Greenland paddling

Have you been to any of the Greenland skills camps that are offered around the country? They were all cancelled last year due to Covid but eventually will start up again. I highly recommend them for one-on-one instruction to gain paddling confidence and technique for low volume narrow kayaks.

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I haven’t made it to one yet unfortunately, but that is a great point! There are a number of Greenland paddlers locally and some highly regarded and well travelled ones at that. My favourite comment from the very skilled paddler I bought the Ilaga through was (after watching me roll), “good, but you are making that way harder than it needs to be”. That’s been my thought ever since, if it feels “forced” then I am likely just doing it wrong and I need to try something else :slight_smile: Basically got to ween off the high brace recovery and into the core recovery. It’s hard though, I still default to that shoulder wrenching euro high brace as that is what I grew up with.

I went to the Michigan trainng camp and the instruction was amazing, one on one with the trainers standing chest deep beside your boat in a sandy bottomed calm lake and guiding you through every step.

They started with putting you through the layback recovery body and paddle position on dry land sitting in an old unskinned frame. They put you in a balance brace position with the boat on its side and your arms and pddle in “floating angel” mode and move you through sliding your arched back (head tipped back) onto the kayak stern deck as you roll back up. Keeping your head below your shoulders provides the balance momentum and there is little stress on your arms.

Once you get the body memory of that position and smooth weight shift, they have you in the water practice lingering and relaxing in a full “angel” balance brace and repeatedly recovering from that “second half” of the layback roll until it feels automatic. The next step was guiding you and the boat through a slowed down transition from being upside down into the halfway balance brace position.

Once you can make a smooth assisted transition from upside down to upside up it is a remarkably effortless roll. Most of those instructors could do it even without a paddle, strictly using the inertia of body position and keeping the center of gravity controlled.

Since then, I try to practice the full balance brace to deck recovery whenever i am out in my Greenland SOF. even on days when I don’t feel like getting soaked in a full roll practice. It’s actually pretty pleasant to just float there on your side splayed out and looking at the sky (though if you do it in an area with other paddlers around you will sometimes attract unsolicited “rescue” offers.)


That does sound like an amazing learning experience. Can you share links or how to sign up for one of those? I’m a beginner but would love to learn the skills needed to jump into bigger waters.

One good source for listings on these training camps is the free kayaking forum of the American chapter of the Greenland Kayak Association at You do have to enroll to participate in the forums but you can check their schedule of events and browse the site without joining. Here is a direct link.

The one i’ve attended in Michigan has again been cancelled this year but there are others on the schedule, depending on where you live. They do teach Greenland style skills so you use either your own Greenland style kayak (narrow boats with low stern decks for the most part) and Greenland paddle or you can use the boats and paddles which they provide at most of the events.


Perfect, thank you for the info! Hopefully they have some here in Utah. Thanks!

Here is a video illustrating the type of balance brace I practice:


And, from the same series, a basic guide to the layback roll. Not a lot of stress on the arms.


Hmm. Not likely to be many in your region. I don’t think Greenland style kayaking is widely popular in the central deserts.

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Looks similar to a pawlata roll.

Thank you for posting all the links and info! Admittedly my biggest issue is that I never feel “good enough” to attend a training session, so always want to prepare more… which logically makes no sense at all :slight_smile:

There is a good video series called “This is the Roll” (CackleTV: This is the Roll) that I have and have dutifully been attempting to follow with not much success. Like you mentioned, having someone right there to guide you is obviously the better approach. For a while there I blamed my old Sealution kayak then I watched Dubside rolling a barge and had to admit the problem was just me heh. I do remember the first (of very few) successful butterfly roles I made in the Ilaja, I was sitting up looking around in excitement to be met with only a few disinterested loons going about their day :slight_smile: I think that was trying to jump ahead too much, like you said, balance brace, recovery etc… more important to get right first.

All the instructors I met were very generous, patient and non-judgmental. No hectoring or pressure. They want you to relax and be comfortable and seem to love sharing how natural the rolls can be once you understand the mechanics. Some of the other students had learned more stressful rolls, like the whitewater C to C, and needed to relearn the different methods with the Greenland paddle. The common wisdom is that it is easier to learn to roll with a Greenland paddle than a standard Euro and I tend to agree, remembering how I struggled when I was taking whitewater classes in my late 20’s.

Many of the instructors at Michigan QTC travel to the other clinics around the country – Dubside was there and I did get some instruction from him. Found out he used to have a Feathercraft Wisper like mine and that we had a shared enthusiasm for folding kayaks. Neat guy!

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Somewhat, but you don’t grasp the paddle blade end like in the Pawlata. Your hand is towards that nearer end but not placed over it. Some of the Greenland traditional rolls only have one hand on the paddle. Or no paddle at all.

This preview of a Helen Wilson rolling video has a lot of good views of the basic Greenland rolls.

Looks awesome. I would love to be able to go to something like that. Unfortunately nothing near me. Not just rolling, but I know my paddling could use tuning up.
Paulo’s videos will have to do for me.

Go to a dedicated Greenland rolling event. The instructors are great and you will learn how to roll. It still takes regular practice once you get home, but they will set you up to succeed with a roll.

Some even get you out of a comfort zone by offering a combat rolling session (on flat water) once you get a mostly solid basic layback roll. That was what saw my roll confidence explode both during roll training and in the surf zone.

I have been itching to attend the Hudson River Greenland festival for three years now, But the first year I was able to go was the pandemic. Unfortunately it’s been canceled again this year. I hope I’ll be able to go next year. All the videos make it look so amazing!

Thanks to the Admin, or whoever moved our digression on Greenland skills to its own string.

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I’ve never attended. My boats are regular touring kayaks so I don’t know if I’m really in the demographic but I do love the Greenland paddle. I’ve been thinking that my rolls are way too ‘paddle-dependent’. With my short, inflexible torso and my non-Greenland boats maybe that’s a good and necessary thing.

Bill Bremer used to call the touring kayak / GP combination “Carolina Style”.

I wanted to go last year, but COVID. Next year for certain!

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I’ll see you there!

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