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Greenland Paddles, Rock Gardens and Eskimo Rolls.

May 23, 2011

What an amazing weekend. If I thought last Sunday was a ground breaking paddle for me then this weekend just past was as equally exciting.

The Fat Paddler (Sean) tweeted me on Friday afternoon to see if I wanted to join him for a paddle Saturday morning. Always eager to meet new and interesting people who share a passion for paddling – I said yes and met him at 7am at the Spit Bridge the following morning.

While we were preparing to launch, Sean (TFP) handed me a helmet and said “want to borrow this? – just in case?”. Apparently a look of horror spread across my face as I muttered something back along the lines of “Why would I need that? What sort of paddle did you have in mind?”

Let me explain my apprehension. Sean is an aficionado of Rock Gardening. Rock Gardening is essentially the art of maneuvering your yak in amongst the rocky outcrops along the cliff bases and learning to read & time your entry & exit with the rhythmic motions of the sea. It includes activities like ‘running the gauntlet’ and performing ‘seal landings’. Of course this requires much patience, skill and a degree of courage. I was about to decline the offer until Sean backed up with something like “May as well have it just in case you want it – rather than want it and not have it”, with that sly grin of his. So we set out – me with the spare ‘Fat Paddler’ emblazed helmet strapped to my deck.

About 5 minutes out we began discussing his Greenland Paddle (GP). I always wondered how effective this could be. A GP looks much like a long thin stick. Upon closer inspection the tips flatten out, but all in all they look like long flat sticks. “A Greenland paddle is a paddle in the style of those traditionally used by the Inuit of Greenland. It is characterized by long, narrow, tapering blades and a relatively short loom, or shaft, that is typically one-quarter and no more than one-third the length of the paddle.” (pinched that off Google *grin*)
Anyway – Sean brought a spare one along and lent it to me.


This is almost identical to the one he lent me – you can get these in OZ from:

He explained that being considerably lighter than the regular paddle, and having as much surface area grabbing the water as a regular paddle, it makes for a lighter, easier experience. I also suspect that Sean enjoys the purity of paddling. He doesn’t use a rudder and wields the GP with considerable ease. I found the initial 10 minutes a little unsettling – given I was used to paddling with a feathered blade but I had to admit it was very light in comparison and after a while, I began to adapt to this new instrument and quite enjoyed it. Of course as our paddle progressed even further – I felt very comfortable with the GP and found it very versatile. I might have to consider buying one of these to take with me on the Hawksebury Classic.


The GP: A very smooth ride

Saturday the 21st of May was a glorious day in Sydney. The weather was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, very low wind, calm seas with a  gentle swell and simply a gorgeous way to take in the beauty of the cliff faces along Sydney’s North Harbour. As we approached Grotto Point that finger of land protruding out opposite Middle Head, Sean showed me one location where he likes to go Rock Gardening. He explained that the best way to get into it was to reverse your yak in amongst the rocks, and use your paddles to maintain position and ride out the incoming swells and outgoing wash.


Finding my way around the rocks

Given the gentle conditions (“gentle” being his word not mine), I strapped on the helmet and proceeded to follow him in. The swell picked up a bit and there were a few decent waves that rolled in and out while we bobbed about constantly working the GPs to maintain position. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun and not as scary in the mix as watching it from the outside. You quickly learn about the buoyancy of your yak in such conditions and develop better handling skills. And as the morning adventure unfolded, round to a small protected beach directly opposite Manly Cove, Sean and I backed ourselves against a few rocky outcrops. As I write this now,  I even recall “running the gauntlet”  with him, which was a thin river of water between a  long rock and the sea cliff wall. Now that was some exhilarating paddling !!


Sean & I in amongst the rock garden !!

Once at this small beach, we get out to stretch our legs and Sean proceeds to submerge himself in the icy cool water. Our conversation turns to me wanting to learn to Eskimo Roll and Sean suggests now is as good a time as any – so the next thing you know – I’m upside down in my yak extending arms, twisting hips, and snapping knees to right myself up !! He gave me some good instructions and out of about 6 to 8 attempts – at about my 3rd go, I managed to pull one complete roll off without assistance – all the while still wielding the GP!! I was laughing my ass off and Sean was yelling up a storm!! It was quite a thrill to roll around in my plastic Tsunami 165 which I had paddled in for 2 years but never pushed any boundaries in. I must say though, rolling uses muscles that don’t generally get a lot of action – so it tires you out quickly. I’m clearly going to need a lot more practice !!


Coming up - leen back, twist and snap that knee !!


Wow - that 'big kid' grin says it all 🙂

Our conversation on the return trip home was mostly about my wish to compete in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. Sean has done it twice and is signed up again this year. We talked about the commitment and that the real preparation was as much mental as physical. In fact – it’s easy to train for the physical – you just get out on the water and put in some distance. It’s much harder to prepare for the mental challenges that grip in the dead of night when your muscles ache, then the numbness sets in, the endless hours & distance that stand foreboding ahead, and by 3am your natural inclination is to sleep….. Hmmm…. ?? …. perhaps I should be grateful for this insight….. Do I have what it takes…..????

One thing is for certain – I have to get my own helmet !! I can’t continue looking like a fat-head version of Seargent Shultz from Hogans Heroes squeezed in a tiny helmet !! *grin*

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 12:51 pm

    Great article! Also glad you got to experience an Adanac GP paddle 😉

    • May 23, 2011 12:58 pm

      Hi Jill,
      I did indeed !! Sean was kind enough to lend me the Adanac for the rolling lesson. In fact, I visited your web-site this afternoon and admired your handy work. Absolutely beautiful creations 🙂

  2. Mel Hanley permalink
    May 24, 2011 4:05 am

    Great article and thanks for including the mention of Greenland Downunder. It’s great to see more and more people learning just how enjoyable the GP is. It is amazing how quickly and easily it gets you pushing your boundaries and having heaps of fun while doing it.
    Good luck with the Hawkesbury, I participated for the first time last year and will admit to being a little apprehensive about making the distance, turned out to be heaps of fun, loved every minute of it and have been eagerly waiting for the next one to come. See you at Windsor 🙂

  3. May 24, 2011 4:39 am

    Nice write up Mike. I’m glad you enjoyed it, sometimes you just need someone else to show you the fun that can be had in kayaks to appreciate how versatile they can be. Watching you go from nervous paddler to a grinning kid bouncing around off rocks in frothy waves was just sensational, and as for the roll – amazing! Ask around, you’ll find very few people pull one off on their first rolling session. I sense there may be a place for you on Team Fat Paddler if you want it… we like people that are willing to get amongst it and have fun. Looking forward to introducing you to more new things… perhaps a night paddle next? Cheers – FP

    • May 24, 2011 8:00 am

      Thanks Sean !! If it suits you and the rest of the lads – then I’d be thrilled to join the FP Team and paddle with you guys anywhere !!

      Looking forward to more adventures – A night paddle would be awesome 🙂


  4. Christopher permalink
    May 25, 2011 11:27 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the GP I swear by them now I have converted.
    I just got a Shred Ready helmet it worked great and feels good.
    Keep on paddling and blogging.

    • May 26, 2011 12:26 am

      G’day Christopher !!
      You’re a champion mate !! – appreciate the comments.
      I enjoy your Blog also and will be sure to drop a note there soon.
      I just bought a Werner paddle so the GP will have to be my next investment – but definelty on the list 🙂

  5. May 27, 2011 9:26 am

    Great blog, glad you enjoyed your time with the Fat Paddler!

    • May 27, 2011 10:11 am

      Thanks Andy !!
      Just visited your Blog also and will need some time to get through it – but it looks great !!
      Appreciate the comments,

  6. May 31, 2011 1:46 am

    Glad you enjoyed your fist taste of a GP. Sean certainly has a quiver!! Just thought I should let you know you can get _custom_ Australian made paddles from I make paddles in stock sizes and custom sizes for less than most of the imported varieties. Sean has one of my lighter weight ones from memory.
    Most now ae being laminated and lots of people are having hollow cored paddles made – these are lighweight but strong paddles.

    See you on the water!


    • May 31, 2011 6:28 am

      Thanks for your comments Tom.
      I’ll be sure to visit your site and keep you in mind….


  1. Fat Paddler | A Big Man's Kayak Adventure » An introduction to paddling fun, Fat Paddler styles

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