What is it like to paddle with a stick??

So I carved out my own Greenland paddle last year but only used it once. I’ve read the merits of using a greenland paddle but I was not impressed with mine when I tried it out. I am curious if mine was like a typical greenland style paddle. I tend to have a strong paddle stroke with medium blades and I found when I went to a greenland paddle I found that when I pulled the paddle through the water it tended to weave through the water…often weaving into the side of my boat as opposed to a nice straight path that a regular paddle has through the water. Is this typical of a greenland paddle. I am only assuming it is something that one has to either get used to, or change their paddling technique…but I don’t know anyone locally who paddles with a stick paddle so I don’t know what to expect or who to get feedback from. Hoping someone on here has some feedback or tips.

A Greenland paddle needs to be canted to work properly, assuming it’s correctly shaped. Looking at the edge of the “blade” part of the paddle the bottom edge should be further aft than the top edge when paddling. 10 or 15 degrees is a good place to start. I hold my hands on the transition between the loom and the paddle to hold that position. You don’t hold onto the loom normally. The paddle should want to feel like it pulls itself into the water when you start your stroke. The cadence (strokes per minute) will generally be higher with less effort per stroke to have the paddle work correctly.

Bill H.

ahay 12’ stick

you will get used to the paddle
After a few sessions it won’t weave. If you go back to your euro you might be surprised to feel the euro to weave. It is just an adjustment…

The Paddle Itself Makes A BIG Difference
I have several GPs, and they vary in performance. My first was given me by a friend, and it is wonderful - absolutely no flutter, etc. When my wife tried it, and promptly claimed it for herself, I made my first GP - not bad, no flutter, but it doesn’t have the power the gift paddle has. My second fluttered badly - I did a “help, please!” post to the Kayak Building Bulletin Board, and had several suggestions on curing that, some relating to stroke technique, others to paddle adjustments. I did some re-carving, and it’s better now, but still not nearly as good as the original gift GP. My third GP is roughed out, just waiting for a free day to get it to the ‘testing’ stage…

And that’s one of the beauties of the GP - you can carve one pretty quickly and very inexpensively - so if it doesn’t turn out as you’d hoped, you can just do another, and another, and…

The paddle and technique both matter
Some GPs are more prone to flutter than others. IME, flat blades are more prone to flutter than rounded blades.

Regardless of the paddle shape, technique is key to eliminating flutter. If you’ve been using a Euro paddle, you need to adjust your technique:

First, the catch occurs farther back, more like mid-calf. With a Euro, the catch occurs near the ankles. The GP stroke ends farther back, well past the hip.

Second, with a Euro, you apply maximum power immediately after the catch. With a GP, you apply power more gradually with max power occurring near mid-stroke.

Third, as previously mentioned, the GP should be canted for best efficiency. This causes water to flow across the blade in one direction only, which eliminates flutter while producing lift. Assuming your paddle has shoulders, your index fingers and thumbs should encircle the loom, but your other fingers should be wrapped over the shoulder of the blade. If you keep your wrist straight on your upper hand during the push phase of the stroke, the blade will naturally cant when using this grip.

Another way to approach this is to simply let the paddle teach you what works best. Don’t fight it or try to force it to react the way you want it to. Experiment with your technique until the paddle works properly. It all becomes very natural after a while.

paddles do vary – sharp edges helpful
I have 3 Greenland sticks and have room for more. The quietest is one made for me by Bill Bremer (Lumpy Paddles). It is also the thinnest and sharpest-edged – scarily thin (at my request). Slices right in and out of the water. Based on my experience with it, I’m thinking of thinning the edges of the paddle I made myself in a workshop with Brian Shultz. I’ll leave some beef in the length for the hard use I sometimes give my paddles. But I think sharper edges will make it better. My stoutest paddle was made for me by Don Beale, and I’m glad to have it for rolling and for paddling through surf. I like having a choice of which paddle to use and having a spare. The reason for the thinnest paddle, by the way, is the size of my hands – way small. But I’ve learned it has other benefits besides comfort.

G in NC

What Brian said…

Also remember, it’s a foil. Doesn’t it remind you of propellar blades from an old aircraft? Slice, slice, slice.

I’ve been shaping them with a flatter power face and fuller forward face. They also have a slight bend forward, like bent shafts used in canoes only way less. They take an extra day or two to get used to 'cause they’re so switchy, but after you do…like a magic wand!

Close your eyes, and have fun. The stick will be your guide.

I thought the OP was talking about
paddling with a stick. Like a tree branch.

It is possible. You go pretty slowly except if you can find a branch about an inch in diameter and 11 or 12 feet long…like a pole… Poles used a la double blade make the boat fly.

Guess that wasnt the right stick.

Applying power
Don’t miss Brians point about the catch occuring farther back wit the gp… If you try to power up front like with a modern paddle you will get flutter… What you are calling weaving. Also, when B contrasted flat blades with rounded blades, by rounded, he means shaped like a convex lens-- in cross section the last third of the blade towards the tip looks like a thin oval, flattened football, or lens. This is critical. With the top edged of the blade “canted” forwards a bit you are creating a dive angle on the blade so that when you slice into the water it quickly buries the long blade… This part kind of just happens with less pull/push power than you’d think coming from a modern paddle. Once the blade is buried–your hand should touch the water–you can apply your power smoothly. Then the blade slices out farther back than with a modern paddle. There is a different timing to it, and as another respondant said, the paddle will tell you what it likes, just give it time. Your muscle memory is keyed to a different stroke. Once you figure out the gp a bit you will start to experience the magic. Think about slicing in and smoothly building power.

paddle angle
I tend to be a high angle paddler with my euro paddle. Will this transfer over to the GP or does the GP require more of a shallow angle paddle technique?

I built my paddle following these plans: http://www.qajaqusa.org/QK/makegreen2.pdf

The shape that you are all talking about is definitely taken into account in these plans and my paddle looks like the ones I’ve seen for sale in the shops as well. So I doubt so much that it is the paddle as much as it is likely me and my own inexperience with a GP.

High angle works fine
Any angle stroke will work with a GP. One nice way to learn a good stroke is to work on keeping the blade quiet in the water. I find it useful to pause between strokes, let the boat glide, then focus on a quiet splash-free entry.

Carl is right in that you can use the gp at high or low angles. You can also use it sort of like a wing. But don’t confuse the angle of the paddle with what your arms are doing. For cruising, your hands come about shoulder height. The paddle itself is about 45* to the horizon-- not really low, but your hands are low, elbows in. The blade is not particularly shallow in the water, but neither are your hands high. They can be and will be when you sprint or race but for the most part it’s a more relaxed lower stroke than a euro.

Do like Carl says and aim for a quiet stroke. Don’t let your euro technique be so rigid that you can’t hear what the gp is telling you. And get used to the idea of using the whole paddle, your hand placement does not have to be fixed. Slow it down and concentrate on loosely guiding the blade… It will almost orient itself how it wants to be.

I probably didn’t say that very well.

GP making strange noise?
I just took my newly minted greenland paddle out for a test drive this weekend, and the first thing i noticed is that it makes a strange noise as the water flows over it. It almost makes it sound like a hard hollow plastic or something. All of my other experience with euro paddles is that if any noise is made it just sounds like sloshing water. Is this normal? has anyone else noticed this? or am i just crazy?

don’t know…
I bought a used Mitchell Greenland paddle a few years ago

and found no “learning curve” with it. Just used it no problem.

Loaned it to my wife and had a hard time getting it back. She bought a lighter one and that was also fine.

Suited our needs easily… perhaps we should of taken lessons and learned all the things we were doing wrong,with them but then again maybe I think your body adapts quickly and off you go, no problemo.

Guess there might be different shape considerations as others have mentioned.

These days we keep the expensive euro’s as spares…we call them Spoons because of the way they scoop the water. I suppose we could have taken lessons to learn what we were doing wrong with them but for us it was easier to move onto a more user friendly paddle and leave the techniques for the pros.

When I am doing something "wrong"
My GP makes a distinct scratchy noise in the water. I call this “wrong” because the most powerful stroke seems to be a completely silent one.

One of Ours…
…squeaks, or cheeps at about mid-stroke - not real loud, but it’s there - you can hear it if you’re paddling quiet waters.

not a gp thing but…
I do know from canoe paddling that a silent stroke is more powerful. Not sure about a GP but I like reading about them. I switched from euro to canoe paddle at the behest of my right shoulder.

I wonder
I’ve heard this scratchy noise a few times, and can’t decide what it is. If it’s ventilation, that’s easy to believe, although I don’t remember seeing any air bubbles pulled down from the surface. I suppose it could be cavitation, but I’m having a hard time believing the flow velocity around a GP could get high enough for that. I suppose some calculations are in order.

Using a greenland paddle is a journey
of both technique and paddle design. There are many different shapes and sizes of greenland paddles and there are techniques to make them work efficient. If you like a higher angle power stroke you might enjoy a wider blade. I use a blade width of 3 7/8" for aggressive paddling and a narrower blade for cruising. Every blade size and shape will need different technique to get the most out of it. A high aggressive stroke needs a quick plant of the blade before full power can be applied. This can be done by a technique called, spearing the salmon or by using a canted stroke that makes the paddle dive quickly. Both techniques take time to learn and to feel comfortable with. The canted stroke can be used for any style of stroke weather it’s aggressive or more relaxed. If the paddle is making any noise during the stroke it is due to ventilation. A greenland paddle will ventilate, pull air through the water, if power is applied too soon during the stroke. The shape of the tip of the blade can play a big part in how much a paddle ventilates but the main thing is to get the blade buried before applying power. Greenland paddles do have a different feel and will teach you different techniques that you will use even with a euro paddle. Hope this helps.