What's least fragile - a cedar or carbon Greenland Paddle?

for example, during a paddle sling re-entry.

Less fragile? I guess it depends on what you’re using it for. I personally consider my western red cedar Lumpy Greenland less fragile than my carbon Werner. Dents and scratches in cedar are easily fixed. The scratches in my Werner are still there.

Since I made my own Greenland paddle in about three evenings’ time, I almost consider it consumable. If I were about to be attacked by a bear (or a person) and I had the GP and my lightweight carbon-basalt Euro blade sitting there, guess which one I’d be picking up and swinging…

Since taking up the skinny-stick in the last year I’ve always preferred it when paddling in ice because the heft and durability of the blade edges far exceed my more expensive Euro. The ice really beats it up, but I can refinish it fairly easily and make another one in a few evenings. I’ve considered making one with a layer of fiberglass for added surface strength, but that’s a lot of work and mess that I’d like to avoid for now.

I can’t answer your question entirely, as I’ve only once used a carbon GP for a short paddle. It did seem very strong and durable but I disliked the sloppy joints it had and it was bulkier than I’d prefer.

If you’re talking about reentries that use the paddle with a float as an outrigger, doing it properly puts little stress on the paddle shaft. Most of your weight should be on the boat. The rest, enough to add stability and keep the float from doing the “magic rainbow”, needs to be way out at the floating end. Little to no weight is applied to the middle. Not only is your stability better, but your chances of breaking the paddle are almost eliminated. I broke a paddle shaft attempting a “heel hook paddle float self rescue” that I saw on YouTube. To this day I don’t know if I was just doing it wrong or the idea is flawed unless you have a very strong paddle shaft. i may try it again using my GP next time.

One final comment about paddle floats and Greenland paddles is that in my experience the floats aren’t designed to securely attach to a GP. You need to be extra careful that your blade doesn’t slide out of the float’s pocket while using the setup.

Pictures before ice abuse: (Western red cedar with walnut stain)

All things being equal (which they never are) my Superior carbon paddles are much tougher/stronger than my western red cedar GPs. That said, I have some carbon GPs that are ultralight and relatively fragile. I generally use spruce or fir paddles for surf or for rescue practice, as they are stronger than cedar. I save my nice light cedar (and Paulownia) GPs for less demanding tasks.

One nice thing about cedar is that unless you cut the fibers, and if you finish them with oil, that dents will actually swell and repair over time. The amount of damage that can “heal” is pretty amazing.

Having said all this, you can break carbon if you concentrate the pressure along a sharp point, like a sharp chine.


@Monkeyhead said:
for example, during a paddle sling re-entry.

What ever that is, I’m thinking it is unnecessary. If it is like the “deck sling” described in other sections here it is too complicated. The buoyancy of the wood GP gives plenty of balance to scramble back in the kayak, even for this old fat guy. Carbon paddles not as much.

Agree that the bouyancy of a GP makes even a paddle-float unnecessary for re-entry in calmer conditions. Disagree about the bouyoancy of carbon GPs.
Carbon GPs are usually foam-filled (mostly air) and have as much or more buoyancy than wood GPs.

I have broken both a greenland cedar paddle and a carbon fiber shovel blade paddle.
Greenland in surf at “Greenland TC” (advertised here) “bracing”(or something) during a pitch pole.
Werner Kaliste striking a rock in river just doing a normal stroke. Came apart explosively.
I have never owned a carbon fiber GP.
M Head… not sure you location … but a trip to Greenland TC and you don’t have to waste time
with essentially “useless” recovery techniques. If conditions put you in the water, out of your boat,
a paddle sling rescue ?? sounds like an exercise in futility.

The first thing you need to do is to throw away the paddle sling. They are a really bad idea, as they encourage people to use the worst possible technique for reentering a kayak. You don’t want to come out of the water vertically, as it requires lifting your body weight, which put tremendous stress on the paddle you’re using as an outrigger. The best and easiest method is to kick your legs to the surface so that you’re floating, then pull yourself up and across the deck. This requires very little lifting and effort to do and places little stress on the paddle. Once you’ve done this and realize how easy it is, you’ll curse the paddle sling.

As for your original question, I agree with Greg (gstamer) that it really depends on the particular paddles in question, Either material could be stronger depending on the design and build quality. If you use proper reentry technique, it doesn’t matter since the paddle won’t be under enough stress to damage it. One consideration is that you can make a cedar or spruce paddle for ~$20 vs. hundreds for a carbon paddle, so it’s not as painful if you do happen to break one (I never have). I always carry a “storm” paddle on my foredeck as a spare, though I’ve only needed it when my primary paddle was torn from my grasp in surf.

Are you only talking about fragile when stressing the entire paddle or also asking about dinging the edges and knocking and gouging out pieces as you hit rocks etc. also are you considering just any old paddle blunt and club-like or are you also asking about sleek and efficient paddling paddles? There are so many differences in the way either Carbon Paddles or Wood paddles can be made and for what purpose.

Generally speaking…Carbon Paddles can be made sleeker with sharper edges than wooden paddles and retain strength…but …depending on the manufacturer… This is not always the case. Generally speaking…the edges on carbon paddle see less gouging from hitting objects than a wooden paddle does.

Wooden paddles can be reshaped easier than Carbon …up to a point.

Generally speaking…Carbon Paddle tend to be lighter for a given strength…but less flexible/ more rigidity

Carbon paddles can be designed for the desired volume without adding a weight penalty for volume…

Not sure any of this answers your question…

Best Wishes

Since it has come up now a couple of times, let me say that I just mentioned the paddle stirrup rescue as an example of something that would stress a paddle. I didn’t intend my post to be about stirrup rescues per se.

To answer roym’s question, I wasn’t speaking about dings and scratches and other cosmetic blemishes. I’ve got plenty of those on my cedar GPs and they are of no concern. I was really talking about damage that would render a paddle functionally useless.

The best person to answer this question in a UN-biased way is Greg Stamer. He has had more access and and more mile logged with more types of Greenland paddles, than anyone I know. He has also had to chose what paddle and what material and which manufacturer or paddle maker he would trust his life to…since that is actually what you seem to be asking. His lists of accomplishments is long and he doesn’t often mention them…but he is one of the few people responsible for the proliferation of both Greenland skills and Greenland paddles thru-out the world today.

Taking my hat off to Greg for all he has done. {please listen when he talks}

Best Wishes

The best way to break a paddle, or anything for that matter… Is to do something you shouldn’t have…


Lumpy Paddles

I found a new use for my cedar Greenland paddle on the weekend. It’s great to stick through the draw cords of multiple pieces of gear like tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, chairs (not that I’d bring a chair…), and various dry bags. Load them up with about even weight on each side of the paddle and space between to carry the lot on your shoulders from your kayak to your camp if it’s more than a few hundred meters away.

Don’t get stupid about it. Yes, you could break it this way, but I’d sooner be using the wood paddle for this than one with a light carbon fiber shaft.