Progression from Butterfly Roll to Hand Roll

Question: I am doing fine on my onside standard roll, but my easiest roll is always the butterfly roll. I have been looking at some Greenland roll videos online and the hand rolls look very similar to me to the butterfly rolls. Do they feel very similar? Any advice before I try one?

Answer: A hand roll is very similar to a butterfly roll. To progress to this really fine tune your butterfly roll. Make sure that your shoulders are square to the surface before righting your kayak and that your body is out to the side as far as possible, while keeping your shoulders flat. Also, as with any roll, make sure that you’re putting as little pressure as possible on the paddle (any roll has way more to do with body mechanics than what’s in the paddler’s hand). When you feel that you are ready to move on, work on a layback norsaq roll. To start, hold the norsaq in the center, just as you would when doing a butterfly roll. It’s the exact same roll, so all the same rules apply (flat shoulders, arched back, etc.). When this is easy for you, try doing the same roll while holding the smaller end of the norsaq. The Greenlandic name for this roll is Norsamik Nerfalallugu (Throwing Stick, Front to Back). Once this feels natural to you and you’re ready to progress, remove the norsaq and do the same roll. That’s your hand roll (Assammik Nerfallallugu).


3 Responses to “Progression from Butterfly Roll to Hand Roll”

  • Murrough O'Brien says:

    Helen: Enjoyed your article in August Sea Kayaker. I love my thin stick but in the reading I’ve done, I’ve not been able to establish if they are faster than a fat blade. Do the Greenlanders use them only because they enjoy them or because they are faster as well? They are so delightful to use and easy to make I can’t understand why more people don’t use them. Thanks for any help you can give. Murrough – Victoria B.C.

  • helen says:

    Hi Murrough,

    The speed of a kayaker has to do with many factors; including the kayak itself, but mainly, the technique of the person paddling it. The three main types of paddles are traditional paddles (Greenland sticks), European paddles (the Euro blade) and wing paddles. It is believed by many that of the three types, the wing blade is the fastest. Of the other two… it depends who you ask. I believe that it comes down to technique.

    When I was in Greenland I only saw Greenland paddles. The purpose of the Greenland National Kayaking Championship is to preserve the traditions of the Greenlandic culture, and therefore, traditional gear is used. However, the Greenland paddle is a remarkable tool, and so my thought falls to the common saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” This might be part of the reason that the European blade hasn’t become popular in Greenland.

    As you said yourself, “they are so delightful to use and easy to make.” I have found that my Greenland paddles work well in everything I paddle in, from flat water to surf, and I don’t use any other kind of paddle. Hope this helps.

    – Helen

  • JD Webb says:

    Hey, I just wanted to drop a note and say nice post!

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