19 July 2011

REVIEW: Northern Light Greenland paddle

I have been looking for a sectional traditional paddle for a while now. My attempt to create one was OK for a “spare” paddle that I would use in emergency but somehow that short coupling was not going to cut it for demanding situations: I would not use that paddle in the surf. Recently Paul from Northern Light offered me one of his three piece carbon fibre paddles and asked me if I wanted to review it.
I was interested in the concept of a paddle that breaks down into a shorter length that could easily be stowed onto the deck of my kayak since full length paddles just don’t fit that well.
I used to carry around a split Euro paddle but I would hate to use it: these days I find paddling with a EP just weird :-)

I had the opportunity to use the Northern Light Greenland paddle recently and I put in a few miles with it.
My initial concern was: is this 3 sections paddle going to be strong and wobble free?
The paddle assembled easily but with a firm feel. Just a bit of force is needed to insert the central loom section into the reinforced blades.
Northern Lights idea here is to have a paddle that would be functional even without fitting the fastener, when in a hurry.
There are however very nice stainless steel countersunk metalthreads that firmly hold the paddle together. A metric hex key tool (Allen key) is supplied with the paddle. A few short turns of the key secure the sections into a very solid one-piece paddle with no play.

I don’t have an accurate scale to weight the paddle but Pauls told me that the test paddle supplied was 898 grams. To me it felt just a bit heavier than the one piece balsa cored carbon skin Black Stick but lighter than my super strong beefy laminated Vanstix “battle stick” I use for surfing.
When Paul and I started writing I showed him a picture of Greg Schwarz's Black Stick and Paul wrote back that it was absolutely gorgeous but was concerned with the comparison. He wanted to stress that his paddles were designed for travel and abuse and while Greg's shiny paddles were stunning, he wanted something different. He knew comparisons were inevitable, but he said we were really talking apples to oranges as one was a one piece paddle and the other a three piece.
Northern Light sectional paddles emphasis is on strength (the blades are reinforced internally with carbon fiber and Kevlar making for a nice stiff but not too stiff paddle). Paul told me that he definitively wanted overkill on the blades to ensure they were strong and tough.
My sample paddle might not have the absolute perfect mirror shiny surface of the Black Stick but I find the finish on the Northern Light impressive. It has a slightly pearl look to it.
There are no rough/sharp edges to cut my hands on when sliding the paddle around in an extended position.
The edge of the blade is thin but not excessively; it sits nicely in the hand and doesn’t hurt when sculling.

I found the paddle very quiet. I purposely tried to induce vortices of air in a forward stroke without canting. When looked in profile, the surface of the blade does have a small concave running most of the length of the surface.
Maybe that little detail makes the paddle so easy to use?
The loom however is not typical. It is ovalized but has two distinct flat surfaces. I thought that the unusual shape would be a concern. I found the position of my hand on the shaft very agreeable, not unlike my Vanstix Aleut shaped shaft. I found that the thumb rested nicely on the flat surface.
The fasteners were out of the way of the hand position and only when I extended the paddle I could feel the small seam on the joint. I could barely notice it and did not annoy me.
Speaking of looms: I asked for one that would match my overall existing GPs length. The looms can be custom ordered to suit paddlers' dimensions. I believe a 90" paddle can be ordered, down to a minimum of 83". Now that's custom sizing :-)

Paul also supplied a very small “loom”. Actually it’s just an insert that holds the two blades together.
It took only a minute to remove the standard loom and replace it with the joiner. I now had a storm paddle.

Greg had a good rolling session with that short paddle and he liked it.
I am not sure if it was a slip of tongue but I might have heard him saying that the Northern Light felt very similar to his paddles, minus the loom :-)
Overall the carbon Greenland paddle felt very good.
There was no obligation on my part to keep the paddle if I didn’t like it but this one is not going back.
I am now interested in trying the Aleut paddle that Northern Light offers.
Next time I head out for a surf session I will take the Northern Light and see how it performs in the rough.



  1. I have been very happy with mine and look forward to taking it on a trip to the UK with me next month.

  2. How did you take that last photo?

    Was it with a fish eye? How do you keep the camera dry?

    Awesome photos! Oh yeah, loved the paddle info too.

  3. The camera has a wide angle lens and is in a waterproof case.

  4. gnarlydog what can I say? Beautiful work, beautiful location,... OK the models left a little to be desired but you can't have everything. :)

    Thank you for the review of our paddles. You have a reputation for being very frank and even blunt about equipment and I am very glad that you think our paddles are up to standards. Let us know about the surf session please!

    Paul at Northern Light Paddles

  5. Gnarlydog,

    Elver Paddles will be acting as the Northern Light Paddles Australian sole distributor. We are taking pre orders now for the August shippment. Drop me an email if your interested. The elverpaddles.com website will be updated soon with pricing details etc for the full range of NLP's.



  6. Just to update, pricing is now listed on http://www.elverpaddles.com/carbon_paddles.html


  7. Why is that with any half decent post of mine I get accused of commercialism and commissioned review?
    It happened with my video of the Zegul520, with the review of the Baidarka and now with this paddle?
    I read forums that say I was paid to write.
    The truth is I don't make any money from it.
    I do it for passion.
    I have however a high standard.
    If my post look professional it is because I take my time to photograph the subject and then have my text proofread by somebody with better English than myself. I don't usually settle for half ass work. Not perfection, just something that I try not to embarrass myself with.
    And if I don't like something I am sure my regular reader know that I call spade a spade.
    No kiss-ass, no blowing smoke up nobody's skirt

  8. All kidding aside Gnarlydog, your review has gone a long way to introducing us to the market and has generated quite a lot of interest, with our website being accessed by 38 countries and over thousands of hits on our pages. I am amazed that a major publication hasn't approached you to do independent unbiased reviews for them.


  9. Paul,
    thank you for your flattering comment.
    There is one thing that would not work with a "major publication": the independent unbiased bit.
    I usually don't get that feeling from a major publication. I never know if they really mean what they say or just want to please the manufacturer to create advertising revenue.
    If a publication doesn't say nice things about a product/service I am pretty sure they won't get advertising money from that company!?...
    Getting an unbiased opinion from owners of the product it's even harder.
    Only a very honest person will publicly admit that he/she purchased a lemon. They will just try to get rid of it and keep quiet so their lapse of judgement remains unnoticed :-)


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