Really it isn’t fair to comment too much (yet) on using the new Lumpy Greenland Paddle; the lakes are frozen. There are, however, swimming pools, and it was in one such swimming pool at the Brooklyn Center Community Center that I was able to spend a couple of hours using the paddle to make an initial assessment.
The paddle is light; despite being made from a very tight grain old growth piece of Cedar. But it is not the paddle’s weight that you first notice when you take hold of it; it is the finish. The paddle is sanded to a silky smooth finish and then treated with Tung oil. The resulting finish is very reminiscent of a carbon paddle. Due to the Tung oil finish, water beads up on the paddle when removed from the water. One of the reasons I like shoulder-less paddles is the ease with which I can slide the paddle in my hands. A sliding stroke is used extensively to position the paddle correctly for many rolls and so being able to fluidly move the paddle is a desirable quality. The smooth finish of the paddle supported this technique well and I was able to quickly move the paddle between my hands as needed. The slight shoulders that Bill left at the ends of the loom did not appear to inhibit my hand movement in any way.
In the pool I was able to perform a few short sprints to see how the paddle performed during aggressive acceleration as well as at a sustained speed. I was also able to explore its turning properties. By choice my usual Novorca carbon paddles have very sharp blade edges and tips. This has led to me adopting a canted style of paddling, especially when accelerating, to prevent any blade flutter caused by turbulence. When using the Lumpy paddle I found it necessary to cant for the first 5 – 10 seconds of paddling aggressively otherwise fluttering manifested itself (especially when paddling on the right side of the kayak with my dominant arm). This is not a criticism of the paddle per se, just an acknowledgement that this paddle behaves similarly to the Novorca Razor during acceleration. Where the paddle did distinguish itself was during the later part of the catch (the initial portion of the stroke). The Lumpy paddle does not taper for the first 6 inches, and this creates a very consistent feel as the paddle enters the water. It also in theory creates a quicker increase in power than a tapered blade would, assuming they both have the same maximum width. I have yet to perform any rigorous tests but I would assume that the Lumpy paddle accelerates the kayak faster than my tapered cedar paddle.
The tip of the Lumpy paddle is rounded in profile. It is thicker than the sharp carbon blades I am accustomed to using. When it enters the water during the catch it does feel different, and the waves/turbulence created are different. I am sure over time I would be able to establish a preference for one or other of the blade styles but for now I can simply say they are different.
I took a photograph for comparison of the paddles I used. Going from Left to right; a shoulder-less Novorca Razor with relatively square tip, my classic work horse Novorca 86B with round tips, the Lumpy paddle, my Joe O Cedar Paddle. The photograph clearly illustrates a diverse set of tip styles. I suspect that the material choice influences what tips are practical, both from the ability to fashion the shape and also from the materials’ ability to retain the shape. Wear and tear takes a toll on wood physically, whereas carbon just seems to get scuffed up.
I recently started using a Novorca Razor, and one area where I found it performed differently from previous paddle designs was during sculling. The Razor has a pronounced diamond shape that extends a considerable distance down the blades. This results in a shape that sculls without any change in angle of attack as the blade’s leading edge is already rising when the blade is held horizontally. The Lumpy paddle also has a slight diamond shape, extending probably 50% of the blades length. As a result I found that sculling with the Lumpy paddle only required a small wrist rotation to ensure the appropriate climbing angle was achieved. This is normal, and due to years of using paddles that need to be rotated I felt very comfortable sculling with the Lumpy paddle.
The only other area where I felt a difference in the paddle’s performance was during turning. Given the softer tip shape and edges to the blade I found the turning affect to be more gradual and forgiving, especially when performing bow rudder or cross bow rudder. I allow the blade to enter the water parallel to the kayak then rotate the blade gently to begin turning. Using this approach with my Novorca blades is a bit like turning a switch on or off, and the turning begins very quickly. The Lumpy paddle more gently introduces turning motion. Clearly this is as a result of the edge profiles being different. There are many times amongst the rocks or racing around buoys when I have been grateful for the quick turn I can achieve with the Novorca paddle. I imagine though that for routine trips and long distances the Lumpy paddle will be a very comfortable and forgiving paddle to use.
When the thaw occurs in Minnesota this Spring I will take the Lumpy out for a real test and look forward to reporting how I feel after pushing the kayak along all day with it, which is after all the real test of any paddle. So far it feels like it will have a very special place in my collection.
Post Script Update: A response from Bill:
Thanks for the great review…! Yes, they are all different and you picked up on a good point of different materials as good cause for different choices. With Carbon you don’t have to worry so much about wear and tear whereas with WRC I have to make it a wee bit more robust as you see in the blade tips. More substantial than the Novorca while being more refined than the JoeO for a cleaner catch. I could make mine more like your Novorca but suspect it wouldn’t last long if abused, same with the blade edges.
“I have yet to perform any rigorous tests but I would assume that the Lumpy paddle accelerates the kayak faster than my tapered cedar paddle.”
Faster than your Novorca as well, assuming other measurements were identical…
I do all my paddles with the first part of the blade tip parallel as this is where the majority of the power comes from in a GP, so that the paddle will have more *potential* power, not just for quicker acceleration, but for a higher potential “top end” as well, depending on the strength of the paddler, plus it helps to tune down any potential flutter. With 95% or more of my customers being brand new to the skinny-stick, the biggest part of my “job” besides making a paddle (and email…) is to make sure that their first introduction to the skinny-stick is a positive one. Giving a paddle more potential power to eliminate doubts as to it’s potential power is one way I do this. Also, I’ve a personal bias towards power and my paddles tend to reflect that…
I suspect the little flutter you picked up on was simply due to using a different paddle. Happens often when I switch paddles with someone for the first few strokes till I get dialed in to the different paddle, then everything is well again… Euro blades flutter the very worst for me…! : )
“The only other area where I felt a difference in the paddles performance was during turning.”
Hmmmm… I suspect the kayak you were using may have had a bigger effect on turning than the paddle did as I believe you were using your newest SOF, the Kraken. It will be interesting to see if you have the same results after trying it in your Tahe… It’s my thought that the increased blade tip area should have an increased turning effect with bow-rudders etc vs a tapered tip like your other paddles…
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts once your local waters soften up a bit. As mentioned previously I’m way more of a paddler than a roller and I think my paddles reflect that. So hears looking forward to an early return of spring so you can spend some quality time actually paddling with your new Lumpy…