Walk like an Egyptian, Roll like a Greenlander?

The Art of Greenland Style Rolling.

A recent discussion on Facebook got me thinking about the question; what is Greenland Rolling? Typically I have been using the phrase “Greenland Style Rolling”. The more I have thought about this question the more I think I should be using the phrase “Art of Greenland Style Rolling”.

There are, undeniably, many ways to roll. There are many ways to roll with many different types of paddle. Does the act of simply executing a sweep roll with a Greenland paddle constitute a Greenland roll?

There are several well known rollers whom I have come to admire, not just because of their ability to execute a multitude of rolls, but instead for the grace and elegance with which they execute those rolls. For them it is not enough just to roll up and recover. They work diligently to do it with style, Greenland Style.

Maligiaq Johnsen Padilla is perhaps the Greenland rolling communities rockstar. He can rightfully claim to have been trained by the Inuit Elders to perform rolls in the manner they prescribed. Few people can make that claim. Watching him roll provides some evidence of the grace and elegance with which Greenlanders learn to roll.

Dubside has studied the traditions of the Inuit, learning much of their language, culture and values. Apart from when he is rolling a bathtub you can also see the elegance with which he gently uses his entire body to right the kayak.

Alison Sigethy has been an inspiration to me. The video below shows Alison performing a plethora of slow elegant graceful rolls, that in my mind epitomize the Art of Greenland style rolling.

Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson are another pair of inspirational rollers. Recent stars of Justine Curgenven’s DVD “This is the Roll”, these two have become the “must have” mentors at any symposium. They have been amazing practitioners of the fine Art for many years, and like Dubside, they emphasize the culture and full experience of the art, not just the execution of the many rolls they can (gracefully) achieve.

So what makes these practitioners different from the others who demonstrate these rolls? A few of the characteristics they exhibit are a relaxed slow speed, continuous rotation, low splash, elegance and grace. They also all immerse themselves, and their mentees, in the culture and values of the Inuit community that first created these wonderful rolls.

If you are attempting to learn the Art of Greenland Style Rolling then the simple (yet tough at first) act of rolling the kayak with a stick (norsaq or hand) is not sufficient. In my opinion, to consider yourself a practitioner, you must also be rolling with the appropriate style.

There is another school of thought/rolling that treats Greenland rolling as a sport. Competition rolling requires the learning of 35 rolls on both sides and ensuring that they are performed in accordance with some written guidelines. Competition judges make subjective decisions on the basis of your ability and award points. Their opinion is what matters. Whether or not they are looking for artful, graceful execution or simple, efficient execution is their decision and differs by individual judge and event.

Some people want to roll simply to ensure they can recover in combat conditions, and they have no desire to partake in competitions, nor any desire to learn the Art of Greenland style rolling.

There is no right or wrong here, simply a rationale behind why I don’t agree with many peoples’ opinion of the “right” way to roll. Each of us has our own personal goals and reasons for chasing them. This creates our own right way to roll.

My way is right, for me. It is my semantic interpretation of a subject/act/art form that has no absolute definition.

I aspire to become a practitioner of the “Art of Greenland Style Rolling”, and hence my bias towards a particular style of rolling.

And just so we are absolutely clear – there is no hip snap, no snap of any sort, involved in what I am trying to perform. Just slow, graceful, precise execution of some wonderful traditional Inuit qajaq rolls.

This is just my opinion, so it is correct. But so too is your opinion correct – that is the beauty of an opinion on a subject.

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