Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paddle Project

Photo by Mark Sanders
Kayaking seems to be a very trendy thing.  And by that I don't mean that kayaking itself is cool and trendy.  I mean that there exist subcultures within the sport that seem to rise and fall in popularity.  There's always a 'latest' fad that people flock to.  Sometimes for good reason but like any trend there is often no good reason - people just follow others.  Everyone like to be in the popular group.  This happens with kayak brands, instructional techniques and paddling disciplines.  One such trend at the moment seems to be Greenland paddling.  Everyone seems to be discovering Greenland paddles and Greenland rolling.  Ironic that it is the 'new' trend since it is really where kayaking got its start.

I'm a purpose driven guy and I don't take to something just because it is new (or old).  Personally, I understand Greenland paddling, I appreciate its history and culture, but I don't see any benefit in using a Greenland stick for the paddling I do.  Same for the myriad of rolling techniques - I have never needed to roll with a stone in my hand or paddle behind my back. Nor do I plan to hunt any whales from my kayak in the near future...  But there are good reasons to use the skinny sticks and learn various rolls and I have several friends who are Greenland paddlers - and still my friends.  It's just not for me.  Though as trends go it's probably a good one.

That all being said, I have started to build a Greenland paddle.  To be honest, it's the woodworking project part that appealsd to me.  It's been a long time since I've actually made something myself (that wasn't made out of PVC).  So I've downloaded the directions, bought myself a beautiful piece of red cedar, a bunch of woodworking tools (all hand tools - no power for me), and I've even assembled a cadre of like minded souls to share the experience and hopefully some wisdom.  It's a good winter project and if nothing else I should end up with something pretty to hang over the mantle place.

Of course, I would never let building a paddle get in the way of actually paddling so I'm only working on my paddle one night a week after work.  The first week was just figuring out the measurements, the second assembling my work bench and drawing the lines to guide my cuts.  I've only completed the first cut now but the paddle has emerged from the 2x4 it was hiding in.  I'm not going to keep a meticulous photo record of the project since that kind of thing has been done by others, but I will throw up some pics now and then on my photo page and I'll report on the outcome when the thing is actually finished.  But it may take a while at my current rate.


  1. Bryant, I was skeptical of the greenland paddle fad. Last spring I picked one up and haven't put it down since (for sea kayaking that is). Good luck with your paddle carving project. Your one evening a week sounds like fun. If I was in the area, I would join you.

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing the photos of your paddle. Hmm...I think I'll go make another today too :)

    Cheers...Joe O'

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. another "trendy" paddler ?!?
    The waterways are polluted by posers with those silly wooden sticks.
    What, do they think they are better than others?
    So, is it so bad to be "trendy"? The only difference this time is that it's not an industry driven trend (I don't see any ads in paddling magazines for GPs) but more a discovery by discerning, often skilled, kayakers that want to broaden their horizon. You are right: it's not for everybody and certainly not for those that want to belong to the "popular" paddling groups.
    GPs are much more an individual thing and majority of GP paddlers make their own paddles.
    Maybe the sudden popularity is driven by individual thinkers that have discovered other ways of paddling than just high angle big blade. And once those individuals can demonstrate that GPs aren't just for show but have legitimate credentials in all conditions people start to notice.
    If you really want to be trendy you should consider an Aleut paddle :-)

  5. Joe - I doubt I'll ever be able to turn out paddles as fast as you. And certainly never as nice.

    Cate - I can't believe I haven't made it up to Mendo in, like, forever. Are you coming down with Jeff to the Golden Gate Symposium?

    Gnarlydog - I don't really want to be trendy. I just do what works for me. But as you point out, sometimes the two coincide.

  6. Looks like a nice piece of wood.