properly fitted one was so much better, there is almost no comparison. I don't think you can really experience the magic of GP until you get one that fits you. The Betsie Bay is way too big for the majority of people both in terms of length and blade width. The loom is also too long, as you noted. If you have a GP that fits, your index finger is on the loom and the other three are on the blade or the root of the blade. Talk to someone knowledgeable, like Bill at Lumpy Paddles, Chris with Tuktu paddles or Beale Paddles and others. They can help fit you properly--follow their wisdom or learn the hard way.

I concur
I’m in the process of repairing my favorite GP, and getting ready to carve more, but in the meanwhile, I’ve been using either my short paddle (love it, but long day/night paddles with constant sliding stroke can be a bit of a pain), or my old Betsie Bay. Though I’m pretty good at getting the most out of the BB paddle, I really don’t like it very much. BB calls it a “Greenlander”, but I don’t. Should have my trusty old real GP back in working order very shortly, with more on the way. :slight_smile:


Contact Joe O’Blenis.
Contact Joe: He builds them for a living. Great guy. He know his stuff.

Loom thickness
If I understand you correctly you’re talking about the thickness rather than the length somuch. A gp loom/shoulder should be beefy enough to fill your hand comfortably. In use you should not have to grip it tightly as that can lead to tenosynivitis or however it’s spelt-- it means pain. Talk to your carver, or if you carve it, make it bigger and pare it down it you need to. It should be fairly round and full thrrough the shoulder, a common mistake is making it flatter across the shoulder which will strain the fingers.

A very slight oval shape is usually most comfy for most people. I’ve got very large hands and my GP’s loom is 1" x 1 1/8". Not much off from circular and not terribly thick either. Most people grip their paddles way too firmly.

Bill H.

greenland paddle question - thanks
Yes, I was talking about the diameter - maybe it goes by a different name? My sweetheart is making this one for me - I have seen Joe O’B’s stuff, and it is art. Likely this one will be a learner (for both of us). I think after the posts we’ll (or, he’ll)go with a smaller diameter w/oval shape. Thanks for the input, and good t-day.

try not to go for euro feel
The GP loom diameter will be bigger than the euro size you’re used to, and it should be. The way you hold and use a GP is different, and the feel will take some getting used to, so try not to make one that will feel similar to the euro paddles you’ve used. Let the loom comfortably fill your hand, and let your ring and pinky fingers drape gently over the root of the blade. I find it a very natural-feeling grip. I kinda wish I could have a similarly comfortable loom on my Euro paddle, since I still use that a lot too.

that’s interesting
Nate. When I paddle I use a small shaft paddle. I was trying (in my head, nothing’s been carved away yet), to recreate the small shaft. I will take the suggestion of gentle drape and loose pinky.

loose grip
Really we should all be using a very loose grip on euro looms as well. With proper technique the lower hand should have the thumb and forefinger touching, but not wrapped around the loom, and the rest of the hand fairly open. The upper hand can be completely open (with wrist straight).

Basically the GP loom allows this good hand position without requiring you to keep some of your fingers off the paddle. (Though you still want to make sure your grip is loose, even though the fingers may all be resting on the loom and blade-root.)

I read in some book somewhere that fiberglass paddles were originally made with some commonly available diameter of tubing for the shaft, and that just became standard. The writer was saying that in reality the shaft is too small for the vast majority of paddlers, and he recommended wrapping grip tape or something around the shaft to enlarge it for a more comfortable fit. Maybe it was Derek? Can’t remember. Some old-timer I think.

Suggest Starting Larger
You can always make it smaller, but not vice versa. As others have pointed out, you hold the GP much differently than an EP so there is no direct analogy between the shape of the loom and the shaft of an EP.

It is a personal preference thing, but I prefer a loom that is basically rectangular with rounded edges which is a common shape for looms. I wear large to XL gloves and prefer a loom which is about 1.5" x 1.25". As little as 1/16" difference can be quite noticeable in loom dimensions. Some use small looms if they are wearing mitts or gloves for cold water.

As mentioned, I basically cradle the paddle with a loose grip and have the fingers/palm on area called the shoulder or root where the loom meets the blade with only index finger and thumb on the loom if shoulder is steep. Otherwise I think even my index finger and thumb tend to ride on shoulder too. The loom does need to be comfortable size since for some strokes/rolls you may have a hand on it, but I find the larger size makes for a more relaxed and comfortable grip than the shaft of a EP.

The beauty of the Greenland paddle
is that you can make it any size you want. It might take you two or three, or maybe more, but you’ll end up with a paddle that fits you like a glove. The ones you make that you don’t like anymore make good starter paddles for you friends. Keep on carving!

You are in Thunder Bay?
Feel free to swing by if you want some input, tips etc…I’d be happy to share what little I know with you. Making your own paddles can be very satisfying for sure!!

Cheers…Joe O’

Hand Position

– Last Updated: Nov-26-09 6:36 AM EST –

For me, the loom diameter isn't nearly so important as the feel of the shoulder. I only have the thumb and forefinger around the loom and the rest of the hand is on the shoulder. Bill just made me a 'low gear' paddle and got the shoulders absolutely perfect for my hands. Not too broad. Not too beefy. Just right.

Determining ideal loom size
It’s really easy to determine the optimum loom size for your hands. Touch your index finger tip to your thumb tip. The opening this forms will be a rounded rectangle. Measure it front-to-back (web of the thumb to index finger tip) and top-to-bottom (thumb knuckle crease to middle of the first joint of your index finger) to get your loom dimensions. The first dimension is the thickness of the board before you start cutting out the paddle. The latter is the width of the loom that you will create when you cut out the paddle profile.

I don’t agree that the loom of a GP will always be larger than that of a Euro paddle, as most Euros have 1 1/4" diameter shafts, but people’s hand sizes vary greatly and your GP loom should be sized to your hand. My own paddles (size 10, large or XL glove size) have 1 1/2" x 1 1/4" looms, but my girlfriend prefers a loom that’s 1 1/4" x 1" ( or 1 1/8"), which fits her small hands much better. As with the other dimensions of a GP, you should size it to your body dimensions, at least initially. Once you’ve used one for a while, you may find that you prefer slightly different dimensions.

I definitely agree that you should start with a shouldered paddle, as it makes it easier to learn proper technique. However, shoulder height and shape are also sized to the body and influenced by personal preference. I like a 45 degree shoulder 1/2" high on each side of the blade. My girlfriend started with 3/8" shoulders, but ultimately switched to shoulderless paddles after a few years. I’ve made myself a three shoulderless paddles and while they perform great and others who’ve tried them have loved them, I’ve never been particularly comfortable with them.

Loom diameter?

– Last Updated: Nov-26-09 3:22 PM EST –

I'm not convinced that the bigger diameter loom is necessarily a good thing for all people (as measured by the thumb-index finger). If paddling at a relaxed pace, I think it is OK. But if you have to pull really hard at each stroke (as in going against very stiff wind where you barely make progress), I think a more oval or egg-shaped profile of smaller overall circumference might be better (equivalent to the tip of the index finger touching the bend in the thumb on the inside or a smidgen bigger).

The reason is very simple. Unless the shape of the blade is such that it creates twist for which you need to compensate by counter-rotation, you do not want to be pulling with the tips or near there of your fingers - too much stress on the muscles to keep your fingers closed. Instead, if the circumference of the loom is smaller, the pull is via a point much closer to the base segment of the fingers, where it takes less muscle effort to keep the fingers wrapped around loom. The typically prescribed relaxed grip with the index finger only also is less powerful than using all four fingers to their best ability.

Think of high bars. They are of rather small diameter. IF they were bigger, the hand would not wrap securely enough around the bar. And the athletes do not hang with the index fingers only - would they have enough strength and control and hanging down if they did?

Of course, I might be wrong as well...