OK, I yield to your logic. I do wonder how many people who think GPs are just sticks are basing their opinion on 30 unsatisfying minutes with a lousy paddle. Then again, I passed my very nice GP to a friend who paddled with it for maybe 30 seconds before handing it back and saying it was a ridiculous thing…
It took me a full summer
of using a greenland paddle before I started to like it. The main reason i stuck with it was because it let me paddle for a longer period of time with less discomfort on my bad shoulder, compared to a euro paddle. Only after learning how to roll with paddle and learning how well it sculled did I start to enjoy it’s characteristics. I learned much from using a greenland paddle and feel very limited with my abilities when i use a euro paddle now. For me it was a different beast and I really had to really work with it to appreciate it.
High vs. Low Angle
Besides all that has already been mentioned, I find the greenland paddle shape is suitable for vertical (high angle) or low angle paddling. And works very well (as mentioned) for correction strokes too. That's very useful as you can vary your paddling style as needed to minimize fatigue or to address the conditions best.
Most "Euro" blades I've tried are designed to work best at a certain angle. For instance, the very nice Werner kalliste low angle paddle has a bend and a general shape that starts to lift too much water if used at high angle. Or a typical "wing" paddle looses a lot of its function if used at a low angle.
On a separate note, GPs are actually very good for beginners, if my wife is any indication. She has probably paddled 3 times in her life but really liked the very first wooden paddle I made (for myself, but works for her too). It is carved after the aleutian designs found on the net but smaller in area (very slim blades) and very lightweight (closer to 20 than to 30 oz, lighter than my Epic small mid wing!). The only advice she needed in order to feel completely at home with it was to lower her "pulling" hand to the water so that she is not "carrying" the paddle but actually the buoyancy of the paddle is carrying most of its weight through the stroke and also her low hand is straigher (less "arm paddling").
Another point not brought up is a GP ,because the mass is distributed more evenly along the length of the paddle unlike a Euro which will have a lot of weight and windage way out at the ends it has less swing weight thus making it less tiring to use.
I attended a kayking clinic weekend on Fri. Had to work the rest of the weekend. One of the clinics was on Greenland. I got a chance to try out a few different Greenland paddles and techniques. Wow…it was great and I think I am hooked. The instructors made it look effortless no mater what they did. I must admit the first time I blew a scull and went to roll up I blew my roll. I figure because I am used to the larger blade on the Euro paddle. It sure was fun but the water was cold…cold. Going to look into making one of these and use it in our pool sessions. All the info above was and still is very helpful.
Like many ppl here, my first experience with a GP is borrowing one out of curiosity, followed by a few minuets of awkward uncomfortable paddling. It wasn’t until I bought a used boat and the guy gave me a super long GP to go along with it that I actually committed to try using it for a few hours. It was longer than I could reach, much less curl my fingers over the blade when standing up, but it was super light and offered more leverage. My cadence was actually slower than others in my group, but each stroke offered more power than expected, it just felt more comfortable, and gave me less fatigue. I still carry the euro as a spare since it breaks down and it better for shallow rocky areas…
The purely technical stuff has been…
…pretty well covered here, but the more aesthetic joys of GP design and techniques haven’t been given much notice, yet.
There’s nothing quite like the sleek, organic shape of the GP, and while I know some are now being made with carbon, I think I’ll always prefer the feel of wood in my hands. GPs may be a wet ride, but the wood has a nice relative warmth, and a perfect subtle “spring” that composite paddles don’t.
I’ve paddled all sorts of boats over the years, but I also feel lucky that I discovered my preference for Greenland style boats during my first few months of paddling. Not only do I love the way they handle in all sorts of conditions, I love their lines as well. Add the beautiful lines of the GP, and to my eyes, there’s no more pleasing boat/paddle combination.
Happily, paddling is always better than looking, so just as I feel the Greenland boats and paddles are visually beautiful, to paddle this combination is a real treat. As a 'cellist, I find all sorts of parallels between the 'cello/bow and boat/paddle combinations. Shaping phrases of music through the air, and shaping phrases of movement through the water.
When I used to use a Euro paddle, I really enjoyed refining the techniques; for efficiency, silence, and beauty of movement. Once I started using GPs, refinement moved up to a whole new level. The hands and paddle are not limited by any shape, so hands can slide along the entire length, effecting both subtle and powerful stroke variations as needed. Even more so than with the Euro paddle, silences are quieter, and movements more graceful. In some ways, a well shaped Euro paddle allows even a novice to “force” certain moves without too much penalty, but a GP has a stronger personality, and demands to be respected, rewarding the respectful paddler with unparalleled performance and joy of movement. A perfectly canted entry is silent and effortless, becoming a very powerful stroke that seems to lift the boat as it propels, then exits just as silently as it entered. Whether hands are stationary at the blade throats for long periods, sliding and extended strokes are incorporated, or braces and sculls are required, it’s all very organic. No feeling of “switching modes”…just very natural transitions from moment to moment. The same is true for rolling.
The GP is as modern as it is ancient; the pinnacle of thousands of years of survival inspired refinement of design. Nothing obsolete about this lovely old design!
The day before my first GPs arrived was the last day I used my Euro paddles. It’s now been over 8 years, and the ride, the learning, and refinement just keeps getting better. Sure, there’s a science to all this, but the art runs even deeper.
Other than obtaining a GP I want to try a few Greenland style kayaks. I must admit that a 208 lbs I like a wider boat for feel and storage of gear for trips. It’s a whole new learning.
That’s not surprising
The techniques for the two paddle types are quite different, but it’s not obvious to the untrained eye. If you’re used to a Euro paddle - especially a feathered Euro - it can take some time to “unlearn” habits that are detrimental to using a GP effectively.