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

: Greg,

: Main reason why I was wondering about the tilted paddle/shouldered blades
: combination is that for instance in Derek's Sea Canoing (1989) there is no
: mention of either, and all the paddles pictured have no shoulders. Nor
: does John Dowd mention either in his book of same vintage. So at least
: western awareness of these seemed of younger date.

In his rolling book Derek also referred to a "mysterious" roll with the paddle held behind the head. This happens to be a very common roll in Greenland and doesn't even win you many points in the championship. He documents very few of the 30 popular rolling maneuvers. Most Western authors have written about Greenlandic kayaking in the past tense, as if it died out years ago, which fortunately is not the case at all. There is still much to learn.

: Now as I tried the stroke variants you described the 45 degree short gave
: surprising power at the hip: it felt as if the water turned into molasses,
: and the boat leapt to its hull speed in 2-3 strokes. Also the kick was
: very immediate and brutal, no ifs or buts about it.

The first variant that I described is still a long stroke compared to modern "Euro" teaching. The blade still exits past the hip, but not quite so far aft as variant #2. If the kick is brutal, are you lifting the paddle with the blade too horizontal? This will certainly drain your power and do nothing to help your speed. You need to experiment with the paddle angle to find a balance between a good kick and simply lifting water.

: Since none of this can be my technique (in its infancy), it seems that at
: least the tilt must be pretty much OK. The shoulders are as Chuck Holst
: recommends, and now at 60 apart (hull width +3). Also the cross-section of
: blade ends must be right for same reasons.

I think that if you have the paddle sized correctly (assuming a shouldered paddle), the forward tilt works fine with a wide variety of blade shapes. Some of the Greenland paddles are very flat and thin, others have a definite center ridge and blunter tips. Most first-time Greenland paddles that I have been asked to critique have huge diameter, short looms and thick blade transitions.
Most Greenland paddles appear slender and elegant. The anthropometrics are a ball-park figure that you thin down to suit.

: Since there is so much (too much for quick cadence) grip, I guess the blades
: must be way too wide? Also the low cruising stroke has low cadence. How
: narrow should I go in your view, if I shall keep the 20 cm non-tapered tip
: area?

The canted blade techniques have a slower cadence, in my experience, than other techniques that use a low, vertically oriented paddle. Cadence varies tremendously with technique, high cadence is not necessarily a given with a Greenland paddle. If you want a higher cadence and the feel of more slip, try using less or no forward tilt of the blade. Treat this paddle as your "test-mule" and modify it, to discover your preferences. It might take several paddles, confusion, and more time in the saddle using a stick, before you discover what you really prefer. Regarding width, Maligiaq's paddles are only 2.75" wide. Steffen Olsen, the strongest Greenlandic racer in my age group had blades about five inches wide. If your cadence is too slow, you might want to experiment with technique, narrower blades, less overall length, or all of the above. To reduce confusion, I would recommend that you change only one variable at a time.

: If I think about the way the power comes near the end of this stroke, I guess
: it is a good thing to have this stiffness: any power loaded into the
: paddle this late during the stroke would only be lost at the exit. Would
: you agree with this?

I like a stiff paddle, but not a "dead" one. I like some flex at the end of the stroke. I don't know if this is "more efficient", I simply like the sensation of just enough flex that the paddle feels "lively".

: Then there is the stroke diagram: I can't quite agree with it. With my short
: euro using a high and close stroke the tip may describe such a path (minus
: tilt) but with this greenland stroke a more symmetrical path would seem to
: be the case. At least my hands wanted to mirror each other which would
: give a path resembling a fat ellipse or an egg on its side. No sharp
: corners and abrupt changes, at least in the shorter variant of stroke.

: Or is this something a novice should try to work away from? I ask this
: because you said you would modify John Heath's diagram, and this opened up
: the issue as to how you would do it.

The canted blade stroke is considered an "advanced" technique. According to Maligiaq novice paddlers are not introduced to it right away, as worrying about blade tilt and path might take the priority over more important issues such as a strong foundation for your stroke (knees, and/or pulling up with the opposite knee), torso rotation, etc.

I would modify John's diagram so that the catch phase would bury the paddle more deeply than what is shown, with the paddle rising slightly throughout the power phase. Also, as I mentioned in my first post, I find that the forward tilt is not constant, and the simple mechanics of the stroke will cause it to increase as the stroke progresses. The diagram doesn't show the path of the paddle as viewed from above. Does the paddle move straight back or does it flare away from the hull? I often use the latter technique, Maligiaq uses the former. Your paddle dimensions, boat width, physique and other factors might dictate a different stroke shape, so I would keep the mechanics in your head, but find out what works best for you. I think that you can become competent by copying someone else, but to become better than competent, you need to blend your personal attributes into the mix, to create something unique.

Greg Stamer