Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson

About a year ago I started thinking about making an instructional rolling DVD. I wanted to show people that a roll doesn’t have to be quick and violent, and that a Greenland roll is gentle on the body… and it doesn’t even require a Greenland paddle.

I went to a local film production place and enthusiastically told the representative about my project. She looked at me with a confused expression on her face, and I realized that I either needed to drop the idea or find a kayaker to do the filming.

Soon after that I saw a trailer for a DVD called Paddle California. It was made by Bryant Burkhardt. I had instructed with Bryant for a few hours during the 2009 Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium, but had not seen him since. Still, I decided to contact him.

As it turned out, Bryant was the missing link to this project, and the two of us began putting the DVD together. I made an outline for the format, and Bryant drove to Arcata for a long weekend of filming in various locations around Humboldt County. Over the next few weeks Bryant and were in regular contact, with Bryant doing the editing and me working on sound.

Once everything was put together, we met again for a very long weekend of continuous work. We re-filmed what we didn’t like, added film that was missing and began the long process of burning DVDs and watching them again and again.

Amazingly, it was done late that Sunday… just as planned. At 6 a.m. the following day Bryant and I watched it one last time, agreed that it was good to go, and I took it to the post office. All I had thought about since beginning this project was the DVD, and I was surprised by the powerful emotions that I felt handing it over to the woman at the counter.

The DVD has three chapters and a bonus section. The first chapter teaches a balance brace and a standard Greenland roll (which can be done with any type of paddle). The second chapter troubleshoots the roll, and the third chapter is a progression to more advanced rolls. The bonus section is on forward finishing rolls.

Thanks to Tahe Marine, Kokatat and Joe O’ Paddles for providing financial support for the DVD, and to Outdoor Research for additional support. I also want to thank Bryant for working with me on this, Michael Morris for being my student and taking the skin off a qajaq so that I could use it and Alex Wilson, my son, for always laughing at his mother’s crazy projects (he’s also the person who has been labeling the packages for all the pre-orders).

To order DVDs click here. For Trade or Dealer inquires, call (206) 661-3745, e-mail or visit

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