Paul from Northern Light Paddles sent me a while ago a couple of Aleut sectional carbon paddles. He asked me to test them in the surf and report of my findings.
I have previously used the Aleut several times in flat seas with a maximum of a 1' wind waves but on NewYear’s Eve I took it to a familiar surfing place. Finally I had the opportunity to give the Aleut paddle a go in the rough water.
The waves were small but the tidal flow was still running in at a decent pace which made hard work to paddle out and catch a couple of good runners. I was in a new kayak and I was still finding the particular traits of that rather stable British boat which paddles very differently than my hard chined low volume Zegul520.
The Aleut feels different than my Greenland Northern Light paddle and also different than my Western Red Cedar Vanstix. At a close inspection I notice that “back side” is not really flat (there is a general consensus that the flat side of the paddle is the non power face, but nobody knows for sure how the Aleuts used to orient their paddles) . On the blade, closer to the loom, the surface is actually concave creating a gentle spoon. Not as drastic as on a true wing paddle the NLP Aleut does however favour a wing style motion to get the most efficient stroke.
"back side" of the blade
With a Greenland paddle I tend to cant the blade and create “lift” and a clean quiet stroke; with the NLP Aleut I don’t cant.
I tried paddling both sides: power face and back side; interestingly enough the paddle works both ways. With the ridged side as powerface the paddle feels stable with no flutter but I found that my stroke was not totally silent; I was introducing air in my catch. The paddle is easy to use, somehow easier than the GP if a beginner had to use it for the first time since no canting is required.
Paul suggested that I try also the backside as powerface.
Reluctantly I inverted the paddle assuming it will flutter similarly to my Vanstix (not designed to be paddled inverted). Initially the paddle felt a bit odd as it didn’t have the same gentle entry of a canted GP. I adjusted my stroke to a more square catch and pushed diagonally outwards, away from the hull. I didn’t measure my speed with a GPS (I am a low-tech paddler) but I am sure there was more resistance at the blade than with a GP. And there should be: the concave shape of the blade prevents water from “spilling” and anchors the blade firmly into the water. There is also more surface on that blade resulting in more power generated for the same stroke. If I maintained the same cadence as with a GP I felt that I was gaining more ground err.. water.
Theoretically this Aleut paddle would suit surfing better where powerful strokes are needed to quickly accelerate the kayak down the face of the wave.
I guess it worked. Watch the video:
select 360P if you have slow Internet connection
Otherwise the Aleut offered me the same amount of support that I like when bracing a broached kayak. Rolling was solid but I find that the GP sculls easier since it has finer edges and a lower cross-section profile. The Aleut is longer than my GP therefore presents more surface in the water. The loom is the same as on the GP (just longer): sectional, oval/squared-off and inserts into the blades in the same way utilizing stainless steel fasteners to secure the 3 sections.
Since the asymmetrical blade (from power face to back side) is also offset it acts as a cam in your hand. The power face sits easier in the hand and when the blade is inverted I had to grip the loom just a bit stronger. I find the shoulder transition between loom and blade gentle on the powerface side but when I use the paddle inverted it is more noticeable: the blade finishes more abruptly against my hand and the shoulder is sharper.
If I had to pick one paddle only I would prefer to own the GP as an all-round paddle and while I feel the Aleut offers more surface, it reminds more of a typical resistance of a Euro paddle.
I have been paddling traditional paddles for too long to be able to say with certainty that the Aleut would be an excellent transition paddle for somebody wanting to venture into the world of skinny paddles but fearing they lack power. For surf work maybe the Aleut could have an advantage but I honestly have to give it more time and testing before I can be sure of that.
I have been appointed as Australian East Coast ambassador for Northern Lights paddles. I have a selection of Greenland and Aleut sectional paddles to try. Feel free to contact me at gnarlydognews(at)gmail.com for a demo paddle.