There is a stretch of islands in Alaska, between America and Russia, the Aleutian islands archipelago, which has notoriously violent weather and dangerous stormy waters that never freeze. Local hunters, the Unangan, had to manage some serious conditions so their need for a powerful paddle was evident. The Aleutian paddle is a similar “piece of wood” as the traditional greenland paddle, but with a trick.
What is an Aleutian paddle?
Aleutian paddle aka the Alaskan paddle is long and has asymmetrical blades with two distinct sides – the sculling side and the power side. The power side has a significant raised spine down the middle of the blade, which increases efficiency of the stroke. Traditionally, the Unangan hunters would use the sculling side for quiet paddling and power side for fast charging. This is a somewhat argued theory, but most are in agreement that the ridge side is indeed the power side and hunters used it for a fast ambush. Regarding technique, the low angle paddling with the Aleutian is of tremendous help in rough conditions yet easy going on your joints in any weather.
What is the difference from other Greenland paddles?
The Aleutian paddle is quite a bit longer than the Euro paddle or a Greenlander, about your hand’s length. The power side ridge in the middle of the blade removes the fluttering that you may experience with the traditional greenland paddle since the rib adjusts the angle naturally. It’s like having a 2in1 paddle – you have your smooth sculling side for rolling or easy going cruising but you can flip your paddle to power side back and get a serious kick to your strokes. The gentler workload and added power from the ridge make the Aleutian out to be your best possible cruising paddle.
Why should I have one?
I’d say you can get about the same out of an Aleutian as the Euro paddle, since you are working at a much lower angle and the blades go deep in the water, this means you make a strong headway whilst putting much less strain on your shoulders compared to the Euro blade.
Last but not least, it is simply a wonderful feeling to hold such time-tested, traditional and beautiful craftsmanship in your hands.