Friday, March 16, 2012

Northern Lights Paddle!

(Article by Mark)
I've greatly enjoyed our paddling trips in Florida (see Babybel article) - it's fantastic to paddle someplace warm when your home waters are too frigid for fun (or safe) paddling! As a Greenland-style paddler, I have more problems with the cold than my spouse. Water trickling down a paddle without drip-rings means my hands are continually wet. Even the best gloves don't seem to work for more than an hour or so in freezing conditions.

So I look forward to cheating Mother Nature and paddling in the welcoming warmth of foreign waters. Except for one thing: Kayak rental places do not offer Greenland-style paddles! And at 7' 4” long, they don't fit well in planes or rental cars. The end result is that I end up having to paddle Euro-style which I find more tiring and less enjoyable.

But no more! After considerable research, including reading Gnarlydogs great review, I've recently purchased a Aleut-style carbon-fiber paddle from Northern Lights Paddle (NLP) that breaks down into 3 pieces for packing on a plane or in a rental car. Northern Lights offers two styles of break-down paddle: a traditional Greenland-style and the rather radical Aleut-style. I chose the Aleut-style because it is asymmetrical front to back (it has a convex side and a flat side). Ever since I tried a Wolfgang Brinck asymmetrical paddle at a traditional paddling workshop on Mount Desert Island I've been sold on asymmetrical paddles - and that's how I've been carving my own paddles.
I contacted Paul at NLP by phone, after my initial email got no response (communications have been a bit problematic). He was very helpful in helping me select and order my paddle. It showed up after a couple of weeks and I immediately put it together. It comes with two blades, a central loom piece, a paddle bag, an allen (hex) wrench and four small fasteners. It only takes two fasteners to hold the paddle together so you have two spares - which is a good thing as I can see them getting lost pretty easily. I almost lost one in the living room rug when my fingers fumbled it – if it had been outside in the grass, it probably would be gone for good. Next, out to my workshop to locate a spare hex wrench- this one I bent into a loop so that I could tie it on to the emergency bag.
I've had the paddle in the water a couple of times now (just on the relatively tame waters of the Penobscot until I get used to it) and it's pretty slick. It took me a little while to adjust to the shoulders on the paddle as I've paddled unshouldered for the last few years – however, just like riding a bicycle, it came back to me. I found the carbon-fiber surface to be nicely textured and not overly slippery, both with gloves and without. The paddle is very buoyant and sculls just fine. Extended strokes and sliding strokes worked well too – although the blade is pretty wide and might be a bit much for people with smaller hands. Consider the NLP Greenland-style if that's a concern to you, as it is a bit narrower.

While you can paddle the Aleut paddle with either side as the power face, I find having the more traditional convex side facing me to be my preferred orientation. The weight balance just feels more natural. Paddling with the flat side (actually, slightly concave) facing me, I did find it more like a Euro paddle, with a more positive paddle plant. However, the balance felt off to me, so I don't see myself using it in that orientation regularly. I'll keep it in mind for when I need a burst of power to push through an eddy-line or a wave.

Note that even when disassembled and bagged, the paddle is 36” long – longer than many rolling duffel bags. I've found mention of some 40” long duffel bags online – but I haven't tracked one down and purchased one yet. Maybe I'll get the plane tickets first!

1 comment:

  1. Great review of the Northern Light Paddles. It looks like a beautiful paddle. I also find it tricky to travel with a one piece Greenland paddle. They don't fit into smaller cars or SUVs, or luggage. And I hate tying my wooden GP up on the car rack. It must fit into the car. Like you, I can't stand rental paddles. If you don't like the paddle, it ruins the ride - or gives you a sore shoulder! Enjoy your new travel companion!