Greenland style paddling

Paddling technique, boat packing technique, anything having to do with how to use a piece of equipment (except sailing, which has its own section).

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Greenland style paddling

Post by DevNull »

I found myself in the odd position of giving somebody paddling advice. Odd, in the sense that I’m still trying to figure things out myself.

Two days ago I went paddling with a friend I met not long ago. He has been doing it for way longer than I have; a full five months versus my two months :D I have a Mont-Bell Ellsmere 480 (15.75’x22.8”) no rudder, he has the Ellsmere 530 (17.4’x24”) with rudder. We both use Greenland-style paddles. We started an hour before low tide on fairly strong winds coming from land, enough for a decent amount of white caps and washing machine-type of environment because of all the rock formations that we were supposed to steer clear of but didn’t (please leave that one alone for now).

Long story short he can’t keep up. We switch paddles; his actually has more resistance than mine so I can push my boat faster (albeit with more effort). On the way back we switched boats. His is a bit harder to paddle, but I can make it go even faster than mine, with either his paddle or mine. So we started talking about technique.

Based on books, videos, the internet, and anything else I could read/see, I think I’m learning how to do it by keeping the following in mind:
  • - Keeping the paddle low. I try to keep my knuckles at/bellow eye level.
  • - Short strokes, starting a hair pass knee level, out by the end of my hip. In fact every stroke has the aim of preserving effort, more with less and all that.
  • - Foremost, I try to disturb the water as little as possible. I practice hard to get the paddle in without a ripple, stroke smoothly without currents or bubbles, and out in the same fashion. When I practice in calm waters, my goal is to see how hard/fast I can sustain the cadence where I can only hear the drip of the water falling from the paddle.
The way he was doing it, I could hear him splashing water from a good distance, even over the strong wind. When looking at him I could see his hands going higher than I thought necessary, with a stroke too long for comfort and preservation of energy. I told him to keep it low, short, and to concentrate on not disturbing the water. The way it worked for me was to learn it in slow motion, and to refine it as I attempted to pick up speed without breaking form/water. To me, it feels that once I put another 500 miles behind the paddle I will begin to get half decent with it :D

Was it good advice or did I doomed him to failure?


Post by tialloydragon »

Good advice. Short, low angle strokes with a high cadence will preserve energy and maintain speed, while discouraging the paddler to put too much force behind the stroke.

Matthew B

Post by Matthew B »

Efficient paddling is a "whole body" undertaking. All sorts of little things can improve your efficiency. Below are listed a few things I try and think about when paddling, and when teaching:
how well you fit the boat
how well you connect to the craft with your knees, hips, and butt
how much rotation you use in paddling, and whether you are slouching or sitting up straight
how well you are able to bring the big muscle groups of you belly and legs into play with each stroke -- a diagonal stress from right leg, across the torso, to the left arm for a left stroke, and vice-versa for a right stroke seems to work for me
whether you are using your upper arm to push as well as your lower arm to pull or just relying on the lower arm
whether you are going in a straight line, or are constantly correcting
how you correct your course (a back stroke, however small, is the least efficient way of "steering", as it stops or slow the boat, which then has to be re-started)
having both a clean entry and a clean exit for your paddle on each stroke

And so on . . . .

As with so many things the answer is to practice, practice, practice.


Re: Greenland style paddling

Post by pinetar »

I used my boat/G paddles for the first time yesterday and never gave thought to the dripping effect from the paddles to the cockpit. Do I assume I must use the spray skirt with such paddles in calm water?


Re: Greenland style paddling

Post by Christov_Tenn »

On a hot day, if I don't care about getting some water in the boat, I paddle without. On the other hand, here lately, I've been using the skirt in really hot weather and have experienced no ill effects. Neo deck with Goretex knockoff fabric tunnel. Snapdragon boasts the arrangement breathes, and I certainly do not find it unbearable or even uncomfortable. Bilge sponge is good.


Re: Greenland style paddling

Post by nohoval_turrets »

Sounds like great advice to me, DevNull. I like your descriptions of teaching yourself. I did something similar - I paddle very slowly and get the stroke perfect, then speed up gradually. When I make a mistake, I stop and start all over. I still do this now.

I think we can get too technical about strokes too. Visualisations a great way to improve the stroke in an overall way without getting bogged down in minutiae. One is to pretend that you are holding a beach ball between your arms as you paddle. Another is to imagine that your arms are just ropes suspended from your shoulders.


Re: Greenland style paddling

Post by Alm »

pinetar wrote:dripping effect from the paddles to the cockpit. Do I assume I must use the spray skirt with such paddles in calm water?
Yes. I aslo wear wet gloves (REI Warmers). They don't keep hands dry, but prevent the contact of wet soft skin with paddle shaft, thus preventing blisters. Local NW Pacific waters are always cold, so gloves seem appropriate anyway.

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