greenland style kayak question

Balance Brace

– Last Updated: Feb-25-10 6:23 PM EST –

I actually agree with you there Celia. My first roll was a standard layback but I have seen many folks learn balance brace and move on from there. No one can deny the importaince of a good brace or scull. The roll is just the icing on the cake.


I try
a person with a Balance brace first, when I teach rolling. (if they can do that , it’s almost like cheating)

if they can’t obtain a Balance Brace easy, then we work on some sculling…then move on to rolling down a little at a time, controlling the roll completely

here is a small clip (I’m on dial up, so it’s very small)

showing the process (I use the same process no matter what the chosen paddle style is)

Best Wishes


Good stuff
Thanks Roy…

I’ve always found you’re clips very helpful and included them in my library of training tools.


if I remember right you also have a Vela, like me. Are you able to do a balance brace in it? I’ve moved the seat forward, I have a greenland paddle (and love it), I’m able to roll (but usually kind of storm roll/foredeck ending) and I’m not inflexible, but trying a balance brace (no sculling) ends up with head under water, always. So far I didn’t have the opportunity to paddle a more greenland style kayak (Tahe GL or AA), so I’d like to know if it’s me or the kayak…

Balance Brace

– Last Updated: Feb-26-10 2:36 PM EST –

I taught people to balance brace who insisted they couldn't for various reasons.
First, women don't balance brace, they float. Most people are PFD dependent or tulek dependent to do some of those things. So, the flotation ratio to your body weight and length is a factor.If you're a body builder you won't balance brace ( I don't have to worry about that).

Many times paddlers are laying back in the water, but they are very subtly cocking their head up so they can breath. Use a dive mask and don't worry about achieving and arch your head back which will allow your spine to bend more too. If you can have someone hold you there, you can twist and bend without worry about sinking. Once you get that posture, you won't forget it.

Twist your butt in the seat first so you are entering more on your back than on your side which will allow you to flex more.

Enter the water from a scull (gently). If you fall back into the water in the Greenland style, often you can sink to the point of no return.

Balance Brace to Butterfly roll
What helped me most too was to learn to balance brace. A lower volume/low deck boat and some flotation on the upper body helps. I used a paddle float and no paddle sometimes, holding the float in my outer hand.

As already mentioned, it is a very short progression from a balance brace to sliding your body over the rear deck, essentially finishing a layback roll.

Learn to do a balance brace from an upside down position, not just by layin back into it. Just let your buoyancy lift you up to a balance brace positin from an upside down position. Once you have that mastered, this means you can always come-up for air and rest and do not need to wet exit. Keep a small float within reach on the front deck if you initially don’t always sucess to come-up on your own.

Once you can reliably come-up to a balance brace from an upside down position, and can come-up laying flat on the rear deck from a balance brace, the next step is to link the motion with a paddle or a paddle float in the hand and do in effect a “butterfly” roll.

Once you have that one roll or even the half roll from a balance brace, you can learn other rolls and maneuvers much faster - no need to wet exit if your attempt at something new fails.

Balance brace in the Vela

– Last Updated: Feb-26-10 12:36 PM EST –

Jay is correct above - part of what helps me is that the 16 pounds of flotation I get out of the PFD is floating a higher percentage of my torso than for most guys. So there is some cheating going on there.

On your question, once I have gotten time back in boats in pool sessions etc, I can usually balance brace in the Vela. However, it's not the easiest of our boats for that. If I am stiff or just not having a relaxed day, it'll be the Vela that I have trouble with. I think it's the combination of the angle of the side and the higher front deck. If I compare the slightly angled side of the Vela to the vertical side of the NDK Explorer LV and Romany, you see that the NDK boats are just about made to be sideways. The Vela side is also straight, but angled in when upright so it'll want to fall over on you a little in the brace. It also has a higher front deck, which means a bit more contortion is required for me to keep that upper part pushed up and away from my floating leg.

So while I can pretty much lay across the water any way I want in the NDK boats, or the Nordlow or the WW boats for that matter, in the Vela I have to really focus on arching the back and keeping the crown of my head punched back into the water. I also have to be willing to get a little more water up my nose staying there than in the other boats.

I got a roll pretty quick and can do 2 or 3 different types consistently in my sea kayak but I still have a shitty high brace and I can’t skull at all. Go figure! That is one of my goals for this year is to improve my bracing.

I’ll try a bit harder as soon as the ice is gone…

use a helper
In addition to starting with a float in your onside hand, I think the next step is to do it with empty hands and a helper standing in the water at your side. You slide back across your deck, and they’re there to gently keep you up if you start sinking. The key to a balance brace for me, is relaxing all of my upper body completely, and really arching my lower back. It’s hard to relax if you’re worried about keeping your nose up, and if that makes you tense up you’ll tip over. Having someone behind me to catch me, helped me to release all tension in my head, arms, shoulder and neck - and made it much easier for me to balance brace.

Wish I Knew Then…

– Last Updated: Feb-27-10 5:46 AM EST –

When learning to roll I wish someone had taught me:

1) To use a GP instead of the euro.

2) How much lift the GP provides when you push down and forward (sculling).

3) That keeping your head back is much easier than keeping your head down.

4) That there are snappy rolls and 'no snap' rolls and neither is better than the other... they're just different.

5) That a hip snap is really a knee lift.