01 February 2010

Technique: low deck rolling

Finally I am moving forward with my technique.
I am not sure why my kayaking skills learning is rather slow: is it that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" or is it that my coordination is not that great (I still laugh at myself when I tried to dance, once :-).
Recently I have progressed from my basic sweep roll to a Greenland roll.
While I get the idea of that roll, I would not exactly call it performed flawlessly.
I watch Greg Schwarz dance in his Nordkapp LV; such grace.
I also know that Greg does a fair bit of yoga, something that I stay away from.
He is much more "bendy" that I am and it shows in his balanced brace.
While Adventuretess does not do much yoga she still rolls much nicer than me, any day.
Am I destined to be a klutz roller for the rest of my paddling life?
Maybe, but there could be a reason that Greg and Adventuretess can pull off some rolls with such finesse.

Greg performing an "elbow crook roll"
I can not lay on the back of my kayaks!
Since my legs are rather chunky I tend to fit production kayaks with higher decks.
Higher in the front for my legs and feet usually translates higher in the back.
Greg and Adventuretess mainly paddle lower rear deck kayaks: a Nordkapp LV.
While Adventuretess has so far rolled any kayak that she has sat in (including some real barges out there) she definitely prefers rolling her low volume Nordkapp.
I have recently removed the factory seat from her kayak and replaced it with a custom made one.
Yesterday, I tried her kayak again: I now can almost fit in it.
My legs can jam under the thigh braces very snugly.
While I would not want that fit for hours on end I thought I would try some rolls in her kayak.
Hello Dubside!
What a difference! No longer am I hitting my back square in the middle while trying to lay lower on the deck ( I still can't get out of the seat and totally lay low on the deck though).
My rolls were easy. Compared to my NorthSea, the Nordkapp LV just seems to roll by itself.
So while I was at it I wanted to try the elusive butterfly roll.
And after a few tries I understood the paddle position needed for that roll and pulled off a couple of decent ones (I know: more grunt than style, but hey, gotta start somewhere :-).

I am now looking for a low rear deck kayak.
I was hoping to fit in the Tahe Marine T but the importer assures me that it is smalled than other kayaks that I don't fit.
Would a custom skin on frame be my only solution?


  1. I have the Tahe Marine (not T) with the slightly larger cockpit. I am 6 foot 180 pounds and fit just fine. The T has a much much bigger cockpit. The Tahe Marine front deck is quite high. The question you will need to answer is how long are your legs and how big are your feet. My US Size 10 feet just fit in 3 mil neoprene socks - no room for boots.
    But if you fit, the boat rolls like a dream. The rear deck is so low it is not that though getting into the cockpit.

  2. Chris, I am a bit bigger than you: a bit taller, a bit heavier and a bit bigger feet (6'1", 230#, size 12US).
    My problem is thigh clearance.
    I don't fit a SKUK Explorer comfortably: I have to kind of jam my thighs in it (due to too much cycling in my previous life :-)
    If I used a kayak for rolling exclusively that would be OK however I want one that I can paddle for at least of couple of hours on a day trip without loosing the feel of my legs.
    The search continues but I have currently a possible great source.

  3. Have you had the chance to try a Necky Chatham 17? Pretty tight up front if you have thick upper legs, but a low back deck...

  4. Mike, the Necky Chatam 17 is unfortunately not available in my part of the world (no importer for Necky composite kayaks here).

  5. I have an Explorer and the Tahe, I rattle around in the explorer and am snug in the Tahe... my advice dont get a Tahe. Your thighs will be a problem. Have you tried a High Volume Explorer?

  6. Chris, thank you for your valuable comment confirming my concerns with deck height of the Tahe Greenland.
    I have test paddled an Explorer HV and despite the knee area being a bit taller my thighs are still a bit on the snug side.
    Unfortunately the Explorer has a rather high rear deck height and laybacks are not that great.
    I condidered the Rockpool GT (which I tested); it has a good deck height however I was not impressed with the lay-up nor the finish given that the kayak costs considerably more than a similar offering.

  7. Well if you can’t get the low back deck just take up forward finishing rolls ;) seriously though there are so many rolls where the low back deck is not a problem... I just finished watching the Dubside rolling video and he talks about numerous ways to improve the set up. Unfortunately raising the seat will not help your thigh challenge.
    I saw a NDK Romany S designed for surf work and it had large knee buldges, I wonder if they would help make it more comfortable? http://seakayakuk.com/index.php/The-Kayaks/The-Sea-Kayaks/Romany-S.html

  8. Alan M. emailed:
    >>Hi Damiano,
    I've read this blog entry a number of times. I think that I am with Chris's last comment - find / train a roll that suits in all boats. Why choose a boat to fit the (hopefully) very occasional rolling - when you would be paddling the boat for hours and days on end. Perhaps a session with a rolling instructor just focussing on the move away from a rear deck roll would pay dividends. I have paddled and rolled many boats (WW in general). One in particular had a reputation for requiring a forward roll due to the low rear volume. I bought the said model & practised with my basic rear deck roll and won through. I also developed my roll to come up on the front deck (leaning forward) because of this. Give me a shout if you would like some rolling practice and I can help out.


  9. sorry guys, maybe I have been misunderstood:
    I can roll my current kayaks but I can't perform advanced Greenland rolls in them especially the ones that require lay backs.
    The kayaks I have are great for touring and some rolling (sweep, CtoC etc.) but I just can't do a butterfly or hand roll in them.
    While a good paddler does not blame his kayak(s) I am only an average one.
    Incidentally the guys that can pull a hand roll in their low deck kayaks can't do it in my higher deck ones.
    My current interest is in Greenland rolling.
    The search continues... :-)

  10. Hi Gnarly, how is the hunt for the right rolling boat going? I too have big legs (less cycling, more packing scrums in the front row!) and I am in love with my Valley Aquanaut HV. It has plenty of room for my legs and a pretty low back, which is important since the only roll that has worked for me thus far has been with me coming up lying on the back deck. For a 290lb monster like me, that takes some doing!

    Anyway, I too was thinking about the Greenland T but sounds like we may have a similar problem there. Do you have an update on boats that might suit?

  11. Fat Padddler,
    290lbs is a big chunk of a paddler but I'm not trailing far behind you :-)
    While the closest kayak that I have tried that fitted me and had a low deck that would possibly suit my rolling aspirations would be the Elverkayak (post: http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com/2010/02/review-first-impressions-of-elverkayaks.html) I think it would need some mods to make it the way I want...
    One that is currently intriguing me is the Valley Q Boat: cockpit large enough to fit my legs and rear deck low enough to possibly allow on-deck lay backs.
    Needless to say that I don't think there is a single Q Boat in my ‘hood to have a test paddle before taking the plunge and buying sight unseen.

  12. The search has ended with the newly released and personally tested Tahe Zegul 520.
    It fits me and it seems to perform the way I desired.
    More details at: http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com/2010/10/test-zegul-520-lv.html


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