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.