The art of paddling with a Greenland paddle

It's easy to learn to paddle with a Greenland paddle. Especially for a beginner who has never paddled before, it should be quite natural. It may feel strange for those who have paddled mostly with other types of paddles, but the uncertainty is usually overcome quickly and the basic principles for good efficient paddling are the same as with any other kind of paddle. For Greenland paddles specifically there are a few things you should keep in mind, we will list up some of them here. For more technical information about Greenland and Arctic paddles go here.

The grip - holding the paddle

We can start by holding the paddle: the paddle should feel good to hold. The shaft defines where you should put your hands - just before, or partly on, the transition to the blade of the paddle. The paddle is symmetrical, so there's no wrong way you can hold it. The main rule is that you should feel your way forward, and test - eventually you'll sense what's appropriate for you. Place your littlefinger on the blade and the rest on the shoulder and shaft. Usually, the distance between your hands on the paddle will be equal to the width of your shoulders, or slightly greater in some cases. It is therefore important to have a paddle that fits you, your height and arms length and paddling style. Greenland paddles are made specifically for the paddler and comes in a variaty of different sizes.

Tilting the paddle forward - 'the canted stroke'

A Greenland or an Aleut paddle is paddled most efficiently with a forward stroke where the upper edge of the paddle is tilted forward. This is more commenly known as the canted stroke. This comes quite naturally if the paddle fits well. Then the correct grip will almost cause the tilting at once and by it self. Keeping the paddle in this position throughout the stroke is the clue. The angle the paddle is tilted forward will vary from paddler to paddler but in general it will be somewhere around 30 degrees. When the tilting is applied to the forward paddle stroke, the stroke becomes much more efficient and powerful. Combined with a correct posture and sitting position the result is a paddlestroke that a few prominent paddlers has compared to that of the wingpaddle. Especially if a high stroke height is added and correct use of body rotation.

Stroke height

There is no right stroke height when paddling with a Greenland paddle rather a variety of stroke heights are used and applied in the complex environment and conditions when paddling. Including the strength and direction of the wind, the type and height of the waves, the stability of the kayak, the confidence and experience of the paddler, the type of paddle and distance paddled. And so on. Many things has an impact on the stroke height. But then again the stroke height is importent to consider. Is is a rather common mistake to assume that a Greenland paddle is best suited to paddle with a low stroke height. The generel effects of using either a high or a low stroke height are the same when using a Greenland paddle. Combined with proper posture, connectivity and good rotation of the body will allow for an excellent outcome. Most modern paddlers paddles with a stroke height around 45 degrees adjusted to more personal preferences. A Greenland paddle is often paddled with a grip where the hands are a bit closer together so when paddling with a higher strokeheight and proper rotation the hands deviate some in their position. The best thing to do is to learn proper paddling technique and the go out and paddle with different stroke heights in varoius conditions.

The paddle height at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.

General principles for efficient and smooth paddling

Posture

The best possible sitting position, or posture for efficient paddling technique is as upright as possible. This means that the pelvis is tilted forward so that the spine retains its natural shape. This sitting position provides two important additional benefits; breathing more freely and a better rotation. Slouching where the pelvis is tipped backwards has a negative effect on both breathing and the ability to rotate. That being said all bodies are different with different flexibility, height, weight and paddling experience in general. So make the kayak fit your body, adapt the seat and padding to your needs not the other way around. Much can be done to get the best out of ones paddling performance.

Rotation and connectivity

Applying rotation to forward paddling and paddling strokes makes the strokes much more efficient - you need less power. The rotation starts in the pelvis and upper body and also the feet, which makes it easy to put large amounts of muscles to use in the back, shoulders and stomach. This lightens the load on the relatively small muscle groups in the arms, and the paddling can feel effortless and smooth and you will be able to add more power with less strain on the body. when talking about rotation it is important to understand the term connectivity. Connectivity in short describes the relation between the body and the kayak (and paddle). In other words everywhere the body has physical contact with the kayak and also how the kayak fits and feels. Think of running a marathon with shoes that are either to big or to small... that would be really uncomfortable and not very efficient. If the kayak is to big good connectivity will be difficult to achieve and if the kayak is to tight the connectivity will feel to tight and inhibit your movement and performance. 

Splashing and fluttering

Splashing often happens at the start of the forward stroke, just as the paddle is lowered into the water. The blade's form may be at fault to some extent, but it's usually the way it's put into the water there's something wrong with. If you experience splashes, try delaying applying force to the paddle stroke until the paddle is completely submerged. You have to feel your way forward with the blade to discover how it's least disturbing. Fluttering happens when turbulence occurs around the Greenland paddle which often happens when the paddle is forced and to much power is applied through the stroke. This is often solved when the paddle is tilted forward previously described as the canted stroke. 

Simple and not simple  

Most people will find paddling with a Greenland paddle quite smooth and effortless in calm conditions and intuitively apply many of the things mentioned above. But to expand their use of the Greenlnd paddle in more challenging conditions and/or to really lift their skils to a higher level need to work with things more consciously and go out on the water and paddle and work with the connection between the body, the boat and the paddle... and various paddles and everything described here.  

The extended paddle

We often learn to hold the same grip on the paddle while paddling and doing varoius strokes for safety reasons. But the Greenland paddle is excellent for doing strokes with an extended paddle where the grip shifts and the paddles slides to one side. For instance sweep strokes, reverse sweep strokes, rolling, support strokes and sculling... this will make effectfull strokes with less effort end less power. The extended paddle is much used in Greenland techniques.

Pure simplicity... or not...

Most people will find paddling with a Greenland paddle quite smooth and effortless in calm conditions and intuitively apply many of the things mentioned above. But to expand their use of the Greenland paddle in more challenging conditions and to really lift their skills to a higher level we recommend working with their skills more consciously and go out on the water and paddle and work with the connection between the body, the boat and the paddle... and various paddles and everything described here. So to answer the question on wether or not the Greenland paddle works well in all kinds og conditions? well it does. A Greenland paddle can be adapted in  many ways in length and width of the blade and materials. In the end much is determened by the paddlers skill level, experience, strength and body measurements.

A Greenland paddle  - a gentle paddle

A general understanding of the Geeenland paddle is that it is a gentle paddle on the body. That is partly a correct understanding because a Greenland paddle is often adapted to the individuel paddler when it comes to the length, width of the blade and the materials. Since Norwegian Wood Paddles are made of wood they will be more gentle on the body than those made of stiffer materials, like carbon fibre. However a Greenland paddle can still provide both powerfull strokes and acceleration when performed with the right paddling technique. In general a Greenland paddle made for touring is paddled with an increased paddle cadence due to it's longer and narrower blade. This will put less strain on the body compared to paddles with larger blades. Last there is the issue of feathering. A Greenland paddle is an unfeathered paddle and many paddlers will feel that this is less demanding on the wrists. So all in all a Greenland paddle is a gentle paddle on the body but can be made to provide powerfull strokes if wanted.