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.