Friday 13 March 2009

The Greenland Paddle & Forward Speed

Apologies if I seem a bit obsessive about my new Greenland paddle, but I'm a bit obsessed, and have something else to rave about. This morning on our Friday morning fitness paddle only Ben Khan turned up with his Aquanaut LV, so I decided to make it a bit more social & leave the Rapier on the roof & paddle alongside Ben using my Aquanaut & my new Greenland stick. I am no authority on these paddles, having done little more that see the short clips of the gurus on Justine's This is the Sea series, so I figured without polluting my mind with some new technique I would just try & see how fast I could go using my normal paddling stroke.
The Greenland paddle boffins would call my stroke a sprint stroke, with my top hand running about forehead height through the length of my rotation, compared to the funny low stroke that they mostly practice, but, it's what I know best so I gave it a go. In the same conditions (no wind, 12.5km) in my Aquanaut using a big wing paddle, my best time is 84 minutes, or a tick under 9km/h. After that sort of push for near on an hour & a half I'm usually pretty shagged. This morning with the stick I did the same distance in the same boat in just on 90 minutes, or near enough 8 & a bit km/h. At the end of it I was so fresh I could have turned around & gone again.
Where I would have a good lactic buildup in my shoulders, lats & upper back after using the wing, with the stick I was well worked around my mid section, but the strain on my upper body was virtually nil. My cadence was probably 2 & a half times my normal stroke but it was effortless - kind of like the aerobic exercise of a fast paddle workout without the anaerobic power strain. One thing I couldn't do was take off - a couple of little boat wakes ran under us which I would normally take a couple of stronger strokes & be riding, but that's not possible with this Greenland paddle for me at the moment. I guess there must be a technique to get a bit more of a punch from the blade but that's something for another day.
So, to go back to the reference I like to use for the purposes of providing a bit of reality to these controlled times, if I was on a 25km paddle with my club mates, with them going at a very speedy 9km/h using wing or Euro blades, I would be coming in 10 minutes after them, with hardly any of the strain fatigue that they would mostly be experiencing after such a stretch. The truth of course, is that I can't ever recall being on a club trip where the pace exceeded 7km/h, so I'd probably be out in front of the group if I chose to be anti-social.....
If you used a Greenland paddle exclusively you would most likely be lacking in power - the ability to grab some water & propel yourself out of trouble, onto a wave, accelerate, so it's not a panacea for paddling. That said, it is pretty impressive to cover distance with such little strain, at a pace well & truly acceptable for a group on the sea.
The experiment continues......


  1. Hi Mark, I'm no expert but try a bit of a positive blade angle (top edge forward, say about 10-20 deg) rather than square to the water so the blade dives when pressure applied. It gives a strong progressive catch and a clean exit when body rotation is used. It is quieter, doesn't drag air into the water and and lifts less water at end of stoke. You very soon get the feel of it even if the first few strokes feel like you are going to get tipped in. Relaxed grip with little fingers draped over the blade help get the right angle. Greg S

  2. Thanks Greg, my mate & fellow instructor Rob Mercer suggested this to me last week. It definitely gives you a different feel through the water & also seems to use a very different set of muscles. I don't think I could have maintained that pace last week using this more correct blade angle - I was starting to really feel it under my shoulders for some reason. Something else to woprk on. The blade is going to teach me a few things, I suspect.

  3. Mark,
    it will interesting to talk to you at the upcoming Rock&Roll and try your Greenland paddles.
    I have dabbed at the "stick" with an Aleut paddle but certainly didn't get the hang of it in those short two hours I tried.

  4. No worries mate, you've got to forget about the grunt, & relax with your paddle - these things actually make you do that beacause you only get help when they're planing, no big blade area to pull down on.

  5. Mark,

    Re explantion of the canted forward stroke at Rock 'n Roll, check out the link below:

    I think this might make what I was explaining a bit easier. (And keep those wrists flat!!)


  6. Thanks mate, I'll keep at it - planning to have a bit of a play in Pittwater this weekend with the stick.


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