Greenland style paddles have been used for hunting for well over a thousand years by the Inuits, they are now becoming very popular throughout the world. We have shipped them from Monaco to Australia. The original paddles were developed for windy conditions on open icy waters of the arctic, the narrow double bladed paddles gave the natives the speed and stealth to catch their quarry and the power to bring it home.
Revived for today's kayaker, this paddle's narrow blades exerts little stress to elbows and shoulders. Proper technique is to hold the paddle low with the hands a body's width apart and the unfeathered blades swung in a small circular motion with the blade canted slightly forward. This small motion minimizes arm movement and wind resistance and is sustainable for many hours. It has been said that the Greenland paddler may be minutes behind their companion with a large spoon blade paddle, but they are not nearly as tired when the day is done.
There are two continuing controversies about Greenland style paddles. First the blade shape and then the finish.
All paddle makers swear by their blade shape, and all of them are right. The picture from the World Championships in Nuuk, Greenland(compliments of Mark Molina) shows that it is an issue their also. But to simplify the scenario a bit, in this country we have settled on three basic shapes. First is the tapered shoulder style as used on our INUIT, a sharp shouldered style, the final shape is a long tapering blade with no transition. I made several sharp shouldered paddles for Mark Molina which we called the Davis Strait Special but never developed a feel for it and have never made the long tapering blade style. According to John Heath who did research in Greenland in the 70's and 80's the tapered shoulder style is most prevalent. Today the non-shouldered style seems to be used by many competition paddlers to facilitate sliding strokes. Which is better? I think the picture from Nuuk is a good answer.
The true aficionados and home built paddle makers continually discuss finishes(see qujaq.com). They maintain that either no finish or a simple boiled linseed oil finish(whale oil?) is by far the best and only true finish. My research into finishes tells me that boiled linseed oil is the least water resistant finish available, and that the only good water resistant oil finish is Tung oil(gun stock oil). Unfortunately, it gets hard and gummy if too much is applied. If you're in to making your own paddles and want lots of practice then the linseed oil is probably the way to go as it sure does not provide much long term protection.
My solution is to use a dynel tip for durability with fiberglass protecting the blades as the lightweight cedar is just too soft to take the inevitable banging on rocks, boats and cars. Then the paddle gets two coats of epoxy and a minimum of 3 coats of varnish. Some of my 16 year old paddles are still out there so it must be working reasonably well.
The Technical Stuff
INUIT Our original Greenland style paddle, the INUIT, is designed to follow the lines that John Heath described in Sea kayaker Magazine about 20 years ago as the most common style of Greenland paddle found. I later had help from a George Ellis who passed away several years ago. He was a native paddle specialist from Florida who helped in refining our paddles and determining some standard sizes. He said they should all be custom sized, but I resisted. Well we're there now, lengths in the last two years have ranged from 78” to 90” with loom lengths from 18” to 24”. The most common lengths are 86” and 88” with loom lengths from 19” to 21”. Every now and then I might have a paddle in stock, but the last 84-19 I built for stock hung around for 4 months while a variety of others went out the door, so I settled on keeping pairs of glued up blanks around so they can quickly be made to size.. The standard width is now 3-1/2” instead of 3-3/4” as it is easier for most people to get their hand around the smaller blade. I have made them from 3-1/4” to 4-1/2” on request. The methods I've developed to create paddles makes custom building the norm rather than the exception. I normally take 3 weeks from time of order to delivery to your door.
Take-A-Part paddles are available also. I've made them for years on request, but shied away from advertising them as a couple of early ones broke when they were used incorrectly rolling. I then added a kevlar seam tape to the connection which strengthened it sufficiently and have had no reported failures for many years. I currently use a homemade kevlar seam tape to keep the joint smoother. The TAP joint is our standard black fiberglass system that I have used for years.
The STORM is a complementary spare paddle we have. It is 68” long with an 8” loom and the blades shaped like an INUIT, normally about 3-3/8” wide. It is commonly used as a spare, fastened to the front deck and used with sliding strokes or as a long single blade paddle. Again if you would like a slightly different length or blade width we can discuss it. 72” is the longest practical length.
One piece INUIT $240
Two piece INUIT $270
Shipping has been running in the $25 to $30 by UPS for one piece paddles and $15 for two piece.