By Curtis Gashlin
DON’T SWEAT IT, LET THE PADDLES DECIDE
Are you one of those Greenland paddlers who would never switch back to a Euro?
Here is a story of my own personal paddle battle. This was going to be a pro & con list until it became more like a story.
When I began kayaking I never heard of a Greenland paddle, much less saw one. I also did not know that a Euro paddle was referred to as such. I simply thought a kayak paddle is a paddle is a paddle, unless it’s one sided and a canoe paddle.
A few years into using a feathered Euro paddle - having no lessons or training in their proper use, I ran into a kayak club and joined so I’d have some people to kayak with. I saw a Greenland paddle for the first time and have to admit that my interest was peeking. I had to try it.
I was not impressed using it for the first time, but knew I needed to give it time. I was also starting to learn rolling and was told that the process would be easier with the Greenland paddle. I figured I would use it until I had a good roll and then transfer back to a Euro.
I spent maybe 5 or so years using a Greenland paddle. I had developed several rolls and learned many paddle strokes and maneuvers. This paddle was unbeatable and I couldn’t see why everyone didn’t use it. It seemed to define me. Forget about going back to a Euro. I was a Greenland paddler, competent with its use and with rolls to pull out of my pocket. I was allowed to take my 3 star assessment using the GP and I did. Thanks for that because I doubt at that point I could use a Euro well enough, although I have dabbled with it from time to time.
On the top is an 80" cedar greenland paddle I made. I used this for touring and to use a high cadence stroke for minimal body wear and fatigue over long distance paddles. It is also a fun paddle to use for playing around with greenland technique. The bottom paddle is a 74" short paddle I used in place of a “storm" paddle.
On the top in this picture is an 82" Novorca carbon fiber foam core Greenland paddle. This was used for touring at a higher cadence as well but at a super weight reduction. I’m not sure what it weighs but you really don’t feel any weight while holding it. It is superbly constructed and custom sized, which is something only Novorca is currently doing. On the bottom is an 85" Novorca carbon fiber foam core Greenland paddle.
Fast forward to a more current time and I was forced to use a Euro paddle for ACA instructorship. I used the Euro paddle for about 1 day to get ready for the workshop and assessment. I don’t know what to say at this point other than I either never used the greenland paddle correctly - though I trained with Greg Stamer & Cheri Perry, among other quality mentors - or life was just made much simpler with the Euro.
Every stroke, brace or maneuver was easier for me and I felt they performed better. I have surfed with a GP and knew how it felt. I surfed with the Euro and was impressed by it. I began comparing in my mind what was different and why the Euro was suddenly working for me. I really obsessed over it. I guess it’s an OCD thing, I’ve been told.
Well, the biggest things I figured out were that although the GP is a great bracing tool, I use a relatively short one and for me to get the same support as with a Euro, I really needed to extend the GP paddle; whereas, with the Euro, I did not need to extend.
It may not sound like a big deal but for slower reflexes it’s great to not have to extend. I am referring to things like low brace turns, edging the boat way over, and things like deep water bracing, etc. I am able to switch between low and high brace with better wrist action. Maneuvering strokes are easier & more effective for me as well. It was just feeling more right for me.
I did an experiment. I decided to use both equally. I carried both and used both for a year. I found myself using the Euro more and more. As of now, I use the Euro mainly and use the GP to change things up or for longer distances and for a rolling toy. I can roll with the Euro, and have even transferred some GP rolls over to Euro for kicks and giggles.
Rolling worked itself out of the equation over time. I also found after a while I preferred sculling with a Euro. Who knew? When I want to play around with fancy rolling, which I love to do, I have the GP, which is my trusty spare currently. I don’t know what I will be using tomorrow but I've somehow slowly and seamlessly gravitated to a Euro. I remained open minded to both paddles throughout the time and do enjoy both.
I feel now that some years ago, when I thought GP’s were the best, it was because I never had a quality Euro paddle and never had instruction on correctly using one. I had a quality GP and was instructed and trained with one. I never really was able to make a quality choice. I never compared apples to apples. At some point I purchased a Werner cyprus crank shaft and this was the first quality Euro paddle I ever had. I was now able to see things I couldn’t before.
I use the Euro unfeathered now, maybe just a result of using a GP for so long. I do feel head & tail winds, etc. on the blades this way but it doesn’t get taken from my grasp. Maybe in my future the blades will be feathered again but I'm ok for now and I think someday that will be an entirely new can of worms to reopen.
The above paddle is a 205 cm Werner Cyprus bent shaft carbon fiber foam core paddle. This is the paddle that turned out to be the work horse of the fleet and the one I have in my hands most of the time anymore. I can’t say that bent shaft is the ultimate in paddle shafts but on the Werner the bent shaft makes for a great feel in the cross section of the shaft. I did grow very fond of that cross sectional feel. It feels noticeably triangular as opposed to a minimal oval feel. There is plenty of blade to do some serious bracing with this paddle and it is small enough and dihedral enough to minimize any body shock. It’s a great paddle.
This is a 210 cm Werner Ikelos straight shaft carbon fiber foam core paddle. I like this for what surfing I do. It provides fast positive support and many paddlers love this one. I personally would prefer the bent shaft for the feel I have with my Cyprus. I am not all that crazy about the cross sectional feel of the straight shaft. Someday I may have this in a bent shaft. Who knows what tomorrow brings.
I have found that both blades are equal in powering my kayak when used properly. For me, reaction time, ease and effectiveness of maneuvering strokes has made the decision, and the decision made itself by my using both paddles and just waiting to see what happened.
Basically for me now, the GP is fun and a great paddling tool and serves many useful purposes and it’s a great teacher; but if I'm going to do some serious paddling, or what is serious in my mind, where I might want or need instinctive reactions, or even if I'm just feeling a little lazy, I have found that I want the Euro in my hands.
Welcome back from the dark side to me! I did what most GP’ers say and what I have once said we would never do, I switched back. I don’t tell myself that, as a dieter doesn’t say diet as opposed to eating healthier. I will always have my alter ego that wants to play with a GP and that gets satisfied. At first I felt like I was having an identity crisis; but now both of my personalities peacefully coexist.
It is ok to use both paddles and even just one type but if I had it to do again I would make sure I had both paddles being of high quality and that I was trained to use both before making the claim to which is the right paddle. I’ve always heard that the right paddle is the one that works best for you. Don’t force it, learn both if you want and let the paddles decide. ~ Curtis Gashlin
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About The Author
ACA Instructor & BCU 3 Star Certified kayaker, Curt Gashlin is an enthusiastic member of the Mosquito Lagoon Paddlers based in East Central Florida as well as the Orlando chapter of the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers . He's been kayaking since 2002.
Articles by Curtis Gashlin:
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