Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

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Jonny Hightower
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Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Jonny Hightower »

I'm really fancying a Greenland paddle after trying out a mate's Gearlab Kalleq, albeit in a swimming pool. Obviously though, the Kalleq is pricey and something like an Anglesey Stick would be considerably cheaper. The thing I really liked about the Kalleq was that it was far more buoyant than I was expecting and since I've never tried a wooden paddle I was wondering how something like an Anglesey Stick would compare. Rolling with it was amazing. My Kalleq-owning friend hasn't used a wooden GP in a very long while and now he's too infatuated with his new stick to give a fair comparison, and there doesn't seem to be a lot online (including this forum) comparing CF GPs to wooden ones: it's mostly reviews comparing quite similarly-built paddles.

I'd be really grateful if anyone here can give a brief compare and contrast between GPs made of each material. The Gearlab Akiak is considerably more affordable than the Kalleq, so I would also very much welcome any comments from users of one of those too. Thank you!

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by mcgruff »

One nice thing about a wooden paddle is that it should be fairly easy to make your own.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Chris Bolton »

I've paddled with both. The carbon version was lighter, but I don't think the weight difference would make much difference to the effective buoyancy. The thickness, etc, were similar.

Jon352
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Jon352 »

I’m no expert, but here are some observations from my own experience.

I bought my first stick because I wanted to have a go at some of the Greenland rolls I had seen on Youtube and other internet sites. At the time - mid 2012 - there weren't many sticks advertised anywhere on line, but I found Chris Pease at Cornwall Custom Kayaks and he made me my first paddle. I used it in the pool to start on the learning process and not long after also started using it for river and sea touring and quickly came to prefer it to my old euro paddles. It's still going strong.

At the 2013 Scottish Sea Kayak Symposium I spent a day with Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry learning Greenland non-rolling paddling techniques, during which I had the opportunity to try a variety of sticks, including carbon fibre ones. The Novorca Razor was superb, but when I looked into acquiring one they were no longer available, so I did some online research and found Gearlab.

My first carbon stick was a Gearlab Oyashio, followed by an Akiak and a Kayakid. I used the Oyashio a lot in the pool for rolling practice, and as your friend noticed, the greater buoyancy does make some manoeuvres easier to achieve for a novice. What I found though, when alternating between carbon and wooden sticks in the pool, is that the added buoyancy just helps to mask poor technique. As I progressed in my learning, aided by various videos, I realised that when you get the optimum relationship between body and boat movements you don’t actually need a paddle at all, so it’s irrelevant whether it is carbon or wood. See Helen Wilson’s invisible paddle demonstrations. If you aim for an invisible paddle roll and you don’t quite get the technique right, having a paddle in your hands means you can use it for the extra help you need to get the move done.

My Gearlab Oyashio and Akiak paddles are different lengths, and I think that has more effect on feel than the difference in shape. I haven’t tried a Kalleq yet, and won’t be buying one without trying one first, simply because I have enough paddles at the moment and can’t justify the cost. I don’t think you would be disappointed with an Akiak.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by charleston14 »

Take a look at the Greenland inspired kayaking page on Facebook. You will get loads of advice there.

It really just depends on what you’re willing to spend.

A chap recently posted on Facebook about how he made a gp out of a 2x4 from b&q ..it would’ve cost peanuts.

It looked a wee bit knotty in places to me; typically better to cut a blank from a large knot free board rather than a smaller plank that came from a smaller tree..but if it works..result!

A western red cedar blank bought online is probably going to cost around £130 ..less at a local sawmill.. if they sell it. but for a first attempt some folks use plain old construction timber, or you can make a laminated paddle (glued up strips). What’s important if you make one from a single piece of wood is grain orientation, lack of knots and grain that doesn’t run out of the board.

Making a gp isn’t difficult, needs only basic tools, and comes with huge satisfaction. Some good YouTube vids. Brian Schultz of cape falcon kayaks, has a great free video tutorial on how to do it well, on his website Personally I’d prefer oiled wood paddles as if it snaps it becomes compost eventually. Carbon fibre does not..ever.

I recently handled several wooden gps and carbon ones at an event .. were all very light, the carbon ones seemed a shade stiffer

eskapist
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by eskapist »

charleston14 wrote:
Fri Jan 03, 2020 9:43 pm


A chap recently posted on Facebook about how he made a gp out of a 2x4 from b&q ..it would’ve cost peanuts.


A western red cedar blank bought online is probably going to cost around £130 ..less at a local sawmill.. if they sell it. but for a first attempt some folks use plain old construction timber, or you can make a laminated paddle (glued up strips). What’s important if you make one from a single piece of wood is grain orientation, lack of knots and grain that doesn’t run out of the board.

Making a gp isn’t difficult, needs only basic tools, and comes with huge satisfaction. Some good YouTube vids.
+ 1 for making your own gp, a picture attached of one of my boats and a GP built up with laminated strips. Here I've used various hardwood strips that I had leftover from other projects, but anyone can buy plain pine strips waterproof glue and wood oil from a DIY store and make one with nothing more than a handsaw, Stanley knife, surform and sandpaper, and it'll work just as well as any fancy hardwood.
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Beryl »

Agree with Charleston14. However, most timber yards will allow to select your timber and finding a knot free 12’ length of four be one planed is not difficult and costs about a tenner. Cut the length of your paddle then split the remainder lengthwise and laminate to main plank. With a handsaw, chisel and small plane you can fashion a perfectly good paddle. I’m just completing mine.
My first GP was fashioned out of a 10’ six be two sawn red cedar plank. Cost was £70.

Would like to try a carbon paddle as very fine edges could be crafted which may give improvements.
Growing old disgracefully

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Mac50L »

A few things about wooden GPs. If you make your own you are liable to end up making 1/2 a dozen or more. And a couple of storm paddles too.

Make sure the edges are nearly sharp, not shaving sharp but not blunt.

I prefer a rectangular loom. You hook your upper fingers round the top of the loom to pull, thumb is there to stop the paddle falling on the deck and lower hand, pushing with the base of the fingers. All this with open hands, no tight clutching grip as becomes necessary with a round Euro shaft and a tighter grip as conditions get rougher. With the GP the loose grip can stay the same.

Price to make, about $25 which would be about 12 pounds providing timber prices are similar to here. Use western red cedar for lightness. Epoxy to glue and linseed oil to finish it. See -

https://canterburyseakayak.wordpress.co ... -your-own/

Advantages of doing it this way - little wastage (repeat - little wastage), pieces can be glued in opposite directions to stiffen the paddle.

Making one from a 4"x2" you are going to throw away half the timber.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Yellerbelly »

I can only add that a WRC GP can have more spring and flex than a carbon fibre paddle. I switched to GPs because of shoulder problems and after buying a 2 piece carbon fibre one (made by a member of my club) my shoulders were feeling the added stiffness after a couple of hours. It has the advantage, being a 2 piece, that it stows on the front deck as a spare. A novice woodworker is unlikely to make a 2 piece wooden paddle first time.

I'm not into rolling anymore. Rather long distance low impact paddling.

. . . . Ben

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Ceegee »

Carbon gp's are very nice but a bit posy imo. I started into this with a home made WRC paddle which cost about £20 in materials (8' of carefully selected straight grain 4x2" WRC and tung oil) and about the same for a block plane, surform and spoke shave. I still have the paddle and tools after 10 years.

Since then I have bought a lovely Northern lights 3 piece carbon gp, which my daughter has, but I still have and use my original wood paddle. I would suggest you try the traditional route first before shelling out a few £00.

I agree with all other posters re WRC being more bespoke, flexible, better "feel" etc.
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by charleston14 »


Mac50L
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Mac50L »

charleston14 wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:28 am
It’s free

https://cape-falcon-kayak.thinkific.com ... and-paddle
Except we are back to a bulk of timber and throwing half of it away.

This is the classic video by Matt Johnson and no need to register to see it -


A time lapse version how to make one -


Complete instructions based on Chuck Holst's method -
https://www.instructables.com/id/Making ... ak-Paddle/

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by pugwash »

My logic told me that carbon was the way to go, as having a two piece paddle which I could put on the front deck as a spare if needed seemed like the way to go. Luckily I was able to spend a couple of days paddling with both carbon and wood and they are quite different. I found it really hard to choose. The carbon is absolutely rigid and bites the moment you lean into it, the wood has some give and is perhaps,more relaxing to paddle with. In the end I couldn’t make up my mind and purchased both. I still, love both and still can’t make up my mind which is better, I think neither, they are just different but both a really great fun and put a smile on my face in a way that euroblades now struggle to do. Try and get a demo together preferably paddling a decent distance and with someone who can tell you the basics of using this type of paddle, particularly as some people hate paddling with them even if they use them for rolling.
I nearly forgot to say, the wooden ones have a resin inert at either end that glows electric blue in the dark, clearly an essential feature for any paddle.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by SJD »

I have the same outlook as pugwash, I too have both wood and carbon and cannot decide which is preferred. I was lucky to buy both from a local shop that had them on closeout.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Jonny Hightower »

This is fantastic. Thank you all for your replies - they are very much appreciated.

There have been some very insightful points made here. My rolling technique is not great, mostly because long-term lower back pain limits my flexibility (though I'm not completely sure I'm not just using that as an excuse). It gets me up though. I've got Justine's "This is the Roll" DVD with Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry, and am quite jealous of your having had a day with them Jon. I did find the additional buoyancy gave me confidence to slow down the roll and work on improving my technique, but it was just 10 minutes in the pool.

That said, I also really like the idea of a paddle which is relaxing to use, so I'm not solely interested in buoyancy. My (straight) Werner Ikelos is a great paddle but not one that I could describe as relaxing. It has great power for getting out through surf, but at the end of a five or six hour paddle one wrist and sometimes a shoulder are giving me quite some grief, so I love the idea of a paddle that's easier on the body over distance.

It does look very satisfying to carve your own GP. The time lapse video especially is inspiring. My woodwork skills are very rudimentary - I can build sturdy sheds and kayak racks, but nothing requiring curves or indeed much finesse. I don't have much work space, and have minimal tools so if I go the wooden route, I'll pay someone competent to make one I think. However, the idea of a two-piece is also very appealing and I haven't see a wooden split yet.

I think as pugwash suggested I'll ask around locally and try to borrow one for a decent paddle. Love the idea of the glow-in-the-dark resin!

Eskapist: That's a lovely-looking boat and paddle. Kudos!

Cheers,
Jon

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by pugwash »

If you can wait that long Cheri is coming over to teach both rolling and paddling at a camp in Cornwall 29th to 31st May run by those nice people at How We Roll.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by PlymouthDamo »

Jonny Hightower wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 2:30 pm
However, the idea of a two-piece is also very appealing and I haven't see a wooden split yet.
An alternative to a 2-piece would be a storm paddle - i.e. a Greenland paddle with little or no 'loom' in the middle, knocking over a foot off the overall length. The advantage to them is you can easily stow them in one piece on your back deck using a couple of simple elastic fittings. This means you've got a spare paddle ready to deploy all the time. If ever you lose your main paddle and capsize (or in my case, your main paddle snaps due to a shameful cock-up when I made it) you can very easily grab the storm paddle from behind you and roll up with it. Paddling with them requires a sliding stroke - see YouTube - but it doesn't take long to develop to the point where you can use it as easily as your main.

Regarding Carbon Fibre v. wood. A factor which hasn't been mentioned so far is all the damage you'll do to your precious stick when you whack rocks etc. Every year or two I end up resanding my cedar paddles and applying more thickened epoxy to the tips. After a couple of coats of Tung Oil, they're good as new. I'd imagine a carbon stick would be looking very sorry for itself after I'd abused it for a year, and I doubt you could refurbish it so easily.

Woodworking skills aren't an issue either. The process just requires carefully measuring/marking straight lines on the plank of wood and then 'joining them up' using a block plane. All the artistic curves just appear from nowhere when you do the final sanding. It's more about precise measuring and marking than skill or craftsmanship.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Jon352 »

Quite a few of the responses above mention the usefulness of being able to stow two-part Greenland paddles on front or back decks, but in my experience it is quite practical and far more useful to have a complete paddle to hand. I have no trouble with a 220cm paddle on the front deck of any of my kayaks (NGK Explorer, Anas Acuta, Angmagssalik, Greenland T) and find it really good to be able to quickly change on the water. I have a Gearlab Kayakid paddle which is great for rock hopping and caving, less good for fast touring, so it's ideal to have it on the front deck and be able to swap over in seconds.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by dolomitistuart »

Hello,
Last year I used a GP for a few days of fantastic kayaking in the Broken Islands of the west coast of Vancouver Island. During the week I borrowed one of the guides GP. Initially it felt like a lollipop stick, no substance and very flexible. Within a couple of days though, it was like kayaking best kept secret, in plain sight.
I have now made one. I now want to make another, but two piece GP. I have read about Gearlabs Ferrule kit for two piece GPs but am having a problem finding one that is affordable. Gearlabs own website seems to steer you to places that don't list them. Is there an other option than buying direct and paying and paying prohibitive postage. Other than of course not having a two piece GP.

Regards Stuart

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by andypop »

Gearlab have appointed Mountain & Sea Guides at Applecross as their UK agents. They are still in the process of gearing up but may be able to help.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by dolomitistuart »

Hi Andy, thank you, I have emailed them, I can only hope!

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by sloegin »

Sea Kayak Oban have stock of the Inuksuk split Carbon Fibre Greenland paddle made by Kajak Sport of Finland. Douglas Wilcox has reviewed it and I'm sure could offer an independent view if he see's this.
North shore Ocean 17.6

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by spiderman »

Duckworks boat builders supply, (USA) sell excellent carbon fiber ferrules. I know of a dozen paddles made with them (two of them mine) and all have stood up to anything thrown at them.
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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by Mac50L »

PlymouthDamo wrote:
Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:35 pm
Regarding Carbon Fibre v. wood. A factor which hasn't been mentioned so far is all the damage you'll do to your precious stick when you whack rocks etc.
Whack rocks? I always whack rocks with my wooden paddle. Doesn't do the rocks much good and doesn't harm the paddles. The secret is to use kwila timber on the tips. Or bone as used to be used as ice has near the same effect as rocks.

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Re: Greenland Paddles: Carbon Fibre vs Wood

Post by PlymouthDamo »

Mac50L wrote:
Fri Jan 24, 2020 6:59 am
and doesn't harm the paddles.
I doubt anyone's going to believe that - your paddle is wood, not diamond - but yes, the point of my post was that wood (probably) beats carbon in terms of staying presentable throughout years of abuse. I've found that, for the blade tips, thickened epoxy copes well with hammering sharp granite etc for at least a year's use and is a doddle to replace when it finally chips. I'd be interested in trying a more traditional alternative, but it's been a matter of using what's available so far - someone nicked my last Narwhal tusk when I was bringing it home from London Bridge a few weeks ago.

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