Kayaking Technique Forum

Find advice on all aspects of kayaking and using small boats on big water

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

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