Greenland Paddle Speed

-- Last Updated: May-01-07 8:21 AM EST --

I am still dabbling with my new Greenland paddle...only had it out a few times now but am becoming increasingly impressed with it.

One thing that has impressed me is the cruising speed that I can maintain with it.

I can't quite reach the same top end speed as with my Euro blade (Werner Ikelos or Werner Cyprus) but it seems that I can maintain about the same cruising speed at an exercise pace. The difference for me though is that I feel as if I can maintain this pace for much longer periods without stopping and without becoming as tired.

I am intrigued by this. I will continue to experiment with it, but I would have to say that if I were to have to do a long fast crossing or if I were to enter a race I think I would choose the Greenland paddle (which I have only been paddling for a very short time...probably only about a total of 2 hours worth during sessions where I was primarily using my Euro blades) over my Werner foam core carbon paddles which I have been using for a couple of years now and that I have had well over a thousand miles worth of practice with in refining my stroke.

I find this very surprising. I would think that the performance gap will become even more significant with more practice using the GP.

I am particularly impressed by the amount of torso power I can inject into the stroke and the light grip that I can maintain on the shaft. Also find it quite nice to use in winds...does not pick up wind like a sail and does not feel like it is going to blow out of my hands like the Werners do during high winds.

I also find that I just want to keep on paddling and push harder and harder where I usually start to get bored when paddling my Euro blade when the water is not rough. My paddle (a Beale) just has a very sweet feel to it in the water and just a subtle amount of flex that is quite pleasing and smooth.

Very impressed so far. There is definitely something to this Greenland "cult"


try a storm paddle!
I was paddling with a friend into high winds and he switched to his storm paddle. With very little effort he pulled ahead of everyone else - all the while smoking his cigarette.

Possibility on the ease of a Greenland paddle. The Greenland paddle has been developed over 1000’s of years, so has Greenland stroke technique. The paddle and strokes were tools of survival which means they must be good, reliable, and efficient.

Modern day kayakers and companies are still experimenting with ‘euro’ blade designs and stroke techniques. Heck, most people can’t even agree on the ‘correct’ paddle length. ‘Euro’ paddles and their strokes haven’t reached that level of efficiency yet.

Most people have a clear example and teaching of a Greenland stroke so they learn (more or less) the proper way. However, with a ‘euro’ paddle most people go out on their own and learn all kinds of technique before seeking instruction - a lot of bad habits are learned before people try to learn better habits.

I paddle mostly with a ‘euro’ blade, but use Greenland paddles and Greenland storm paddles too. I am not trying to be pro or con to either style of paddling, but one style is definitely more developed than the other.

I feel as if I can maintain this pace,

– Last Updated: May-01-07 9:03 AM EST –

"I feel as if I can maintain this pace for much longer periods without stopping and without becoming as tired."

Yup. I get better torso rotation and am less fatigued with my Greenland paddle. I use it frequently and have no trouble maintaining a good pace.

bowler1, I agree with everything u wrote

Euro blade an improvement
I think you will see few races won with Greenland paddle. Tradionalists don’t like to acknowledge it, but the euro blade is an improvement on the Greenland design.

True, Greenlanders developed the paddle and stroke over generations. But they were working with what they had, which did not include lots of wood. If they had access to more varied materials, I think you would see a different “traditional” paddle.

If you get more torso rotation in the Greenland stroke, I’d suggest you need to add more torso rotation in your euro stroke.

I enjoy using the Greenland paddle and have been working on a two piecer, to make it easier to store the gp on the foredeck. On longer trips I like to switch between euro and gp, use different muscle groups, change pace, etc.


Few true races are won with a Euro…
Reason being that most paddlers who race use wing paddles. Also there is a big misconception that the Greenlanders didn’t have the wood necessary to make large bladed paddles. They had sufficiently large logs to work with and the greenland paddle as you see it is a design that evolved to fit their needs and environment rather than forced to fit material restrictions. It’s also worth noting that the inuit cultures of the pacific northwest (with access to lots of large trees) also tended to develop skinnier paddles.

It’s funny that you say that the Euro blade is an improvement on the Greenland paddle since the Euro blade in sea kayaking and the concept of offsetting the paddle blades is a carryover from whitewater slalom racing where acceleration and gate clearance were important. Despite what our misconceptions are regarding the various paddles, all I know is that I chose to paddle with a GP because it made me able to go further, faster, with less effort. The GPS and my muscles don’t lie to me. Its an efficient paddle and to date I have yet to meet a Euro that I enjoy paddling as much. (I do love wing paddles as well and I definitely accept the idea that a wing really is a design evolution in paddling for a really efficient forward stroke.)

Greenland paddles
All you (very accurately) say is simply an extrapolation for the reasons that the Greenland paddle evolved the way it did. The short story version of its purpose is to allow you to efficiently and effectively paddle all day long, sun up to sundown, in difficult conditions (something the vast majority of kayakers don’t do now), leaving you with enough strength at the end of the day to tow home a couple of harpooned seals (there’s something you don’t see very often!). Modern day, broad-bladed paddles are adapted for the paddling most of us do now, and the super light composite versions probably mitigate most of the historic advantages of the Greenland paddle. However, modern paddles probably still move too much water (at too high a cost in stored human energy) to be as ultimately efficient as the Greenland paddle over great time/distance. This is not an arguement to get into very often , as most kayakers will just roll their eyes at the thought of such heresy but, as you have experienced yourself, for the right paddler in the right circumstances, the Greenland paddle quickly becomes a very comfortable choice.

We agree on the most important point
Paddling with traditional paddles is fun and feels good.

I didn’t know the Inuits had access to large logs. Thanks for posting.


Check out this picture:

I think Harvey Golden’s picture shows the amazing diversity of paddles that the various kayaking cultures developed. The seventh one from the left looks amazingly similar to modern euro paddles.

All the above…
…and they also flip pancakes on the campfire griddle and double as tent poles! Try that with your carbon Euro without melting them or getting sand in the joints!

Realistically though, to each his/her own - but after keeping up with a strong Euro paddler I know I won’t go back to the spoon blades.


pace and efficiency
When I say that I can maintain a cruising speed with ease…I am talking about a pretty strong cruising speed for a touring boat…about 5.5 mph or so. I can go just a little faster with the Euro blade, but become more quickly fatigued.

I would say that the GP would seem to be more efficient than either of my foam core Werners for long distances, and they are certainly pretty high tech paddles for non-wing Euro blades and certainly have a significant weight advantage over my GP.

I can only imagine the efficiency of a carbon GP.


Race results…
… have more to do with the paddlers interests and training than the paddles used. Their focus dictates what boat/paddle. As already pointed out, “racers” use wings, not euros.

Since Greenland paddles are most popular with and mix of the DIY crowd (read older, or more craft oriented), traditional/native enthusiasts, and those practicing Greenland rolling skills - their use is skewed toward less race oriented groups. That doesn’t say anything about their speed potential.

In the few races I’ve been in using GP - I’ve typically been been in the back third of the WING paddlers, and there were a LOT more euros behind than ahead of me ( being not particularly fit/fast).

Too much thinking!!!
You are putting too much thinking into speed/efficiency.

If you want to be fast and efficient: train! most of the rest is pure BS!

Efficiency of a carbon GP
Actually, not a lot different (and that’s coming from someone who has maybe 3000 miles on a Superior CF GP and loves it more than any of his kayaks).

The only real differences are weight and stiffness. Both of these can range form significant to exceedingly minor depending on the wood paddle in question. The better the wood GP - the less significant the differences.

My 88" x 3 1/4" WRC GP is within 1 oz of weight of 88" x 3 1/2" my carbon. Kim’s WRC Beale just a few oz more. Her WRC GP from Sing is lighter, as is my laminated Storm. My 90.5" Aleut is also lighter than my CF GP.

My WRC GP does have more flex - but doesn’t alter performance as far as I can tell. Differences in blade shape/volume are more important.

Beyond weight/stiffness it’s a matter of design/sizing/fit variables. Given the degree of customization with wood you could dial these things in more easily over time and have more efficiency (for you) than the available CF versions would offer. Of course once you have dialed in a favorite (or 3 or 4) you could replicate in CF if you wanted more long term durability.

Paddle compairsons tests

– Last Updated: May-02-07 9:34 AM EST –

There was a really interesting article/study done by Sanjay Gulati a few years back and published in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker. He did time trials with a GP, a Euro and a Wing. He used a GPS and a heart monitor.

The general results were a surprise. He paddled easy, moderatly hard and full tilt with each of the paddles.

The GP and the Euro were the same speed in each of the three effort catagories. (trying to keep his heart rate the same for each)

The Wing was similar but was a little faster in the hard effort catagories.

Basically with the heart rate the same, the Euro and GP were the same. The Wing was a little more efficient in the full tilt-all out catagory.

I wish I knew what back issue it was in.

Wing evolved?
The reason for a wing or deeply scooped spoon shape is simply so the footprint remains as small as possible while gaining the maximum amount of purchase. You could make a paddle with a very large blade with the same purchase but then you would have a large wind resistance footprint.

The wing is dependent on the muscle to use it effectively. I didn’t use efficiently because efficiency is based on your longevity. A paddle that grabs an enormous amount of water is not efficient if you can only use it for 5 minutes without dying.

I think as paddlers have pushed themselves to the limits in their training, blades like the wing have been developed to accomodate them. I guess it could be considered efficient for those who can sustain a fast pace with it throughout a race.

Jay, I don’t think I’m following your post. A wing isn’t about grabbing enormous amounts of water. It’s about the lift and efficient forward propulsion it provides as it slices away from the boat driven by the paddler’s core motion. To me, paddling with a wing feels closer to paddling with a GP than a Euro. I feel that a Euro paddle at times a lot of effort to sustain for a long period of time, but I don’t get that same effect with a wing paddle. What have your experiences with the wing been?

That’s “our” Sanjay
He used to post here fairly often. I remember him posting the info from those tests on pnet.

Maybe he’ll see your question and answer it here.

Sanjay Gulati: used to post here all the time, but haven’t seen much of him for quite a while now. Nice guy, child psychiatrist on Boston who works with deaf children. I wonder if he’s give up paddling. Article was in April 02 edition of ACC according to Google.

Changing it up…
Something else ocurred to me last night while paddling…I was using my smaller bladed Euro and beginning to fatigue after having paddled for a long time and having paddled hard the day prior.

I switched over the the GP and found that I felt much better and could paddle faster. Might be a good practice to alternate between the two when becoming fatigued as I find that my stroke with the GP uses a slightly different part of my back and torso muscles thus allowing you to feel fresh after becoming fatigued with the Euro. Not sure if vice versa is true as well.