Tag: euro paddle

Greenland Paddler Switches to Euro-the power of the darkside?

Greenland Paddler Switches to Euro-the power of the darkside?

Is the Euro Paddle the power of the Dark Side?

I am going to try using a euro paddle for some of my day trips and maybe even longer trips to see how I do. Is this the power of the darkside at work? I am not going to make any grand predictions. My experience with the towing demonstration at the WMCKA Symposium 2008 has shaken my belief that the two paddles are really equal in all things. I love using a Greenland style paddle. I love the simplicity, the natural ergonomic weight of it, the symmetry, and of course the natural buoyancy. I really enjoy working on the rolls, and all of my strokes with the traditional blade. But after three years kayak surfing, and using a white water blade, first a Double torque Lendal XTI 194cm, and now a Werner Sidekick 194cm straight shaft, I am finding I like the quick application of power the really big spoons provide. The Iggy and the Stooges Raw Power.


I will share one anecdote about one tight spot I was in about 3 years ago in a sea kayak that might demonstrate what the key differences are between the paddles. Jason Roon and I were out kayak surfing in long boats on Lake Michigan in summer in 2005. It was a rip roaring day with steep vertical faces. Wind was around 15-20 knots. Waves were 3-5 feet. I was surfing my Nigel Foster Silhouette using a home made western red cedar traditional paddle. Jason was in a P&H Sirius with a Lendal Kinetic Crank Shaft 210cm paddle. Near Deer Lick south of South Haven there is a small cove built out of truck tires and concrete pilings, rebar and a bunch of other lake refuse. As nasty as it sounds, this is an excellent place to surf because of the depth and the reflection waves. It’s a good play area. The only danger is getting caught on the inside because if you swim or get surfed in you are on the rebar and concrete.


Jason and I surfed in on the same wave but spread out by at least 50 yards. I surfed about twenty yards and pitchpoled my sea kayak. (There were no board surfers in sight and Jason was 50-60 yards away). I surfed in upside down the rest of the way, and then rolled up. I edged my kayak and turned around. In this process I managed to capsize again. I rolled up again. Now that I was pointed the right way. I tried to break out. The reflection waves and the pounding that cove was taking kept knocking me sideways and back. I was coming dangerously close to the concrete and rebar sticking into Lake Michigan. Each time I was ready to punch through I’d get knocked back and over again. I’d roll up each time and be forced to start over. Jason had already broken out, and was contemplating coming in to tow me out. Finally I started using a sliding stroke and used every ounce of strength I possessed to punch out.

In summary Jason and I are fairly equal in paddling skill and strength, but he managed to break out, where I was struggling. I think a bigger spoon blade might have allowed me to break out at least on the second try.

I have not really used a Euro blade to do any serious distances since about 2001. So I might be in for a real eye opener there. The traditional paddle is something I have likened to granny gear on a bicycle, high cadence, or high rotation of strokes with continual movement. The paddler does not have to lift their arms very high, and can sink the blade deep with minimal effort repeatedly. I think this is really the benefit of the paddle. You can go all day at high repetition with minimal effort.

I’ve been using a 85″ Superior Carbon Fiber for about three years now. I think it is a really excellent paddle. It is scary light, super stiff, and very buoyant. My only complaint is the sound of loose foam rattling around inside from my abuse of the paddle over three years on Lake Michigan and Superior.

I’ve selected a 205 cm Carbon Crank shaft Werner Ikelos for a trial run, it is the big spoon of Werner’s Touring Line and I hope to give it a spin in the near future to see if I can put it through it’s paces. I think the real test will be over distances if the higher angle stroke with more catch can be sustained.

I have not fallen out of love with traditional paddling by any means. But I have had more experience using both now that I have been surfing with one and touring with the other. I would like to give the euro paddle a try again on some longer trips and see which is right for me. Curiosity and continuous discovery are important. Questioning what you know, and what you believe are always good things. These questions lead you somewhere, and for me I think these questions like a lot of searches may only lead to more questions, but that’s ok. Being able to teach effectively with both I think is also crucial. Not having a bias may provide some of my guinea pigs with a little perspective.

Also I’ve been practicing all of my Greenland competition rolls with my surf paddle and I think it works pretty well. Storm rolls, reverse low brace, shotgun, and even spine rolls do work with the modern blade. Zero feather angle is really important.

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008-My Home is The Sea

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008-My Home is The Sea

WMCKA Sea Kayak Symposium 2008 My Home is the Sea

Every year I attend the WMCKA Sea Kayaking Symposium it takes me a few days to absorb the impact of what it means to me. It is easy to say this happened and that happened. It is also easy to say this is the one thing that it meant, to go for the grand recit. What is infinitely harder is to say what it meant in smaller terms that make up the big picture. For my part WMCKA means a lot to me, as it is a culmination of planning efforts and coordination with the Symposium Committee, the WMCKA governing board, and a governing of my own desires for a great symposium.

I’d been trying to get Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme to come to our symposium since about 2005. Finally this year it worked out for both parties. This alone made me very happy in my heart. We decided to plan an instructor update prior to Symposium. This event was very well attended by our instructor group.

Shawna and Leon suited up and got us all out on the water asking us to paddle across Duck Lake and turning upwind. Their approach was to allow us to find our own way. They asked us to find five ways to turn upwind and simply let us paddle. We all came back with about seven ways to paddle upwind. The objective here it seems was to give us an objective, and allow us to interact with our environment, and then come up with our own conclusions. Based on the level of skill and experience each person has, they will come up with a variety of ways to deal with the environment. Only after we had tried a few things did Shawna and Leon call us in to have us give our ideas about what worked and what didn’t. Then after we had told them what we thought, they finally gave us their input. It was a really interesting way to teach a class. They barely spoke and allowed all of us to teach ourselves, each other, and finally when all that was done they gave us some pointers.

Derrick and a lot of the instructors were very juiced up about the bracing and rolling progression Shawna and Leon were sharing. This progression starts in a low brace, then high brace, and finally rolling. It focuses on starting the paddler on their back. Shawna and Leon have been using it with a high success rate in Washington. I would love to see a video of this progression a couple more times.

One of the more interesting points of the instruction for me was a paddle power demonstration. Shawna and Leon had us pair up with another paddler and link in tail to tail with another paddler on a contact tow. One paddler would use a euro paddle, the other would use a wing paddle or a euro paddle. The objective was to see who would tow who with the different paddle. I was paired off with Alec Boyd Peshkin who is my size and of equal power and skill. We started out with my carbon fiber greenland paddle and his werner shuna. Invariably the euro paddle would quickly overpower the Greenland paddle. We switched back and forth with the same results. We then used an epic wing and the Greenland paddle. It was dead even on these two paddles, I was surprised by this. We then switched to the wing and the euro. Again the euro paddle started dragging the paddler with the wing around.

I’ve held a not very scientific or empirical bias that the Euro and the Greenland style paddle were pretty much the same under these conditions. But after this I am not convinced. Doug Van Doren and Steve Bailey experienced the same results. Though Steve Bailey is a very powerful paddler and much bigger than Doug. Food for thought!!

A few of us headed out to Lake Michigan to paddle in the wind and waves afterwards. My inguinal hernia let me know pretty quickly that it was too soon for this type of exertion. I was left in the dust within a few minutes. I managed to take a few pictures regardless.

This was the point of the weekend where my mental state went in the drink. As a person I am competitive, gregarious, and outgoing. I found it very hard to be the slowest man on the water. It was a knife like jab in my belly to be unable to lead the pack when there was wind and waves to be had. My greatest joy in life is to be flying down wave with the wind at my back. To watch others easily out pace me felt like a clumsy root canal from a sadistic dentist with no anesthetic. I find I am a very poor spectator.

Once on sight at the Symposium in my spectator status I observed that the energy and enthusiasm Shawna and Leon exerted was as palpable as the pollen in the air. They were the first to be suited up to paddle and often the very last off the water. They were omnipresent and engaged in a way I have not seen any other instructors behave. You could tell that they loved being on the water, loved kayaking. And this enthusiasm melted over to the instructors, and the participants.

They also participated in the rodeo, and I saw kindred spirits, (I love a rodeo) in their competitive fun loving nature in the races, rolling contest, and passion to be involved, in the thick of things. Leon may have been channeling my wounded spirit when he and two other racers tackled one another into the shallows. What more could one ask for besides a rugby style tackle in a drysuit?

My grand recit for the weekend was observing Shawna and Leon as a couple. They spent every moment happily in each other’s company. I can say with some authority that this is very rare. You rarely saw one without the other. This sort of affection and dedication was so genuine one could hardly not feel it’s contagious gravity. I found myself more calm, more open towards friends, Laura, and the symposium in general. It seems to be the sort of bond you only read about in books, or see in movies. And perhaps this is not unlike kayaking, where you only get out of it what you put into it. And if this is any indication, the relationship and their kayaking seemed to have an effortless grace. Meaning there has probably been a lot of hard work on both ends.

Their slide show presentation on the Queen Charlotte Islands or Haida Gwai was fantastic. This expedition took place on the inside and outside of this island group. The outside is right on the edge of the continental shelf. The unbroken Pacific Ocean has no barrier between swell generation and the islands. So the full force of the world’s largest ocean breaks on these islands. Justine Curgenven went with Shawna and Leon and filmed the trip, so look for it in the next installment of This is the Sea.

One of Leon’s opening statements about the trip has been firmly cemented in my mind.
“You will never have enough money, you will never have enough vacation time, you just have to go.” Too bad that is too big to get as a tattoo.

I actually had many many participants and beginner paddlers come up and tell me how great the presentation was. That was a first. It is further proof that the energy you give to something is very real and palpable.

I hope to be able to find someone, or somebody as dedicated, enthusiastic and as skilled as Shawna and Leon for next year. I know there are some folks I would like to ask to visit us on Big Blue Lake. Some small part wonders if this may have been the proverbial summit of our little symposium.

I will leave you with a song by Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy) that probably explains the energy we all feel about kayaking, instruction, and a life full of adventure, either small or big.

My Home Is the Sea-Bonnie Prince Billy Lyrics

I have often said
that I would like to be dead
in shark’s mouth

a woman swimming under
her warm breath sendin’ a thunder
on two parts south

and love is stripped and frayed
and duty is delayed
until next life

someone has my mind
holding yes so kind
it is my wife

and my home is the sea
my home is the sea
look not for me

my home is the sea
disaster flies upon me
and i sleep
we can see the house lights
colored from a distance
for a party as a dream

my tongue will into me
my arms unfold these seeds
cause im a strong man

and do not love my tummy
is round and firm and funny
and thats what i am

my home is the sea
my home is the sea

i am under your spell
you will have me i reckon
and the drowning this town
as a drowning i welcome

i know nothing and im over joyed
i know nothing and im over joyed
i know nothing and im over joyed

god gave you life and thought
now its ours to waste
i have the finest love
and the finest taste

see her when im home
i am home

you are home