These primitive looking paddles were invented by the original kayakers – the Inuit (or Eskimoes). Whilst the paddles look primitive it is actually a highly finessed design. I read somewhere that the Inuit say that the sea designed their kayaks and paddles – as the bad ideas never came home! The Inuit had leaf shaped paddles, which they apparently still use for canoes, but the leaf shaped kayak paddles seemed to fall out of favour a number of hundreds of years ago. Some suggest that the narrow oars of the Viking ships when they made it to Greenland inspired their current designs.
So there are often questions on this forum as to picking paddles. In short there are three basic design types.
Flat/Euro: Undisputed best paddle for really fast manoeuvres and getting traction in aerated water. E.g. whitewater and breaking surf.
- Pros: Instant and strong bite, very solid to brace with and quickly change a boat’s direction. Relatively easy to learn to use.
Cons: Not so efficient in converting muscle power to forward movement, relatively big blade increases swing weight.
- Pros: Shape of blade generates lift like an aeroplane wing, provides a 3-4% speed advantage over a flat paddle. Small bladed wing paddles are also efficient (in terms of kilometres achieved per Snickers bar) for distance touring.
Cons: Good technique needs to be learned to get the most out of them. More difficult than other types to learn to brace and roll with – even very experienced wing paddle users can struggle a bit in rough conditions. Many find most likely type to cause injuries to paddlers – generally linked to paddlers not developing good technique or conditioning.
- Pros: Low swing weight, high efficiency (when used with correct technique works like a wing blade), easiest to brace and roll with, lowest resistance in high winds. Many maintain they are the gentlest on the body (least aches after a long day).
Cons: Good technique needs to be learned to use efficiently, not readily available (though apparently they are very easy to carve oneself from a piece of 2x4 if in possession of basic wood working skills), slowest to accelerate with
Anyway, that is the background. I have played briefly with GPs a few times over the years and have been interested in purchasing one for a number of years but never got around to it. I figure having both a GP and a Euro paddle on trips (my Euro is a Werner Cyprus Carbon – top of the line of that style for those that don’t know it) would be the ultimate in versatility.
The other day I was kindly lent a wooden GP for a few weeks and today was my first real paddle of it. I really focussed from the start on getting the canting of the blade right (where it goes in with the blade slanted forward) and was amazed when I half got this right how much grip the little blade has. I’d actually go so far as to say that with the right canting, there is more grip than I can make use of in my boat – yes the blade is more powerful than I need. Just stick the blade straight and start windmilling and you would think the opposite.
So I'll be getting one of these finally - looking at a 2 piece carbon model.
A quick vid of the attempt below. For those buying paddles, all three types are valid choices. Go with the style that seems to suit what you will be doing best, take time to learn how to use it properly and you will do well with it whatever you pick.
Sorry, no fishing today – was meant to be over 20knts (although wasn’t quite that on the water in the end) so didn’t take the gear.