The new Aleutian paddle is a solid western red cedar, with an embedded layers of carbon that provides the paddle with significant strength and stability. The carbon lamination of this Aleutian paddle uses innovative material and processing science developments from the University laboratory.
Considering the length, aleutian paddles should be approximately 10cm (or 4 inches) longer than greeland paddles.
Aleutian paddle is traditional paddle, coming originally from Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Unlike greenland paddles, aleutian paddle has asymmetrical blades. One side of the blade (sometimes referred as sculling side) is almost flat and suits perfectly for sculling and rolling. The other side of the blade (power face) has a raised ridge running along the centerline of the blade. It helps to prevent the blade from chattering and allows to make more powerful strokes. Those two sides together give you a paddle, which is both quiet and powerful.
There is a stretch of islands in Alaska, between America and Russia, the Aleutian islands archipelago, which has notoriously violent weather and dangerous stormy waters that never freeze. Local hunters, the Unangan, had to manage some serious conditions so their need for a powerful paddle was evident. The Aleutian paddle is a similar “piece of wood” as the traditional greenland paddle, but with a trick.
What is an Aleutian paddle?
Aleutian paddle aka the Alaskan paddle is long and has asymmetrical blades with two distinct sides – the sculling side and the power side. The power side has a significant raised spine down the middle of the blade, which increases efficiency of the stroke. Traditionally, the Unangan hunters would use the sculling side for quiet paddling and power side for fast charging. This is a somewhat argued theory, but most are in agreement that the ridge side is indeed the power side and hunters used it for a fast ambush. Regarding technique, the low angle paddling with the Aleutian is of tremendous help in rough conditions yet easy going on your joints in any weather.
What is the difference from other Greenland paddles?
The Aleutian paddle is quite a bit longer than the Euro paddle or a Greenlander, about your hand’s length. The power side ridge in the middle of the blade removes the fluttering that you may experience with the traditional greenland paddle since the rib adjusts the angle naturally. It’s like having a 2in1 paddle – you have your smooth sculling side for rolling or easy going cruising but you can flip your paddle to power side back and get a serious kick to your strokes. The gentler workload and added power from the ridge make the Aleutian out to be your best possible cruising paddle.
Why should I have one?
I’d say you can get about the same out of an Aleutian as the Euro paddle, since you are working at a much lower angle and the blades go deep in the water, this means you make a strong headway whilst putting much less strain on your shoulders compared to the Euro blade.
Last but not least, it is simply a wonderful feeling to hold such time-tested, traditional and beautiful craftsmanship in your hands.
There is no side to choose between the Euro blade and the Greenland paddle – they each have pros and cons, so I won’t argue the supremacy of either, rather just highlight the ways in which the Greenlander has enriched my paddling experience and for sure will level up yours!
The Greenland paddle is a natural piece of time-hewn wisdom, it is equipment that has been improved and perfected over thousands of years and you feel all that flow when paddling traditionally. It’s a whole new sensation that, funnily enough, may throw you off the first couple of tries because it requires a bit of mastering to sincerely be enjoyable, but once you achieve that, with not too much effort, you know you are hooked to the natural vibe of a traditional paddle for life.
Going on the water, I always bring both. There is a time and place for each and for me, I like to start out to sea with my Euro blade and swap paddles half way through, especially on longer trips, because the Greenlander is so fluent and swift that it asks little to no effort from your joints, plus being so compact and light it is a nice back-up to have on your deck. It is interesting and very liberating to swap technique mid-trip, as going from the Euro blade to a Greenland paddle, where your paddling becomes more fast paced but lighter, allows you to rest and recuperate to last long trips so it’s kind of a must-have for lengthy sea kayak trips.
Rolling and sculling – there is no match for a Greenland paddle. The freedom and variety you can have rolling your kayak with a wooden paddle is amazing. The pure buoyancy of the Greenlander helps to make sense of rolling, not to mention it makes the whole thing easier, because the paddle’s shape always tells you for sure, how it’s positioned so learning to roll is a very natural process, using the Greenlander.
Greenland paddling technique differs from Euro blade and the easiest way to learn it is simply to go with the flow. It won’t allow you to make the wrong moves as you feel it right away, the dithering of the blade. Just sense the movement of the paddle …and maybe also watch some videos on YouTube – there are plenty. The paddling options a Greenlander gives you are vast, because the shape of the paddle allows you to effortlessly shift your hands on the paddle to allow power strokes and smooth turning.
Last but not least – the Greenland paddle just looks super sweet! There are so many options and variations out there, which means you have the freedom to find the one that is right for you. The Greenland paddle, besides being enjoyable and eerily quiet, is significant and has a history of it’s own, which is something you can truly appreciate.
For many centuries, Greenland was essentially a land of kayakers. The seal was the mainstay of the Inuit economy, and the kayak was a silent mean for catching it. A man was judged primarily according to hunting ability and skill as a kayaker. Since swimming was not a common skill among inuits, rolling a kayak was essential to be successful and to return alive from the sea. Rolling’s origin in the cold waters of Greenland has been well documented as far back as the 1500’s, and presumably predated that by many centuries. A survey taken in 1911 showed that about 40% of Inuit hunters were able to roll their kayak.
Around 1920, the sea temperature along the coast of Greenland became warmer. Kayak hunting became less important and fishing in power boats increased. A whole generation grew up with almost no knowledge of kayaking and rolling.
Greenland kayaking renaissance
In 1980’s, the ancient Greenlandic kayaking and rolling skills were in serious danger of being lost forever. In fact many of the techniques were lost but to one man – Manasse Mathaeussen. In 1983, three ancient Greenland kayaks from the Netherlands were loaned to the Museum of Greenland at Nuuk. Some young Greenlanders saw these on exhibit and were impressed that their ancestors hundreds of years ago had such sleek crafts and the skill to use them. These young men then decided to form a qajaq (kayak) club in order to preserve their kayaking heritage. Thankfully the club was able to bring together the veteran seal catchers with an eager band of students and the knowledge was passed on to a new generation. The following years, qajaq clubs were established in the main population centers of Greenland. The Qaannat Kattuffiat (the Greenland Kayaking Association) was soon formed -it is an organization dedicated to keeping the traditional kayaking skills alive. These skills include rolling, paddling techniques, kayak building, tuilik making and other aspects of the Greenland kayaking culture. Today, Qaannat Kattuffiat has around 25 member clubs, 3 of them from outside of Greenland (Denmark, USA and Japan).
Among other activities, Qaannat Kattuffiat holds the annual Greenland Championship. Paddlers from member clubs come together to one designated club and compete in paddling, harpoon throwing, rolling and rope gymnastics. The competition was and is very much a team based event where the clubs compete collectively as a community. Though there are individual awards the club spirit and collaboration feature prominently in the event.
Since the inception of the Greenland Kayaking Championship many foreign paddlers have also attended the the championships to test their skills and compare. Competitive rolling, working through the published list of competition rolls is considered by some a badge of honor, and going to Greenland to compete is the pinnacle of that passion.
There are many ways to compete in Greenland rolling, competitions could be based on speed i.e. how many rolls are completed in e.g. 20 seconds or be based on endurance i.e. how many rolls are completed in a row. However the most common way is to use the same rules as for Greenland Championship. The score-sheet (see below) includes 35 different techniques, 33 of them are actual rolls and two additional disciplines are paddling upside down and the walrus pull. The list begins with easier rolls and ends up with the more complicated ones. Most of the rolls in this list have historical background. Each roll was developed to deal with certain conditions. Competition has helped to ensure that these traditional paddling skills stay alive. But it has also resulted many rolling developments like the forward finishing brick roll and the straight jacket roll which evolved from highly skilled competitors inventing new challenges.
Each roll is performed to the left and the right side of the kayak. Contestant will receive two scores („Left“ and „Right“ columns on the score sheet) for each roll. If the roll is performed on first try and there are no technical faults, the contestant will get a score which is written into sub-column „More“. If the contestant needs second try and/or there are technical faults, the contestant will get the score written in sub-column „Less“. As there are 33 different rolls, which should be performed to both sides, then the paddler should make 66 successful rolls to reach the perfect score!
Jersey, the island of the tides, is a remarkable sea kayaking destination. Don’t confuse ‘old’ Jersey with it’s American namesake New Jersey. The island lies in the western part of the English Channel. It’s not part of England and has it’s own government or, as the islanders like to point out, it’s not quite British!
Though it appears to be only a small island sea kayakers quickly discover there is an enormous range of sea kayaking experiences around the coastline. From high cliffs, deep caves and rock gardens to gentle coastal trips through the largest rocky intertidal area in Europe. Mess up your tide times and a gentle paddle can become a 2km walk as you drag your kayak across what some people call a lunar-like landscape. For those paddlers who prefer to push their limits Jersey has tides of up to 12m, tide races off a few headlands and some excellent overfalls. Plus, a top-class west-facing surf beach where the next bit of land is Newfoundland across the Atlantic. There is even a few offshore paddles to Les Écréhous, Sark, Paternosters and Les Minquiers.
Jersey has a well-developed economy with good air and sea links, lots of hotels and restaurants, so any visit can be more than just a sea kayak trip.
Why do you have a range of kayaks and paddles?
When you run a sea kayak centre, our clients like the opportunity to use and thoroughly test kayaks and kit in a wide range of conditions.
I often meet sea kayakers who when asked about their reason for selecting a particular design of paddle give one of thee answers:
it was a special price
they’d read some good reviews
a friend had the same model, and they used it for a short time
the paddle was the same as the one they used on their first course
everyone in their club uses the same design.
All these approaches ignore that we are all different, just as the type of paddling we undertake varies. The paddle that may be great for one person may be inappropriate for another. Much depends on the way you paddle and your own needs. A few minutes testing a paddle on just one type of water or, ages spent trawling the internet for paddle reviews does not replace the need to get out paddling and then decide what paddle is best for you. Often, there may be a trade-off, but at least you will be able to explain with some clarity your reasons for selecting a specific paddle with a higher level of understanding. Furthermore, you need time and the chance to paddle in a range of conditions to decide what paddle design is best for you.
If you paddle with Jersey Kayak Adventures, you’ll find we have everything from Euro to Wing and Greenland style paddles in a range of lengths and blade areas. On a multi-day course or kayak trail, this means you get the chance to try a paddle for a reasonable time and to compare and contrast the merits of each design. Plus, when it’s not the shop or a friends paddle, you can really put the paddle under a bit of pressure in a range of conditions. One nice thing with the Greenland paddles is that they can take some rough handling, especially in rock gardens. We can even supply kayaks and paddle kit so you can fly to Jersey (fights from most UK national and many European airports) instead of spending many hours on the motorways of the UK and Europe.
For those who want to really understand and improve their forward paddling technique, we also offer coaching. You can even tune-up your skills using our “slider” paddle machine. The “slider” is designed by former world champion paddler Ivan Lawler who knows his stuff about good forward paddling technique. Many paddlers are surprised at just how much propulsive power is transferred from the lower body and feet. Or, as we like to say “kayaking is a leg sport, not an arm sport!”
There is, of course, many different manufacturers of Greenland paddle. I was drawn to selecting from the range of EastPole paddles a a result of the feel, care and strength of the design at an affordable price. It is therefore great to see people experimenting with a variety of designs in various sea conditions as they develop their understanding of the elegance of sea kayaking and paddle technique.
Whatever you do, don’t just follow the herd and use a particular brand or design of paddle. Experiment and explore what suits your own style of paddling. And, ensure you get some coaching, so you develop an excellent forward paddle technique!
Third tutorial explains how to do the Roto Roll. It’s the next step in the forward ending roll progression. The goal of this progression is to master the Siukkut Pallortillugu Masikkut aka the storm roll. It’s quite a tricky maneuver, but very funny and when you do it right the next step to the Siukkut Pallortillugu Masikkut is just peanuts. And by the way, when you manage to do it only with the inner arm, the Tallit paarlatsillugit paateqarluni masikkut(crossed armed storm roll) is included 😉 .
The second tutorial video explains how to perform the Kingumut Naatillugu aka Reverse Sweep Roll. It’s the second step in the forward ending roll progression, which bases on the Palluussineq from the first video. The goal of this progression is to master your Siukkut Pallortillugu Masikkut aka the storm roll and perhaps even other more difficult and fun forward ending rolls like Assamik Masikkut aka Hand-Storm Roll.
Name: Paul Schröder Age: 37
Locaton: Hamburg, Germany
Paddling and rolling: started 2016 and first roll: 2017
Practice: 1-2 times a week
Paddles: EastPole Nanook BoneEdge & EastPole Aleutian, 3 selfmade paddles (one regular built by youtube tutorial, one in a course from Thygesen’s ‘norwegian wood’, one spare paddle)
Kayak: Zegul Arrow Play MV
Paul Schröder: “I learned the rolls mostly by myself. I bought the two dvd’s with Dubside & Maligiac and tried to copy the movements. I took part in 3 or 4 rolling courses. The last was for one day with Dubside in summer 2019 in southern Norway.”
1. West Greenland (20th C.): L. 6’4-5/8″ x 2-3/8″
2. Koniagmiut: same as no. 2 above.
3. Nattilingmiut: L. 8’4-5/8″ x 4-1/2″
4. Norton Sound: same as no. 5 above.
5. Bering Straits: L. 65″ x 4″
6. Koryak hand-paddle (1 of 2 per kayak): L. 14-1/2″ x 4-7/8″
A. Kotzebue Sound: L. 93″x 4-7/16″
B. Aleutian: L. 85-3/4″x 3-9/16″
C. Aleutian: L. 99″x 3-7/16″
D. Bering Sea: L. 5’1″x 5-1/2″
E. King Island: L. 95-1/8″x 4-1/2″