Do All Kayaks Roll?

Just remember, your Goretex drysuit will not “breath” under your neoprene tuilik. If you are doing anything with some intensity, your “drysuit” will not be dry inside. You may be better served with a good wetsuit underneath the tuilik of the appropriate thickness for the water temp.

PS. I did paddle with drysuit under tuilik in my “greenland style” paddling days. I gave up on the tuilik because it just got too hot and sweaty in the “drysuit.” (This was before I got into and appreciate what a good surfing wetsuit can do for my preferred type of paddling, i.e rough water.)


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Yes, I’ve heard that, and I’ve heard from people with much more experience that there really isn’t any great solution. For now I’m still not paddling in winter.

That is because the premise is of the native Greenland paddler/hunter was “roll or die.” You did not come out of the kayak with your tuilik. We are not paddling with that extreme dichtomy. When we come out of the kayak with a tuilik, we still need immersion protection underneath. We also discover that moving around in the water with a tuilik is like moving around with a mini “sea anchor.” It’s fine to be in a tuilik when you stay in one place to practice your rolls. But, when paddling around or playing with any intensity, I find the tuilik less ideal to some of the modern immersion gear available to “recreational” paddlers (as opposed to the original subsistence paddler/hunter).


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There are two kinds of kayaks {as far as rolling}…Log rollers and Plank rollers. Log rollers do not need any hip snap, but Plank rollers do. Hip snaps require more energy expenditure so are not as desirable for Greenland rolling…A Greenland roll should use as little energy as possible. In Greenland a hunter many times needed to paddle 8 or 9 or so miles in order to get to the hunting area. This meant that if they got rolled over while taking a walrus or seal, they not only had to roll up, they still had to retrieve the game and paddle 8 or 9 or so miles home.

Low use of energy was paramount to survival. {I am only talking Greenland rolling not WW or play}

High energy rolls are in my terminology, are Gorilla rolls and tend to be done by beginners. {or WW or surf play} If a person can only do 5 or six rolls in a row and they are tired…they are doing Gorilla rolls. {not at all efficient}

You see this done by a lot of guys when learning to roll, they seem that feel that rolling takes strength instead of style.
They thrash so violently so as to empty the lake or pool and then there they are rolled up . Wow…look I rolled!

Woman that Greenland roll, t tend to aim for style and finesse rather than power all at once as done with Gorilla rolling. This is not quite that cut and dry, there are many guys that go for style and smooth and low energy use in a roll, but few women actually do Gorilla rolls.


That makes perfect sense. I have a Sea Lion Shadow that’s 24" at the beam and I need to do a strong hip snap to get it to roll. My Chatham17 on the other hand needs only strong thigh pressure, but it’s only 21" wide.

They will also both be easier to roll if you pull the seats out and sit on the floor. Pad above your legs not at the sides. Use pieces of one inch closed cell foam to cross the cockpit area and hold your thighs so they have very little up and down movement. You don’t need a seat to roll.

European style seats are high…Greenland kayaks only at most use a pad and legs , are basically straight. The European seat was raised to allow a bent leg which was deemed to be more comfortable for the average paddler.

Because they raised the seat then the kayak was widened to get the stability back that they had lost by raising the seat. {round and round it went…higher seat…then wider kayak. wider kayak was harder to edge so then …up the seat went to make edging easier}

Here is something that people might be interested in. The smooth and efficiency of any roll is in its ending. This is the glide onto either the front or the rear deck depending on the roll being done.

So for rear finishing rolls it is going from a balance brace or back skull and gliding onto the rear deck…and for a front finish , it is the transition from chest skull and gliding onto the front deck.

If you are using a Greenland style paddle , Just cut a couple of pieces of one inch foam and tape them like in the picture. You are able to add or subtract flotation from the blades in order to help learning the Balance Brace by just sliding one or more on your paddle…

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Having a seat is nice because I like to go out at times for many hours, but I do know about sitting on the hull instead of a seat. I made a masik for my Eddyline Fathom because it has a deep cockpit compared to either the Sea Lion or the Chatham. I have short legs and the higher deck of the Fathom made me pad the braces downward to easily reach for good control. I have not yet rolled the Fathom however. I did try the first few days after I got it, but could not quite bring it all the way up. So I made the masik. But then the lake started to get very full of blue/green agile and I decided to stay out of it as much as I can. So I’ll see about rolling my Fathom more in the spring after it’s all gone.

The Sea Lion has a seat that puts my butt about 1-1/2" over the deck. The Chatham has a seat that’s very thin on it’s bottom and only lifts me about 5/8" off the deck. The Fathom lifts me up a bit more then 1" but it’s deep enough I would not want to drop down any more. I can’t lay back very well in the Fathom because the high back deck won’t let me. I can do a forward movement with no problem in the Fathom so I’ll probably concentrate on rolling it that way. I can roll the Chatham either way and also the Sea Lion, but the Sea Lion is wider so requires more effort. Not hard to roll, but not as easy as the Chatham.

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Thanks for catching that, willowleaf. I should have typed SOF, not SOT.

I wore a borrowed neoprene tuiliq in a rolling lesson, with my drysuit underneath.

I was not hot or sweaty, but that was strictly rolling, not paddling with some rolling thrown in. For normal paddling, any waterproof item worn over Goretex would trap moisture inside.

The opposite also does not make sense—wearing neoprene UNDER a breathable drysuit. Occasionally someone posts here asking about that, thinking it is a belt-and-suspenders approach.

Tuiliq over drysuit which I undoubtedly aired up. I got my inflatable pfd. I still pumped the knee pretty hard to get to static brace. I would not bother trying this at this point in my journey.
I last rolled a qajaq in August 2017.

I like the tuiliq for paddling when it is cold enough to freeze spray. There is never a guarantee in a season I will paddle in those conditions. Did’nt happen last year.

Peace J


One of the teachers who helped me would watch the roll and say, Now try to do it without any splashing. It’s a great prompt - rolling with no splashing necessitates that you go slow and use your body.


And Tim Gallaway says “Looks Good, now do it SLOWER”

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This is a very good method. Anyone that can roll slow and with no splash, can also roll fast when needed.

I also found that the Greenland paddle used, can also be a factor for splash-less rolling and also having a splash-less stroke . When teaching strokes class, some homemade Greenland paddles just don’t like to not splash. Too thick of edges, tend to make a poor paddle for a splash-less stroke.

Tim G is a very good mentor for rolling, I remember telling him to slow it down…he has a lot of energy. The first year that Tim came to Mich Training Camp , he was all about learning sculling rolls so was already able to do many others…it was really about refining his execution of the rolls and slowing him down at that time. Now Tim has become one of the best for teaching ropes. {Tim and Dubside and Unckle Dave or Maligiaq}


Rolling more slowly is good for another reason besides perfecting technique. If you roll in waves and know to do it on the correct side at the right time, the wave actually does most of the perceived work for you. Throwing yourself into a fast, hard roll when the wave is working for you means you might well just continue past the upright position and down again!


That is all true for us sea kayakers, however the WW folks want to very quickly get out of the way of a known/unknown approaching rock in fast moving water.

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Agree about that awful ‘hip snap’ talk. When someone clued me in with ‘thigh lift’ or ‘knee lift’ my roll took off.

so true,
years ago, my ‘ww’ paddler brother, invited me to go down the Ocoee with him (me a sea kayaker).
I went over, near the top of one of the rapids, I waited the rapid out, rolled up at the bottom (similar to getting rolled by a large wave in the surf - waiting for it to pass over then roll).
Got yelled at by brother after I rolled up - for the reason you mention (rocks).

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Ditto what others have said. In learning to roll you find a lot of skills to help you never need to roll (or very rarely). Plus, it’s fun!

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