Ok, just make the move from a rec to a sea kayak. I’ve had it out a bunch and love it. Last time out a friend let me try their Gearlab paddle. After a few awkward minutes of overthinking, it really felt natural. I’m just wondering if anyone can share any experience or opinions on Gearlab or any other greenland paddles. Thanks for any and all input.
hard to go back
I got my first Greenland paddle 7 years ago, a custom made laminated cedar, and more recently picked up a 3-piece Northern Lights carbon fiber paddle, similar to the Gearlab, Honestly, since I first started paddling with a GP I hardly ever use a “Euro” type standard blade paddle unless I’m doing white water or shallow rocky streams. I do own several Euros (most of them came with used kayaks I bought) and carry one as a spare under my deck lines – on long tours I will sometimes switch off just to change things up but I get tired of the Euro quickly and switch back. The GP is like an extension of my body by now.
I often end up loaning my paddles to people to try when I’m out with them (as happened to you) – most, like you, end up being pleasantly surprised at how effective they can be. I always find myself anxious to get my GP back when I’ve swapped for somebody’s Euro.
Not everybody likes them. I know a few people who tried them and said “no thanks” but I know more who tried them and switched. Particularly many of us older folks (I’m 66) appreciate the lightness and the ease of the higher cadence, less resistance GP technique especially for long trips and in windy conditions.
Of the two full sized GP’s I have, I prefer the cedar, which is a rounded tip and un-shouldered design. Unfortunately the maker, David Smith of Friday Harbor in Washington, stopped making them a few years ago, but there are plenty of other makers like Lumpy, Joe O’Blenis and Tuktu. The Northern Lights carbon (which is really no lighter) has shoulders and a more squared off blade tip. I don’t like it as much, but I have folding kayaks that I travel with and got it because it breaks down into three short pieces that I can pack in the duffel bag with the kayak. I recently retired this year and plan to try making my own paddles over this coming winter (too busy paddling now.)
You’ll probably get some more feedback on here since there are a number of GP aficionados on P.net. Another good source for info on them is the Greenland kayaking site www.qajaqUSA.org. Their forums have probably more details than anyone would ever need to know about GP’s. You can also read owner feedback on various brands within the user reviews tab here on P.net.
just a fad
I started using paatit in 2004. Bought four overtime and have carved about a dozen. Only one of the purchased ones left in the collection. They were all from feathercraft and all broke. Have built five SOF’s. I’m pretty sure it is just a passing phase…pretty sure… Seriously though I have been paddling a lot this summer, finally off decades of third shift, and I really like the last two paddles I made with a loom length about 23 inches to match the beam of my widest boat. Got that tip from Maligiaq P. a few years back.
Lot of good commercial GL paddles available. Other owners will weigh in I’m sure
Yep, GPs are great
Mine are long and narrow. All are western red cedar. My first was made by Don Beale. My second (and everyday favorite) was by Bill Bremer at Lumpy Paddles. Then I carved two more in classes with Brian Shultz of Cape Falcon Kayaks. A few years ago I sold my Beale paddle – then bought it back. You just hate to let go of good paddles. I like GPs because they’re easy on my shoulders, feel light, and are buoyant when you relax with one extended as an outrigger. I never sand my paddles and re-oil to make them beautiful again because they’re already so thin that I don’t want to take any wood off. They look weathered, and that’s fine. They move my kayak and they feel good for rolling.
GP’s are great
Great for rolling, so many different ways to roll up. My favorite paddle is a carbon fiber from Superior and its a 2 piece that only weighs in at 22 ounces, lightest Greenland Iam aware of. My western Red cedar paddles run about 32 ounces.
I guess I’m old fashioned because I
prefer the artistry of hand crafted over machine made.
I use a Lumpy GP, crafted by Bill Bremer from Western Red Cedar to fit me and my boat. It's 84" long, 20" loom, 3.5" blade, and weighs 26 ounces.
With Gearlab you have no options as to loom or blade size, only length. Also more expensive than my Lumpy.
A beautiful and wonderful paddle. http://www.lumpypaddles.com/
I would worry less about brand than about the dimensions of the paddle that suit you best. In particular, loom length is very important. That said, I second the favorable reports on Lumpy paddles. I have two of them.
I’ve owned Lumpy’s and homemades. Lumpy is the thing to have. I’d like to own a carbon GP that I could mistreat. Maybe someday.
The greenland paddle is the tool to have for rolling.
The Lumpy site, been there many times. Bill’s approach makes him seem more like a neighbor than a business owner. I just mentioned Gearlab because that was the first and only time I saw and used a greenland, plus the 2 peice feature could come in handy. But no doubt, Bill’s look to be a functional work of art and I will most likely pick one up. Ok, hate to drag this on, I used a shoulderless and really like the feel, any thoughts? And honest, then I’m done.
I Never Used Shoulderless
If shoulderless means you’re gripping a round loom I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. If shoulderless means you’re gripping a narrow section of the blade it might work for me.
The shoulder is like an index that tells you the angle of your blade at all times. It’s very helpful when you’re upside down and want to roll up. Helpful sculling and bracing, too.
Lumpy shoulders are very small, a great compromise between shoulders and shoulderless.
Shoulderless does not mean the loom is round.
The one I used sort of went from the loom gradually to the blade in kind of a flatten cone shape, it that makes any sense. The lumpy site says he does both, and since you actually can speak with the crafter I’m sure any customizing is possible, thanks for the help everyone.
Though I do prefer my shoulderless cedar GP (perhaps more out of familiarity than anything else) I do see how the shoulder is useful when I use the Northern Lights one with shoulders. There are techniques where you use the flat of your hand to brace the paddle firmly and having the shoulders gives you a bit more leverage. It’s also easier to make sure you are holding the paddle centered when you have the visual of the shoulders.
The loom on my cedar is oval so I have no trouble orienting it correctly – it was made to the exact measurement of my grip so the blades align naturally. The Northern Lights loom is a slightly squared oval that works the same way.
I often use a sliding stroke (where my hand slides past the outside of the loom) and the shoulders bug me. Another complaint I have about the Northern Lights paddle is that the seams where the 3 pieces connect are not precisely matched so there is a small ridge there which bothers my hands when I paddle without gloves.
Agree with Willowleaf - hard to go back
tl;dr: Take the opportunity to try a few different ones on trips in varied conditions, if you can get other paddlers to loan you one for any length of time. Or make your own if you are wiling to try that route.
I can’t share experience with any commercially made GPs, only my experience with handmade ones. The folks that chimed in already have way more knowledge & experience than I do.
A member of the local kayak club makes them and he let me borrow one that is the Eastern style when I got my current boat in summer 2014. After absorbing a few pointers and 5 minutes of fumbling I felt the paddle was just the right thing for me in my boat (Northshore Atlantic RM), so I bought the paddle from him.
I’ve also tried a few others of varying length & Western/Eastern variations during pool practice, including an Aleut style. I’m hooked on the Eastern style GP I have.
Im a novice paddler. My normal cadence is not fast. I average 2.8kn with the paddle, but when I paddle 10 to 15 miles with it I do not experience soreness in my arms or shoulders. That’s probably more due to focusing on proper rotation/paddlers box than the paddle, but I do notice a significant difference between the GP & the euro blade in how they bite into the water; The GP feels smoother. With my euro blade paddles (Werner Skaggit and Tybee) the power phase feels shorter, as I feel more pressure on my body in a short period of time. I know that is a common sentiment.
I can’t speak to the exact dimensions or weight, but it is a few ounces heavier than my Tybee FG. The buoyancy of the paddle while it is in the water seems to offset the higher weight for me - that just my perception/opinion.
I did not get much paddling in the rest of 2014 or 2015, but this year I’ve spent enough time paddling with the GP to not want to use a euro again I still do just to stay in practice. The GP feels like an extension of my body, just like the boat. I have not yet experienced that feeling with straight or bent shaft paddles.
Bracing and rolling with it are smoother than using the euro paddles I have. Having the shoulders helps me with paddle awareness. I am learning forward facing rolls right now and the tendency to lean on it during a chest skull/reverse sweep is hard on the shoulders (bad technique), so it does demand the paddler use good technique - but that can be said of any paddle.
Forward finishing starters…
…touch the back of your inboard wrist with your forehead and leave it there through the entire roll. Ie: your left wrist if you are right handed and rolling “onside”
Call Bill and talk with him so
he can get an idea of your paddling style and skills.
The paddle he crafted for me has small shoulders and is carved so that when I hold it in my hands, the blade is naturally canted. A really nice feature and one I appreciated all the more when I used a variety of GPs in a class - none of which were even close to the quality of my Lumpy.
Love my Lumpy
I switched to GP a few years ago and I love my Lumpy. Bill is a great guy. You end up with a paddle custom made to fit your body. Wonderful paddle that feels right every time I pick it up.
I have a Greenland Paddle. For most paddling, I prefer my Aquabound. I was told several years ago that some swear by Greenland paddles, others swear at them.
Like much of the other equipment in this sport you decide what’s best for you.
disagree about Lumpy shoulders
The Lumpy Shoulders are only small if you order them small. Bill makes paddles that fit you and your style.
There is always a waiting list, so try to borrow one of his loaner paddles that is close to what you want while you wait.
It may be worth it to you to drive a long way to paddle with him and get some advice and tips on using the GP. My lumpy is my go to paddle when ever I am tired or injured and still want to paddle.