Have a question?

Get in touch with Helen at info@greenlandorbust.org.

She looks forward to any questions and hopes you enjoy reading the answers.

Rolling a Qajaq Versus a Kayak

Question: I have been pretty successful in learning rolls in my 17-foot touring kayak. I have eight rolls, and while I need to work on flexibility, I am pleased with my progress. I now have a norsaq roll! I built a 17-foot skin-on-frame, which keeps my legs much straighter than in the touring boat. I do have some lateral hip space. I am struggling to even do a Standard Greenland Roll. I feel like I have lost my hip snap in my skin-on-frame. Do you have any suggestions? P.S. Your video progression from the Butterfly to Norsaq to Hand Roll is what got me to the norsaq roll!

Answer: Rolling a skin-on-frame qajaq can feel very different than rolling a touring kayak. With a touring kayak your contact points are on your inner thighs. In being so, the leg motion that rotates the kayak is an inward one, meaning that the thigh lifts up and in, controlled by the hip. It can help to think of this movement as pressure, instead of a “snap.” With a skin-on-frame qajaq, the contact point is on the upper thighs, and the leg motion is more of an upward lift than an inward one. Once again, thinking of this as pressure (instead of a snap) often helps in understanding what needs to occur. It’s also worth checking the outfitting in your skin-on-frame qajaq. Lateral space is good, because it gives your hips the room to move for both paddling and rolling. Since the pressure point in this type of kayak is on the top of your thighs (at the masik), you shouldn’t have too much space between your thighs and the masik. That said, make sure that you can exit the kayak safely in case of a capsize. – Helen

PFDs, Clothing and Tuiliks

Question: My roll has greatly improved thanks to you and your tips. I can roll with a norsaq now! I am thinking of buying a tuilik and wonder if you use a PFD on top or underneath. What do you wear under it in winter and freezing temps?

Answer: Congrats on your norsaq roll! I wear a PFD over my Reed tuilik and under my Brooks tuilik (the Brooks tuilik is too bulky to wear it on top). I typically wear my drysuit under my tuilik. Under the drysuit, I dress according to air/water temperature, wearing either just an inner core layer, just an outer core layer or both. And for the feet, SmartWool socks. – Helen

Stalled Roll

Question: I have a solid Balance Brace, but when I set up and go over for my standard roll, my momentum seems to stall out while I am in the upside down position, making it super difficult (impossible) for me to come around to set up and finish my roll. What’s going on here? Do I need to be more aggressive going over? It’s like my boat likes to hang out in the upside down position, but I sure don’t! Help.

Answer: It sounds like your kayak might not be fully capsizing. This is a fairly common problem. There are a few things that you can do to make it easier. First, when capsizing, try to enter the water forehead first (as if you were doing a dive and not a belly flop). A diving position (with a rounded spine) will help you to get deeper into the water. Once you reach a certain point, the kayak will automatically capsize completely. If you do get stuck, try jiggling your hips to bring the kayak over. Another thing you can try is holding the paddle next to the kayak and on edge (instead of flat on the surface) to create less buoyancy during the initial capsize. Make sure to hold it close to the kayak instead of allowing it to drift away from it. Flatten the paddle again for the recovery. Finally, make sure that in your underwater set-up position, you’re fully tucked and as close to the surface as possible. – Helen

Question: Could you explain a bit more about the underwater set up and keeping fully tucked and as close to the surface as possible?

Answer: In the underwater set-up position, It’s important to tuck so that you’re as close to the surface as possible. See how close you can get your face to the surface, while keeping your shoulders square to the surface (the kayak should be upside down during this tuck). What this does is it gives you “opening power.” The more tucked you are, the more energy you’ll be able to exert as you open your body (which is when you put your eyebrows underwater, engage the knee and slide onto the back deck). Without this tuck the body hangs below the kayak, and therefore, there’s no unwinding action, and no energy to tap into. – Helen

The Cross Armed Roll

Question: During the Cross Armed Roll, do the arms cross the same or the opposite way as the Butterfly Roll?

Answer: For the Cross Armed Roll, the back arm goes over the front, so it’s the opposite of the way that they are crossed during the Butterfly Roll.

– Helen

Shoulder Position during the Storm Roll

Question: I have a question about the Storm Roll. While I am in the water I have the paddle in both hands and my right knee is up. What should I do with the right shoulder in relation to the right knee?

Answer: When you square your shoulders, you want to essentially think about the position that you’re in when you float on your stomach. If you float on your stomach in a swimming pool, then your shoulders are parallel to the ground. This is the position that you want to get your shoulders in when doing the Storm Roll. When your shoulders are squared this way, you’re using the surface area of your torso as leverage to recover from the roll.

By lifting your knee, you are righting the kayak. So if your shoulders are in the correct position, your knee rights the kayak while your torso acts as a lever.

Try not to over think the paddle. Remember, the paddle doesn’t actually move during the recovery.

Remember the three steps to the Storm Roll:

Sweep (this puts the paddle in place)

Stop (this is when you can check to make sure that your paddle is in the correct position)

Come Up (this is when you engage your knee – remember to square your shoulders as you’re coming up)

– Helen

The Straightjacket Roll

Question: I can do an elbow roll easily, even slowly, but I am having trouble with the Straightjacket Roll. I can usually do a “double elbow roll,” and also roll with my fingers interlaced in front of my chest. Any suggestions are welcome.

Answer: Often when first attempting the Straightjacket Roll, the paddler tries to “sweep” onto the back deck, and essentially bumps into it. They can hang out there all day (breathing), but not actually get onto the deck. Does this sound familiar? In this description, the “sweep” is the problem. This “sweep” usually works with a hand roll, fist roll, brick roll and sometimes even the Elbow Roll, but it will not work with the Straightjacket Roll. For the Straightjacket Roll, you need to think of your upper body as a lever, and instead of trying to “sweep” onto the back deck, push your upper body toward the ground, which will give you the leverage to fully recover. Following are the steps to a successful Straightjacket Roll (described with a right-side recovery):

– Place your arms against your chest with your fingers and thumbs under your armpits.

– Capsize to the left with your shoulders parallel to the side of the kayak and your forehead down (this will give you a rounded spine).

– RELAX until your body gets to the highest position possible on the right side of the kayak (your shoulders should be parallel to the surface).

– Throw your upper body toward the ground, using your back as a lever and keeping your shoulders parallel to the surface. Simultaneously, drive hard with the right knee.

– Slide up onto the back deck (your head may hit the side of the kayak during the recovery).

– Helen

Progression from the Continuous Storm Roll to the Storm Roll

Question: My Continuous Storm Roll feels strong, and I’ve been doing it for a month now without a paddlefloat. What can I do to succeed with the full Storm Roll?

Answer: When doing the Continuous Storm Roll, first, make sure that your paddle doesn’t leave the kayak. Once you’ve got that, you can think of the Storm Roll as having three pieces:

Come Up

The Sweep is basically just to position the paddle. You shouldn’t do anything with your legs during the Sweep, which will keep the kayak upside down. The Sweep should put your paddle in the position to do a Continuous Storm Roll. Make sure that your left hand (assuming you’re doing a right side recovery) stays in contact with the kayak.

The Stop is to make sure everything is in place. Make sure your paddle is as close to the surface as possible and perpendicular to the kayak.

The Come Up is essentially exactly what you’ve been doing when you do the Continuous Storm Roll. – Helen


The 360 degree roll

Question: I have made great progress on layback rolls using your DVD, and can do the Side Scull, the Standard Roll and an unassisted Balance Brace on both sides of the kayak, when I go down and come up on the same side. Recently I have tried transitioning to capsizing on the opposite side, and am finding it surprisingly difficult. Your video shows you going over with extended arms holding the paddle flat to the water alongside, but I am not clear on how you get the paddle back to the chest for a proper sweep using the core and not the arms.

Answer: It’s great to hear that the Side Scull, Standard Roll and Balance Brace are working for you when you go down and come up on the same side. The following description is with a right side recovery. Modify as needed.

To help transition to the full 360 degree Standard Roll, first, when going down and coming up on the same side, make sure that the paddle is above the surface during the underwater set up. This will likely mean that you’re hanging out underwater for a couple of seconds before starting the roll. If you’re having a hard time reaching the surface, push your left shoulder to the ground. This will ensure that your shoulders are parallel to the surface of the water. If (once) you’ve got a clean set up with the paddle above the surface, then you’re ready to capsize on the opposite side.

Place the paddle flat on the surface of the water on the left side of the kayak. Make sure that the front blade is flat to the surface of the water and that the paddle is to your left, not forward (this will put your shoulders in the correct position for the recovery). Keeping the paddle touching the kayak, capsize to the left and wait until the kayak has fully capsized and your hands are on the surface (palms up). Then push your right hand straight up (to the sky) while keeping your left shoulder down (so that your back is parallel to the surface of the water). You should feel your hand break the surface. Once this has happened, you’ll find yourself in the position that you’re used to, and you can recover the same way.

The Second Side Roll

Question: At what stage do you recommend that students begin trying their Greenland lay-back roll on the opposite side? This is something I would like to try but I wonder if anything is needed before taking that next step. I’ve been diligently practicing (and been successful each time but once) but still feel apprehensive with the first capsize in each session OTW. Once I’ve done that first one, I can dunk myself without hesitation, haha.

Answer: It’s best to have a very solid roll before starting your second side. This means that you’re hitting the roll just about every time and not having to think about it too much (it sounds like you might be at that stage already). People who start working on the second side too early often end up with inconsistent rolls on both sides (not a good thing). – Helen

Newsletter Sign Up

Kokata Kayak Clothing Accessories Apparel Gath Sports Helmets Sea Kayaker Magazine P&H Custom Sea Kayaks Kayak Paddles by OBlenis Paddles Thule Sweden Gearlab Outdoors Logo