Greenland Kayaks: How Well Are They Suited For Big Water?

Are Greenland kayaks best suited for big water/high winds? I’ve heard mixed reviews and would like to get more info.


Never had one but by the sheer numbers sold they have to work. I’d like to try one soon.

A true Greenland kayak was designed for big water by the Inuit… Used for hunting… Many modern designs are adaptations for mass production. My CD Caribou was one of the better modifications that was user friendly for weekend paddlers but held up well to high seas here in Maine We paddle kayaks on the ocean not on the lakes.
Hubby has a Wilderness System Shenai… another G type of kayak… Again on the Maine coast and offshore islands and on Lake Superior.

Other classic designs are the Anas Acuta and the Hawks.


So do they surf or just handle the conditions well?

The Anas Acuta surfs quite well. Some of the newer Greenland style kayaks (like the Rebels) are quite low volume and may not be the best for a dedicated surfing kayak because of that. I doubt the Inuit intentionally went into the surf for fun, but they would have likely needed to launch and land through the surf to get out to their hunting grounds.

Turner Wilson uses Rebels for rolling, but Tideraces for big water stuff:


Authentic Greenland type hulls are very good for paddling in rough conditions. They were designed for confused seas, tidal races and going in and out through breaking waves, and will surf Straight In Charlie Style and get you to shore. For surf play, trimming on waves, tumbling and maneuvering with cutbacks etc there are lots of better hull styles if long boat surfing is your thing. I haven’t done any long boat surfing for many years, Sing or others who do long boat surf play could give you a better answer.

OK, I have to ask what this means…

1 Like

There are composite East and West Greenland- derived kayaks. To generalize, the EG’s are narrow, low volume with very fine ends and some rocker, and the WG’s have a little more volume, much more rocker, and more flare in the bow and stern. The EGs are capable in less than moderate sea conditions. The fine bow of a Rebel Greenland-T buries in waves over a couple of feet.
The WG-derived kayaks, notably the Anas Acuta, are great in big waves, stable, highly maneuverable, surf well also, and the most fun one can have in a kayak. Says I. Small Craft Warnings are an invitation to grab the AA and go play on the open Chesapeake. The Rebel Husky is another WG type, though I’ve not paddled one.


That is a good point to emphasize that the Western Greenland hull shapes are what have been put in to designs for rough water hull shapes. I don’t know of any composite East Greenland boats, but it’s not my area of interest. I do know that experienced Greenlanders can manage really rough conditions in the Eastern coast boats, but definitely would not be my choice for big waves. I got to visit a museum in Iceland with many different Greenland boats, with historic photos, was pretty interesting looking at the detail in design, and made from driftwood and skins.


Hunger and survival drove ingenuity.

I’ve paddled a collection of Greenland style kayaks almost exclusively for 13 years. Current fleet includes 7 of them: 2 fixed skin on frame, 2 folding skin on frame, 1 poly boat and 2 composites. They range from 13’ 6’ to 19’ 2" and are mostly hard chine with the characteristic very low stern deck and more volume in the bow.

Obviously there is some difference in performance due to the range of sizes. But compared to the various other (non-Greenland style) hulls I have owned, rented or borrowed over the years, I greatly prefer G style kayaks (and paddles) in just about any conditions, particularly when things get rough. I feel really solid in my Greenland boats and trust them. Also like that they tend to be narrower and relatively lighter than non-Greenland boats of equivalent length. And, yes, some of them surf nicely.

Yeah, I realize that it’s an engrained strong prejudice but based on my experiences. YMMV. No doubt there are well designed non-G hulls out there that would impress me but I have not experienced one yet. Greenland form seems to be a design that personally suits me and feels natural. When I do sit in most more “conventional” boats now they tend to feel sluggish (even boring) to me in quiet water and then unstable and unpredictable in more challenging conditions.

It’s a bit like how I feel about driving a manual stick car as opposed to an automatic. I feel like I am “wearing” and more intimately connected to the vehicle (boat or car) rather than being cargo in a container that I have to fight to control.


Some amount of Greenland characteristics are still being copied because they work well for challenging conditions. If they did not you would not have seen them surpass many of the older North American designs in manufacturers’ lines.

They do tend to be a more lively feel, which is really just about that and not whether they can handle conditions. If that is going to bother someone, probably not a good choice.

1 Like

I really like this explanation. Thank you

1 Like

One correction to my little essay on Greenland preferences: seeing Celia’s comment reminded me of when she loaned me her Romany kayak the first time we paddled from her cabin on the Maine coast. That is a really fine design and I loved the way it felt and handled. So I suspect there are other higher end non-Greenland hulls that I would equally enjoy paddling — just have not had the oppotunities to try them. Considering there are probably 1000s of kayak models that have been produced in the past 40 years, the options are vast.

I’m confused. Isn’t the greenland style kayak the original rough see kayak that the modern high end sea kayaks model?

The native Greenlanders (Inuit) invented the kayak (qajaq), and so all kayaks derive from them, but only some try to emulate Greenland design. They were certainly designed for use in rough seas. But this assumed a very skilled paddler who had built his own craft to his own body specifications and likely had been kayaking since childhood.

Ok, understand. While researching my first sea kayak, it seem that the European designs “often” favor Greenland style, or at least they modeled the low deck, rocker, long length, chines and small cockpit to handle conditions off the rugged coastlines. Current Design boasted Greenland style to handle rough sea conditions, but those boats were far too tippy for me. It’s my impression the Greenland by design will feel unstable to a novice such as myself. While my Tsunami is roomy and exceptionally stable for where I paddle, I wouldn’t take it out in ocean conditions, even though some members do.

It seems the best kayak would be one that has handling charactetistics that only a skilled and experienced kayaker would be able to master; one with quick reflexes, stamina, a basket full of technical skills and impeccable self rescue/rolling as second nature. I’m just suprised, because It seemed the Greenland style was a match for the worst of conditions when under the control of a talented kayaked. Not for me to paddle. but I’m following with heightened interest.

I ain’t no expert but if I was going in “big water” I would want a boat that was designed to roll. I think a Greenland style boat and a Greenland paddle are all about that.

I’m no expert either, but for me stability was never an issue. I think it depends a lot on your body. So I got into my first real Greenland boat (and by the way, there are many different-shaped Greenland boats), and while I found it uncomfortably tight at first, it didn’t feel tippy. On the other hand the Tsunami 145, a big, ultra-stable boat, feels less stable to me because I can’t control it very well. It’s just too big. So my main point is stability depends just as much on the paddler as the boat.


No disagreement; however, when I tried other boats, they were not comfortable. The Tsunami was designed for touring with a load, big fat men who didn’t venture into extreme conditions, and people who liked to wiggle their toes. When conditions exceed the capacity of my boat, I stay home. Some kayakers, maybe you included, look for a storm to hone skills. I respect that, but the Tsunami isn’t made for that! We both agree.

Some people take to roller skating or ice skating. I thought I was doing well because I eventually reached a point where I could move without falling or telling people I was the Ice Inspector. A friend went with us and as a first time skater, he managed skating backwards before we left. Later in life he became an excellent dentist with a steady hand, and Inregretted when he retired. Regarding skaring, I didn’t need a bullet in the head to end my olymipic aspirations.

I couldn’t stand if I spent a 1/2 hour in a 22 inch boat with a 12 inch deck. A person with a different center of gravity can’t know how another person will feel. The average woman would probably have a different sense of stability than the average man, due to physiology. Put your head against a wall while bending at the waist, pull a chair up to your chest then stand. Tell the woman laughing at you to try, then both can laugh and you can say, “Well I’ll be gall durned! Must be some kinda trick or sumptin!”

I don’t want a boat that I can grow into; don’t want to do acrobatics in 6 foot waves. Sometimes I close my eyes and let the waves rock me. The reason I value paddling efficiency is that I have a tubby boat. I looked for a faster boat, but I just didn’t feel comfortable or at home in any. @Doggy_Paddler the difference between you and me is that you probably have stamina and talent. You’d probably fly the fighter jet, while I fly the cargo plane. The great thing is that we both get to fly. I’ll never go to Top Gun.

I wouldn’t have started kayaking if I needed to buy one with seat belts, side crumple zones and airbags. I understand features that make a safe boat. I don’t regret buying my little Swifty; I’m glad I did. I just know evolved trough a bunch of things until I got what I like and need.

1 Like