Archive for the ‘Greenland Qajaq’ Category

Well it is now less than seven weeks to Christmas and I am starting to look around for gifts for friends and family. Of course while shopping for them I am beginning to assemble my own list, just in case someone asks. Unfortunately not all of the items I discover make it to my list, some just get bought (lol!).

So with that confession let me recommend a great DVD called Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson¬†from Although I paddle a Euro blade and while the DVD does concentrate on layback rolls and advanced rolls using a Greenland paddle, it offers excellent advice for anyone who is trying to learn to roll or is trying to troubleshoot their on again / off again roll. In the section “Troubleshooting the Roll” Helen Wilson does a great job at pointing out some of the obvious mistakes we make and¬†some of the not so obvious ones that cause our roll to fail. The techniques in this section of the DVD are applicable to both disciplines of paddles.

This DVD is available directly from or if you are in the Tampa Bay area, from Sweetwater Kayaks at 727-570-4844.

Happy Rolling, Chad M.

I love history, and I find comfort in nature.  That is why I backpack, camp, hike, kayak, and rock climb.  This blog is usually about kayaking.  And more and more people are asking and writing about kayaks from Greenland.

Most common misconceptions…

  • I thought all Greenland kayaks were the same.
  • Greenland style is the best type of kayak

I think these misconceptions come from romantic ideas about the history, use, or design of the qajaq.

The qajaq (kayak) in Greenland is a weapon, it’s main purpose was to safely assist the hunter in the easiest possible route to the largest amount of meat in the least amount of time.¬† Today, with the advent of motorized boats,¬†snowmobiles, and guns,¬† the new purpose of the qajaq is to make money off of tourists while keeping true to what it¬†means¬†to be a native Greenlander.

I have learned how to throw a traditional style harpoon from my kayak.  And doing so has helped me to better explore the mysteries of traditional hunting  (I will expand on this in a future post).  The kayak (and canoe) is a water craft that has been refined over generations to be a silent stalker of food.  And being in one does provide a paddler with an unparalleled intimacy with the water.  The boat and the paddle technology is very advanced and well thought out  (I will expand on the paddle in a future post).

All Greenland kayaks are not the same.

EAST: The East Greenland coastline is at times hemmed in by a lot of ice.  This makes the seas frequently calm.  To efficiently hunt on calm seas men made their boats with as low of a profile as possible.  The low deck profile (deck is almost level from bow to stern) has  strong sloped sides converging on a narrow almost flat bottom and has a minimal rocker.  These features combined makes it track well; there by, the design made it easier to closely approach and kill aquatic mammals. But this design does not excel in rough water.  The low bow allows a lot of water to come up on the deck and the straight keel along the bow gives it a tendency to spear into waves unlike the style of kayaks paddled on the west side of Greenland.  The features of the low deck and minimal rocker makes this design loved by modern paddlers who like to roll.  It is a style that makes it easy to explore the degrees of wetness and relax on the edge of the water.

Pictured above look at how close the deck (front and back) is to the water.  Below is a picture of me practicing a balance brace in an East Greenland style qajaq)

WEST: With the wind and¬†current on the west of ¬†Greenland, the coastline rarely experiences a calm day from Baffin Bay to Davis Strait. Consequently, speed and being safe in rough water was needed in the kayak to quickly harpoon dinner, and this is¬†evident¬†in the boat design. ¬†West Greenland qajaqs are¬†¬†characterized by a high front deck and flat low stern deck with up sweeping ends, hard chines, and a pronounced “v” bottom.¬† With the heavily rockered bow and stern this style of kayak will effortlessly aid the paddler to edge the bow into the wind.¬† This is an asset when it comes to stalking prey in rough water.¬† It puts the hunter down wind and makes him less visible to their prey.¬† For modern paddlers the heavily¬†rockered style and low volume makes it well suited design for playing in waves and carving in surf.¬† If there is too much rocker the design may not be efficient for modern paddlers needs during extended expeditions / trips .¬† This is dependent on the paddler’s weight and the amount of gear loaded in the kayak. Curiously, the hard chine¬† that helps to carve in waves¬† and into the wind also aids the paddler to effectively edge the¬† sea kayak, by shifting in their seat to the left or right, thereby experiencing¬† minor to no weathercocking problems.

Pictured above is a NDK Greenlander Pro.  Pictured below, Sean is sitting in a CLC Shearwater 17 West Greenland inspired style kayak

Then there is the additional variables to design.  Hunters always modify their kit according to what they perceive as what is innovative.  And that is why the picture below has so many variations of traditional qajaqs from Greenland to Alaska.

A Greenland kayak is simply a kayak made to fit the water conditions, to fit the body of the paddler, and satisfy the needs of the person in Greenland.

Greenland style is not necessarily the best type nor the only type of kayak

What? ¬†Yes you read it correctly… The best type of kayak is the one that fits the water, fits the body, and fits the purpose of why the paddler is on the water. ¬† ¬† ¬†– Jeff

PS.¬†¬† Check out the Crowhurst’s website CNC Kayaks on some plans and advice on building your own kayak.¬† Nick and Christopher are enthusiastic and passionate about Greenland design and philosophy.¬†¬†

The Inuit call this roll Innaqatsineq.  It simply means that the kayaker lays on their back in the high brace position with palms facing skyward.  During a qajaq competition judges look for the participant to keep their kayak deck at a right angle to the water.  When not in competition the kayaker arches their back as much as possible to keep the kayak flat and deck parallel to the water.


    Side sculling is a resting pose that aids in capsize prevention and roll training.

A kayak roll Is the fastest type of self rescue.  It also requires little upper body strength; the kayaker uses their hips to roll.  If you would like to schedule a private or group class please use the Contact Us Link.

The last few weeks I have been working with a guest that wanted to learn how to roll their kayak.¬† It is always interesting to learn why someone wants to learn this skill.¬† I have also been reading Pam Forsyth’s blog posts about her journy of learning to roll: Rolling as religion, Both sides of the story, . And these things got me thinking on my own evolution as a kayaker into a paddling coach.

Some people roll for attention, others roll for necessity, and a number of paddlers know how to lessen the need of rolling.  I roll for the body awareness, stretching, and abdominal strengthening that can occur when the maneuvers are done correctly.  It can be like yoga with a boat attached to you.  However, Sean thinks that the below cartoon is why I roll.  See, he does not know how to roll…


Bubble Street - 06 June 2006

…without a paddle float…LOL

I never thought I needed a roll until one day the motion of the ocean taught me humility.¬† I had been paddling for two years‚ĶI came out of my kayak in four foot breaking swells between Mullet Key and Egmont Key, Florida.¬† I was shocked because I had paddled in more challenging waters.¬† But this time I went over, came out of my boat, and could not get back into it without the assistance of Sean.¬† I doubted myself, and I was a little fearful of paddling again…

After that I put my energy into perfecting emergency reentries in rough water, and learning how to roll.  It took me a long time to learn to roll.  I just could not get the rhythm down and it was painful.  Then after several rolling instructors, I met a paddling  coach that told me a secret to rolling.  It was that rolling should not be painful; furthermore, rolling was not important.  A successful roll was a sign of an unsuccessful brace.  Hence, a brace was the key to having fun on the water.  For braces truly let you naturally move without thinking.

I practiced my brace in rough and confused waters near friends that could assist me with a bow, stern, or put-across rescue.  I practiced sculling for support with a modern euro blade paddle.  Then I discovered Greenland Qajaq traditional kayak techniques and learned how to perform side sculling and chest sculling with a Greenland paddle.


balance brace

After all of those hours of practice playing on the edge between clouds and sea grass I discovered that I had not had an unplanned capsize for over a year.  But I had also developed water on the brain.  I fell in love with the allure of Greenland kayaking because it rejects modern technology to embrace the technology of history.  I also think I could have been a seal in a past life… so I started to learn how to roll with a Greenland paddle.


Bubble Street - 12 Feb 2008

I can perform, as well as teach, twelve capsize maneuvers.  But I have realized that the perfect roll always looses against the perfect brace in real life applications.  Rolling improves balance, timing, and bracing.  And a perfect roll in eye shot of a non kayaker can scare off or entice them into trying out this lifestyle.

Nevertheless, playing between air and water does put things into an interesting perspective, and I always have fun when a guest learns how to lessen the chances of an unplanned capsize.