Greenland paddles

My Father-in-law had shoulder surgery over the summer and has been unable to paddle since. He had hoped for better results and a quicker recovery but it just wasn’t to be. He leaves for Florida in a little over a week where he typically spends 3 months fishing from his kayak. He is taking the kayak with hopes he can paddle without too much pain and without doing any more damage. Right now he uses a heavy recreational paddle with large blades. My wife and I have loaned him our carbon fiber paddles with less blade but he said he liked his better. I suspect his reasoning has more to do with the cost since he tends to be on the “very cheap” side. We would like to get him a paddle that will be easier on him before he leaves. My question is, having never had the opportunity to use a greenland paddle, do they offer any advantage to a person with shoulder problems? Do you paddle them with a high or low stroke? I am thinking he will need a low stroke to limit the rotation of his shoulder.

A Greenland might help, depends. Elbows can be kept down and in a bit more, so shoulder use is a little different. Stroke can still be high or low or whatever. If it would help, it would help more if he was shown a decent GP stroke and the differences rather than just handing him a paddle. I also think the GPs benefits diminish as kayaks get wider which may enter this particular situation as well (not that many kayak fishermen in narrow kayaks).

What kind of kayak? What size guy are we talking about? Where in Florida?

paddle choice after shoulder surgery

Shoulder surgery and the length and degree of recovery is different for each of us. I had three hours of surgery to repair my shoulder five years ago. I paddle every chance I get with few or no aches after day long paddles. I use a Greenland or Aleut paddle.

For me (anyone may have a different experience) low angle paddling is fine and high angle is dubious; Many folks that have had shoulder surgery find doing work at shoulder height or above irritates the shoulder. That’s certainly true in my case; I have to pay attention to how high my right hand is.

Smaller and narrower blades will be easier on the repaired shoulder, regardless of the type of paddle. Slightly flexible shafts will be gentler than very stiff shafts should he want a euro paddle, but they are hard to find.

Many older paddlers (with or without having had shoulder surgery) find Greenland paddles easier on their bodies. Also, at age 64, I find the slight flex in the wood paddle shaft reduces stress on my body and the narrow blade also reduces the slight shock of the paddle catch.

One complicating factor is that if he is fishing constantly out of a kayak he probably has a very wide “fishing” Kayak or a nearly as wide “Rec” kayak. Greenland paddles were developed for and are are usually used with 18"-22" kayaks. The normal length one would use with such a kayak would be too short for his kayak (if I’m correct in guessing the width of your father-in-law’s kayak). I did recommend a Greenland paddle to a friend paddling a Rec kayak and complaining of shoulder pain. Not thinking he would actually take my advice, I never mentioned a longer length would be needed to accommodate his kayak’s width. He went out and bought a 86" Greenland paddle (good size for 22" wide kayak) and the next time I saw him he showed it to me and said it wasn’t working very well. I apologized for my omission and had him take it back to the maker, asking the paddle maker to measure for length with him sitting in his kayak. He likes his new, longer paddle very much and it is now the only one he uses.

If my guess of his kayak’s width is correct you will not be able to find a pre-made Greenland paddle long enough for him. Probable the best approach would be to find someone in FL who will measure him in his kayak, make him a longer Greenland paddle and show him how to use it (simple to learn, but different than euro paddles).


one Florida GP source
If you do decide to gift a Greenland Paddle, and want to have him work with a source in Florida, here is one option -

I’ve purchased two paddles from Ken and I think they represent a decent value for folks who aren’t in a position to make one themselves.

GP Is Generally Easier…

– Last Updated: Dec-19-09 1:10 PM EST –

...on the body for the reasons noted above - both I and my wife have been using GPs this past season,and find we can paddle a lot further without feeling any fatigue. My VOLKSKAYAK is 25" beam - my paddle is 88" in length. I use a fairly high angle stroke most of the time, but find the paddle is a also effective with low angle and maneuvering strokes. If the boat was much wider, I'd add more length...

I also find, tho, that subtle differences in the paddle's construction can influence its performance. Our original GP, a gift to me from a friend of one he'd made, is absolutely lovely to use - my wife claimed it for her own seconds after I'd said "Here, try this...". I've carved two since then - the first is almost as good, but not quite; the second is not quite as good as my first attempt.

BTW - if your father-in-law likes doing simple woodwork, you could consider giving him a good small block plane, perhaps a cheap spokeshave, a few sheets of sandpaper, and a 2x4 stick of red cedar - GP paddle making is very simple, there's tons of info available on the net, and for those who like myself "paddle as if money matters", very, very cost effective. Reckon it costs me about $10 per paddle, and a day or so of work that I enjoy nearly as much as paddling...

Thanks for all the info
I am having dinner with him tomorrow and will certainly pass this info on to him. His boat is 24.5" wide so it is on the wider side. My wife and I will be visiting him in Florida this winter with plans to spend a lot of the time with him on the water. Perhaps we will see how the shoulder is doing then and if its bothering him we can arrange to have him fitted while we are there. It could be an early Fathers Day gift. Thanks again everyone.

A light weight wind paddle might be

– Last Updated: Dec-19-09 10:46 PM EST –

a good choice.
Something like a Sawyer Sea Feather.

narrow bladed paddler
I am guessing your father in law is no longer a spring chicken . I would say he needs more recovery time. Tendons and ligaments heal slowly sometimes a full year and being careful.

A narrow bladed paddle is not a miracle paddle , all it would take is one boat wake and he might have to brace hard on his weak shoulder and he could undo all the surgery . In any case he should keep his elbows in close to his body as that is best for your shoulders

shoulder surgery, PT, and paddle
Shoulder surgery outcomes differ for every patient. The process should start with finding an experienced surgeon who specializes in shoulder surgery. I live in in an area with many competent orthopedic surgeons, yet searched for two weeks until I found the one surgeon who did shoulders only. If there isn’t such a MD in your area it’s worth it to travel to a major medical center such as Mayo clinic to find a shoulder specialist. Shoulder surgery is dicy, it’s your shoulder, don’t settle for second best.

PT is a major part of the recovery from shoulder surgery. If the PT program you start with isn’t working in your opinion, change PTs-it’s that important for maximum recovery. PT shouldn’t cause major pain- yes, some discomfort, some aching, but not major pain. I had to be in a sling for a month to allow the repair of a ruptured joint capsule to heal. Along with the joint capsule repair, I had to have most of my biceps tendon reattached and there were a number of other things done at the same time. After the month in a sling, I had 18 weeks of twice a week PT, progressing from restricted movement to strengthening exercises, ending with range of motion exercises. Daily home exercises were religiously followed.

When dismissed from such an intensive and extensive PT program, one is about as healed as one will get. Certainly the strength is higher than will be sustained after because few continue exercising at the intensive level of the PT routine. I had surgery at the start of Oct. 04 and after a lengthy conversation with my PT started to resume pool rolling in early spring 05. PT ended a few weeks later.

I do not know the extent of the father-in-law’s injury, the competence of his surgeon, the quality or duration on the PT program, the patient’s complience with the PT program or his monitoring what activities he does or doesn’t do based how they affect his shoulder; All those things influence the final outcome.

The original post was about paddle selection, so I didn’t get into all the stuff above as he can’t change the MD, PT or PT program at this date. I repeat my advise on paddles, from my experience after major shoulder reconstruction at age 59:

-shaft with some flex- long enough to work for him at his size in the kayak he will be using.

-small, narrow blade-Greenland would be best, others types could work if one can find them with a slightly flexable shaft

-low angle stroke, avoid paddling (or any other work) with hand at shoulder level or higher

Tell him to listen to his body and stop if he has strong pain. Back off for a couple of days if he has aching while paddling or after stopping. Ice after paddling and use Vitamin “I” once or twice if there is aching after paddling to reduce swelling.


Exc. advice above. Had my GP made
very long so I could use it with my Wen-Vag solo canoe and drove it into strong winds and waves for about an hour yesterday with no probs and I’m an old dog with some shoulder spurs. A local GP builder should be able to make a nice fitting one for his boat, stroke, most comfortable grip, and desired flex. R

Greyak also makes
excellent paddles. He is in Ft. Lauderdale


A greenland paddle can definately
be easier on his shoulder. This is the main reason I’ve been using one. The bite of the paddle can be made to your liking by adjustments to the length and or the width of the paddle. The weight of the paddle will help a lot also. The lighter the paddle, the more fragile it might be but a little added strength doesn’t effect the weight too much. The main advantage for my bad shoulder is that I can use a lower paddle stroke with the greenland paddle and the bite of the blade is more gradual throughout the stroke. The closer you place your hands on the paddle shaft will allow you to use a lower stroke and also use less shoulder movement. If I get into a situation where I need a more aggressive paddle stroke I’ll spread my hands out on the shaft a few inches and use a higher paddle stroke. It might take trying a few paddles of different sizes to see what works best.

trunk rotation
While pontificating on shoulder surgery, recovery and Greenland paddles, I omitted an extremely important additional piece of advice. Have him practice increasing trunk rotation in his stroke and reducing “arm paddling”-it’s not only a more efficient way to paddle, its easier on the shoulder joints.