The Inuit designed two type of paddle wear that have survived the test of time and are still readily available today to buy. The first their summer solution is a variation on the spray skirt commonly used on sea and white water kayaks globally today. The Akuilisaq differs from the common spray deck or skirt, instead of using a tight fitting (drum) deck the Inuit style is raised up high onto your chest and made of a lot more fabric. This design allows for a lot of flexibility yet keeps water out of the hull. It is not very water tight as it relies on a cord or elastic fitting across the chest to seal out the water, and during rolling you can expect some seepage to occur, making it not necessary the ideal rolling outfit. I have learned many rolls using a regular neoprene spray skirt, the current modern design has several problems for the roller. First it keeps you in your seat due to the surface tension across the deck. Secondly the tension tends to prevent or restrict your ability to move around in the cockpit, reducing your ability to layback, tuck forward and arch your back.
The traditional Greenland Tuilik (pronounced something like T’Chew-Lick) provides a great solution to maintain both a water tight seal and still allow great flexibility of motion for the paddler. The tuilik also captures a lot of air and helps flotation which makes several rolls easier as a result of the additional buoyancy (the static brace is a great example of a maneuver helped by the Tuilik).
People who don’t wear a PFD deserve what is coming to them. That said, carefully choosing the right PFD can may the difference between wearing a PFD that helps and a PFD that can make rolling nearly impossible. For layback rolls, especially more advanced hand rolls it is necessary to get your body very low on the deck. A Pfd that sits too low down your back will interfere with your ability to arch onto the back deck. Similarly a PFD with thick foam across the back will raise you up off the deck and lift your center of gravity which will also hinder your rolls. The same is true of the thickness of foam on your chest which can affect your forward finishing rolls. There are some PFDs that are partially foam and partially inflated with air (either manual or with a gas cylinder) these can provide a good workable solution for rolling. There are also PFDs that are fully inflatable and offer no buoyancy unless inflated, these obviously require you to be conscious and able to inflate them to offer any support.
A PFD can be worn under or over a Tuilik; it is a matter of what feels best for you. Putting it under probably makes some rolls easier, especially lay back rolls as the Tuilik skin may smooth out the bump caused by the PFD and help prevent snagging on the back deck or fixtures.
Goggles and nose plugs are an essential part of your equipment when learning to roll. They will allow you to relax more and to practice for longer periods of time. Seeing what you are doing can help you learn the correct paddle grip easier and also can help you to see rather than just feel what is going wrong. The nose plugs will help prevent water being driven into your sinuses which can be painful at times and probably is a health hazard over time.
I learned the first couple rolls using a regular spray skirt, PFD and a regular paddling top. But having now experienced wearing Tuilik I would recommend anyone who is serious about learning to roll to make the investment in either buying or building one to suit themselves. There are many great manufacturers and sites to help with the design and building of your own. I use the Brooks version.
Paddle sizes and shapes
Prior Lake Paddle

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