Is Competitive Rolling Like Diving?

It struck me recently that Greenland competitive rolling is like competitive diving. Your basic rolls and dives are for function. The rest is aesthetics and athletics. Is that a fair assessment?

Greenland rolls
Yes, I’d agree with that.

Yes, those of us who roll for
survival pay little attention to Greenland rolling tricks. As for paddles, I will probably never use a GP in my life. They are great for certain reasons, and entirely irrelevant for others.

Entirely Irrelevant?
I’ve read here that some people would never take a GP in whitewater… then I’ve read where some have had great success in whitewater. Where do you think a GP will be “entirely irrelevant”?

Mostly agree
All of the Greenland rolls, basic and tricks, have you start from a set-up position. That does not teach you to roll no matter how you capsize. In fact it teaches you to roll when you should be bracing. Have a look at EJ’s bracing and rolling video where he talks about the advanced roll without a setup. That is what you need to learn to do and standard form for even the basic Greenland roll does not teach you that.

You find me some documented
cases of regular whitewater paddlers who always use a GP paddle. Give yourself some time.

GP in whitewater
There is no question that you can use a GP in some whitewater and probably get by. But there is also no question that it is not the best tool. Using a GP in a steep creek or class IV would be suicidal. In a lot of class III it might work but would be a pain in the arse. More difficult class III would be problematic. So we are talking class II: no maneuvering. Yep, that would work.

It’s a fair comparison

– Last Updated: May-20-12 10:18 PM EST –

If you don't desire to become a more reliable roller or don't have the skills to learn different rolls. The purpose of the variation of rolls is to learn to instinctively roll up from any capsized position without going to your one set up position. It works quite well. I enjoy learning new skills and challenging myself and can't understand why people who don't have to cut down something they don't understand. Paddling is about enjoying yourself, whatever that might be.

Who is this “we”?
No offense, but knocking Greenland skills as “tricks” and then admitting that you have never used a GP doesn’t make for “expert testimony”.

All paddles are a compromise. Your statement about a paddle being great for certain reasons and irrelevant for others, holds true for any paddle type; wing, spoon, whatever.

I roll for survival AND pay close attention to the Greenland rolls. Yes, you can do both. For me the payoff is a finely practiced spatial sense that makes a normal combat roll a non-event.

Greg Stamer

Greenland competition rolls
It’s worth pointing out that the annual Greenland competition isn’t a “rolling contest” at all. Individual rolling and team rolling make up only two events.

Although most people today practice the Greenland rolls for sport, and to improve their skills, many of the Greenland rolls were originally developed to deal with life-threatening hunting situations (such as entanglement with harpoon line), but others are clearly for skill building and simple “one-upsmanship”.

A list of the rolls with some very basic notes on their history/usage is

Greg Stamer

Greenland Rolling
Of the 40+ greenland rolls, each was designed for a specific purpose, basically to stay alive. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a greenlander, especially historically indiginous people who know how to swim. Nobody jumps into the ocean for a quick dip up there.

Several years back we had a local whitewater guy who got in a roll-or-die situation. He blew his roll attempts; got entangled in a submerged root ball and drowned. Okay, so the guy didn’t have a reliable roll. On the other hand I have found the GP shape to be the absolute best rolling tool. It zips under the water to exactly where you aim it. The Euro drags to where you aim it unless you use a series of arcs. I can’t help wonder if a MODIFIED Greenland design might have kept that guy from drowning; A carbon fiber GP with significantly more surface area than usual.

thank you for that

GP on WW
As someone who regularly paddles with a GP in coastal environs and paddles with a Euro on the river I would certainly say that I would find it difficult to wrangle a GP in the tight confines of class II water, let alone class IV. Shallow, rocky and narrow just don’t suit the GP, however, that was not the environment that the paddle was developed in.

In terms of rolling, GP rolls (to a limited extent, due to boat designs etc) work with a Euro blade and do work on the river. Also, learning some of the GP rolling techniques will strengthen your roll and make it more reliable, though don’t expect a WW boat to come up without a more defined hip snap, something that is generally absent in GP rolling.

I’ve argued with Warren Williamson, on a few occasions, about the suitability of GP for every application, and while he argues that it works for everything, I maintain that, while it can be forced to work, that doesn’t mean it’s the most appropriate. In fact, I was out on the river the other day and Dubside was using a Euro on the river as well. Perhaps that could be considered agreement that “works” and “appropriate” don’t mean the same thing.

One more thing, If you modified a GP to make it shorter and wider to accomodate water depth and the need for quick and powerful acceleration you’d end up with…a WW paddle.

Not sure how you reached this conclusion. I suppose it may be true of those who like to go through a variety of Greenland rolls that they do them from a ritualized setup. However, it absolutely is not true that Greenland rolls are only done from a pre-capsize set up position and practicing them is not useful for combat rolls. If anything, those who have learned, practiced and use GP rolling techniques often say the variety of rolls gives them more options in a combat situation and, as Greg noted, greatly improves their spatial orientation when knocked down, worked over, or whatever.

Ask a golfer…
No one paddle design does it all. That argument would be like a golfer saying that, say, a 7 iron is the best club in the bag for everything … driving, putting, etc.

Sometimes, however, you can perform better using a design that you are very familiar with, rather than using something that is perhaps “better for the situation”, but is foreign to you. However that is the realm of personal preference and shouldn’t be pushed on anyone else.

That said, our view of a GP is very narrow (literally). Some of the racers in Greenland have blades as wide as they can grip with large hands, resulting in blades that are sometimes in the range of five inches or more, – starting to blur the boundaries. These wide, sharp-edged paddles require a lot of power. Other paddlers, like Maligiaq prefer a relatively narrow blade.

FWIW, I have used a GP in fast tidal races (no problem) and some whitewater, but it’s not my first choice for whitewater. Likewise I wouldn’t use my wings for whitewater either, unless I was only concerned with a downriver speed run, rather than playing and maneuvering, (and didn’t care if the thin carbon blades got beat to hell).

Greg Stamer

So how come …
when people demonstrate and teach the standard Greenland roll they always seem to do it this way:

That is my point and EJ’s point as well.

GP and dynamic tide races
The golfer analogy is perfect!

I love my GP and AP in dynamic conditions and tide races! I have both the AP and GP made by NLP (I confess, I’m the PNW Ambassador) and use them regularly in Deception Pass, Room of Doom, Cattle Pass and other gnarly tide races. I’ve played with it in class II and found it to be…lacking in what I needed for the river.

My only point that it “works” and “appropriate/optimal” are not the same thing.

WW roll instruction
Introductory WW rolling also starts from that ritualized setup position. Expanding on the roll doesn’t work until you have that basic roll down and the bodily movements in muscle memory. It’s the same in GP rolling. You start with that basic and expand from there.

While I don’t know what EJ has to say, What I can say, as a GP roller and WW paddler is that you don’t start teaching rolling with the hand roll, you start at the beginning with the standard layback roll (GP)or the screw roll/C2C(WW).

“One more thing, If you modified a GP to make it shorter and wider to accomodate water depth and the need for quick and powerful acceleration you’d end up with…a WW paddle.”

My thinking is that you’d get a WW paddle that would be a superior rolling tool.