CHOOSING A PADDLE
Note: GP stands for Greenland style paddle, EP for the common kayak paddle (curiously referred to as a Euro paddle in the U.S.). Unless otherwise specified I am talking about EP's.
- Experienced paddlers generally use paddles between 190 and 220 cm, and rarely anything longer. They also tend to not paddle wide boats.
- Paddle length is dictated more by boat width and height than paddler size.
- Paddlers that race use "wing" paddles. GP's are very rare in races.
- Paddlers using larger blades tend to pull away from others over time.
- Large blades are more efficient but may cause rsi type injuries and can be a handful in the wind.
- Large blades suffer less from poor technique when rolling, etc.
- Smaller blades will reduce shoulder stress at the expense of efficiency.
- A shorter paddle will reduce shoulder stress somewhat while still providing for plenty of grip on the water.
- Good GP paddlers appear to be able to cruise as well as EP's, especially in the wind.
- For some people, the lower angle of GP's is easier on the shoulder. Definitely not for me, as it aggravates a previously broken elbow.
- GP's are much wetter than EP's. GP paddlers use gloves or mittens much of the year in my area.
- The "screw roll" as shown on Kent Ford's DVD, "The Kayak Roll" can be used to effectively roll just about any style of kayak, regardless of cockpit dimensions.
- Typical Greenland rolling technique is hard to do without a low back deck in order to get the paddle in the proper position. Same for sculling braces, static braces, and the like.
- While there are many different type of GP rolls, or EP for that matter, I've never seen anyone use anything but the standard roll in rough conditions when things really matter.
- GP's make great outriggers due to high buoyancy.
- EP's are better for shallow water or when quick acceleration is needed (e.g. surf and whitewater).
- Most but not all Greenland rolls types can be performed with an EP.
- The EP sculls fine, but the GP is definitely better is this regard.
- EP paddlers with unfeathered paddle blades tend to have more blister and joint problems than those who use feathered paddles.
- It takes longer to become proficient with a GP.
- Your paddle is your motor. Get the best you can afford. Light weight paddles are a joy to use and heavy paddles can make for a long day. The number of times you lift a paddle to go 5 miles makes it clear that light is good.
- Get ahold of the Brent Reitz DVD on the forward stroke and study it closely. Paddling forward is where you spend most of your time. It pays to get good at it.
- If you have wrist, shoulder, or elbow problems when paddling not caused by a previous injury, it's often due to a technique error. See the video.
- Blade shape (long vs. fat) should affect the length of paddle you choose. Paddles with a longer and more narrow cruising type of blade can have an overall length 2 or 3 inches longer while still having the same shaft length as a shorter overall paddle with short fat blades.
- GP's are fine, but the paddles vary greatly. Do not conclude too much about GP's until you have a good one.
- Superior makes a carbon GP that is very well regarded in the paddling community.
Generally I like the durability, design, and weight of Werner's best paddles. However I feel the current model has a significant design flaw that should not exist in something that costs so much. The joint release button is much too easy to trip while paddling. I ended up with a paddle that came apart while upside down in a whirlpool and chose to bail out rather than let go of either paddle piece. I have talked to others with the same issue. The solution is to either tape the paddle together, choose another brand, or go with a one piece paddle until Werner redesigns their product. Previous Werner paddles (fixed feather angle) do not have this problem. When it comes time for a new paddle I will probably look at what the competition has to offer (i.e. Lendal, Epic, Aqua-Bound).
MAKING A PADDLE:
While some can make beautiful wood paddles (EP) , they are always heavier and often more fragile than a good carbon paddle. I choose not to make EP's, but that does not mean you should not. Many paddlers, however, do make their own GP's, myself included. Western red cedar makes a nice light paddle, but it is more fragile than I like for serious paddling. Durable GP's are made from wood that is not very light. To get a GP I can trust I would probably buy a Superior, or make my own carbon version.