When paddling with a Greenland paddle for the first time, you will find that it takes more than just physical strength, it also takes precision. Using the correct technique can make a great difference to the power and efficiency that you can get from the paddle. Here we will look at the fundamentals of the Greenland Paddle forward stroke, however if you are interested in a more in depth guide to Greenland paddle technique I highly recommend Björn Thomassons guide.
Hold your Greenland Paddle at the right angle
To hold a Greenland paddle correctly you want to keep your elbows bent and have your forearms parallel to the deck. When you take a forward stroke you use the oval shaft to ensure that the paddle’s upper edge points 10-15 degrees forward. This prevents the blade from fluttering and helps to cleanly plant the paddle in the water. When viewed from the side the complete stroke describes a flattened oval.
Your first stroke
Some Greenland paddle's have a dihedral and a flat side, if yours does start by using the dihedral side. When taking your first stroke, place the blade in the water as far forward as is easily achievable. With a firm but gentle grip, you now pull yourself up to and past the paddle. At the same time, coil your torso so that your shoulder axis parallels the paddle shaft. When you have pulled yourself past the paddle, place the other blade in the water and repeat.
With each stroke you want to transfer the power you create from the blade through your torso and legs and into the stroke side foot. At first you may notice you paddle with a higher cadence than you are used to, however with practice and by focusing on using a silent technique, you will soon find that your stroke rate is almost the same as when using a euro or wing paddle.
Knowing your Paddle
Once you master the dihedral side of your paddle it is time to try the flat side. This side gives you more power but requires a more precise technique to prevent the blade fluttering when you pull on it. Because there is more power available on this side of the blade, the cadence reduces. Experiment with how much extra power you can get without making splashes or noise. You will need to fine tune your stroke to achieve this.
Avoid wasting energy
I commonly see kayakers using too much force when paddling, without going any faster. The kayak cannot accelerate like an Italian sports car. Trying to make it do so is a waste of energy.
To improve your efficiency focus on the tip of your blade. Does it create a hole in the water behind the blade as you pull on it? Or does it create splash and bubbles? Does the blade flutter and wobble during the stroke? All of these are a sign of wasted energy.
When paddling you need to be relaxed in both mind and body. This is particularly important if you want to paddle long distances without getting too tired. And this is the real strength of a Greenland paddle. Due to the long thin face of the blade, the power from the stroke is spread over a greater length. This gives the kayaker the same speed but with a less intense power phase of the stroke.
If you want to accelerate you need to do so gently, without creating splash or noise and by doing so you will reach your destination just as quickly, without feeling as tired.
By Lars Gram
Originally started as a way of making his own 'perfect' Greenland Paddle for himself, Lars runs Gram Kajak where he manufactures beautiful Greenland Paddles as well as coaching technique.