Forward motion

Northern Light 3-piece paddleI now seem to have found myself in possession of 2 Greenland paddles. In my defence, I am sharing these with Alan (or maybe he is sharing them with me?). We acquired an Anglesey Stick in the summer, which sparked our pursuit of all things Greenland (minus the icebergs). More recently, we obtained a Northern Light 3-piece carbon fibre paddle which combines ancient and modern technology in one sleek, black package. The reasons for pursuing this particular option were:

  • Now we have a Greenland stick each
  • The paddle can be dismantled for ease of transportation (which saves the car windscreen from being speared)
  • It can also be shortened into a storm paddle.

I am hard pressed to choose a favourite between the wooden and the carbon fibre versions of the Greenland paddle. I’ve enjoyed working with both of them when rolling, but haven’t yet done an indepth comparison when paddling from A to B. As a matter of fact, I haven’t done a whole lot of journeying with a Greenland paddle full-stop. After reading a blog post by Mel in Australia, where she describes her journey from using a Euro paddle to a Greenland stick (most recently completing a 111 km ultra-marathon), it lodged the idea in my mind that perhaps a Greenland paddle isn’t just for rolling!  I’m also familiar with its reputation for being easier on the wrists. This past weekend, I decided to see how I would fare on a short day trip. My treasured Werner splits were secured to my foredeck, as I ploughed forward armed with nothing more than a skinny stick.

Greenland paddleThe one thing that I notice when forward paddling with a “G-stick” is that it feels like a different set of muscles is being employed, compared with a Euro paddle. These muscles reside more in the torso and shoulders as opposed to the arms and wrists. I found myself being more naturally inclined to rotate, with marked improvement occurring when engaging the feet (of course, this should apply to Euro paddles too). The Northern Light paddle slips through the water smoothly and stealthily and, despite my initially less than perfect technique, I did not experience flutter. It takes a little adjusting, but wasn’t long before I got into the swing of things and I started to feel quite comfortable and made good forward progress.

Something that Alan and I have both experienced is a slight hesitance to trust our Greenland paddles when bracing. Without a big, fat blade to lean against, we feel a little exposed. But this is more of a psychological/perception issue and I think that, with practice, we will be bracing effectively regardless. Counterbalancing this, I did notice a heightened sense of security in relation to the fact that rolling with a Greenland paddle is significantly more reliable than with a Euro paddle. This really does improve one’s confidence. I have read comments suggesting that, for example, a standard Greenland roll isn’t as effective in rough water. Yet I’ve also recently read reports of  Greenland paddlers out in serious surf who had no problem with, and thus every confidence in, repeatedly employing this roll (comments here, for instance).

Greenland rollingPassing my G-stick over to friends to try out gave me the opportunity to make a direct comparison with a (crank shaft carbon fibre) Euro paddle. Suddenly, it felt like I was paddling with a shovel. I could feel every tendon in my arms and wrists and it all seemed a bit like hard work, especially against the wind. My right elbow is a slight weak spot (in wind in particular), which ultimately leads to a wrist problem, and it wasn’t long before it started to tweak. I will confess to being relieved to get my skinny stick back, when the elbow pain disappeared and everything felt more comfortable again.

I’m certainly going to continue taking the Greenland stick out on trips. Alan will probably have a go with the carbon fibre paddle next time while I try out the wooden Anglesey Stick which I already know is a beautiful paddle to hold.

The Greenland adventure continues!


  1. Steen Slot-Nielsen says:

    Hi Pam, I am glad to read your observations on the change to GP – yours are indeed like mine.
    You’ve seen the (northern) light… and you’ve also felt the ease of using the greenland paddle.
    Greenland rolls are absolutely useful in rough conditions; after the capsize you go into sculling brace position and stay there until you and the waves are in sync for a relaxed return to upright position. Remember not to fight the power of the water.
    The only activity I’ve found the euro-paddle to be better than the GP is for surfing – it’s more responsive since the active surface is shorter and wider than on the GP.
    Today this is the only activity for which I use my Euro-paddle.

  2. Molly says:

    The carbon fibre paddle sounds wonderful. Thought I’d pass along a tip to save your windshield. We carry our paddles on the roof rack; just some pipe insulation at the edge of the rack, and a 1/4 inch bungee/shock cord to hold it on. The cord’s been cut and knotted so it’s just a simple stretch over the paddle and back under the rack.

  3. pamf says:

    Thanks, Molly. So far, we’ve only gone short distances with the wooden paddle, and I have held on to it to make sure there are no accidents. But I like your suggestion for longer trips. Thanks!

  4. pamf says:

    Hi Steen – Thanks for your comment. Sounds like we are indeed experiencing a similar evolution. I will keep experimenting with the sculling brace as you describe. I’m not sure how I would fare in surf as this an area I need to work on. You’ve probably seen Warren Williamson’s video by now: . Proves anything is possible!

  5. Gerhardt Raven says:

    I would like to make a distinction between surfing moving waves and standing waves in a tidal rapid such as Surge Narrows.

    I have been using two Greenland paddles (pautiks) with a 90mm wide blade surfing ocean waves. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. The pautik actually creates less drag while doing a stern rudder and feels better than a spoon paddle. To get more lift when bracing I simply extend the paddle a little. I will definitely be using my pautiks surfing moving waves.

    When surfing standing waves, a lot of power is needed to get from the eddy to the wave. A big blade makes bracing in moving aerated water more effective. The only place I prefer my Werner is surfing standing waves in tidal rapids. I’ll be surfing the open ocean with a pautik.

  6. pamf says:

    Thank you, Gerhardt, for this useful information. This is a good distinction and I have imagined that it might be a matter of extending the paddle more in order to brace effectively in moving waves. I recently undertook some tidal waters training which was, as you state, highly dependent on power strokes. If I was brave enough, I’d take a Greenland paddle out on to the Falls of Lora and see what happens, but I think I can predict 🙂

  7. Frank Harradence says:

    Interesting discussion, I also have Anglesey Stick and Northern light paddles. I find the Anglesey Stick is excellent for forward paddling, bracing etc. very reassuring in high winds and rough water (force 6 around the Lizard Cornwall and a choppy Wash crossing) whilst excellent at rolling it’s not quite as manoeuvrable underwater eg when upside down and changing the paddle to the other side of the kayak, this may be due to the carbon paddle being a little slimmer (easier to move the hand position) and less buoyant. In short the Anglesey stick is ‘weapon’ of choice for real world paddling and general fun, with the Northern light just edging it for rolling play and the look of carbon!

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