One of the main reasons I started making my own paddles was because I wanted to avoid getting paddling related injuries. I spent years adjusting and perfecting the design. I wanted my paddles to feel like a natural extension of my body and not a heavy and cumbersome piece of equipment that requires unnatural twists to handle.
One of the advantages of using a Greenland paddle is that it puts less strain on your body. This is partly due to its long and narrow blade design, which requires less power in the stroke. Also the blades are unfeathered which means less twisting of the wrists to place the blade correctly in the water, and the oval shaft helps with the orientation of this. All of this combined can spare you body from the strain related injuries that the repetitive nature of paddling can cause, but only if you use the choose the right paddle.
How to choose the perfect Greenland Paddle size
One of the most common questions I am asked is how to choose the right sized paddle. However it is also one of the most difficult questions to answer properly. The size of the correct paddle for you will depend on factors such as your level of fitness, your height and what type of blade you want to use. And even when you take into account all of the different factors, you may still have to feel your way to the perfect paddle. That is why you should not spend too much time on trying to find a magical formula that can reveal to you the exact size of your next paddle. Because such a formula does not exist. However not wanting to leave you in the lurch, I have put together a couple of pointers which I believe will best guide you in the right direction when choosing a paddle.
Kayak paddle length
You may have come across the rule of thumb where you determine your correct paddle size by wether you can wrap your fingers over the top of the paddle when standing upright. This rule, however, should be taken with a grain of salt as you usually paddle while sitting down, and this makes your leg length less important. Instead, I recommend that you measure your torso as this helps determine how much you will have to stretch your upper body when paddling. Measure your torso by sitting up straight on a flat chair. Then measure the distance from the surface of the chair to the top of your shoulders. This will typically mean the following paddle sizes:
Your level of fitness also has a role to play when choosing a paddle. More athletic paddlers will often choose a longer paddle, while those with less muscle mass will often benefit from choosing a slightly shorter paddle. Your level of fitness also has a role to play when choosing a paddle. More athletic paddlers will often choose a longer paddle, while those with less muscle mass will often benefit from choosing a slightly shorter paddle. Also paddlers with a history of repetitive strain injury in their wrists, elbows or shoulders should use a shorter paddle as it will put less strain on their joints.
However, as mentioned earlier, these guidelines are only meant to set you off in the right direction. And in the end, I don’t think you should worry too much about the perfect paddle size. To give an example: should you choose a paddle with an extra 4 cm in length, it only equals an extra 16 cm2 in area, and this should be compared to the blades total area of approximately 650 cm2.
Choosing the right blade design
I offer two types of blades among my Greenland paddles. Blade 1 which has two dihedral sides and Blade 2 which has one dihedral and one flat side.
Blade 2 gives you the option to choose from two distinct paddling experiences. The flat side provides extra power but requires a precise technique to prevent the blade fluttering whereas the dihedral side doesn’t provide as much power but is easier to use. Another benefit is by choosing a paddle with two different sides, it provides you with two gears and more flexibility.
This is an unnecessary complication for some, in particular those new to Greenland paddles, or those who know they don’t want to use the flat side of the blade, and for them I recommend Blade 1.
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.