Rolling Paddle

“The paddle passed the rolling test with flying colours.  It has a nicer feel than any other paddle.” Joan Jones

The photo below shows a particular variation of Inuit qajaq paddle with an interesting feature. The profile of the paddle is slightly concave. I first heard about this design from Henry Romer at SSTIKS 2015 ( South Sound Inuit Kayak Symposium ) . Henry referred to this as the ‘tulip’ design. He said that a similar design was found on a tour of the archives of the Smithsonian. I tried out one of these paddles and I was surprised at  the results. The paddle had an unusual amount of bite compared to the surface area. It felt good …. it was a joy to paddle with. I don’t know how to describe it ….. it just felt right. Henry is a physicist and he mused about flow dynamics and laminar vs turbulent flow …. stuff that needs to be tested in a flow tank to have any hope of understanding it.

I have great respect for native ingenuity and hands on experimentation….so I made a few paddles like this.


I worked with Joan Jones to design the RavenWoods Rolling Paddle. It is a shoulderless paddle with a concave tulip profile and a 30 cm loom and a total length of 200 to 207 cm ( 79 to 81 inches ). It is similar to a ‘storm’ paddle. The loom is oval for tactile indexing underwater. The body is western red cedar and the edges are yellow cedar which are denser, more resistant to denting and can sustain a sharper edge. A full length Greenland paddle is typically 215 cm ( 85 inches ) A full length paddle is not necessary for rolling. A shorter paddle is easier to move about under the water. A sliding stroke can be used for normal paddling. The paddle fits on a front deck without sticking out past the front of the kayak. This makes it very useful as a spare paddle. The body of the paddle is made of two pieces of red cedar laminated together for greater stability and resistance to cracking. It does not have hardwood tips in the interest of keeping the price down.

Good design involves good testing. Here are the results from Jone’s point of view:

“The paddle passed the rolling test with flying colours.  It has a nicer feel than any other paddle.  I can not explain it all.  Definitely the loom area is a keeper design as the hands move so seamlessly to wherever you want them to go.  The performance sculling is also excellent although I can’t put a finger on why.  Probably a combination of sharp edges and the tulip design plus the extra mass in the shaft as you go away from loom area.” Joan Jones

Joan static brace