Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Greenlandic Paddle

Mads with a paddle in the workshop
Part of my apprenticeship learning the traditional kayak with Anders  is spent learning to make and to use the paddles of these different traditions. The style from Greenland has been in my hands constantly. The paddle is thin, no longer than the "C" between your thumb and your second knuckle on your index finger.The paddle is usually about the length of your toes to the second knuckle of your extended arm above your head. Such a thin design throughout a long blade can be gripped anywhere so as to function like an easy extension of the arm when paddling, rolling, sculling or using it as a balance.

Getting the shape right
Many wonder, are the Greenlandic paddles (or Inuit paddles for that matter) too skinny to be fast and effective.In truth, the were made skinny for a reason, not for lack of enough wood. Ergonomically, the Greenlandic style paddle is better for ones body than the large, shoulder intensive paddles you see many modern sea kayak paddlers using. With a long blade, the force of the stroke is spread throughout evenly, using ones entire body.
Spokeshaving the blade
The form of the paddle is simple, but in woodworking, as in making anything, simple is often the hardest. For a perfect paddle, Anders is constantly looking for symmetry and strength. Our spruce blanks are quite fun  to work using hand tools into something uniform and organic. After paddling often with the Greenlandic paddle a certain rhythm can be found. The uniformity from the paddle shape and the way you use it is a lesson in a constant, whole, pace. Its a type of paddling less focused on speed and more focused on movement.

Knifing the shaft and shoulders

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