Stage 5 of the Kayak build: the Aleut Paddle

Every population of Eskimos (a name that is a white man name, but covers Aleuts, Inuits, East Greenland, West Greenland, Baffin Island, and Hudson Bay natives) built their kayaks and paddles according to their hunting style, prevailing ocean conditions, trip length, etc. Differences were that Greenland Eskimos lived in oceans that froze up during the winter, they hunted on land, making the kayaks the taxi to get to the hunting grounds, or they hunted as ambush hunters, and they hunted as a team. The Aleuts hunted in water that did not freeze over, so they were year round kayakers. They were solitary hunters of seals, hunting by pursuit, and they traveled long distances from island to island, in notoriously bad weather. These difference resulted in different boat designs, and different paddle designs. Not that many Aleut kayaks survived from pre-contact times, and fewer paddles, because they wore out.

Some references say that Aleut paddles were 8’ or longer in length (272 cm), as born out by examples in the Smithsonian Museum. They were narrow in width, with long blades, and an asymmetrical shape.

Corey Freedman at the Skin Boat School has paddle blanks that have been glued up, and just need some shaping with plane and sander, which is what I did. They are convex on one side, and have a raised spine on the other side.


My Aleut kayak paddle is 7’11“ long (272 cm), the blade is 29” long, 3 5/5” at the widest, and the loom is generally rounded edge rectangular at 1.12” x 1.62“. The last 22” of the blade is coated with Corey’s Boat Sauce, and all else is treated with Corey’s Tung Oil. Below is my Aleut paddle compared to a canoe paddle.