05 January 2012

REVIEW: Northern Light Aleut carbon sectional paddle

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.

Surfing Kadzait_2_r

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.

Aleut concave_gdn
"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.

Aleut joiner_gdn

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.



  1. Very nice review, looking forward to try it one day :)

  2. I had one of the first Northern Light APs and therefore have used it for about 9 months. It has turned into my main paddle, especially for textured water. Interestingly, for me the power face is the flat side. Also, I can tell very little difference in rolling and sculling between the Northern Light GP and AP. I prefer the Norther Light paddles over others for rolling due to buoyancy and the great indexing provided by the shape of the loom and shoulders. Overall, I have a great deal of confidence paddling with the NLP Aleutian paddle and for now at least paddle with it 90% of the time.
    North Carolina, USA

  3. Good review and I agree with the comments having paddled with both now for 6 months.

  4. So, if you are a ambassador, does this mean you are paid for writing this article? It does sound very much like advertorial to me. Just wondering if you hand back the paddles after your 'review' is done?
    Mike B
    Stoke (UK)

  5. Mike, being an ambassador for NLP means that I am a sponsored paddler that has received a number of paddles to use and test.
    Paul does not pay me for my reviews nor has anybody else to date. I want to keep Gnarlydog News commercial free however I do accept gear that I PERSONALLY like and use. I have reviewed gear that I have personally purchase as well as gear that has been submitted for testing.
    I have a commercial relationship with my sponsors by providing them with feedback, suggestions on improving the product and photographs/videos.
    However I have politely declined offers from some manufacturers that asked me to review their product and that didn't fit my style or philosophy. Yes, I am picky but I don't like to blow smoke up somebody's (paddling) skirt if the product does not meet my criteria. The schwag I get from manufacturers like NLP s a bonus, not a way of making money.
    Also I will NOT write a favourable review if I don't believe in the product. If you read other articles on GDN you will notice that it ain't all good :-)

  6. “Mike”, just one thing: are you currently visiting our shores? You say you are from UK but somebody tells me that you have posted your query from Sydney? What gives? Something smells like you trying to debunk me. Mark, try harder next time :-)

  7. Gnarlydog, this should really be clear when you make these product reviews, otherwise it does seem deceptive. Credit to you for mentioning your commercial agreement in this instance, but it would be better if it was clear at the start.

  8. Ian in my previous post (19JUL) where I review the NLP Greenland I say: "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 believed that there was enough disclosure there. Regular readers of GnarlydogNews know where I stand. Apologies if I was not transparent enough here but the "ambassador" thing is a give away that yes I have some free paddles for you to try.
    Anytime you are in the area you are welcome to try the NLP Aleut and the Greenland.

  9. Even so, just saying you are an ambassador does not make clear the commercial relationship. I think you are being naive to suggest this is an activity borne of pure altruism don't you think? This is not necessarily a criticism, just a suggestion if you wish to preserve your integrity as an independent voice.

  10. I don't know if it is even appropriate to bring this up but there is a reason that I sent my paddles to Damiano. He has a reputation for not being nice on equipment and for being brutally honest.
    That is what I was looking for. I can give you a list as long as my arm of people who have written asking to do a review on the paddle and have intimated a positive one if they could keep it.
    I wrote to Damiano not the other way around. I was the one who sat waiting and worrying as we had put our professional reputation on the line with someone who was a loose cannon. In other words who was not going to take anything other than the quality and merit of the equipment in his review.
    Why? Because I wanted the truth. I had to know that there were people out there who would be completely objective and honest in their opinions so that I could either improve the product or get the hell out of the way.

    And the same applies regarding our Ambassadors. Normally an Ambassador receives product for a greatly reduced rate or for free and the expectation is that they will demonstrate or make available the product for others to see and to try.There is also an expectation that they “soft sell” the product a bit. The diference between my ambassadors and others is quite distinct. I expect them to be product testers far more than “salesmen” I rely on them to tell me what they think is wrong with the paddles, what could be improved on, feedback from the shows and demos they go to and just general feelings about them. To date, because of the feedback I have received from the ambassadors, we have increased the carbon fiber at the tips. We introduced a layer of Kevlar around the edges so that the paddle if struck really hard might bend in a bit but hopefully not crack altogether. We eliminated stress risers in key areas after feedback, we have reinforced and improved the paddles. All based on feedback primarily from our Ambassadors. Is this worth a demo paddle? Hell yes.
    So before anyone starts slinging mud at My ambassadors, find out the facts before doing so. They are doing me a huge favor and are willing to put their reputations on the line because they believe in the product not because someone is giving them something for free.

  11. I should disclose that I am a friend of Paul's, however, I did buy my own NLP paddles. And, on one of our trips he gave me the bed where we were staying while he slept on the couch. I guess that could influence me to compromise my integrity, right?
    North Carolina, USA

  12. Wonderful back surf! :) It looks great to play in the sea where you shoot.

    Here on my island, there have been hurricanes and storms, has not been paddled for almost 6 weeks!! Waiting on a beautiful day when the sea is a bit normal:)) hope to get some good surf sea.

    Have a Happy New Year:)) Take care!

  13. Jill, I love the stunning images that you post on your blog and I have noticed a lot of angry seas lately. Good luck going out in those freezing waters. You are one though paddler!

  14. GD,

    Good to see you are active and still doing what you do so well..surfing!

    I have been primarily using Novorca Aleutian paddles the last few years - but am now working to get a NL Aleut in my hands due to a new job that requires I travel monthly to Seattle. I want a solid, affordable, and portable Aleut in my suitcase and this one comes in at a more affordable price than the competition.

    I just hope it is as rock solid and powerful as I am hearing so I can also use it with my surfski. (I hate full wing paddles)

    Scott L

  15. Damiano,

    Got my NL Aleut today - a used one and happy to beat the crap out of it as I already have a Novorca to baby and pamper. I was instantly taken with the NL Aleut "beefy feel" - this is not some ultra-light-look-at-my-pretty-shine - but a massive skinny stick that begs for rough paddling, surfing, and breaking big rocks into little rocks. ;-)

    I was a bit disappointed though that it didn't come with the short loom like the Greenland model as I would like it on my rear deck on days when it isn't my primary paddle. The other things I would like to add to this beast is one of the paddle grips so that I could also opt to use it as a single blade backup and a "nasaq" set of tips to minimize chipping.

    Anyway - good to finally have one in my hands and can't wait to take it out!

    Scott in CT

    1. I now wonder if a single blade with a long loom would work as a stand-up paddle?
      I think a special canoe handle for single blade paddling already exists...


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