Greenland Rolls/Skills

I have been looking at a lot of different videos of people doing different Greenland rolls and other Greenland skills. All of them have either a Greenland boat or a low volume boat. Is it possible to do them with a higher volume boat, or do you need a low volume boat? I have been kayaking for a while and have thought about trying some of the different rolls but I have a Perception Essence and don’t know if it will work without having a low volume boat.


Rolling with Dubside

– Last Updated: Aug-11-09 12:44 PM EST –

available here in pnet

he rolls a double sit on top, and talks about "not blaming your boat". Its a good lesson, but here's no doubt _some_ of the rolls are significantly easier in a boat with low front and back decks.

Find a partner to spot you and have fun!

My best rolling boat is my Aquanaut RM
LV. Not a low volume boat by any stretch. Run what ya brung sonny! A lower volume boat may become easier for you, but you can begin the process now with the boat you have. Proper technique and muscle memory will solidify your skills and you don’t need any particular boat to work on technique and muscle memory. All you really need is an acceptable Greenland paddle. I prefer a longer, semi shouldered paddle with slightly thinner blades and sharper edges. The next guy could be totally different. Have a great time, it feels so good. Bill

I’ve briefly paddled
an Essence 17 and it’s a fine boat. You will be able to learn several of the Greenlandic style rolls with it.

Here’s a review if you haven’t already seen it:



DVDs traditional rolls
If you don’t have the Dubside DVD and might have an interest in seeing it, best get it now from pnet. Sometime during 2008 it became unavailable from Dubside’s own site.

I got mine from our local shop.


Jay Babina also puts out a very good DVD for learning the roll, including the traditional ones. The emphasis is on self teaching.

I have seen it and have just ordered my own copy.

You can look up one of Jay’s occasional posts here and email him via pnet, or shoot me an email and I’ll give you order info.

Alison Sigethy teaches in a T165
She does classes in a plastic Tempest 165, partly to encourage people to try it in their own (non-SOF) boats. When asked at a class, I believe she mentioned just a handful of them she couldn’t do in that boat, out of something like 36 different rolls.

That said, Alison has won greenland rolling championships and is much better at this than most of us. So if you are just learning, boat fit can make a diff in how easy the rolls are to learn.

I just looked at the Essence specs. The 16.5 has a front deck height of 15.5, the 17 is 16.5 inches. I’d be swimming in that, but I am an average sized female hence probably smaller than you. The boat appears to have a lowered back deck and pretty affirmative thigh braces, which help.

Is the OP the “reborn” GA Kayaker -:wink:

– Last Updated: Aug-11-09 5:39 PM EST –

Just kidding ... "gaqajaq" ~= GA Kayaker ... Hmmm...

Joke aside, as a somewhat beginner roller I find it a lot easier to do layback or butterfly rols or just to lay on my back in the water without sinking down (as in a static brace) in a boat with lower deck and not too much width.

If you watch some of the online videos of Alison Sighety, you will undoubtedly notice that the hand rolls she does simply can't be done in a "big" boat as slow as she does them in her rolling kayak - it is just about level with the water behind the seat so it takes very little effort to slide yourself on the back deck... You simply can't do that in a higher above-water volume boat as you have to start with your lower body higher and then you need to lift your upper body over a tall deck. In the low volume boats you don't have to lift much at all - just slide on the back...

Lastly, a tall and stiff person like myself will have easier time in a boat with low cockpit to compensate for my inability to flex my upper body by moving a bit in the seat and thus keep my center of gravity low till the last moment of righting up (that applies to most rolls, not just layback). In a high-cockpit boat I just pinch myself against it and to avoid that have to come way off my seat, which lessens boat control.

I Use a GP Exclusively

– Last Updated: Aug-11-09 5:58 PM EST –

and roll my Tempest 165 easily. I don't know nuthin' about 'Greenland rolls' or 'Greenland skills' but I can roll the boat with or without any kind of snap. (I weigh about 165 pounds).

Cracker Jack!

how low is the coaming and how bendable
It has allot to do with how low is the deck/coaming especially the rear coaming and deck. It also is very helpful if your back torso and hips are flexible. Some folks just are not even with lots of stretching and yoga.

A very low volume boat does enhance some of the Greenland variations, in terms of lower resistance, speed of rolls, and center of gravity.

For most of us we need to make sure we don’t injure ourselves in doing these things by learning proper technique, doing strengthening and flexibility training, and knowing one’s personal limits and potential.

Uh, why not just try it yourself
Use what you have, or at least try to. Then take it from there. I don’t think we can answer this question for you, not knowing your physical dimensions, your flexibility (or lack thereof), or your existing rolling abilities.

FWIW, I did a butterfly roll in a WW kayak (have not tried it again in that boat yet, and my butterfly roll is on-again-off-again anyway). Static braces are easy in it. But it’s not all that low-volume in the sense of having a super-low deck. I have lots of slop room in it.

Just try it!

Relax & just do it
If you’ve watched the videos, and you have the paddle, you’re most of the way there. The rest is just practice.

If your coaming gets in the way of a layback roll, scootch forward in the seat a little - it makes lots of aft-recovery of rolls easier.

Most of the GP rolls are variants of other more basic ones, so if you relax and visualize as you’re practicing, you’ll be amazed how easy they can be. It’s also great practice for your “go to” roll if you blow a few new ones, because now you’re in an unexpected capsize situation.

And most of all - learn a balance brace. One GP instructor I took a lesson from many moons ago called it “The root of all rolls”. Wise words – balance and boat control are everything when rolling a kayak.

Oh, and if you can find a copy, “Rolling with Maligiaq” is great for learning rolls or refining technique as well. I learned a forward recovery norsaq roll just by watching the underwater video of him doing it.

A low volume kayak
will allow you to learn the rolls easier and then it’s pretty easy to transfer the rolls to higher volume kayaks. Flexibility and body type also plays a big roll in learning the greenland skills. Try them in your kayak and if they seem to be extremely hard to perform then try them in a lower volume kayak. Enjoy the journey.

thanks everyone for your advice. I don’t really have any difficulty leaning back to where I am laying on the back deck, but like someone mentioned it’s a bit of a “drop” from there to the water. I don’t have a “bomb proof” roll yet, which is why I think I haven’t had success with other types of rolls. Right now I’m working on getting “bomb proof” roll, but after practicing that for a while I usually try out some other technique just to see what happens. I guess I just wanted to make sure that it was just me and not the boat. For now I’m going to concentrate mainly on my go to roll, right now I have the first half down :slight_smile:

G-Style in an Assateague

– Last Updated: Aug-12-09 10:48 AM EST –

I do some Greenland rolling in my Impex Assateague pretty high volume. I find some of the rolls slightly easier in my wife's WS Arctic Hawk, but I don't find it making a lot of difference. If I can do a roll in the Hawk, I can do it in the Assateague. If I can't do it in the Assateague it doesn't work in the Hawk either. Just get out and do it.

Oh, and I'll second the recommendations for the Dubside DVD it's been a big help to me.

Lower volume kayaks roll more easily…but they all roll so use what you’ve got and have fun. Once you have good technique, you’ll be able to roll pretty much anything.

If you ever get a chance to try one out someday though, take out a “Tahe Greenland” kayak for a spin. Nothing I’ve ever been in rolls as easily and smoothly as this one.

I just posted a few photos of it on my website at

Very nice kayak!

Enjoy your rolling.

Cheers…Joe O’

Low Volume Definitely Easier
I have a CD Andromeda and am a petite paddler which makes this boat way too big for me. It doesn’t fit me very well but when I pad it out and move forward in the cockpit, I can roll it. Balance and sculling braces are more difficult because I’m so high off the water. Feels like I’m always going downhill. SOF and lower volume kayaks are definite a lot easier to roll and brace in…but…when all you have is what you have, you learn how to make it work. (That is until you sell your current kayak so you can afford to get the kayak of your dreams, ie. the Tahe Marine Greenland. LOL!)

High seat back?

– Last Updated: Aug-13-09 9:36 AM EST –

Obviously you roll now? The essence 16.5 has a high seat back that sits above the coaming - correct? If this is your boat, you would want to put in a back band or cut down the seat height. The first basic Greenland style roll is the lay back roll and you do want to be able to lean back as much as possible. Other rolls do that too. You can do a lot of them in your boat with that little adaption. Your thighs need to be locked in well and the rest you start to adapt as you learn more. Plus, try other paddlers boats and you'll see that a smaller and lower boat is easier to do those skills but you can do a lot of them in any boat.

Rolling a Tandem

Lots of good rolling boats
out there. And some can be pretty inexpensive. My favorite is an O/I, but a few months ago, I bought an old Wilderness Systems Piccolo for my grandson, and I can actually do more Greenland rolls with it. All for $200! It’s fun in light surf, too.