Greenland Paddle

This summer I built a GP. Well, let’s say I tried to build one. The first one was a complete disaster. . . The draw knife ran amuck. The next one looks better. In fact if you see it from several hundred yards away it really does look like a Greenland paddle. Everything is a little off. But not too bad for someone with no woodworking background, has no coordination, can’t stand still and chew gum at the same time and thinks a draw knife can be bought in an art supple store.

However I did try it out once I had it sanded. One thing I noticed is that it is a very wet paddle. By that I mean the water runs down the paddle and ends up in your lap. My question is: is this normal? IF not how do you prevent this from happening. I can’t imagine the native population of Greenland paddling off their sunny warm weather beaches with wet hands.

Any help would be appreciated.


Dave, my hands will get wet because

– Last Updated: Nov-18-10 11:36 AM EST –

I tend to stroke them into the water with a deeper purchase. My winter stroke is not as deep because I don't like my hands being wet all the time. If you are using a vertical stroke with a higher cadence, you should not be getting that much water in your lap. Your thumb and index finger will act as a kind of drip ring to prevent some of the downward travel of the water. The finish on the paddle will also effect the speed at which water moves along its surface and the amount of water it holds. A rougher finish might be a wetter paddle. The final element that I can think of would be wind. I tend to get water from the paddle blown onto me when the winds are higher, but I can't say that I have a problem with my skirt or cockpit. Any paddle is going to put water onto your lap, but not the flood you are hinting at. The Aluet/Inuit were completely covered by their Tuilik and thus would not be more effected by this than anyone today wearing a skirt/spraydeck/cag/tuilik. Try some different paddles and work with your stroke to see if this makes any difference for you. One paddlers opinion.

Do like the Inuits . . .
. . . and wear sealskin mittens. I think they also sometimes tied rags around the shoulder of the loom to make a sort of drip ring. I can’t imagine that was particularly effective though. I don’t use drip-rings on my Euro paddles, so I don’t miss them on my GP.

My hands are always wet, no matter what paddle I’m using. If the water’s cold I wear gloves or poagies.

If you’re used to a euro paddle, you may be using a euro style stroke with the GP, and that will exacerbate the drippy problem by putting more of the offside blade over your lap. If the euro stroke is high angle, early catch, and short stroke, the GP stroke is Low, Late, and Long. I think you can find video clips on

Yes, to answer your question.
I got some hair bands from my wife and made drip rings. The drip was greatly reduced.

fabric wraps
Like moparharn said, in historical times the Inuit wrapped the loom-to-blade transition area with scraps of cotton rags. The Polar World exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (where I live) has a number of native watercraft in “as collected” condition on display and every paddle has several wraps like this. I’ve tried it myself with cotton bandanas and it does help to slow and deflect the constant flood. It won’t eliminate it though. And it interferes with using a sliding stroke and bracing.

I use a GP 95% of the time. Unless it’s warm enough out that I don’t care about having a soaked lap and thighs (or mind pumping the bilge every couple of hours), I wear a spray skirt. And I get wet hands with my standard “Euro” paddle as well, just not as quickly, so it doesn’t really bother me.

Depends on your stroke
If you use the stroke recommended by Greg Stamer you will get much less water on your skirt. Check out his section of Nigel Foster’s DVD “Forward Paddling”. Don’t get fooled by Nigel’s presentation using a Betsy Bay paddle. There is a later section by Stamer using a decent paddle. If I use a high angle stroke and rotate so that my top hand crosses the cockpit I get a lot of water on my skirt and hence in the cockpit eventually. Stamer’s version has you moving your top hand from near your shoulder toward the center of the front deck. Works for me.

I’m just like you…
I fell in love with the GP due to lightness vs cost and it just feels easier to paddle and better in my hands. I also carved two paddles, both with a jack plane, jig saw, then a finishing sander and have been very satisfied with the outcome.

But my biggest gripe is the wet hands and lap. My GP’s are long enough to not have to use a vertical stroke, but they still leave a big puddle on my skirt and seep through to my lap. I’ve since bought a much nicer waterproof skirt and use waterproof Glacier Gloves when it’s cold.

I once borrowed a book on Greenland kayak design which had diagrams for several uncommon GP’s and some had a notch cutout or protrusion at the shoulder to act as a drip ring or a way to channel water away from the hands, while still being able to slide your hands over it. Others have also mentioned a piece of leather string or a softer drip ring made with a bit of bicycle inner tube. I haven’t tried any of that yet since I upgraded my equipment…

Wet Hands When it’s Warm
Mitts when it’s cold.

spray skirt
I switched to a Reed Chillcheater Spray skirt. No seepage from the deck at all. I get out after a long paddle, even in lumpy water, totally dry from the waist down, but water still gets in around the tube when I roll.

I’d love a snug neoprene tube with whatever material they use for the deck.


My hands and sprayskirt are always soaked. I just figure it’s part of the deal. Besides, if you roll a lot. paddle drip is nothing!

The neoprene velcro drip guards
from help me some. Put them on tight at the loom and slide down the blade.

Inuits wore tuliks
So limits the wet lap issue. As to hands, yes we’ve seen mitts of sorts in a museum, as well as goggles to protect against glare.

couple things
First the Greenland stroke should end well beyond the cockpit and if you pause at the end of the stroke much of the water will run off before it’s carried down the shaft.

Still it’s wet. Level 6 mits work great, keep your hands completely dry and are thin enough that you can still feel the paddle.

Neoprene skirts are the only way to go, nylon skirts all leak.

Bill H.

Drip ring?
A really easy solution is to use a 1 inch piece of foam tape (the white stuff used to stick things to a wall). Wrap it over the bottom edge (you pick which is bottom) of the blade where it meets the loom. Peel the paper from the outside of the tape and kill the sticky adhesive with powder or dirt. This tiny tap creates a bump and the water drips off. A piece of tape 1/2’ wide and 1" long will do the job.

"should end well beyond the cockpit"
That is exactly my point above. A proper stroke with a GP does not result in water dropping down on the skirt.

Thanks all of you
for the info. I’ll keep these in mind when I build my next paddle. Hopefully it will turn out a little better.


Little drip lots of wet
I don’t get too much paddle drip, but I’m not sure if I’d notice a little anyway, because with the Greenland paddle I’m alway putting my hands directly in the water. Maybe I’m doing it wrong but that’s how it works out.

Often I follow the Aleutian method of just using a single blade and keeping my hands dry but that doesn’t always work out if I need to go fast.

This winter I’m trying my level 6 mitts. So far so good.

wet hands
Grease your hands.

I can imagine, the Inuits did it also.

Grease is not uncomfortable with wood.

good point
That’s a good point, also pausing at the end of the stroke is more relaxing.

Bill H.

It might be true that’s how it was done, but ewwww :wink:

I suspect when you live outside primarily in the artic that your hands get toughened up to the point that a little water won’t matter much. Seal skin gloves and maybe a little grease probably took care of the rest.

Btw, if you know of nothing but a GP, then you learn to use it.

Bill H.