|Betsie Bay Kayak
P.O. Box 1706
Frankfort, MI 49635
BETSIE BAY KAYAK
Doug VanDoren finishing a roll with
his BBK Graflite.
Why BBK Paddles?
Many choices are available today
in Greenland style paddles. Why would kayakers spend $200-$400 or more on a paddle
when one can be whittled from an inexpensive 2x4?
BBK paddles are the product of over two decades of full-time design, construction
and testing Greenland style paddles. Our epoxy-laminated wood construction gives
a better strength-to-weight ratio than monolithic paddles. We use heavier wood in
the area that need most strength of impact resistance, and lighter woods where reducing
weight is important. Laminating several pieces of wood together minimizes the chance
of a hidden flaw in the material causing a weakness in the paddle. We add substantial
strength by using unidirectional carbon fiber reinforcement in the lamination of
the paddle, where the wood acts as a core to best utilize the carbon's extreme tensile
All this sophisticated construction would be wasted if the paddle were constantly
getting wet and subject to decay, or if paddlers got slivers in their hands as the
wet wood swelled. That's why we apply multiple coats of epoxy and top if off with
an extremely tough catalyzed acrylic urethane clear finish. Varnishes and oil finishes
have very little moisture exclusion effectiveness, so they only slightly delay the
onset of the inevitable degradation of wood exposed to water. Oils or varnish make
a paddle look good in the store, and at a relatively low cost to the manufacturer.
Any Greenland paddle design can propel a kayak effectively. Some designs, however,
are much more user friendly than others. An ideal recreational Greenland style
paddle would have the following characteristics:
- It would fit the hand comfortably,
without fatigue, for hours on end.
- It would provide positive indexing
by feel so that the exact position of the blades was intuitive.
- The blades would be shaped to
provide maximum forward thrust with the simplest, most ergonomic technique, while
simultaneously providing maximum lift on sweeps, sculls, rudders and braces.
- It would be strong enough to brace
and roll with in the most dire circumstances, yet light enough to use all day.
- On top of this, it would utilize
the best materials for a combination of durability and esthetic pleasure.
BBK paddles have been painstakingly
refined over many years to fulfill these requirement. Replica monolithic (carved
from a single piece of wood) Greenland paddles represent high design refinement,
given the limited materials available to the Inuit. Twenty-first century materials
allow us to take that design to the next level for the serious modern recreational
There has been some misunderstanding
about the anthropometric measuring system used by the Eskimo when it comes to sizing
modern Greenland touring paddles. Many paddlers believe that their Greenland style
paddle must be exactly X number of cubits plus so many fingers long, or the length
of one's standing reach, or whatever. This is the system the Inuit used to determine
paddle length. It is also the same system they used to determine the dimensions of
the kayak. As it turns out, the paddle length is determined more by the size and
shape of the kayak rather than the paddler. In a system where both were built to
the same standard (the paddler's body measurements) this relationship between paddle
and kayak would always be maintained.
Today, when we build a limited variety of kayak sizes, a limited variety of paddle
sizes serves quite well. Given that the Inuit were traditionally a short, stocky
people with relatively short extremities (a very favorable physique for life in the
arctic), applying their anthropometric standards to a European, African or Asian
physique could very well result in some odd spatial relationships. Our experience
has demonstrated that a tall, long-legged, long-armed paddler can actually more comfortably
use a shorter paddle in a given size of Greenland style kayak than a shorter paddler
using the same kayak. Thus, not only does the anthropometric system not really apply
to modern paddlers, but its application to individuals of non-Inuit physique can
result in dramatic misfit of paddle to kayak.
Paddle needs will vary based on physique and actual combined beam/deck height, seat
Recommend for 'Greenland style' kayaks with narrow beam (less than 23'') and
low decks (less than 12''). Higher hung seats may necessitate longer paddles.
The Greenlander is our workhorse touring paddle. It's size is the most effective
for long distance paddling when used with a narrow beam, low shear kayaks. It allows
a short, quick stroke at a cadence and effort level that can be maintained all day.
Average weight is about 30 ounces. 84" x 4
The is a tougher version of the Greenlander with a hardwood core and edges, and some
interesting lightweight wood(s) in the blades. It's a few ounces heavier than the
standard versions, but strong enough to "creek roll" and subject to other
abuses. If we could only take one paddle on a wilderness trip, this would be it.
Currently available in 84" Greenlander configuration. We may do a 90" Inuit
version if demand warrants.
Recommend for 'Greenland style'
kayaks with narrow beam (less than 23'') and low decks (less than 12''). Higher hung
seats may necessitate longer paddles.
The Graflite is a special paddle in the Greenlander configuration. It is a unique
combination of extremely lightweight woods, carbon fiber, fiberglass and epoxy. At
around 26 ounces it is among the lightest weight touring paddles available anywhere.
The Graflite is almost effortless in use and a joy to both hand and eye. 84 x 4
The Inuit has a slightly longer
reach than the Greenlander for use with kayaks that are slightly wider than Greenland
style, or for those with higher seats or taller foredecks. 90 x 3.5
The Storm paddle was used by
the Eskimo in very rough and windy conditions, using the sliding stroke, In modern
touring use, the Storm is an excellent spare, fitting on the rear deck. It is an
outstanding paddle for surf play and rolling. 72 x 4
Close up view of the Greenlander
BBK Rolling Stick:
A small hand-paddle
based on the shape of the Inuit atatl (spear throwing stick), which could be used
for rolling if the paddle was lost in a capsize. It is an excellent tool for learning
the Greenland hand roll. Rolling
sticks are made from recycled wood whenever possible. Some are single piece,
some are laminated, so appearance may vary slightly. All are epoxy coated and finished
like our paddles.