Let me start this review by saying I had no previous attachment to Greenland Paddles, other than the fact I thought they were curious objects d’art. I’d previously reviewed a “Greenland-inspired” BD Aloonaq which, although did alleviate paddling when tired, didn’t impress me enough to want to add it permanently to my arsenal. So to be honest I wasn’t expecting too much from a real Greenland paddle, and had already kayaked a 16km “warm-up” with my carbon euro paddle prior to this paddle test.
Sydney Harbour Kayaks have started carrying a range of locally-made Greenland Paddles by CohoKayaks, a supplier of wooden paddles and kayaks from the NSW Central Coast. From all reports, the various paddles are still undergoing development and improvement, although the Greenland Paddles seem to be at production level quality now.
On an asthetic level, these paddles really are beautiful. I believe some paddle fanatics who have seen these have discussed buying them just to put them up on the wall as art! Made from cedar, kiri and hardwood timbers, they are magnificently crafted and look & feel simply beautiful.
But I wasn’t here to admire the paddles’ beauty, I was here to see what these tradtional style of paddles felt like pushing a kayak through water. So I pushed off in my BD Nanook and commenced my review.
Firstly, the “stick” is quite different from a Euro paddle, and has different techniques for use. I’d read up on low-angle sliding styles and tried using this first. The paddle was almost effortless to use in this manner, and slowly built up enough running speed to get the kayak moving nicely through Middle Harbour.
At this stage I noticed the perfect oval-shaped grip and the lack of feathering. The paddle fit perfectly in my hand. Without feathering, there was no need for my usual right-hand paddle rotation, and this made the paddle extremely comfortable to use. It was almost TOO simple to use – it just felt, well, easy!
After ten or so minutes of low-angle paddling, I started to experiment with my own preferred style, a high-angle rotation stroke that, combined with my Euro paddle, creates a great deal of forward speed. To my amazement, the paddle suited this type of paddling perfectly, spearing almost vertically into the water with ease and forcing my kayak to jerk ahead through the water at speed! I thought these things were supposed to be slow??
And on top of that, the paddle is acoustic. Now no doubt this may be due to bad Greenland-paddle technique, but the sound of turbulance on the buried paddle-blade travels the length of the paddle, causing it to literally “sing”. Bad technique or not, and at the risk of soundling like a romantic prat, the magical sound of the paddle strokes is mesmerising.
The next test was to take the paddle into a nice easy rock garden and try some bracing and steering. Now whilst not quite as responsive on the steering as the big blade of my Euro paddle, for bracing purposes the paddle was great. In fact I was having so much fun zooming in and out of the rocks I didn’t noticed the curious recreational paddlers that had stopped to watch!
So next I thought I’d take the paddle for a 500m sprint across the Middle Harbour channel to a different rock garden I’d played in before. Again, this thing seemed to be easily pushing my kayak at similar speeds to my Euro. And not only did it seem as fast, it was effortless! I think I was starting to grin like a mad-man as I raced across the water, just from the amount on FUN I was having!
Now at this stage I needed to get back so I commenced the paddle back to Sydney Harbour Kayaks. At this point the wind came up and started blowing a brisk 15knots or so. This was going to be a real test of the un-feathered blades, because in this level of wind my Euro starts to get blown about a bit. But no, there was no impact from the wind on this paddle at all, it is simply incredible! I powered through the head winds enjoying the sensation of stabbing the paddle down into the water over and over again, awed by the sheer fun of the paddle.
Now I don’t know really if the paddle is slower than my Euro – that’s a comparison test for another day when I have a GPS onboard. What I do know is the paddle felt natural to use, that I had no trouble pushing myself along with it with ease, its warbling acoustic singing was beautiful, and that the paddle is a heap of fun. Add to that the incredible craftsmanship, and you have one hell of a paddle.
This paddle is for me the most exciting piece of paddle equipment I’ve come across in some time. I am now considering doing the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic with one, that’s how much it impressed me. Again, this is not because I have a special love of Greenland Paddles, it is just that it felt sensational for me to paddle with. And for me, that’s what really counts.
Here’s some more information on CohoKayak paddles/kayaks. I for one will be making one mine in the not-too-distant future. Cheers – FP