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 I think it's entirely a personal thing. I prefer non shouldered  but shouldered seems to be a bit more common so I assume more peoples personal preference  is for  shouldered. I don't think should/non- shouldered should affect cant of the blade in any technical way, but serious greenland padders could better moment on that. 

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Gene, hello, old chap!  I do have this selfsame paddle (it isn't that new, mind) and, while I do love the paddle, it is <awfully> light -- <too> light, even; but I do love it, somehow.  

There is absolutely nothing to concern yourself with regarding its shoulder-less effects on your handling of it.  It feels perfectly normal in practice and the replaceable tips are an excellent idea.  I do prefer the lack of shoulders, by the way, any day.

Funny thing, though: I find myself reaching for a heavier wooden paddle more frequently...(more "bite" to it?)...this one is a shoulder-less Sawyer with kevlar tips, bought long ago from Joel Thomas (NESC) and, I believe, no longer in production.

I hope this helps in some way?

Edited by Pintail
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Shouldered or not is definitely a personal preference and I lean heavily toward the shouldered camp. I don't know your level of comfort with GPs, but I strongly recommend shouldered paddles to people new to GPs, as the shoulders make centering and canting the paddle easier. The shoulders provide positive stops for the thumbs and additional leverage to cant the blade. However, once one has learned GP technique, it's not a difficult transition to a shoulderless paddle; it just requires a bit of adaptation. With a shouldered paddle, the cant is controlled by pressure against the shoulder from the pads at the base of the fingers and happens pretty much automatically. I find that I have to wrap my hands around the shoulderless paddle more and use my finger tips to help control the cant angle. It's not a big deal, but it is different.

Many paddlers like the ease of sliding the paddle without shoulders and the paddles are typically a bit lighter, due to less wood in the blades. There is also a little less blade area, so if you want the same bite on the water, you may want to add an inch or so to the overall length compared to a shouldered paddle. If you're looking to reduce strain and/or increase your cadence, stick with the same length paddle.

Looking at the Gearlab site, they only have the shoulderless paddle in the shortest (205cm / 80.7") and longest (230cm / 90.5") size, neither of which is ideal for an average sized paddler. While they appear to be nicely made, the price makes me shudder when I consider you can make your own GPs less that 1/10 the price.  ;)

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I received a Gearlab Akiak size 225, color carbon black, tip color orange, tip shape round last X-mas (no shoulders).  It quickly became my favorite paddle for rolling and paddling this year. 

Personally I somewhat despise Greenland paddles with shoulders, and Euro paddles with bent shafts.  I find both tend to "lock" my hands in one position, which unless I am paddling totally flat water with no wind is probably not the position I want.

On 11/24/2016 at 0:02 PM, Brian Nystrom said:

Many paddlers like the ease of sliding the paddle without shoulder

I'm definitely in the group of paddlers who constantly adjust their hand position to best suit the conditions.  I rarely consciously think about it anymore.


The Gearlab site is currently holding a "White Sale" from Nov 25 to Dec 4th.  The AKIAK paddle is $278.40 instead of the usual $348.00 if you purchase it during the sale in "glossy white."  

On 11/24/2016 at 0:02 PM, Brian Nystrom said:

Looking at the Gearlab site, they only have the shoulderless paddle in the shortest (205cm / 80.7") and longest (230cm / 90.5") size

As of 11:15pm on November 26th, 2016 the "White Sale" Akiak is available in 205, 210, 215, 225, and 230 (the 220 shows out-of-stock)  Akiak in carbon black is sold out in all sizes but 205, 225, and 230.  However, pick different bright colors and you will also see in-stock options for 210, 215, and 220.

Wonder if I should ask for a white paddle for X-mas?

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