Coming to Qajaq Camp was an incredible and memorable experience. The skills training and mentorship pushed me to become a better paddler and the teamwork-based games and competitions allowed me to grow close with many new friends throughout the weekend. I left camp inspired to keep practicing, excited about the great community of paddlers that I met and looking forward to next year! – Ethan Pope
I will overgeneralize and expose myself to the possible wrath of the internet, by saying that it has been my experience as a rolling mentor, that when learning and practicing kayak rolling, men overly rely on their strength. I was recently mentoring at Pagaia, a kayaking event in Llançà, Catalonia. I was putting the group through their paces using a technique I call bombproofing.
Getting your nose or chin to touch the foredeck of your kayak should be a goal of anyone serious about developing a great Greenland kayak roll. It is not by chance, that the literal translations of many of the Greenland kayak rolls refer to being “at the masik”. In case you didn’t know, the masik is the deck beam that supports the front of the cockpit. Thus, being “at the masik” means being on the deck, forward. Whether you are starting a Standard Greenland roll low, or finishing a Storm roll forward, your ability to get close to the foredeck will affect the effort and grace of your rolls.
Despite my desire for rolling to be a purely relaxed, gentle and meditative practice, I cannot overlook that strength is needed if one’s rolls are to be successful. Repeatedly practicing rolls helps develop strength in the muscles needed to roll if the rolls succeed, otherwise, you run the risk of developing the muscles (and memories) needed to fail. By using yoga to develop strength, before trying to roll, you give yourself a better chance of success. You start your rolling practice knowing you are physically capable. Then, the rolling becomes a mental activity, one in which we learn how to apply our strength and flexibility.
One of my favorite rolling practices afloat is to partially perform a roll and end in the balance brace position, where I hang out for a while stretching. The balance brace position is most effective when the shoulders are held in a horizontal plane with the chest facing the sky. Balance braces require not just torso rotation, they also require considerable bending backward. It can be a tough combination of motions on the spine.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to perfect an advanced kayak roll like the Rock Roll, or getting your very first Standard Greenland Roll, we all need to be able to finish our layback rolls low. The higher you lift your body, the more power the roll needs to have, and power usually corresponds to speed and muscle strength, which eventually leads to overuse and injury.
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Rolling with Sticks® started as a project to document the progress I was making as I learned the different Greenland style kayak rolls. This work evolved into the water proof guidebook and DVD. The project has paid for the costs of production so I decided to make them freely available for download in English, español – Spanish and 中文 – Chinese. Please download and share them with your paddling friends, and help to promote the art of Greenland rolling.