What is the Value of a Balance Brace?

Seriously. Rolling and bracing are obviously great ways to get or stay upright. A balance brace is what? An exercise of some sort? Some kind of rest period?

got the answer yesterday
There was a Greenland demonstration and the answer is that it was a way of hunters to rest along a coastline with few easy take outs. The original power naps.



– Last Updated: May-31-10 10:47 AM EST –

I've never felt the need. Reckon they didn't have caffeine and sugar.

(or maybe my take-outs weren't so far apart)

Resting in 30 degree water???

– Last Updated: May-31-10 8:06 AM EST –

You said it - it's an exercise, like sculling on the water. The mastery and total control of your boat and body on the water allows you to easily execute needed skills with total control and effortlessly when actually needed.

I don't know who ever came up with that crazy resting in frigid water thing. Let's see, I'm kind-of tired, maybe I'll take a nap - this seems like a nice place next to the ice berg laying in the water.

Sorta like when I see how slowly I can brace and roll. Get the feel of twisting the boat up and down with my legs.

just how well you can control your boat.

Dan Segal
He’s a Greeland coach. That was his explanation.

A balance brace or side-scull offers an excellent way to stretch out your back and legs, even in a cramped cockpit. It’s almost as good as stretching your legs on shore – very useful if you are miles offshore and are cramping up. Yes, you can fall asleep in a balance brace, and I have done it, but that’s not the point of the maneuver. Maligiaq Padilla, one of the best kayakers in Greenland today, told me that the boys of his village weren’t allowed to kayak offshore with the men until they learned this skill.

For most people the best use of the balance brace/scull to to learn or fine tune your roll. When you learn to move your body and kayak into a balance brace, with the kayak almost flat on the water, it takes very little hipsnap (if any) to get on an even keel or roll up. Most beginners have the kayak almost inverted when they start their hipsnap, making the roll much energy intensive and difficult.

Greg Stamer

Personal take…
Interesting to see the replies - I’ve heard this as a complaint from a coach who I think is a wonderful person and a great teacher, but who just doesn’t get why anyone would bother to master a balance brace as a practical matter. Not surprisingly, this person can’t manage it.

I’ve heard the resting part, and I think it is practical for many of us. Yup, taking a power nap in 36 degree water doesn’t appeal to this thin skinned Caucasian. But it’s a great way to get some lazy cooling time on the water on days when the water is still at dry suit temps and the air is 20 degrees warmer. It is reliable on even fairly good sized ocean swells as long as they are the rollers and haven’t gotten steep and white capped.

The other thing is as mentioned above - boat control, confidence, sense of mastery - whatever you want to call it. There are some among us - I am one - who came into the whole idea of purposely capsizing your boat to roll or get a deep brace with extremely high anxiety. It took me a very long time to just relax long enough to be able to focus and execute the plan, and until that I couldn’t brace worth a damn. I sincerely believe that if I had been started by someone who ran me thru the balance brace early on, something which I apparently could do pretty easily, I could have cut down the high anxiety time by a year. Just being able to scull to that intermediate position to get some air and regroup would have been very helpful.

The balance brace is a kayaking skill
just like many others. There are many different interest in kayaking and skills you can learn if you desire. I find the balance brace to be a basic skill in kayak recovery. Like all braces, the more the skill is developed the safer you will be when you need to unexpectedly recover. The balance brace teaches you the skill and confidence of having control over your recovery from any position. I enjoy paddling in rough conditions and want all the tools and skills I can have for an enjoyable, challenging and safe paddle.

“I enjoy paddling in rough conditions”
“and want all the tools and skills I can have for an enjoyable, challenging and safe paddle …”

Do people really balance brace in rough conditions?! I’ve only ever seen it done on flat water.

balance bracing was a skill dreamed up
by sharks

Someone we know does WW and has ended up paddling down sideways more than one time because it took them a little time to get the purchase needed to roll up with current etc. I came up pretty slowly more than once, when I got other than downstream. So was I sculling the whole time or do I call the moments when I felt fully supported by the water a balance brace? I know I wasn’t doing any work with the paddle to stay up for moments here and there. It’s at the least a close call.

Similar moments are possible in the roughest of conditions.

The point is just that it is one more position and balance point relative to the boat that can be useful to know. I don’t understand why anyone would expend derogatory energy on nothing more than a paddler position in a kayak. It seems a waste of calories or whatever to get into a thing about it.

Total crock
It’s a way to show off your boat control skills.

A skill of the modern

– Last Updated: May-31-10 12:32 PM EST –

swimming pool Greenland Kayakers ...

Show me some documentation that it was used more than 20 years ago by native people. (Not anecdotes, but pictures or videos or written descriptions in historical documents from original sources.)


Notice the word "balance brace" begins to appear about in 1986.
Obviously Greenlanders used methods to keep their head out of the water if they could not roll, but I think a lot of BS gets generated. They certainly did not call it the Pertrussen maneuver.

Same scratch of the head as above…
Whatever its historical name, or lack of, there are people who enjoy using it now. A large number of those folks, not all, are non-native folks who paddle in a Greenland style using similar tools.

The question was what the value of it is, there are answers from some including myself who have pointed out a use… these answers are on point to the original question. And no one who said this stuff is going to stop using it tomorrow because the word “balance brace” can’t be found in a historical reference.

So same as to bowrudder - does it matter? You use it or you don’t - it’s just a body position.

Not modern at all, except that the term “balance brace” is a fairly recent term that John Heath coined. Likewise, I coined the term “Petrussen Manuever” to describe a very different historical manuever. FWIW, side sculling in Greenland is called Innaqatsineq —“lying on the back”.

from “innar-” lying down (on one’s back). The Greenland words do not foster easy communication hence the new terms. You can hear Innaqatsineq spoken at http://www.qajaqusa.org/QK/rolls/rolls_phonetic.html.

As to historical documentation, in 1767, David Krantz, in his volume, History of Greenland, wrote one of the earliest descriptions of Greenland rolling methods. His first description sounds identical to a side scull/balance brace: “The Greenlander lays himself first on one side, then on the other, with his body flat upon the water, (to imitate the case of one who is nearly, but not quite overset) and keeps the balance with his pautik or oar, so that he raises himself again”.

These are still common, basic skills among kayakers in Greenland today. The first time that most Westerners were introduced to the balance brace/side scull was in John Heath’s landmark video “Greenlanders at Kodiak” (1989), where Greenlander John Petersen gave a rolling demonstration in a traditional SOF kayak. These techniques caused a major stir at the time and shook up the current dogma. I remember Randal Washburne writing in Sea Kayaker at the time that it was “illogical that the techniques work”…

Greg Stamer

Teaching Tool
When I teach people to roll. I start with the balance brace then progress to sculling while lying on the back. The body position is the same for both and is the basis of all lay back rolls. Once people get this the roll is easy. It usually takes me 30-40 minutes to get someone to his/her first roll.

Also, when my rolls start to get sloppy, I go back to the balance brace and sculling to get me back to basic good form.


– Last Updated: May-31-10 1:20 PM EST –

"a very recent term" coined by the folks who make instruction a business.

His first description sounds identical to a side scull/balance brace: "The Greenlander lays himself first on one side, then on the other, with his body flat upon the water, (to imitate the case of one who is nearly, but not quite overset) and keeps the balance with his pautik or oar, so that he raises himself again".

This could be a description of many kinds of rolls ... laying onself on the water and balancing with the paddle ... it does not say they lie there and rest in the waves. That's modern bullshit.

Time to go paddling
Off shortly here to go spend time getting wet with foolishness like rolls, bracing, sculling and (heaven forbid) balance brace. Better day to do that on a quiet local pond than drive home with Memorial Day weekend traffic from a more major locale.

I think at least a couple here need to find a local pond today too…