Playing with GearLab Aukaneck (Surf) GP

I bought a GearLab 200 cm Aukaneck (surf) Greenland style paddle almost 2 years ago. (The Aukaneck is on the far right, next to the GearLab 210 cm Akiak, which is next to a 20 year old hand carved 216 cm cedar GP.)

I finally got the paddle out on the water for a bit of play and testing to day. MassBay beaches had 3-4’, 6-7 second wind waves coming in. To mushy for good waveski rides but certainly Ok to catch with a longboat.

Too bad, the Aukuneck has been discontinued by GearLab… I think there is niche for this paddle. I like the bigger “grab” afforded by the wider Aukaneck blade (about 4" at the tip, compared to the 3.5" of my other GPs). I like this ability for faster acceleration as I am used to Euro WW blades for surfing. I didn’t care much for the shoulders on the Aukaneck. I am much more used to shoulderless GPs which allow for smooth shifting of the grip up and down the loom and tapered blade. I am sure I can get used to Aukaneck’s shoulders. But, today, it was just one more thing to be conscious of us as I relearned that the edging of the long boat is opposite of what I would/should do on a waveski (outside edge vs inside edge) to effect carved turn.




Interesting, thanks. I’m a GP newb, but really like my Gearlab Oyashio, also discontinued. I once saw an Aukaneck for sale used on Craigslist, and wondered about its more aggressive shape. Also love the picture of the three paddles together.

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Cool! Wonder how a paddle like that would perform for the WW folks. The GP is such a good rolling tool and WW folks REALLY need a reliable roll. Some years back a local WW guy was in a ‘roll or die’ situation and he died. He got entangled in a submerged root ball after several failed roll attempts.

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With 3’ short period waves still rolling in this AM, I was able to squeeze in another long boat surf session. Glad I did, as I was able to work on some of the carve control issues I noticed/experienced yesterday in reacquainting myself with long boat surfing. Also, added on my time using and getting familiar with the Aukaneck GP.

So, I was able to get more grab (catch) with the Aukaneck blades today. I realized I was paddling it as I would my Euro paddles and thus not maximizing the full length of the Aukaneck blade. When I started digging in the Aukaneck blade up to my hand grip, I was getting more bite and acceleration than yesterday. Nevertheless, the Aukaneck still doesn’t give the same grab/catch as my Euro paddles. While more than “traditional” skinny GPs, the Aukaneck simply doesn’t have the same blade surface area as Euro paddles.

While the Aukaneck provides more surface than the traditional sized GPs, it comes at a compromise – at least for those with smaller hands like me. The compromise is that I can’t grip the Aukaneck at blade end for the extended stroke or sweep techniques that is often cited as “advantages” for the traditional GPs.

Aukaneck grip:

Akiak grip:

Cedar GP grip:

For those who rely (perhaps too much) on the length and buoyancy of the traditional GP to leverage their roll, you may encouter some difficulties. This includes not being able to slide your inboard hand all the way to the end of the Aukaneck blade and also for the relatively less buoyancy of the Aukaneck paddle. The Aukaneck blade has less cross section than the Akiak and even less so than my hand carved cedar GP. The Aukaneck blade edge at the tip is less than an 1/8" and feels (uncomfortably) sharp to the hand grip (like one would feel with a carbon Euro blade). The Akiak blade edge is a rounded 1/8" and feels more comfortable than the Aukaneck, but less so than my cedar GP with has a rounded 1/4" edge at the tip. Of course, the “sharper” edge and wide rblade of the Aukaneck are what make it feel a bit more familar to paddlers used to Euro paddles.

As for the possible usage of the Aukaneck in WW, especially to help with increasing rolling reliability with an extended paddle sweep, I think it’s a compromised approach. A lot of class II plus ww is through technical boulder studded runs. An extended paddle sweep may not be possible because of rocky obstructions. In my experience with WW capsizes, unlike surfing capsizes, I often found myself upside down with boat pushed against a boulder. Best to have a roll on both sides and to be able do it with a regular grip. In these situations, good body mechanics are more important and reliable than the extended leverage of a paddle. Just my opinion/experience.


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To add to what Sing said, GPs are not good in shallow water, as it prevents you from immersing the entire blade and can drastically reduce the bite of the paddle. That’s likely to be a common scenario in WW.

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That’s a good point. I’ve been tinkering with the thought of getting a GP but yes, a fair amount of my paddling is in shallower water.

Interesting to me at least, I’m drawn by the carbon fiber versions. The melding of indigenous traditional design with modern materials I find mesmerizing. I like many of the laminated wood paddles too but, something about carbon fiber is my “shiny object.”

I may still get one but will have to justify the cost versus not as much use as I might expect depending where I go with it.

Shallow water is fine, as long as you’re not likely going to bash it into boulders and rocks. This more likely in ww than in flatter paddling venues.

If you are just thinking about getting and trying out a GP, I would recommend getting a cedar one first. The cedar version is more durable and gives you more of the “advantages” that GP afficianados talk/rave about. My cedar GP above is 20 years or more old. I take that out with my fishing SOT quite a bit. I like that it floats and I can drop it onto the water, attached by the leash, while I haul a fish in.

My experience with carbon paddles (I have a had a few over the years) is that they are very light and you pay a premium for that lightness. But, for the paddling venues that I like – surf and WW – I have had to do a bit of composite repair work when edges or paddle blades get cracked. I find carbon fiber more fragile than my fiber glass paddles.


I should have been more specific and said that GPs are not good in shallow water in tight confines. In open water, where you can lower your paddle stroke to help immerse the blade completely, they work fine.

When it’s shallow and tight enough that you have to keep the paddle near vertical, you lose a lot of blade area in the water and consequently, have little bite on it. I’ve dealt with it in rock gardens and sea caves and if you really need to move the boat, it’s problematic. Although I don’t paddle WW, I can envision similar scenarios occurring.


Sing, I missed this post when it first came around. Somehow it popped up and I keyed in on GearLab paddles. I got more ivaluable nformation out of this entire thread, both questions and answers than if I asked the question, "what’s better, wood/carbon/fiberglass, Euro/GP, shouldered/unsholdeted, wide blade/narrow and thick blade/narrow blade. I think you also answered an unasked question about why redwood: is it that redwood has the right balance between strength and buoyancy over a stronger, denser or heavier wood?

Nine months ago, I wouldn’t even look at a Greenland paddle, thinking that it was a nostalgic anachronism that refused to give way to modern technology. Thanks to all of you, the logic of the total concept is becoming more clear. I can’t wait to build mine, but your input is helping me to understand what a GP should look like. I’m holding off for a bit more real life sharing.

The “utility” of carving your own (provided you have time) is that you can experiment with different lengths, thicknesses, tapers, loom shapes, etc. I think I carved probably 8 different GPs, all but the one having been given away when I went into my 10 years plus of committed surf kayaking/waveskiing only phase.

I don’t regret the time with carving the GPs. I have a better understanding of what I like, don’t like in terms of GP characteristics. I still have 2/4x8 of quarter sawn cedar that has sat in my storage for the past 12 years. Haven’t decided whether to carve a full length or storm paddle with it. Storm paddle seems wasteful of the remaining length of cedar, unless I or someone else want to use the remaining length to carve a couple of norsaqs (Greenland throwing stick). Learning to roll with a norsaq is actually a good intermediary step to learning a hand roll and/or be used as a backup rolling tool on the front deck of the kayak.


One thing to think about is is why one uses a Greenland paddle. I use it both for the connection to the idigineous paddlers and also to reduce shoulder impact.

Cedar bends, carbon fiber, well, I dunno, but since they make F1 suspensions out it, probably doesn’t bend. This directly translates into less shoulder impact. I’ve lend my Greenland out to fellow padders, used their Euro blades, and my body was screaming, “What are you doing???” You put the paddle in, the boat shoots off and your body is the fulcrum. With a Greenland, you put you paddle in, do a stroke or two, your barely moving, but you are moving, soon you are keeping up with the rest of them, and 12 miles later your shoulders are fine.

As for the wide blade, I just love moving my paddle to the side, grabbing the end, lifting a knee and making my almost 18 foot boat turn. It’s a great feeling. You want to be able to use the whole length.

I don’t do white water, so I don’t know about that. It would seem a narrow Greenland paddle would be a bad idea.

Shallow water? LOL, Ask @Lillyflowers In shallow water I do the Ventian Pole Technique, don’t care if I scrape my $3.10 paddle on a rock. It just works.

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Agree about your Cedar blank. It’s not good to waste quality wood. As I look at my four inch wide Fir, I’m rethinking the one piece design. I’ll probably rip two shafts, and use the remaining rip to alternate Spanish Cedar or Sapele for the blades. I should be able to get two paddles rather than one and a lot of pencil blanks. Spanish Cedar would offset the overall weight of the Fir and might help the swing weight.

Making a paddle is fun and easy. The hardest part is understanding what the paddle should be. Great way to learn.

Various post about paddles. The only tools required: a 12 ft steel measuring tape, combo square, pencil, straight edge, Jig saw or hand saw, spokeshave and wood plane, and a drawing.

Recalling the post, Convince Me to Spend More for a Paddle. If you don’t think you need a better paddle, you really don’t need one. Making your paddle really does put you in control, and it only costs $5 for a 2x4. It may not last 25 years, but it can teach you everything you need to know about shape, blade profiles and length. What a fantastic experience.

Sing, as I look at drawings of Greenland Paddles, the plan shows that when the blades are flat (horizontal) the sfaft is a tall rectangle with rounded corners. I plan to make my shaft slightly more oval with the height about 1 5/8 inches and width about 1 1/4 inches. Realizing that everyone’s hand is different, is there a size and feeling you prefer for the grip (a specific ratio regarding square/rectangle; rounded rectangle/oval; greater/less girth for your hand).

You mentioned the shoulder on the GearLab is distracting, do you think the loom width is better to err towards closed or open. I plan to include a shoulder, because I can always trim it off and widen the loom if needed.

I tried a “rounded off” rectangular loom and didn’t care for it. I ultimately kept shaving at the loom until I ended with a very pronounced oval which I like because it provides are very noticeable index.

I also tried shoulders on a carved GP and didn’t like that. Likewise, I kept shaving it down until I had shoulderless tapered paddle. The reason I like shoulderless is that it actually allows me to unconsciously and instinctively to slide up and down the paddle as needed. The shoulders lock me into a certain width grip that may feel comfortable initially but may not as a paddle session wears on. I like the different grips as the hands move up and down the loom to relieve finger stress/cramping. Also, a shoulderless allows others to be able to use my GP and not be “locked” into my specific shoulder/grip width that is associated with shoulders.

I tend to use Euro paddles when I paddle surf. One of the habits I picked up from using a GP is that I allow my hands to shift as needed without thinking about it. If you watch from the two roll sequence that begins at the 1 minute of this video, you’ll see that my hand position had shifted on the second roll. This was done without me thinking about it.


I get it, andike the logic. Even with a Euro, I prefer a straight shaft and find myself automatically shifting from the center hand position to counter current and wind. I also vary my hand pla event width to engage different muscle groups. A little goes a long way in shifting paddling stress on muscle groups. I start out paddling and quickly sense the flutter free attitude, then have no problem maintaining it. I don’t do what you do. My paddling is mostly direct A to B to A. Thanks. Time for me to get started.

I’ve been eyeing up the Akiak as of late. They currently have a little discount and a few freebies to sweeten the pot. Does anyone know what the surface coating is? They have them in red and blue. Is it paint, gel coat, resin? Does it stand up to scratches at all? Plain old CF hides scratches better and I can live with that easier than painted surfaces.

I’ve got a 4 year old red and black Akiak. Here are some closeups of the wear to date. The big chip was inflicted by me scraping it on the lip of a concrete dock back in August as I floundered with a bad dismount – my bad.

Appears to be a thin gel coat with a yellow and a white layer below over the CF substrate. Other pics show surface scratches which do show up faintly (hard to see due to the high gloss – can’t get a natural light pic right now because it is dark and raining here in SW PA at the moment.)

My plan with the bad ding is to use a red Ptex stick (the meltable “sealing wax” style repair product I used to use on down hill and XC ski bases) to seal it up.

GearLab includes a spare set of tips with the paddle – I have not yet had to replace those (they are pretty tough plastic.)


If you get an Akiak, I highly recommend a padded rifle case for storage and transport. Got this pink camo one on the clearance rack for $11 and it’s a perfect fit.

Likewise, I got a couple of little dings on the surface of my orange Akiak (like Willowleaf’s red Akiak). If it is comestic and not structural damages (as I have had with some of my carbon Euro paddles), I don’t bother to do anything.

I surf (a rocky homebreak) and WW – both paddling venues are tough on paddles. The scratches and dings are marks of good usage as far as I am concerned. :wink:



Oh that’s really interesting. My first, and so far only, paddle, is mostly shoulder less. And that’s just from over enthusiastic spoke shaving. My next paddles were expected to be shouldered, I kind of like finding the center. But it is interesting to see that you prefer the sliding nature.

That the cool thing about wood, you can pull out your knife at lunch and tune the paddle!

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