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Re: Greenland stroke (long)
In Response To: Re: Greenland stroke (long) ()

Hello everyone. I just made my first greenland paddle, and I have happened upon something interesting, I think. I noticed some of the traditional designs I saw featured square looms, and I began to wonder why. So when I made my first attempts (I made two paddles before i succeeded in making one I would use), I experimented with the idea. I was willing to do so because when i made a relaxed "O" with my hand, the "O" was actually more like a rectangle than a circle. Before starting my third and finally successful attempt at making a paddle, I observed that a well placed catch would result in a semi-diamond shape relative to the flat of the blade -still a square, but with the sides tilted at an angle to the blade face. Based on my boat (a p&h sirius), I made the loom 23" long. This is the length needed to get my hand in the water and still clear the fore deck easily so I can paddle more aggressively. I don't like depending on the shoulder, and never found that to be an effective or comfortable technique for me over long distances. The offset square loom, however, means my paddle cants itself automatically as long as i have at east one hand on any part of the loom. I just keep my grip loose enough to let the flat side of the loom orient the blade. With both hands on the loom, this reinforces a very aggressive cant angle.

The result is very encouraging, and I hope to explore the concept further. Because of the aggressive cant angle, the paddle is very quiet ant the stroke feels very "locked " in the water, much like a wing paddle. One drawback is that the paddle is not kind to the hands, and tends to chew them up. I will try finishing my paddle to see if that helps. The greatest benefit, felt after 10 miles or so, is that unlike the shoulder/loom technique of canting, the wrists are not involved in creating the angle of tilt. When I need to be more aggressive, the downward force of my semi opened top hand on the flat part of the loom makes it hold its angle.

: Risto,

: I view SW Greenland kayaks and paddles as a tuned pair. As I have written in
: the past, the forward tilt comes naturally, *if* you have a shouldered
: paddle that is sized so that only your thumbs and forefingers are on the
: shaft, with your other fingers on the roots of the blades. Since your palm
: is angled forward when you open your hand with a neutral wrist, holding a
: paddle in this way will naturally cause it to tilt forward. I want to
: emphasize that the canted blade stroke style is not unique to Maligiaq,
: and it is not strictly a "racing stroke". You will see it in
: common use in SW Greenland, but you will also see other styles. The SW
: Greenland paddles range from "Storm paddle" length (one-armspan)
: to "cruising paddle" length (armpspan plus a cubit) to
: everything in between. The shorter paddles are used with a sliding stroke
: of varying length, often combined with the canted blade techniques.

: American paddlers who have learned to paddle using "Greenland"
: paddles with a very long shaft have invariably adopted a vertically
: oriented paddle blade, as tilting the blade is not intuitive if all your
: fingers are on the shaft. This doesn't mean that this style is bad, but
: does illustrate the relationship between paddle and technique. It also
: shows how critical design features can sometimes be lost by our natural
: attempts to "improve upon them", without understanding them
: first. As to Western awareness of Inuit technique, it is only very
: recently that these techniques have hit the mainstream, largely due to
: Maligiaq's tour of the U.S. Most of us who are teaching Greenland paddling
: today (outside of Greenland), simply learned by trial and error, reading
: what little has been written and watching a few videotapes. Some of the
: styles that have been developed are very good, even if many of them are
: not styles that you would see in Greenland. To generalize, most of the
: kayakers that I observed in Greenland held their paddles higher, took much
: longer strokes and many used the canted blade technique, as compared to
: their American counterparts. I also found it interesting that the
: Greenlanders I observed tended to use a gentle catch, took a long stroke
: and emphasized the exit, whereas we are often taught just the opposite.

: What you are referring to as a "Chuck Holst" design, is a fairly
: typical SW Greenland paddle design. Shoulders are extremely common there
: but are absent on many Inuit paddles. There is so much variation in Inuit
: paddles and kayaks that you cannot generalize, and my comments about
: technique are specifically tailored to the SW Greenland style. There is of
: course some overlap, as both the SW Greenlanders and the Canadian Inuit
: both have been documented to use the canted stroke, but getting dogmatic
: and trying to apply one set of techniques to all paddles and kayak
: designs, ancient or new, is not wise IHMO. Harvey Golden's web site has a
: wealth of information on many different kayak/paddle designs. Both Harvey
: and I (currently) prefer the SW Greenland equipment/style, but there are
: many other excellent styles to be explored as well, including modern ones.

: Greg Stamer