Advantages of the Greenland Paddle
By Gearlab Outdoors
The Greenland paddle is the ultimate master of efficiency. Despite the absence of a wide ‘scooping’ blade, the popular myth that a Greenland paddle has less potential power is just that, a myth. In fact, the surface area available to displace water is similar to the Euro-blade, the key difference being that it is spread along a longer blade. Submerging more of the blade, therefore, provides increased power while putting less strain on the shoulders and wrists. Yet, this isn’t the only way the Greenland paddle confers its advantage. By angling the blade slightly forward, one unlocks the paddle’s secret weapon and performs a ‘canted stroke’. The blade acts like an airplane wing, with the flow of water from one edge creating lift and resistance which in turn propels the kayak forward in a burst of ‘free’ or ‘bonus movement’. A well-crafted Greenland paddle enters the water silently, barely disturbing the surface before ‘grabbing’ the water beneath. When the forward stroke is complete, it exits the water automatically as if by its own volition. There is no need to feather the stroke and place additional strain on the wrists, as the slender profile of the blade offers no target for the wind, moving through the air as efficiently as it cuts through the water. It is therefore easier to build cruising speed by increasing cadence. Over the course of a long day on the water and thousands of strokes, this emphasis on energy conservation and ergonomics adds up. The difference, particularly noticeable for those with shoulder or wrist injuries, is palpable. If you need a paddle for touring that will keep you on the water all day long and remain comfortable while covering long distances, the Greenland paddle may well be for you.
Another crucial advantage of the Greenland paddle is its inherent versatility. There is no front or back, no right or left side. Whichever way you pick it up and wherever you place your hands, it may be used. The ability to place your hands at any point along the entire length is instantly useful when attempting an extended sweep stroke, for instance, allowing you to reach out much further when attempting to turn the bow of the kayak through the wind. Similarly, extended sculling strokes are easy to perform, as well as extended high and low braces when encountering extreme conditions. Put simply, being able to grab the blade of your paddle comfortably in one hand gives you an awful lot of length and reach. This is even more noticeable when rolling with a Greenland paddle. In fact, the ease of performing a ‘bombproof roll’ is what initially attracts many to start using it. The dramatically increased leverage means far less energy is needed and the forceful hip-snap many kayakers utilize to right themselves is entirely unnecessary. An experienced Greenland paddler rolls in a leisurely, almost slow-motion fashion. Many joke that those using this style of paddle spend more time upside down than paddling, such is the ease and joy of rolling with a Greenland paddle. In blustery conditions, a sliding stroke may also be employed, where the paddler slides his hands along the length of the loom and submerges more of the blade, so even less of the paddle is presented to the wind.
Ask a Greenland paddle enthusiast why they prefer it and they may simply answer “Because it feels better”, and we find this rings true for many. It is hard to put a finger on why exactly this is, but there is an undeniable and intangible beauty and grace to using a Greenland paddle. Many report an improved tactile experience, a quieter stroke, better feedback in the water and the sensation of ‘feeling’ the water with each stroke. Holding a Greenland paddle just feels right, whether you’re paddling, ghost-like, across a glassy lake, crashing through the waves in a turbulent surf-zone, perfecting your roll in challenging conditions or embarking on a long-distance ocean crossing. Using a Greenland paddle also helps us connect with our kayaking forefathers and experience the activity in the same way they did. For many it offers a deeper, more spiritual connection to the sport.