I began using a greenland paddle this summer, and started with an 85 inch Superior graphite paddle.
I love it. Outrageously light. Very strong. Shows no signs of significant wear despite heavy use so far. Feels great in the hand. Have not had problems with it being slippery-when-wet, as some others have mentioned.
To anyone who has not yet tried greenland paddling, but is thinking about it...I would strongly urge you to give it a try. I immediately found it to be a much more natural paddling motion (had been doing a high-angle style with a bent-shaft Werner Ikelos prior). I love its performance in high winds; it seems utterly unaffected by winds from any direction, even in mid-30-knot winds. The fact that the arms are kept relatively low and the body does not have to turn to the side as much (torso twist is "magnified" due to the hands being closer together) keeps one naturally more balanced. Using a canted-blade technique for forward paddling, and given the thin blades, one is able to convert to a low-brace instantaneously on the same side as a power stroke...while the dynamics of the canted stroke make needing to brace on the side opposite the power stroke unlikely. Rolling is a breeze. I have had no problems learning to surf kayak using one. In fact, the while somewhat lacking "power" in the surf, the GP has the advantage of being less likely to be disturbed by the wave you are trying to punch through, or being snatched out of your hands while capsized.
Simply a great method of paddling, and Superior's version is simply great as well. While many prefer the aesthetics of a wood paddle, I prefer the strength and lightness of their perfectly-symmetric carbon fiber. And though some claim less "feel" with carbonfiber vs. wood, I think that the stiffness of carbonfiber actually produces more true "feel". Furthermore, it is more efficient in transmitting your movements and power to the water.I've used the Superior carbon fiber GP for two years now. I love it in every way. The main advantage over a wood GP is its incredible toughness and durability. By now, I've screwed up and "braced" off of rocks any number of times, with nothing to show for it but superficial scratches. My impression is that it is a little bit more buoyant than a wood paddle of the same dimensions, and a little lighter (but haven't measured either).
I find the loom and blades just right for my hands (5' 11', large glove size). Unlike some others, I do not find the unmodified surface too slippery, but just right to allow normal paddling as well as easy sliding for extended paddle strokes. I do not wear gloves and have not had problems with blisters, including with many 20+ mile days and surfing, where I'm probably gripping it more tightly than usual. For me, the paddle design the Inuits came up with is the perfect tool for the kind of paddling I like (long open ocean trips), and the implementation in modern materials makes it even more perfect. The only disadvantage over a wood paddle is the cost of replacing it if you lose it. I've come close a couple of times while messing around in surf. It can be hard to see in the water if you lose it.Superior Carbon Fiber Greenland Paddle. It is very stiff and very buoyant, the blade width is probably just a hair wider than I like for my hand when I use a home carved paddle. It is as reported very light. I've put in quite a few miles with it so far and really like how the paddle reacts in the water to rudders and draws. I also think the sprint speed is a bit better with this paddle than say with a hand carved western red cedar paddle. It is really only slightly lighter than a light WRC paddle though.
The cons on this paddle are obvious, the carbon fiber is too slippery. My hand has slipped off a few times underwater when trying to roll. I've corrected this with paddle wax which makes the whole paddle tacky and sticky to the touch. I may also add some reflective tapes to the tips to make the black paddle stick out a bit more and also to protect the tips from the many rocks I am bound to find. I wish that superior could do a bit more for custom sizing, I understand it comes from a mold so it is limiting, but it would be nice to be able to get a slightly longer loom with out lengthening the over all paddle, and also to narrow the blade a bit for those of us with small hands. But nothing is perfect. I think my speed and acceleration with this paddle is better, but time will tell.I build wooden kayaks and have always carved greenland paddles to go with them. I had heard there was a carbon fiber one out there but overheard some some people talking about it and the didn't like it much. These were mostly wood paddle purists so I finally decided to see for myself. I bought the Superior Kayak Graphite Greenland touring paddle and the first thing I felt was the light weight. Long ago I owned carbon fiber euro paddles so I was familiar with the feel and knew it was more than strong enough, but it felt nice to experience it again, especially with a greenland style blade.
My first test I took it out on a windy choppy day and I had the fear that it would blow away if I set it down. Paddling with it was effortless. The first thing I noticed was it's ultra smooth surface glided through the water... almost too easily. It didn't feel like it had the same "grip" on the water the wooden one did. But then again it seemed I got two strokes in the same time as one for the wooden blade and had no trouble keeping up. Once the boat was up to speed that feeling lessened somewhat.
I tried rolling and the second thing I noticed was the it is more slippery that the wooden one (The purists scored another point). On an extended paddle roll it did slip a couple times surprising me but the buoyancy of the paddle made the roll seem effortless (there is that word again).
The third 'complaint' I had was that near the tip the blade gets thin and gripping it hurt my fingers a little. Maybe I had a death grip because it slipped but it felt much sharper than the wooden one which has a larger radius at the edge.
I loved the idea and feel of a carbon fiber paddle and I figured there must be some way to fix this. Ok, don't laugh, but I got a 1 inch roll of black marine grade non-skid tape they use on boat decks (I have used it on my fiberglass boat near the cockpit so my hands won't slip when I get out so I knew it would survive sticking under water). I put the tape along the length of the blade edges from just below the tip to under where my fingers grip. I also put a piece on each flat side of the loom leaving a clear area for my thumb (no blisters please).
Wow, what a difference! First it looks cool, like it belongs there (don't use white tape). Second, it no longer slipped. It grips as well if not better than the wooden one. That material actually does feel smooth when I slide my hand over it so it doesn't prevent a smooth transition to the extended paddle hold. Third the tape increased the radius near the tip just enough so it felt much more comfortable gripping it for the roll (or maybe it's because I no longer needed the death grip). 3rd it increased the 'grip' on the water quite a bit. Since the water flows over the edge of the blade as it passes through the water I hoped by making it less smooth the paddle would give me the feeling of more resistance which it does. I feel like I get much more acceleration on each stroke.
Bottom line, get one! I just sent away for a second paddle.There are some who might scoff at a carbon fiber Greenland paddle. They should be hand carved and made of wood shouldn't they? Let's be real modern carbon fiber over foam construction offers substantial weight and strength improvements over wood, and the precise, consistent, refined, blade profiles can only be approached by hand. The Superior Kayak carbon paddles are probably the highest performance Greenland style paddles you can buy or make.
The appearance of the paddles is striking. The surface is satin smooth with the black carbon fabric on full display through the clear binder. The surface is quite hard and scratch resistant. Mine shows only a few shallow scratches and no fiber damage after hundreds of miles and numerous surf launches and landings. I paddle the Northern California coast and have not been particularly gentle with it. The surface has excellent tactile properties and provides excellent grip when soaking wet. It is not tacky and slides smoothly, but responds with a reassuring squeak each time I tighten my grip.
The paddle shape is very similar to the paddle in the Chuck Holst web article and is, from what I understand, a pretty good example of a traditional paddle. The loom is a flattened oval 1-1/2 inches x 1-1/4 inches. The maximum blade width is 3-7/16 inches tapering smoothly to 1-3/4 inches just before the shoulders. The shoulder profile blends between the loom and the blade smoothly, and makes paddling very comfortable, and makes location and orientation fool proof. The blade profile is elliptical throughout, transitioning smoothly from about a 7:1 ratio near the tip to 1.25:1 ratio at the shoulder. Since this is a machine generated profile, it is identical all faces, and with the tough carbon fiber construction, it is not going to splinter and warp like wood. Consistent performance face to face and over time.
On the water, the paddle is great fun. The low mass means that it is easy to maneuver between various hand positions and strokes. The long narrow blades without joints mean remarkably low swing weight. The high paddle volume conspires to with the low mass to make the paddle seek the surface, so roll setup is a snap even in dark, murky, rough conditions.
In the hand the paddle feels excellent. The loom shape and the shoulder make long days paddling much more comfortable. In my euro-paddle days, I remember the pain at the base of my thumb and occasional numbness. These never occur now. The blade can be gripped anywhere along the length and not knowing the paddle orientation is impossible. The paddle has remarkable pull during the forward stroke. To a GP user this is not a surprise, but euro-paddlers who try it are consistently impressed. The paddle gives a consistently clean and nearly silent catches and releases with out any air following the paddle. 5 mph cruising is achieved with a comfortable cadence in my NDK Greenlander Pro. With a little practice, flutter is eliminated and an easy relaxed grip is encouraged.
While an efficient forward stroke is important, what makes a Greenland paddle attractive are the other functions it performs so well. The performance in winds is exceptional and wind on the paddle can largely be ignored. This is especially noticeable in gusty crosswinds where the wind tries to snatch a feathered euro-paddle from your hands and toss you to the water. It is also very good in kelp so prevalent here. The thin blade pushes in easily and the smooth profile means that if you extend your stroke slightly, it exits kelp free. The long blades go deep in the water with a proper stroke and make paddling is rough conditions secure.
The other properties are fairly well known. The sculling performance is tremendous. The blade shape creates good lift. The angle sets itself and the symmetry means that it works both directions equally well. A effortless roll can be performed with just a couple of extended sculling strokes. Extended sweeps make even strong tracking boats respond well in tight or difficult conditions. Extended rolls, chancy and frowned upon in the euro-paddle community, are easy, natural, and foolproof.
If you are extremely adverse to wet hands, these are probably not the paddle for you. There are no drip rings, but material sheds water almost instantly. Although, the deck/spray-skirt will get wet the bottom of your thumb is likely all that will get wet in calm conditions. Sliding strokes are quite wet however and when it is rough enough everything is wet. On the other hand, the well-defined shape makes paddling with gloves easy, an obvious requirement where the paddle evolved.
The weight strength and durability of the paddle are exceptional. I have heard of people carving wood paddles as light, but the cross-sections are diminutive and the strength is certainly suspect. The shape is highly refined and flawless. If you are thinking about a Greenland paddle you will not go wrong. As a final plus, Mark and Celeste Rogers are great to deal with and stand behind their product like no one I have ever dealt with. I can only give their paddles a 10.Just over 37 miles now with this paddle and here is the report. Weight: Boss! you gotta love composites for weight savings...weighed it at home to see truth in advertising and Sup.Kay.Inc is right on. Price: $300ish. Flutter: none! but I tilt the paddle as instructed by Greg Stamer to gain the extra 0.5mph with no added effort. Effort: Impressive, much shorter loom than the Betsie Bay which translates into more paddle and more power.
Rolls/Sculls/Braces: typically easy as expected with a Greenland style paddle.
The Unexpected: a funky/funny ringing noise when you tap the paddle against almost anything solid and this curious grating sound as it dips into the water. Negatives: Black is only color option is hard to find sometimes in camp! The loom is a bit big in diameter for me (but the composite grips surprisingly well considering a slick appearance). I can't consider the price a negative since I love to paddle and this is one of my fav. hobbies and that the paddle should last many many years with: Positives: no maintanence. Awesome power to weight ratio.
Compared to these other paddles I own: Betsie Bay---no comparison, in every catagory except for my personal grip size. Cricket---the Cricket is my choice over the composite for 90 percent of my paddling because of the fit and the simple beauty of it...also, hard pressed I would say that the shoulders on the Cricket are softer and a little more comfortable...and there is that allure of wood....if you are going Greenland go Cricket-Period! If you can afford another pre-manufactured GS (Greenland style) go with the Sup.Kay.Inc model which happens to be the only composite Greenland Style paddle on the market!