Help on new GP

I have about a dozen hours over a week on my new GP, a 90 inch Mitchell Horizon with easy transition form loom to blade. Prior to, I have been using a high angle stroke with a Werner bent shaft Euro. I am about 6-1 and a good fit to my Valley Q. My wrists and elbows are slightly tender due to what is likely poor technique. I really like the bracing and rolling ease of this skinny stick. I can paddle backwards like a rocket.

From what I understand, the GP is primarily deployed low. For me this results in more yawing than my Euro produces. While I can swing the GP more vertical, it feels smoother and more solid when flatter to the deck.

I have shortened up my stroke and speed up the cadence to reduce the side to side effects. Any further suggestions? I have logged onto (although cannot view vids there due to work provided computer’s security settings), have read what I can find and have reviewed Greg S’s section on Mr. Foster’s series.

Not an expert but…
The problem you report sounds exactly like what has just happened with a paddler I know locally. In that case, I asked them about whether they were using a diving blade angle - which produces a higher stroke actually - and they indicated no. You may be incorrect to assume that the stroke with a GP has to be low.

I haven’t looked at GS’s stuff, but in a recent class with Alison Sigethy we were shown this fairly high stroke that starts with a diving blade angle. It was not only easy on the wrist, at day’s end and the next morning my shoulder which is in the “light use” stage of recovery from an injury felt better than it had in a month. I had expected to have to sit out the afternoon. So I can verify that this stroke is easy on the body, in fact it was easier to keep my arms straighter out and protect my shoulder than with the Euro because of older bad habits there.

Again, I am not an expert. But the stroke that you seem to describe is not the stroke that we were shown by at least one highly qualified greenland paddler. If it is bothering your wrist to boot, you may want to look at the diving angle thing. The nice part about this stroke was that there was no fussing or torquing the wrist at all.

more on Alison’s method please?
Regardless of shaft angle to water, the top edge of the blade is forward about 30 to 40 degrees due to light grip across it. For me this causes blade to dive, or bite into the water. I have also tried keeping my elbows down and closer to rotating torso. That had the most positive effect on reducing veering and the most flat paddle shaft. That is quite the switch from hand-elbow-shoulder horizontal alignment style for smooth and pain free Euro method.

Don’t sweat the low angle misconception.

– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 10:23 AM EST –

Locking any part of your body into a narrow range of movement just invites a repetitive motion injury. You're not locked into holding a GP only by the shoulders and only in one position. One of the beauties of GPs is that you can place your hands just about anywhere on them and get a grip. With shorter GPs that I've used, I usually end up in a sliding stroke with the paddle near vertical like a canoe stroke...little yaw, lots of forward oomph. With GPs made more for my arm span, I usually end up with a higher angle stroke and my inboard/upper hand open and more or less pushing the blade to the deck.


Versatile GP grips
I agree that part of the GP appeal is infinite hand positions. Nor do I feel “locked” in with Euro. I have been experimenting with hands closer and farther apart and the shifting/sliding methods. Initially I could not scull or roll without one near paddle end, and chin, and the other well up closer side of loom.

I will keep at it gently and with varied hand positions.

That is the trick

– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 10:55 AM EST –

"I have shortened up my stroke and speed up the cadence to reduce the side to side effects."

That's reasonable approach.

I'm assuming, by "shorten up", you mean are paddling in a shorter arc.

If you are using a horizontal stroke, make sure you are not planting the blade close to the hull. The blade should travel at about 60' (maybe more) to 120 (maybe less) (with the bow 0').

I use a GP with a turny boat (a Romany) and don't experience the yawing.

What boat are you using? How long is your GP?

GP Stroke
The GP stroke starts closer to the center of the boat (not a forward catch as with a euro) and stays in the water much further back than the euro stroke. The cant angle is kind of a natural happening with the paddle lightly held in your hands. I get very little if any yaw padding an Avocet, which is a very turny boat like the Romany mentioned in the above post.

Maybe Greg S. will chime in. Have you seen his demonstrations/instruction on Nigel Foster’s videos?



– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 12:20 PM EST –

If you are yawing all over the place but doing so equally on each side, it suggests that you are constantly using the blade in more of a sweep than a forward stroke, no matter what the paddle type.

I should point out that the diving angle thing is commonly used by many people per info from a number of traditional paddlers, all of whom know a heck of a lot more than me. I doubt that Alison Sigethy is unique here, just that she is the only such instructor I have encountered (yet).

What we were doing was leaving the paddle at a pretty comfy angle in our hands where it fell so that the outer edge was somewhat forward as it hits the water. Let it dive down on its own kinda and it falls to a point where it catches. That point is not vertical but I wouldn't call it a low angle at all. Complete the stroke etc. The biggest diff from the regular Euro stroke boiled down to where the catch point hit, but the rest was very similar.

Alison has a web site but I just checked and it's better for rolling than regular paddling strokes. But I think you'll find a similar approach wherever you look. I suspect that you are torquing the paddle around once it is in the water to keep a low angle, which really wouldn't be a plan with any paddle type. If it enters the water right it shouldn't require a lot of messing with in the rest of the stroke.

Mt Mitchell GP
is identical in length to yours. I am using a reasonably low angle stroke and do not notice any appreciable yawing (QCC-500, not a great turner).

I agree with the comments about the canted stroke, and with the concept of keeping your cadence high and stroke length short.


Not Mt. Mitchell
"My Mitchell".

Fired from my last job as a poofreader.


GP stroke

I recommend that you read the GP stroke technique information, including my article, on the Qajaq USA site at Also search the archives for the Greenland forum – there’s a lot of information there.

I don’t advocate a “low” stroke per se. Vary stroke height depending on what you are trying to accomplish. For very shallow water or low-energy paddling a low-horizontal stroke works well. For sprinting and more speed use a very vertical stroke. For touring, most Greenlanders that I have observed hold the paddle at about a 45 degree angle to the horizon. Don’t keep your elbows pressed against your sides.

I also don’t advocate a short stroke unless you are sprinting. A typical Greeland stroke starts with a plant that is slightly further aft than a Euro stroke, but often exits behind the hip (partially due to the length of the blades). For mainstream kayaking we are often taught to extract the blade at the hip so that you don’t “lift water”. This practice is generally ignored in G-style and many of the strokes are long and flowing. In fact, some G-style kayakers work to gain a “boost” on the exit – made possible by the canted blade angle, but this is optional and takes time to learn.

Find a way to view the video clips on the Qajaq USA site (home computer, friend’s computer or even the library) to help build a good mental-image.

The canted blade stroke takes some time to master. At first you might think that you have to shorten your stroke to keep the paddle from “diving” but in time you will learn to take advantage of the motion, and to control it. If you find that you are yawing, ensure that during the stroke that your torso is driving forward and not leaning from side-to-side (this sometimes happens if you are too intent on watching the blades). If you lean to the side when using a canted blade it will most certainly pull you in that direction. When you master the canted blade stroke you will find that the blades feel as if they have more “bite” and cadence slows. My cadence with a GP is almost the same as my cadence with a euro.

Greg Stamer

Wrist/forearm/elbow issues…
Coming from Euro be particularly mindful that you are not over-aggressively gripping the GP. It’s pretty common to do this when going to a different type of paddle, particularly one that my feel less familiar/secure than your old smaller shafted favorite.

Grip should primarily come from hooked fingers - not active gripping/squeezing with thumb. Thumb mainly just provides support - except if conditions get hairy enough to warrant a temporary grip increase.

A very loose/open grip should help make a lot of the other issues fall into place and may save you the bout of forearm tendinitis I had a bit after switching (I’m assuming you’re using the fairly typical grip with thumb/forefingers on loom and rest out on blade root for forward paddling - this fills you palm with nice fat oval blade root for max comfort/control with open/loose grip

As others have already said - get that “low angle” nonsense out of your head. GP is an all angles paddle - and you can work in many variations on forward stroke to find more speed, last longer, just mix things up, etc.

90" is a pretty long GP - even for a tall/strong guy (sizing guidelines tend to begin to be less useful for paddlers at the upper and lower sizes.) Most commercial paddles have 3.5" or wider blades too. Combined, this creates both a very long lever and a lot of blade surface area - both of which can have similar impact in different ways (cadence, power, yawing, pitching, etc.). As little as 1/2" of length and/or 1/8" width can noticeably alter how the paddle performs. Really narrow blades can be surprisingly effective once you dial in the technique a bit.

At first, coming from a Euro, your GP may not feel like it has as much bite - but once you begin to adapt to it (mostly by listening to it and unlearning euro habits) you will find it has a LOT more bite than you thought. At that point you may find you have a little more paddle than optimal (hard to tell if you only have one GP - but things like slower cadence and waggling course are already telling you something…).

The Mitchel site also list the loom as being 17". Is that right? For someone 6’1" this might yield a bit narrow hand spacing, unless you have rather narrow shoulders. This could be what’s making you feel you want your elbows in and hands lower… If you are a strong/energetic/active type paddler - you may find a longer loom to be more to your liking.

I’m 5’9 (5’11.5" arm span) with fairly wide shoulders and like looms around 21". I can go a little longer, but going below 19" starts to feel odd at speed and I start wanting to slide my hands out or slide the paddle. I like 88" GPs - but again, my span is close to 6’, and I would not want to go longer (exception being my 90.5" Aleut with 24" loom - but blades are only 3" , tips are pointy, and strokes are a bit different). I can use shorter GPs quite comfortably (86" might be a more “correct” size for me and equally good) - but shorter than 85" (not counting storm paddles) I begin to feel I’m windmilling a bit unless blades are wide to compensate, which I don’t like. It’s all a matter of balance and everyone’s different.

GP sizing doesn’t have to be perfect (no such thing - and too many variables, most important might be paddler power/endurance/style) - and a wide range of sizes works OK for most. Over time though there is an opportunity to experiment and fine tune things and get GPs that are more ideally suited to your needs (at which point you may find what work best as an all-around paddle - and may also find having more than one in different sizes also makes sense). Some people like to paddle harder/slower - others like a more aerobic cadence. You can size GPs to suit any of this.

I got lucky with my first GP as it was a really good match and is still my “go-to” paddle. They are all my “favorites” (GPs. storms, Aleuts, and “others”) as each is different and made so for different reasons.

Take the above with a big grain of salt, as I’d have to see you paddle with your GP - and watch you try several others too - to be able to do any more than discuss generalities and make guesses about what might or might not help, work for you, etc. Let the water be your primary teacher.

Hmm - width of loom
I am lucky - got my GP(s) from a guy who makes them locally and he set the width of the loom based on measuring me (as well as tailoring the paddle width down to under 3" for my smaller hands). That first loom width was good right out of the box. Could be that if you got a GP made commercially that width may need adjustment.

deathgrip and other issues
I had the deathgrip the first time I used my GP in challenging conditions. I actually put both my thumbs to sleep, which hurts, by the way. Afterwards, I softened the shoulders on it, which has helped a lot.

I have 2 GP, one made by me, one by Brian Schultz, which is the same length, about 1/2" narrower. I tend to use mine on the first half of a trip (it’s a bit of a plank) and Brian’s on the second half - the difference is pretty significant, with Brian’s more refined and mine having more bite. Eventually, I think I will pare mine down to be like his, but having 2 different sizes is interesting.

I think I’m getting to the point where I adjust stroke angle and paddle reach to get the boat doing what I want, not to do a ‘proper stroke’. Lately I’ve been paddling flatwater and focusing on trees and birds in the distance and not looking at my paddle at all - just trying to keep a silent entry of the paddle and the boat going straight. I feel this has given me a more natural, unconscious stroke. At least my arms and wrists don’t hurt and the canted angle happens naturally.

I agree with the previous post that my cadence isn’t much different (if at all) from my Euro paddling, and the paddle angle varies all over the place depending on how I’m correcting, accelerating, etc. So maybe try Zen-ing out a little and see if that helps, be the boat, etc.

Ditto what Greg and Greyak said…

– Last Updated: Sep-18-07 10:07 AM EST –

Hey Andy...

Lots of people mistakenly believe the skinny-stick is only meant to be used with a low angle stroke and perpetuate this misconception. If you limit yourself to the low angle stroke, you'll miss out on a lot of the potential of the skinny-stick. Play around with the new paddle and you'll discover how versatile it really is.

It sounds like you might have discovered one potential downside to the low angle, paddle near the deck stroke. It can introduce a bit of sweep into each stroke if not done right, especially with the longer paddles. Take your paddle deeper into the water closer to the boat. You can still keep your elbows relatively low with a higher angle stroke if you wish.

Take a look at what your wrists are doing the next time you use the new stick. Your wrist should be kept in a fairly straight line from your elbow to the first set of knuckles on your hand. If you are cocking it back and forth a good bit on each stroke this often times can contribute to wrist pain.

Also as Kris suggested, you might try loosening up your grip a bit. You'll discover that with the GP one doesn't have to grip their hand entirely around the loom and shoulder all the time to have a nice grip on the paddle.

If your new paddle does in fact have a 17" loom, this is a good bit narrower than what *most* average sized people prefer. The narrow loom, especially with the longer paddle may be compromising your stroke mechanics a little.

And it could be just the switch to a new paddle. Give it time, and if you're like most folks you'll wish you had discovered the skinny-stick sooner.


Give it some time
If I switched from my GP over to a bent shaft Euro I would probably be posting the same thing as you did. Most of my GP user paddling friends come in two camps. The analytical, dogma ones and those who just use the paddle how it feels naturally. I just use it and many times use Euro techniques with it and sometimes more GP oriented style techniques with it.

Years back there were some articles describing a low GP type of stroke. But over the years GP users have negated that (unless you like it). I think you are new to it and your body just needs to adapt a bit more. I wouldn’t obsess over the proper stroke. You can try people’s suggestions but I’ll bet you’ll end up just doing what feels right for you. The thing you will find is that it is way more powerful than it looks.

Many good tips above.
Like Jsaults, my Mitchell GP does not yaw. I naturally go to a canted stroke, but perhaps it is more tha just natural: I watched Greg Stamer’s DVD section on the Nigel vids at leats a half dozen times.

My Mitchell Horizon(s) though are 84-85 inches. I had a ninety incher, and it was too long for me. But still, it did not yaw. It just felt long.

I thought the Mitchell’s had a 19 inch standard loom. I have had mine custom made by Mitchell, so I have a loom range from 15 inches (too narrow, my fault for ordering this way) to 19 inches. The broader loom feels great on the laminated paddle.

I find the responders above have given many superb ideas. Keep on keeping on, andy.

Sound like you’re doing OK to me
Thing feeling natural vs. forced and few physical issues are good signs.

As to a “proper” stroke, I wouldn’t know one if I saw it - and it surely wouldn’t be me doing it!

Guess I’m sort of "Bi-paddler"
Analytical about use/stroke while on shore, but on water I just “use the paddle how it feels naturally”.

I agree on-line discussions of this stuff can be problematic as various aspects can be hard to describe (too simple for words?) and comments can be misinterpreted/over-read quite easily, particularly by the analytical types likely to read such posts!

Many Thanks to All
for your experienced and insightful comments. The first obstacle I overcame was the paddle noise described as scratching when I first read the articles on Qajaq.usa early last week. Now about 90% of my strokes are quiet and a lesser amount very powerful. I have since viewed the videos on the site and found them extremely helpful and validating of my higher angle attempts with the GP.

Occasionally and by chance, I hit upon the magic stroke mechanics and I really fly with low input. I always focus on using rotation and lower body. I have also worked on how far forward to plant and how far back to remove the paddle. I am now very comfortable with the canted stroke (again thanks to Q site) and the solid catch that provides.

My stock 90 inch Mitchell reaches to half-way up my palm with either arm gently extended. Its loom is 19 inches and a bit shy of my natural 22.5 inch spacing between hands. Even with a relaxed grip, my outboard fingers are more extended than desired and likely causing my wrist issues. I will reshape and extend the loom.