History of paddling

Difficult to say exactly but tradition of paddling is thousands years old. First people to build and use kayaks were inuit and aleut tribes in Greenland and Alaska. Kayaks were made by stretching animal skins over frames made of whalebone and whale- or seal-fat was used to waterproof the vessels. Kayaks were mostly meant for hunting sea-mammals but there were also larger boats (umiaqs) to carry entire family and their possession.  Over thousands of years, nordic tribes improved their equipment and skills to survive the harsh environment of those areas. Europeans started paddling only in early 1800-s, after learning it from the inuits who were brought to Europe.


Paddling terms in Kalaallisut (west-greenland language)

Qajaq [qɑˈjɑq]  - kayak. Only real greenland kayaks are called so. Other kayaks are often called qajariaq, meaning “like a qajaq”

Paatit [pæ:tit] – paddle. Also called pautik

Norsaq [norsak] – harpoon throwing board/stick


Traditional paddles

Traditional paddles were quite different compared to the modern big-bladed paddles. There is reason to believe, that the first kayak paddles were with leaf-shape blades. Over the time, paddles developed differently in different areas. In Greenland kayaks were used for hunting seals. Their equipment had to be as silent as possible to get close enough to seals to throw harpoon. They hunted mostly alone and capsizing was quite common. Since most of the inuits couldn't swim, they had to master rolling skills and their equipment had to support this. Aleut hunters worked as a team and chased down their prey. That is why their paddles are longer and with different blade shape which allows to make more powerful strokes. And since they were working in a group, rolling was not so essential for them.


Why should somebody use traditional paddle today?

Today, most of the people think that all modern things are a priori better than old ones. Often it is true but in matter of paddles, the aspects what ancient inuits and aleuts expected are quite the same we appreciate today. Traditional paddles are:

  • Very silent. Compared to euro-bladed paddles, traditional paddles generate  less splashes and water-dropping. Enjoy the silence!
  • Efficient and effective. In both greenland style paddling and -rolling, the goal is to get maximum results with minimum efforts. So you can paddle the same distance with the same speed but you create less noise and waste less energy.
  • Mild to your body. With traditional paddles, you make rather soft and mild moves. Over long distances, you spare significant amount of energy and there is less stress to your muscles and joints. Try and you feel the difference!
  • Best tools for rolling and sculling. There just isn't any better paddle to learn and improve rolling and sculling than traditional paddle.