Greenland paddle safety

While paddling back to my launch site on Lake Michigan this weekend, I was using my Lumpy GP in a strong headwind. When I was about a mile away from my destination, I saw two jet skis headed directly at me at full throttle.

While my boat is yellow and I was wearing an orange/coral rashguard, coral/turquoise PFD, and tan wide brimmed hat, their direction and rate of speed made me wonder if they saw me. When they were too close for comfort, I grabbed one end of my GP and started waving it in the air. Only then did they slow down and change course - one guy giving me a thumbs up (??).

Is it harder to see a GP from a distance compared to a Euro? Or were these guys just not paying attention?

The incident spooked me enough to consider putting reflective tape on my Werner for an increased visibility factor. Do you just slap it on or is there a pattern that’s more effective visually?


Not sure about greenland
I also use a greenland paddle and mine is all black as its carbon fiber. I would think some white at the tips of the blade would be best color choice. I see other paddlers best coming toward me when there euro paddles have some white on them. I don’t want to deface my pricey carbon Greenland so I haven’t done anything with mine. Probably should though.

Black or gray is hard to see
I always notice white, yellow, or bright-colored blades flashing, even from far away. Black, nope,

Black GP, even less noticeable. Slim profile might be good for hunting seals but not for being seen. I would put reflective tape on it.

my $0.02
I wouldn’t be surprised if they saw you all along, my experience is that casual PWC users don’t know how close is unsafe and/or don’t appreciate the concern from our perspective.

They Probably Saw You
But to answer your question, yeah a brightly colored euro is more visible.

I had a guy in a powerboat go out of his way to come at me once. He turned and cut his engine right in front of me and looked at his wake hoping it would knock me over. I just leaned back and said “How ya doin’?” He took off.

I do wear a neon orange hat when traffic gets thick and in the afternoons when the alcohol level goes up.

Now that’s an idea.
I don’t want to put anything on my GP and mess up the aesthetics. It’s a lovely piece of wood.

Maybe I’ll put some reflective tape on my hat.

put white tips on all the Greenland paddles I make.

It’s surprising what a visibility difference it makes.

{I would post a picture…but this site has no way, I know of, to just post the picture I want to without posting everything I have on my Photo-bucket album.}

Best Wishes


not untraditional
Since the Greenlanders often tipped their wood paddles with bone or ivory for durability, having a white tip is not really an aesthetic offense. But I know what you mean about appreciating the clean look of a plain wood GP. The tips of mine tend to get beat up so I sand them a little and then dip them in thick spar varnish. But maybe a few dips in white or yellow liquid plastic (that they make for coating tool handles) would kill two birds with one stone, plus it can be peeled off if you decide you don’t want it:

Bow and stern tips
You could put retroreflective tape near the ends of your kayak. Without the paddling movement, it is not so obvious but still better than nothing.

If it Was Me
I generally carry two GPs. One with significantly less surface area than the other; think low gear or headwind paddle. If I was going to make a reflective or colorful ‘safety’ paddle it would be a homemade one. I couldn’t do that to my Lumpy.

Don’t think I could do that.
If my GP was made from a nondescript 2 x 4, I’d have no qualms dipping the tips in white. But it was carved from western red cedar and has a beautiful grain. I’d be defacing it by doing anything but oiling it.

I’ve seen photos of Roy’s paddles. They are beautiful. I think a well made Greenland is a combination of artistry and function. I respect that.

I like pikabike’s suggestion of putting some tape on the bow and stern of my boat. Bought a package of the stuff at West Marine so I can do that tonight. Maybe even across the knuckles of a pair of paddling gloves (tape is supposedly waterproof).

On the plus side, at least the bozos saw my paddle when I was waving it in the air so at least that works.

I’d be heading to Sturgeon Bay
Less traffic, nice beach, great place to paddle in surf and calm conditions.

Nealy switchblade paddle
From William Nealy’s Whitewater Tales of Terror. Originally designed for dealing with floating undercuts (a.k.a. rafts) it might also be useful with jet ski 'terrist’s.

A Few People Can Be Jerks…

– Last Updated: Jun-21-16 5:31 PM EST –

though most are simply unaware...

What I've done in the past on more than a few occasions, is to pretend I was taking photographs or video of them misbehaving... It has always stopped them in their tracks...


Add color to the blades
Add some high vis orange or yellow somewhere on that black paddle.

Regardless of whether the jet skis see you, I’d want some color on that blade to help me see it in the event it gets out of my hand. All black can get lost in the water, especially at night. If the paddle were to wash up on a bank, it’s going to be hard to pick out an all black paddle from the sticks, logs, weeds and other waterside detritus. The natural, cedar-look paddles are also going to blend in on the bank, but are much easier to see in the water.


Crowded ?
the crowd will see your head

So cap with dayglo. A dayglo baseball hunting cap…try Walmart

Or a hat band of dayglo ribbon…Seattle Fabrics poss Jo Anne …

A number of torpedo are interested in getting a closer look …oblivious to what their approach is to the yakkers in speed/size…a % are drinking CHOH …

Any Kinda Paddle Safety
I’m no actuary but I feel certain that paddling in the morning is much safer than afternoon. Less traffic and less alcohol consumed.

having spent time on powerboats, I’m skeptical of the visibility of paddle blades versus a colorful PFD and hat. Sure, a boater may pick up a flash of reflection on a paddle blade from a distance, but once they’re not so distant a bright PFD and hat has to be more visible.

I always notice light flashing off a wet blade much more than the color of the blade itself, including black carbon GPs. For night use having some SOLAS reflective tape on the paddle tips and the kayak is a good idea.

For daylight visibility a number of surf ski paddlers in my area wear dayglow orange caps and/shirts/PFDs and this makes them highly visible (much more so that just a colored paddle blade, IMO).

Greg Stamer

My standard question re reflective tape

– Last Updated: Jun-22-16 10:01 AM EST –

Has anyone here seen any kind of powerboat cruising along with bright lights shining out ahead at night like a car? If not, what good is reflective tape? One or two people here have claimed that retro-reflective tape glows brightly from any incident light, but pay attention to all the reflective tape you see in everyday life and you can see that that's clearly false (for example, why doesn't the reflective tape on railroad gates and truck trailers light up in sunshine? The answer is that it will in those rare cases where the sun is on the horizon directly behind you. In all other cases it has a red-and-white color and nothing more. If walking near railroad gates at night, you will NOT see the reflective tape light up at all due to the lights of passing cars, because you are not in-line with that light source).

Okay, I've seen barges on the Mississippi lighting up channel markers with searchlights, but they can't do anything to avoid small boats anyway. I'm thinking of maneuverable powerboats that can turn if they happen to see you when heading your way. The only lights they have are their red/green/white markers. There could be rare cases where a powerboat traveling at speed will shine a light out ahead, and reflective tape will be visible from that boat in that case, but I wouldn't count on tape being any more visible than red and white paint the vast majority of the time.