Technique Tips

A Greenland paddle is not only a great tool for an efficient forward stroke and strong bracing, but it is unequaled for its rolling performance. A greenland paddle has long, low-aspect blades (similar to a glider wing) that develop incredible lift when swept through the water. The blades exhibit very little tendency to dive during a sweep (much unlike most spooned blades).

The symmetry of the blade makes it easy to maneuver underwater and produces few surprises no matter which surface of the blade that you use.

A common misconception is that a Greenland paddle has "flat" faces. The cross-sections of a Greenland paddle blade is lenticular (lens-shaped). This aids rolling and sculling performance.

One of the best ways to learn technique is by observing kayakers better than yourself and teaching others. This is "mentoring" and is the basis for Qajaq USA events. Mentoring is how kayaking is generally learned in Greenland.

Experience mentoring at a Qajaq USA event. View the Qajaq USA Event Calendar.

Home > Technique > Rolls & Rescues
kayaking technique

Capsize Maneuvers Performed at the Greenland Kayaking ChampionshipsKunuunnguaq Davidsen, Nuuk 2000. Photo Copyright by Greg Stamer

Click on the Greenlandic Term to hear it spoken by Maligiaq Padilla. Literal translations courtesy of Birgit Pauksztat. For more detail on the translations please refer to the Greenland Rolling Term Translations.

  1. Side sculling
    aka:sculling on back .
    Innaqatsineq —"lying on the back".
    Performed as a high brace (palms facing upward). To make this more difficult the judges for 2002 preferred to see the participants keep their kayak deck at right angles to the water (outside of the competition it is usually preferred to keep the kayak as flat on the water as possible, done by arching your back). Two points/side
    History/Purpose: Resting pose, capsize prevention, roll training.
     Video Clip  Article
  2. Chest sculling
    Palluussineq
    "lying on one's belly".
    Some judges allow you to turn your outboard hand so that your thumb points toward the outboard paddle tip, but in 2003 you were required to keep your normal paddling grip. You may keep your head immersed during the scull (much easier than keeping your head raised). Two points/side.
    History/Purpose: Used to prevent a capsize if pulled over with the torso facing one side (e.g. fishing).
    Image   
  3. Standard Greenland roll
    Kinnguffik paarlallugu/nerfallaallugu
      "coming up on the other side, on one's back" 
    aka: sweep roll, Pawlatta roll, layback roll .
    Start tucked forward, finish leaning aft, recover to start position). You are optionally permitted to finish in a low brace, sweeping forward, as shown in the video clip. Two points/side.
    History/Purpose
    : All-purpose roll. Very easy on the body yet very powerful.
    Video Clip 
  4. Rolling with paddle held in crook of elbow
    Pakassummillugu/unermillugu
      "(holding the paddle) in the crook of your arm".
    Inboard hand grasps the paddle blade as per a standard roll, outboard hand holds the paddle clamped in the elbow. After rolling return to initial setup position with the paddle still held in the crook of your arm. Three points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recover with something held in the hand, or with one hand injured or entangled with line.
    Image of Setup   Image of sweep  
  5. Storm roll
    Siukkut pallortillugu/masikkut 
    "leaning forward, at the masik".
    Start tucked forward, finish tucked forward. The inboard hand stays in contact with the deck/hull throughout roll and is often levered off the hull during the hipsnap. This is a low brace roll (palms down). There is a misconception that this roll must be performed in a combat (non-extended) paddle position. Like all of the rolls, you can extend the paddle as much or as little as you wish. Three points/side
    History/Purpose: Excellent roll in high winds; brings you up in a very stable, strong position.
    Video Clip   Image of Finish   Article  
  6. Reverse sweep roll
    Kingumut naatillugu  — "(holding the paddle) pointed/touching aft".
    Sweep from stern to bow in a low brace, finish tucked forward). You do not need to return to the original setup position upon recovery. Three points/side.
    History/Purpose: A very popular roll in Greenland. This technique admits very little water into the cockpit even with a skirt open at the top.
    Video Clip
      Article
  7. Spine roll
    Aariammillugu  — "touching the area between the shoulder blades".
    Start with paddle behind your back, along spine and projecting over your head (or over your shoulder). Tuck forward, finish leaning aft, recover to start position. The back of the hand grasping the paddle should face your back. You may or may not get points for cupping your hand around the end of the paddle, depending on the judge. After rolling, return to your initial setup position with the paddle still between your shoulder blades. Failure to do so will disqualify your attempt. Three points/side.
    History/Purpose: The setup position was used to allow the paddle to act as a sail, to push the kayaker along in a strong tail wind. This roll grew out of this practice (source: Pavia Lumholt).
    Image of Setup
  8. Paddle held behind back
    Kingup apummaatigut 
    — "(holding the paddle) at the stern-gunwale".
    Start with paddle behind back, against gunwale leaning aft, finish with paddle behind back leaning slightly forward. Forward or reverse sculling motion for recovery is permitted. Different variations are cupping your inboard hand around the paddle tip (easiest), holding the paddle tip palm-up (slightly more difficult) or holding the paddle tip palm down (most difficult). The palm-up version is expected for competition. You are not required to return to the original setup position upon recovery. Three points/side.
    History/Purpose: Useful if kayaker capsizes with the paddle held behind the coaming as an outrigger (source: Pavia Lumholt).
    Video Clip
    .
  9. Standard roll with paddle behind neck
    Siukkut tunusummillugu
      — "forward, touching one's neck".
    A variation of roll #3. You are not permitted to cup your hand around the end of the paddle. After rolling, return to your initial setup position with the paddle still behind your neck. Failure to do so will disqualify your attempt. Four points/side.
    History/Purpose: Entanglement, skill building.
    Images:  Setup  Adopting Setup  Finish
  10. Reverse sweep roll with paddle behind neck
    Kingukkut tunusummillugu 
    — "backward, touching one's neck".
    A variation of roll #6. You are not permitted to cup your hand around the end of the paddle. You are not required to return to the original setup position after rolling up. Four points/side.
    History/Purpose: Entanglement, skill building.
  11. Armpit roll
    Paatip kallua tuermillugu illuinnarmik
    — "using only one arm, with the paddle touching the shoulder".
    aka: shotgun roll (paddle is held against your shoulder like the butt of a shotgun)
    For the setup the paddle tip is pressed against your chest near your armpit (but not under your armpit). The paddle is swept palm-up with one arm. The lift and buoyancy from the extended paddle powers this roll, no hipsnap is necessary. Keep the paddle in your "armpit" until you sit-upright. You do not need to return to the initial setup position. Three points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recover with something held in the hand, or with one hand injured or entangled with line.
    Video Clip
     Image of Setup
  12. Vertical sculling roll
    Qiperuussineq/paatit ammorluinnnaq
    — "sculling with paddle held vertically".
    Hold the paddle in an extended low brace position and raise your upper hand so that it is close to your forehead, your  palms  face toward  the gunwale, capsize and scull up with the paddle held vertically. You must scull with the paddle face held parallel to the keel. Finish in a strong forward tuck. If you allow the paddle to become horizontal while underwater (which makes the roll easier), the judges will disqualify your attempt or deduct points. Four points/side.
    History/Purpose: Entanglement, skill building.
    Video Clip  Article
  13. Sculling roll with paddle held horizontally on the foredeck
    Masikkut aalatsine
    q — "sweeping the paddle at the foredeck (masik)".
    Paddle is kept in contact with the foredeck. Best form is to scull completely around with the paddle horizontal. If you "reach up" with your paddle to brace for final recovery, some judges may deduct points. Four points/side.
    History/Purpose: Probably entanglement, or capsize with the paddle held under the forward deck lines.
  14. Sculling roll with paddle held horizontally on Isserfik (deck beam at your back)
    Isserfikkut aalatsineq — "sweeping the paddle at the Isserfik".
    Paddle is kept in contact with the isserfik. Best form is to scull completely around with the paddle horizontal. If you "reach up" with your paddle to brace for final recovery, some judges may deduct points. Four points/side.
    History/Purpose: Added at the Qaannat Kattuffiat general meeting 2005.
  15. Rolling with the arms crossed
    Tallit paarlatsillugit paateqarluni/masikkut
     — "holding the paddle with arms crossed, at the masik".
    Similar to storm roll. To setup on left side, right arm is crossed over left. For best form, lift the paddle upward upon recovery to show that your hands are crossed. You are not required to return to the initial setup position after rolling up. Five points/side.
    History/Purpose: Entanglement, skill building.
    Video Clip   Image of Setup  Article
  16. Sculling roll with paddle held under the kayak.
    Qaannap ataatigut ipilaarlugu
    — "rotating (the paddle) under the kayak"
    Forward leaning recovery with the paddle sculled under the kayak. Some judges require that the paddle is sculled at least three times or more (this is not a problem for most rollers!). Five points/side.
    History/Purpose: Entanglement, skill building. David Crantz in 1767 wrote that this roll might be used if the capsized kayaker spied the paddle floating above him.
    Video Clip  Image of Setup  Article
  17. Quick succession of storm rolls
    Pallortillugu assakaaneq 5
       — "forward rolling, round and round"
    Performing as many storm rolls as possible in 10 seconds. To earn three points you must complete at least three rolls in ten seconds (if you don't complete three rolls you don't get any points). You get an additional point for each additional roll completed (e.g. 4 points for 4 rolls, etc).
    History/Purpose: Skill building.
  18. Quick succession of standard rolls
    Nerfallarlugu assakaaneq 5
       — "rolling, lying on one's back, round and round"
    Performing as many standard rolls as possible in 10 seconds. To earn three points you must complete at least three rolls in ten seconds (if you don't complete three rolls you don't get any points). You get an additional point for each additional roll completed (e.g. 4 points for 4 rolls, etc).
    History/Purpose: Skill building.
  19. Roll with hunting float
    Avataq isserfiup taqqaanut qaannap sinarsuanut qilerullugu
      — "with a hunting float tied to the deckline at the isserfik (deck beam immediately behind the cockpit) at the side of the kayak (i.e., as opposed to putting the float on the aft deck of the kayak").
     For a roll starting with a capsize on the left, the float is tied to the right side of the kayak, and vice-versa. Float is tied tightly with one line to the decklines aft of the cockpit and another line to the decklines at the stern so that float rides in the water on the side of the kayak just aft of the cockpit. Once float is rigged, perform a standard roll (with paddle), the float provides strong resistance to test your roll. Five points/side.
    History/Purpose: Hunting hazard; capsize with full hunting gear with float impeding roll.
  20. Throwing stick, start tucked forward, finish tucked forward
    Norsamik masikkut 
    — "with a norsak at the masik (forward)".
    Hold your off-hand against the hull during the roll. Six points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle.
    Video Clip
  21. Throwing stick, sweep from stern to bow, finish tucked forward
    Norsamik kingukkut
       "with a norsaq, starting aft".
    Hold your off-hand against the hull during the roll. Six points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle.
    Image of Setup
  22. Throwing stick, start tucked forward, finish leaning aft
    Norsamik nerfallaallugu
     "with a norsaq, lying on one's back".
    Your sweeping hand must be palm-up during the roll.  In execution, this roll is very similar to roll #11, the "armpit" roll. You may "throw" your off-hand over the hull on recovery. You must sit-upright to win points but you do not need to return to the original setup position. Six points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle.
  23. Hand roll, start tucked forward, finish tucked forward
    Assammik masikkut 
     "using your hand, at the masik (forward)".
    Hold your off-hand against the hull during the roll. Six points/side. Seven points/side.
    See the video clip for roll #19. The hand rolls and throwing stick rolls share the same mechanics.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle or throwing stick.
  24. Hand roll, sweep from stern to bow, finish tucked forward
    Assammik kingukkut
     —"using your hand, starting aft".
    Hold your off-hand against the hull during the roll. Six points/side. Seven points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle or throwing stick.
  25. Hand roll, start tucked forward, finish leaning aft
    Assammik nerfallaallugu
     —"using your hand, lying on one's back".
    Your sweeping hand must be palm-up during the sweep (palm down on the deck for the initial setup). In execution, this roll is very similar to roll #11, the "armpit" roll. You may "throw" your off-hand over the hull on recovery. You must sit-upright to win points but you do not need to return to the original setup position. Seven points/side.
    History/Purpose: Recovery without paddle or throwing stick.
  26. Hand roll with a clenched fist, start tucked forward, finish tucked forward 
    Assak peqillugu masikkut /Qilerlugu/poorlugu
      —"making a fist (binding it/ wrapping it), at the masik ".
    Participants hold a Ping-Pong ball to ensure fist remains closed. Off-hand can be flung over the hull as a counterweight. Eight points/side.
    History/Purpose: Added at the Qaannat Kattuffiat general meeting 2005.
  27. Hand roll with a clenched fist, sweep from stern to bow, finish tucked forward
    Assak peqillugu kingukkut /Qilerlugu/poorlugu
      —"making a fist (binding it/ wrapping it), starting aft ".
    Participants hold a Ping-Pong ball to ensure fist remains closed. Off-hand can be flung over the hull as a counterweight. Eight points/side.
    History/Purpose: Added at the Qaannat Kattuffiat general meeting 2005.
  28. Hand roll with a clenched fist, start tucked forward, finish leaning aft
    Assak peqillugu nerfallaallugu /Qilerlugu/poorlugu
      —"making a fist (binding it/ wrapping it), lying on one's back ".
    Participants hold a Ping-Pong ball to ensure fist remains closed. Off-hand can be flung over the hull as a counterweight. Eight points/side.
    History/Purpose: Skill building/hand roll recovery without losing an object held in the hand.
  29. Hand roll holding an Eight kilogram brick or stone, tucked forward, finish tucked forward
    Ujaqqamik tigumisserluni “masikkut”  
     —"holding a stone in one's hand, at the masik ".
    Nine points/side.
    History/Purpose: Added at the Qaannat Kattuffiat general meeting 2005.
  30. Hand roll holding an Eight kilogram brick or stone, sweep from stern to bow, finish tucked forward
    Ujaqqamik tigumisserluni,” kingukkut” 
     —"holding a stone in one's hand, starting aft".
    Nine points/side.
    History/Purpose: Added at the Qaannat Kattuffiat general meeting 2005.
  31. Hand roll holding an Eight kilogram brick or stone, start tucked forward, finish leaning aft
    Ujaqqamik tigumisserlunii “nerfallaallugu”  
     —"holding a stone in one's hand, lying on one's back".
    The off-hand can be flung over the hull as a counterweight. Nine points/side.
    History/Purpose: Skill building/hand roll recovery without losing an object held in the hand.
    Video Clip.

  32. Elbow roll
    Ikusaannarmik niaqoq/pukusuk patillugu
     —"only with the elbow, touching the head/ neck".
    Start tucked forward with one hand clasped behind neck, finish leaning aft (the off-hand can be flung over the hull as a counterweight). After rolling you must sit-upright with your elbow still behind your head to win points. Ten points/side.
    History/Purpose: Skill building, possibly entanglement.
    Image of Setup 
  33. Straight jacket, no hands-roll
    Tallit paarlatsillugit timaannarmik
     —"crossing the arms, only with the body".
    Roll with the arms crossed, arms must stay pressed to chest. If you work into the final recovery by floating in a "balance brace", some judges may not award points. You must sit upright after rolling with your arms still pressed against your chest. Eleven points/side.
    History/Purpose: Skill building, possibly entanglement.
    Video Clip   Image of Setup
  34. Paddling upside down
    Pusilluni paarneq
     —"paddling with the kayak turned upside down".
    You must travel a straight, marked course while capsized. The paddle must be held above your upturned hull. Forward progress is made by tucking forward and making a back-paddling motion. After you capsize, additional breaths are not permitted while underway. Scoring is one point for the first three meters and an additional point for each two meters traveled.
    History/Purpose: Skill building
    Image
  35. Walrus Pull ("Pulling")
    Nusutsinneq kinngunani iluarisamut 
    —"pulling as long as possible without capsizing".
    Prevent a capsize with five men pulling the kayak sideways from shore. Line travels from attachment point just aft of the cockpit, away from shore, under the kayak, and into hands of the men on shore. You must steer to keep kayak and line perpendicular or control will be lost. Steering is done by twisting the paddle and/or by sliding the paddle forward or backward along the gunwale (the shaft is held against the gunwale). A detailed article on the technique is found in the first volume of the Qajaq USA Journal. Kayak must be pulled at least fifteen meters. This is a very dangerous maneuver and injuries have occurred. Paddles and kayaks are occasionally damaged. Nine points, perform one side of your choice.
    History/Purpose: Direct holdover from the hazards of hunting large marine mammals with line.
    Video Clip  Images:  Setup and Notes  Starting Pull   Submerged

Notes on Scoring and Rules


Acknowledgments



We are indebted to John Heath, Maligiaq Padilla, Kaleraq Bech, the Qaannat Kattuffiat, Hans Kleist-Thomassen, and many others, for making this list of Greenlandic rolling terms available outside of Greenland. Also, if not for the passion of kayakers such as Manasse Mathaeussen and others, who kept these skills alive, and the foresight of the Greenlanders to form Qaannat Kattuffiat to preserve these skills, much of this information would likely have been lost. My apologies to those contributors whose name goes unmentioned.

John Heath compiled the initial English translation of the rolling list and the roll descriptions over a long period of time involving several trips to Greenland and at much personal expense. John met both with old seal catchers and young Greenland competition athletes to glean this information.

"Eastern Arctic Kayaks" by John Heath and Dr. Eugene Arima, was published in 2004. This book contains John Heath's documentation of the Greenlandic rolling terms, including descriptions, photographs and illustrations of the rolling maneuvers.