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Size & Length Determination...

Inuit kayakers made their own paddles and naturally adjusted the dimensions to fit themselves. The traditional Greenland touring length equalled the arm span (fingertip to fingertip with the arms outstretched) plus the distance from elbow to fingertip (Heath 1986&1987). Sometimes this is stated as the height plus elbow to fingertip (in humans, the arm span approximates the height). The short storm paddle developed in South Greenland equalled only the arm span in length. These specifications result in a paddle length which enables the typical Greenland kayak to be propelled at its touring speed with a stroke rate of around 50 to 60 strokes per minute, which is optimum for maximum muscle energy efficiency.

A touring length paddle is not so well suited to use in a fast (sprinting) mode and this could be a disadvantage when chasing game. The Inuit solved this conflict by making the length slightly shorter, an arm span plus elbow to wrist, and using the paddle in a short sliding stroke mode for normal cruising. In this mode the paddle is slid about 150 mm from side to side, making it the equivalent of the touring length. When required for sprinting the grip was held firm (the paddle was not slid from side to side) and a faster stroke rate could be achieved consistent with optimum power efficiency contraction rates for human muscle. Modern European recreational needs are not the same, but this is a solution to a design conflict which may have an application in some contemporary circumstances.

Blade width is limited, of course, to what can be comfortably held between the thumb and fingers in order to make a sliding stroke possible.

Measurements; Inuit paddlers made their own paddles to suit their personal measurements. Since Windslicer paddles are hand made it is possible to adjust the critical dimensions to suit each individual kayaker. The measurements required are:

1. the arm span,

2. elbow to wrist,

3. elbow to fingertip,

4. distance between thumb roots - when the hands are allowed to hang naturally at the sides while wearing canoeing clothing. This should be about the same as the width of the shoulders.

5. The final measurements are the height and length of the space encircled when the tips of the first finger and thumb are touching. Some people have significantly larger hands than others and some, especially women paddlers, have smaller hands. These measurements determine the shaft handgrip dimensions. The shaft or loom grip should ‘fill’ the hand.

- from: Sea Blades: Fashion or Function? (2001) © Peter Lamont, Isle of Luing, Scotland.

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