Narrowest useful Greenland paddle?

Greetings all,

Currently carving my first set of Greenland paddles (his and hers)

Measuring my wife’s hand with a caliper, it seems her ideal blade width is around 2.35". Looking around on a few paddle building pages, they seem to concur that the minimum width for Greenland paddle should be around 3" for optimal strokes. Looking for a second opinion on this :slight_smile:

I know I could just make the paddle and see how it goes, but finding riftsawn western red cedar in my area is difficult (even more so with minimal knots). Also would probably have to reinforce the loom before first use with fiberglass/carbon-kevlar since it will be fairly narrow - as Murphy’s law will dictate she may have to position the paddle in an outrigger position to get in/out of the kayak…really don’t want to hear a snap on the first outing :slight_smile:

Thanks in advance!,


Hi Bob, I think you would have to be
running and then trip and fall full speed and weight on a paddle that was propped up against the boat and ground such as this in order to break it.

You may want to measure again
My girlfriend has very small hands and her favorite paddle is just under 3" wide. She handles that width just fine for rolling, bracing, etc. The loom size is the more critical for comfort and I make hers 1 1/8" x 1 1/4".

Skinny sticks
There’s no general rule. It really comes down to what works for the paddler. The three inch blade width is pretty standard I think. If you want more power and bite the extra width will help but skinny is okay too. I have average sized hands for a guy but prefer 3.5" for a more aggressive stroke. Your narrow paddle can possibly be more fragile but only with aggessive paddling or abuse.

Blade size
The old method of measuring was to bend the outmost digit of the 1st finger and open the thumb-down and the blade should fit in there. This way you can grip the blade for extended paddle use. But you can cheat a bit since it’s easy to carve down the width later.

Don’t negate pine for a GP. I have several and my favorite is a pine one. Still quite light and plenty strong. Clear pine is everywhere and not expensive. A 1 x 4 x 8 is always available at all lumber outlets. Feel the weight of boards because it varies as to the density of the tree. I laminate a piece of pine lattice down the center to get the extra thickness.

Hey Bob,

I would measure again. My guess is she is not gripping the blade properly. Try a more open grip. It might take a little time to get comfortable with the grip but if she is spending any time practicing rolls it should become more natural. GOOD LUCK,and ENJOY

Narrow paddles

– Last Updated: Dec-03-12 9:09 AM EST –


You might want to check out the Qajaq USA paddle poll at You will see a number of people with GP blade width under 3", including the great Maligiaq Padilla.

There is no need to reinforce the loom/roots of a narrow GP. Where the blade transitions into the loom should be almost round, and is quite strong if you use decent lumber.

I find that paddles that are too narrow for me are more prone to flutter and take more skill to handle, but having a blade that is too wide is not any better. The "Goldilocks principle" applies, it needs to be "just right" :^)

A good guide for making a GP, including appropriate cross-sections, is Chuck Holt's Greenland paddle plans, on the Qajaq USA paddle page at .

Greg Stamer

I do have one that is about 2.5"
And I must say it is great for relaxed paddling -light and easy to use. I made mine with thin blades, so it is also quite flexible too. Mine is actually an Aleut style with a ridge on one side and flat-ish surface on the other, not an oval on both sides GP.

Rolls fine too.

As great as it is for relaxed paddling, if you try to go fast, it becomes inefficient - begins to slip through the water too much and gets overpowered. probably as much a problem due to narrow blade as it is to flexibility of the blades in my case. But I’m an above average sized male, no small female, so not sure if that applies in your. My wife liked it a lot the few times she used it, though she paddles so rarely that I don’t think she could even be a called a paddler -:wink:

My Experience
I have to agree with above advice. The loom and shoulder are what matters when it comes to hand size; not the paddle width. I also have found that narrow blades want to flutter more on those first couple of strokes compared to the wider blade.

narrow paddles
My two paddles are 3" and 3 1/4" wide and work fine. I am usually in the front part of the pack, speed is not a problem. Fluttering is not a problem eitherr. My hands are small, loom area is pretty narrow. For strength, we cut a cedar 2 x down the middle and epoxy a piece of pine lattis down the middle. Works fine.

Tiny hands here
When I was trying to determine blade width for my first Greenland paddle (ordered from Don Beale), I kept coming back to my inability to comfortably grip a 3.5 inch wide blade at the end. Since I wanted to use the paddle for rolling, comfort holding the blade was a key thing. My Beale paddle is barely 3 inches wide – and very comfortable to grip out at the end. My other 3 Greenland paddles are about that width too. And 86 inches long feels just right for me – although at my height, 5’ 3", I’m supposed to want something shorter.

In your case, why not cut up some thin pieces of wood to different widths ranging from 2 and 7/8 inches up to 3 and 1/4 and have the person grip each one, holding it with that C-shaped grip. Then ask her which is most comfortable.

A narrow-bladed paddle can still be very strong if you don’t thin the blades too much. My paddles have fairly sharp edges (for quiet paddling) but plenty of meat in the center. Very strong.

Good luck!


Consider contacting Bill Bremer
at Lumpy Paddles. I purchased my first GP from Bill and he was absolutely wonderful to deal with. He was a huge help with exactly the kind of issue you are considering now. My paddle is terrific and fits like a glove. I love it.

which is…
easiest to burn? that’d be about the most useful.

Second Bremer

– Last Updated: Dec-08-12 6:28 AM EST –

Bremer will take the time to get every dimension just right and his paddles are stunningly nice.

Blades down to 2.25" should be fine for a smaller person depending upon boat and type of paddling.

I have a paddle with the blade width of 2.75" and it works just fine moving even a loaded touring boat along at a decently fast pace with very little effort. Just cannot accelerate fast or expect it to give you quick power. After a many discussions with Bremer, my everyday paddle is 3 1/8" wide which is narrow enough for tireless all day paddling, but wide enough to give you some power when needed. And I have one that is 3.5" wide for when some power might be needed quickly. I select a pair from the three depending upon the paddling I expect to do for the day and switch as needed. Its like having different gears.

My experience is narrow blades work well, are easy to handle, and prefer them for playing around with different rolls.

Gordo and the Rock
Imagine Long Pond during the days of LL Bean’s NA Canoe Symposium on a misty morning before breakfast. There sits the fabled Gordon Black, head of instruction at NOC, then the ACA in an Advantage with a Zaveral bent, feeling pretty froggie, when up comes Harry Rock, standing tall in a MRC Kevlar Explorer, with a big stick as is his wont.

Things being what they are, or were, a challenge is issued and accepted; first past that little island to the North.

Someone says go. All poor Gordon sees is elbows, receding towards the island. How can this be? both boats are 16.5, but the Advantage significantly sleeker. The Zav has a sculptured blade while That aluminum pole is 1 3/8" and round, hardly the perfect blade shape.

The answer is power and cadence. Harry is torso rotating from the balls of his feet, Gordon from his sitz bones, and Harry has the increased cadence of the double blade. Harry running ~ 120 strokes per min while Gordon is ~80. No contest.