Eastpole Paddle test

10462874_722451724484299_1153354186761500752_nNot long after my recent article about my pursuit of my perfect Greenland paddle was published in Ocean Paddler Magazine, I was contacted by Eastpole Paddles, a Greenland paddle maker, to take a look at their paddles and give them feedback.
Eastpole Paddles are situated in the town of Miiduranna which is located on the south side of the Gulf of Finland at the Eastern end of the Baltic Sea. If they left the coast and paddled east they would reach Russia, north they reach Finland, west they would reach Sweden and behind them inland to the south is Latvia. With the Baltic Sea touching over 50% of the Estonian border it is only natural that this country is a hub of kayak activity.
One challenge with commenting on paddles, especially custom made paddles is that what you ask for, those things that you customize, greatly influence the paddle that you get. Obvious really isn’t it? Comparing my custom paddle with your custom paddle and expecting the similar result or experience is analogous to me trying on your tailored suit trousers and expecting them to fit well. So with that in mind I would like to make sure that I am clear that my comments only refer to the paddle I asked Eastpole to carve for me, if you ask for a different paddle you should expect a different experience.
Another truism of wooden paddle testing is that wood can be inconsistent. Part of the joy of paddling with wood is the uniqueness of each piece of timber. The uniqueness extends beyond simple aesthetics and impacts properties such as texture, flexibility and ruggedness. So as with all discussions of wooden paddles, my experiences relate to the pieces of wood Eastpole used to make my paddle, the wood used to make yours may vary from mine.
When I provided Eastpole with the specification for my custom paddle I provided them the follow directions: Length 86″, Max Blade Width 3.125″, Loom length 20″, Shoulder-less, solid western red cedar. I left the rest of the specification to their judgment.
With my obsession with Greenland style rolling it is inevitable that I test rolling with a paddle, but it is arguably far more important to test actual paddling with the paddle! To this end I tested the paddle as rigorously as my schedule would allow, I used it for two rolling demonstrations and took it on two paddling trips in variable conditions with winds gusting 20mph and waves up to 2 feet. I used the paddle in both my Tahe Greenland LC and my CNC Kayaks Shrike-R.
The paddle blades are fairly thin at their tip. I really like the performance of blade tip profile, it enters the water very cleanly and quietly. As I have found with most Greenland paddles, a thin blade requires canting to prevent flutter during use, but that is how I paddle, with a canted stroke so this paddle felt very natural to me.
The loom has a pine strip laminated longitudinally along its length. The pine serves two purposes, first it is a lovely looking branding decoration, secondly it added strength and rigidity to the paddle’s loom, partially I am sure through the use of epoxy, but also due to the grain directions. Update: Based upon information provided in the comments below it would seem that the epoxy lamination may not add to the rigidity, just the beauty of the paddle.
When accelerating using the paddle I felt considerable flex in the blade and shaft, combine this with the classic Greenland blade shape and this is a very gentle paddle on your body. The shape and flexibility really protect your shoulders from damage.
I was concerned that the flex might come at a cost of strength, so I was initially timid when rolling with the paddle. My concerns were unfounded and I found the paddle was able to withstand some vigorous rolling including some speed rolling practice using the continuous storm roll.
For sculling the blade could be kept flat on the water’s surface, no blade rotation was needed which makes it an extremely forgiving paddle to scull with.
The loom diameter is a bit too small for my hands I think it would have been more comfortable with a 3-4mm greater diameter, this dimension is obviously very dependent upon a person’s hands, this size works very well for my wife’s smaller hands. Being a custom paddle you get to set your own loom diameter, I simply didn’t ask for a specific one, I will know better in the future.
The paddle is very light, approximately 20 ounces, this made it a delight to use on longer distances where swing weight can increase fatigue.
Overall I found it to be an excellent paddle. The only change I would make to the paddle would be to increase the loom diameter as I mentioned earlier.
FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Declaration: Eastpole Paddles provided the paddle tested in this article free of charge.

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