Using an extended paddle

Question: During an unexpected capsize, I’d likely be holding the paddle close to the center. In your class we learned the roll using an extended paddle. What impact does this change in position have?

Answer: As far as where to hold the paddle, it’s always okay to extend it. If you are knocked over in conditions, your set-up will be the most important factor of your roll. It is perfectly acceptable to extend the paddle before rolling up. Over time, and with practice, you’ll be able to roll holding the paddle wherever you choose to (or use no paddle at all), but in a “combat” type situation, it’s best to revert to what you are most comfortable with. You’ll be spending a couple of seconds setting up anyway, might as well make the roll as easy as possible 🙂

The Shotgun Roll

Question: When attempting the Shotgun Roll I go over and am able to keep the paddle on my chest and wait for the tip of the  paddle to surface. I then turn my hand palm up and sweep, thus rotating the boat on its side whereby I am able to breath. However that is it. Because the paddle is straight out from my hand and not perpendicular (like in a Balance Brace), I am not feeling any support, and I can’t slide up on my back deck. The paddle sweeps as far  as the center of my boat, and then if I can’t work my hand to the center so I can do a Balance Brace and slide up, the boat flops over on me and I need to do a layback recovery roll. What am I missing here?

Answer: It sounds like you have the concept right. There could be a couple of things that are preventing you from recovering. Make sure that you are flat on your back and sweeping the paddle so that it finishes perpendicular to your kayak. If recovering on the right side of your kayak, try pushing your left shoulder toward the ground during the sweep to square off your shoulders. Engage your knee at the start of the sweep, and right the kayak as early as possible. You should feel an arch in your lower back if the kayak is righted enough during the recovery. This is a very slow roll, and when done correctly the paddle will provide a lot of lift, more so than the Butterfly Roll.

Body Types and the Balance Brace

Question: Do certain body types make the Balance Brace more difficult? Like my overweight midsection? Or a long, tall upper body? What about a boat with a high cockpit rim?
Answer: There are many factors that play into the success of a Balance Brace, and the things that you mentioned are some of them. A Balance Brace is essentially the “sweet spot” where your upper body floats flat on the water, while your lower body keeps the kayak upright. It is crucial to have your shoulders as flat as possible. Think of the position that your upper body is in when you float on your back in a swimming pool. The trick is to get your upper body in this position, while keeping your lower body engaged enough to keep the kayak upright. Flexibility certainly plays a part, more so in fact than body shape. A Balance Brace can be performed in any kayak, although some are more comfortable than others. The height of the coaming is a comfort factor, but so is the shape of the kayak. We’ll be releasing a new DVD in May called Yoga for Outdoor People. It will cover specific asanas to help with specific rolls, with the Balance Brace being one of them. Keep an eye out for it 🙂

Problems Capsizing

Question: When I do the Butterfly Roll I have a hard time flipping over, as if the paddle being beside the kayak stabilizes it. Getting the paddle to the other side and up to the surface takes almost as much effort as the roll itself. Any suggestions here?

Answer: Difficulty capsizing when doing a Butterfly Roll 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.

Problems with the Balance Brace

Question: My Balance Brace is giving me trouble. It works, but only barely. I end up in the “sweet spot” quite deep, with only my nose above the surface. It’s hard to be relaxed in this position. I try to get my shoulders parallel to the water, apply pressure to my right knee, keep my upper body square to the boat, left arm under the stern and the right arm slightly bent above my head. Was there anything else?

Answer: You seem to have all of the main points. One thing that you might try is to slide your left arm further under the stern of the kayak. If it’s okay on your shoulder, you can slide your arm under the kayak all the way up to your armpit. The other thing that might help is to arch the right side of your lower back (this is for a right-side Balance Brace, vice versa for the left side). You can either think about arching the right side of your back, or lifting the part of your belly that is about two inches to the right of your belly button.

Greenland Paddles, Euro Blades, Qajaqs and Kayaks

Question: I wondered if you knew of any resources for good rolling, videos/techniques with standard paddles and non-greenland boats? Most of the rolling videos I see are with Greenland boats and sticks, or little whitewater boats. What about the everyday kayaker with, say, a Brit boat or recreational tourer? Would be really useful I think to see some more widely applicable videos using standard craft and paddles.
Answer: Thanks for your message. I really enjoy discussing this topic. The techniques that are described in my rolling DVD are suitable for any type of paddle and any type of kayak. In fact, most of our students don’t have Greenland paddles or Greenland style kayaks. Of the kayaks that we own three are Greenland style (a west Greenland skin-on-frame, a Tahe Marine Greenland and a Valley Anas Acuta) and three are not (a P&H Cetus MV, a P&H Delphin and a Tiderace). The maneuvers on the DVD can be performed in any of them.

Last year I wrote an article for Ocean Paddler magazine demonstrating this and sampled lots of kayaks. I’ve also covered the subject in Sea Kayaker magazine, and they posted this video to go along with my article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiAIPYRWHEo . The kayak shown here is a very common Brit Boat (a Romany), and I’m wearing standard touring gear. As far as the type of paddle, rolling has to do with the body and not the paddle, so with good technique, the roll should work whether you’re using a Euro blade, a GP or an Invisible paddle (see the top video on this page: http://www.greenlandorbust.org/stuff/ ). That said, for many of us that get hooked on rolling, we find that some kayaks are more comfortable to do very advanced rolls in (such as the Elbow Roll or Straightjacket Roll) because of the low back deck. The rolls also look very sleek when performed in a low volume kayak. However, most of the rolls on the competition rolling list can be done just as comfortably in any type of sea kayak. I learned all of my rolls in a plastic Tempest 170.

It seems gear specific when you call a Standard Greenland Roll that name, but the same roll can also be described as a Sweep Roll or a Standard Roll. The Storm Roll is similar to a C to C Roll, so really the difference is in the language not in the gear itself.

Foam Masik

Question: I wonder if you could give some advice about creating a masik for my Tahe. Can you point me to any useful advice or descibe what you yourself have done, if anything, to improvise a masik?

Answer: I didn’t use a masik for a long time, and then I made one with a piece of foam. It’s a rectangular chunk of foam with no special carvings. I cut it with a steak knife. Once in the kayak I slide it in and pull it up over my thighs. This makes a very tight fit with lots of contact. Make sure that you can safely wet exit if you make something similar. Some people glue masiks into their kayaks, although I’ve never done this. Lately I haven’t been using my masik, and have the kayak set up exactly the way that I received it.

Forward Finishing Rolls

Question: I have a Current Designs Solstice GT, with what I would consider a high back deck that does not lend itself to a standard lay-back finishing Greenland roll. What roll would work so that I don’t have to finish laying back? Obviously I’m talking about a forward finishing roll, but which would be the most reliable, easiest to do?

Answer: The Current Designs Solstice GT should be fine for the Standard Greenland Roll. Next time you’re in that kayak, let your head hang back so that your chin is in the air. Allow your back to arch naturally, and relax to the point where your body settles as if you were asleep. If your forehead is on the back deck, then great! If not, but you’re relaxed, then that is great too. Remember that you don’t have to finish the roll touching the kayak, you only need to finish it in a relaxed position.

That said, if you want to start playing around with forward finish rolls, I’d suggest the Storm Roll as your first. It’s the most common forward finish Greenland Roll, and I think that it’s the easiest. If you have my DVD, there are directions on that roll in the bonus section.

Fixing a Sinking Balance Brace

Question: As promised at the Storm Gathering, I’m trying to hand roll. I’ve been using a single paddlefloat on my right hand, and successively reducing buoyancy until it’s probably got about a litre of air left in it. This works fine – I can do a “hand” roll like that and am happy with a Balance Brace. However, when I decrease the air to nothing I can no longer do the balance brace, my nose ends up a couple of inches underwater and I can’t get myself back up. Interestingly, in the same pool session I was trying re-entry and roll and with a half-full kayak the balance brace without paddlefloat was no problem – presumably because more of me (at least one leg) is already below the water line at the other end, and the lip of the cockpit is lower. In fact I did manage a slow but full 360 hand-roll like that. So am I doing something wrong, or is it quite likely I simply can’t balance brace with no flotation support?

Answer: It’s great to hear that you’ve been working on your rolls. When doing a Balance Brace, you want to think about your upper and lower body being separate (the division is at the waist). Your lower body should stay engaged, keeping the kayak as upright as possible. Your upper body should float on the surface. This means that you need to bring your upper body as perpendicular as possible to the kayak, so that both shoulders are flat on the surface. You may need to arch your back fairly aggressively to get your body over the cockpit and into the water while keeping the kayak upright. Your arms should be relaxed, and your head should be in the water without any tension. A couple of common mistakes with the Balance Brace are not having both shoulders flat on the surface and not having both arms relaxed. If both shoulders are not flat, your body is in a sinking position, not a floating position. If both arms are not relaxed, then the tendency is to pull down on the paddle/paddle float/etc. Play around with body position, and keep practicing… it’ll come.


Sprayskirts for Ocean Cockpits

Question: I’m using a Tahe Greenland for rolling and daytrips along the Baltic and North seas. For rolling I use a Brooks tuiliq. I think that I can wear it also above my drysuit. But for the daytrips I have when there are just small waves, I get a lot of water in the cockpit. So I’m looking for a new sprayskirt, and I hope that you can recommend one for the Greenland with the LC cockpit.

Answer: The Brooks tuiliq is wonderful for rolling, and we wear ours over our drysuits all the time. For paddling however, sprayskirts are often more comfortable. We use the ones made by Snapdragon, and prefer the all neoprene ones. You’ll need to get the cockpit size xxs, and the tube size will depend on your size.


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