The Folly of Strange and Bizarrely Evangelical Fundamentalist Paddle Choices

Bugger, what paddle was I supposed to be using here? Damn evangelism!

Bugger, what paddle was I supposed to be using here? Damn evangelism!

I picked up the title of today’s post from the commercial blog of a local kayak retailer who was referencing “some people out there in (the) blog world”.  I couldn’t let such a brilliant piece of descriptive prose go without comment, so I thought I’d dissect it into its pieces using the most relevant definitions from various dictionaries at my disposal.

Folly: Lack of good sense; foolishness

Bizzare(ly): odd, extravagant, or eccentric in style or mode

Evangelical: marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause

Fundamentalist: strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles

So in essence this retailer is describing certain paddling writers as foolish eccentric zealots who strictly adhere to the basic idea of… their paddle preference.  It’s an interesting way to describe what other retailers might refer to as “loyal brand or product advocates”, a highly sought after group which brands usually nurture and support. But this is a blog about paddling, not marketing, so I’ll get back on topic!

I thought about the various paddling blogs I read, and then of those which involved Greenland paddle users. Here’s a few examples, all of which are by the above definition varying degrees of foolish, eccentric and zealous!

Gnarly Dog - does the seemingly impossible by surfing with a stick!

Gnarly Dog – does the seemingly impossible by surfing with a stick!

Up north we have Gnarlydognews which details the exploits of GnarlyDog, Tess, Vanilla, Greg and friends, all fans of Greenland and Aleut paddles, all great rollers (as to be expected), and apparently, pretty good surfers too.  They are clearly and unashamedly fans of traditional paddles, Greenland rolling styles and generally having fun. I’m not sure I’d call them foolish though, they seem to be doing ok with their choice of paddles in a range of conditions.

Helen heads out to the rock gardens of her northern Californian backyard

Helen Wilson heads out into the surf and rocks of her northern Californian backyard

Helen Wilson, widely known for her rolling DVD and classes, is pretty much a stick-only kinda gal. She’ll happily take any of her boats out to the incredible rocky coastline of north California, regardless of conditions, and have fun surfing and rock gardening. She’s so comfortable in the soup using a stick that she was recently invited to a Tsunami Ranger retreat where rumour has it she convinced some of their own members on how handy a Greenland paddle can be in rough conditions.®

Surfing the winter storm swell under the Winter sun

Surfing some storm swell with a stick. Clearly a zealot.

I had to include myself here. I love my Greenland paddles, I love the feel of the timber in my hand, or the slide of the stick as I adjust the position of it when bracing, or the incredible buoyancy when moving around in rough stuff. I love surfing with one, rock gardening with one, and cruising distances with one. I’ve even paddled ocean skis with a stick!

Are we really foolish fundamentalists, stuck in a by-gone era?

Despite the taunts of some in the paddling world, many other water-loving men and women choose to use a traditional paddle. Or a Euro. Or a wing. Or even a single-blade paddle. Just like different people like different boats, or different cars, or houses, or choice of retailer (haha!). Preference isn’t always about “best”, but rather about “best for me”. And those people may truly love using their own equipment, and write about it, express enthusiasm about it, or even try to share their passions with others. This doesn’t make them foolish or eccentric, it’s just a reflection of the diversity of humanity in general.

Does foolishness blind the evangelists to alternatives?

I love my sticks, but I don’t religiously use them as the title may suggest. I love playing amongst the rocks along the coast and increasingly on rivers as well, where depth of water underneath (or the lack of it) is proving to be a bigger issue for my traditional paddles.

Running the river in my Remix after plenty of rain equals plenty of fun!

What the?! Is that an eccentric stick fundamentalist using a *gasp* Euro paddle??

In fact, for coastal rock gardens I’m probably going to retire my Greenland sticks and my touring Euros in favour of a short, robust white water paddle instead, where lack of water depth and amount of bite in aerated water are addressed with its design. That’s right folks, you heard it here first – I will actually be using a non-GP from time to time!

Regardless of your own choices, don’t let the knockers bring you down, and likewise don’t join their game and knock others. Embrace diversity and people’s right to choose and remember – as long as you love your paddling, have fun and don’t hurt anyone, use whatever the hell you want. Cheers – FP

P.s. If anyone wants to get me a tshirt made with “Evangelical Fundamentalist Paddler” on it, I’d like it it XXXL – ha!

The Fat Paddler by Sean Smith