Submitted: 08-30-2011 by harlingford
The basic concept and execution of the paddle are excellent. The loom attaches easily to the blade sections with stainless allen-head screws and the connections are rock solid. On my paddle, the mating of the loom to the blade section was very good on one side but less good on the other, with an imperfect seam of maybe about 1 mm - enough to be slightly annoying if you slide your hand over it but not a big deal.
I have paddled for about 5 years using Greenland paddles, first with a red cedar paddle made by Don Beale and then with Superior Kayak carbon fiber paddles, both a one-piece and a two-piece. The wood Beale and the Superior carbon fiber paddles have almost identical shapes. The shape of the Northern Light is different in two ways that don't work as well for me. One is that the loom is a bit more oval and the shoulder is harder. My first long day paddling with it, it felt OK at first, but I later developed soreness in my thumb that I have never experienced with my other paddles. The same happened after a second day paddling. After experimenting trading off paddles, I finally figured out that on the Northern Light I was hooking my thumb around the loom enough to pull a bit with my thumb rather than just my other fingers. It happens because the combination of the shape of the loom and the shape of the hard shoulder more or less forces my hand to fall in a particular angle that isn't optimal for my hand. I have bigger-than-normal hands and long thumbs, so this may be a problem only for my particular hands.
The second difference in the shape of the Northern Light compared to a Superior carbon fiber or Beale wooden paddle is that the Northern Light blade is flatter, less convex. I found that this induced a propensity to flutter a bit with my normal stroke. Again, this may be specific to my particular stroke and not happen for other people, but it is certainly a difference from my other paddles, which I cannot make flutter even if I try.
Compared to other carbon fiber Greenland paddles, the Northern Light is an incredible bargain - the three-piece is cheaper than other one-piece paddles. And the break-down into three short pieces is really great for traveling. So if it fits your hand shape and your stroke, it is a really great deal, and the paddle seems very well made and likely to last well. However, if at all possible, I would recommend trying it before purchasing. I bought it by mail-order and was not able to return it even with a discount when I found it didn't work for me. No blame to the seller, since there were no defects in the paddle, but it doesn't work well enough for me that I will use it in place of other paddles, even when traveling.