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GP vs Euro Paddles

A comment on names first.

Greenland paddle (GP) – is the light, narrow bladed, with a symmetrical foil shaped cross-section blade, unfeathered, “stick”, seen used by some grey bearded paddlers.

Euro – has short, flat or near flat blades, usually feathered, often heavy, paddle used by most other paddlers.

Wing – the paddle of choice for racing. It is also quite common amongst touring sea kayakers. It’s cross section is foil shaped like the wing of an aircraft though they are usually simply undercambered meaning open on the under side where an aircraft’s wing will be filled in on the under side.

Weights – generally paddles used by most paddlers run about 800 – 1000 grm. A GP can be anywhere from 700 – 1000 grm. If you use a carbon fibred version of either, then the weights will be less and the cost will be higher.

Myths surrounding the GP –

It is heavy

It is inefficient

A paddle needs to be feathered

Answers to these myths are –

Weight – they can be as light or lighter than a Wing or Euro.

Efficiency – they are a Wing paddleand as we know, all “serious” (racing) paddlers use a Wing. They are also buoyant. This means that they weigh nothing once in the water during the power stroke. They will act as an outrigger when stopped or resting up. They might provide enough lift to save rigging a paddle float when doing a paddle float type rescue. And if desperate, you could brew a cup of coffee by burning one. With that number of pluses it has to be the most efficient.

Feather angle – many paddlers, WW as well as sea and racing are moving towards lower feather angles such that one wonders why have any at all. With a tail wind an unfeathered gives maximum aid. Beam on to the wind there is minimum tipping effect and head on to the wind, your body is the major windage item, the GP adding little to the overall drag.

Added to all of this is that being symmetrical foils they can be used for push or pull support strokes and work equally well what ever you do with them. They are like a Wing paddle but don’t have the vicious tendencies that a Wing displays if used badly. However, being a Wing they do need to be used like one, the blade moves away from the kayak’s hull during the stroke so that the water is moving off one edge and the leading edge, the one away from the hull, needs to be angled forward of the trailing (hull side) edge. This gives “lift”, lift in the direction the paddler is moving. If pulled straight back they will flutter due to the water coming off alternate edges. Do this with a Wing and it will most likely dive under the kayak taking you with it.

Is a GP the way you should go?

Not necessarily, it all depends. If you are happy with what you use stay with it unless you actually want to try something different.

Is it easy to use?

Yes but it will take time to get the best out of it. Some say you need to paddle for 6 weeks to get used to a Wing paddle. I’d say it doesn’t take as long but then again, the more you use either the more proficient you will get.

How do you size a GP?

Similar to a Euro paddle except the loom (handle) is about your shoulder width plus 5 cm or some use a shoulder width and a fist which is about the same as hip width and 2 fists for males. Another way is to take your normal grip on a Euro or Wing paddle and measure the distance between your hands. Make the loom about 2 finger widths more in length. Remember that the paddle is grasped with the first finger and thumb at the ends of the loom and the rest of the fingers over the edge of the blade. Also the thumb is just there to keep the paddle from falling on the deck, it is the fingers that hold on the pull and the base of the fingers (upper hand) putting in the power from the shoulder/body rotation giving push.

For the overall length, an arm-span plus a cubit or such that you can curl your finger over the end of it when standing and it is vertical. This alternative method isn’t as good as it presumes you are average as far as leg/arm ratio. The other question is what is a cubit? Finger tip to elbow inside appears to be the closest “correct” measurement. The blades should be only as wide as you can grasp at their widest. The loom can be oval or oblong in cross-section. If oblong in cross-section, your finger’s second joint makes a right-angle and the top two joints pull. The base of the fingers push against the flat of the loom. This gives and open handed grip, taking stress off the hands.

Any thing critical about the shape?

Probably the only thing to make sure of is the blade edges. They must not be blunt. You don’t need to be able to shave with them but blunt edges will destroy their effectiveness.

Do you need to use a low stroke with a GP?

No. It is easy using a low relaxed cruising stroke with a low decked kayak when you aren’t in a hurry or don’t want to out-distance your companions but the stroke can be high or low depending on what you are trying to achieve. Power and speed will see the stroke angle steepen such that there is little difference between a racing Wing paddler and a GP user at maximum speed and power.

See the Greenland paddle construction pages for how to make your own Greenland paddle.

Weight – an added comment

In the New Zealand Sea Canoeist #162, page 6, Paul Caffyn discusses paddle weights and the extra work with a heavier paddle. His example of a light paddle is given as 932 grms, something that could be considered heavy if it was a Greenland paddle as between 700 grm and 800 grm is quite easily obtained. Paddles used by South Island circumnavigators 2007-2008 had paddles ranging from 945 grm to 989 grm. Even Freya’s Epic Wing is 744 grm.

* It has been argued that being a symmetrical foil they can’t provide lift. This is obviously false as there are a number of aircraft with symmetrical foil wings and they fly in the same manner as other planes but also work as well inverted (aerobatic aircraft). Note that they do not necessarily have flaps and the ailerons do not make any difference to their flying ability.

Google the Extra 300 or Edge 540 for examples.



KASK's aims are to:

1. Promote and encourage the sport of sea kayaking
2. Promote safety standards
3. Develop techniques and equipment
4. Deal with issues of coastal access and protection
5. Organise sea kayak forums around the country
6. Publish the Sea Canoeist Newsletter and the KASK Handbook