I have noticed over a few years that most kayak instructors I have seen teach paddle strokes and maneuvers to students the same way regardless of the type of paddle they are using.
I mean many instructors using European style paddles have no or very little experience with a Greenland paddle. Yet they say things like a paddle is a paddle and it's all done the same way.
I have to say that, although a Greenland paddle will work when used with the same techniques as a European paddle, you would not be enjoying some of the benefits of the Greenland paddle.
I took some training with an excellent instructor for a long time and I used a Greenland paddle exclusively at the time. I learned many maneuvers and a good forward stoke, etc. The instructor and some others who are not very familiar with Greenland style are not aware that there are technique differences.
I have found after learning European style with a Greenland paddle that taking lessons with Greenland mentors was an excellent way to see the differences. Some mentors have different styles but I have found huge differences in styles in the forward stoke as well as braces. You may be doing a high brace with the European paddle with hands in the normal high brace position falling in on your side.
With Greenland style a very effective method for doing the "high brace" is to fall in on your back and sweep to the back deck. This is also a safer position with much less risk of injury.
Likewise, a low brace with a European paddle is done so that the blade is flat on the water and turned forward as you recover. This too will work with a Greenland paddle but what the Euro paddling instructor could not tell you is that an option with the Greenland paddle is that instead of turning the blade forward, slide it across your lap. This utilizes the Greenland paddle design and creates lift and support in this method.
Another example might be with a forward stroke using the European paddle the blade will enter near the foot area and be removed around the hip. This area is the power area. With a Greenland paddle you may be taught to do the same if taught by a Euro style instructor. It would work and you will not know any better but there are alternatives.
Great power is also generated with the Greenland paddle with full entry closer to the hip area or a little forward of this and back. The other way works and is even taught by some and I don't dispute it, but some well-known mentors teach hip & back. I personally find incredible power in this stroke. If you are a Greenland paddler and learned from a European style instructor, you probably never heard about this forward stroke. The canting angle of the blade does make a difference. I am not going to go into this in this article but it is taught by Greenland mentors and many European paddling instructors are just not all tuned in to that.
The purpose of this writing is not meant to teach but more to express the point that if you have an interest in Greenland style paddling, it would be wise to seek out a Greenland style mentor. By transferring your European paddling skills over to a Greenland paddle you may miss out on many skills. The European paddlers teach what they know; they sometimes assume that what's good for one is good for the other. Many are simply not aware of the differences. There are many other differences and benefits that can remain undiscovered if not explored but I just wanted to share a sample in order to make the point that learning Greenland style is best served through a Greenland style mentor.
About The Author
ACA Instructor & BCU 3 Star Certified kayaker, Curt Gashlin is an enthusiastic member of the Mosquito Lagoon Paddlers based in East Central Florida as well as the Orlando chapter of the Tampa Bay Sea Kayakers . He's been kayaking since 2002.
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