I have become quite fond of my Greenland style paddle. This is a wooden paddle that I carved out of a Douglas fir 2x4 using plans off the WEB based on the paddles used historically by west Greenland seal hunters. I have found this paddle to work so well for me that I have vowed never to waste money on an expensive high-performance modern paddle. Greenland paddles are becoming very popular in Europe, to the point that you can buy expensive high-performance Greenland paddles manufactured out of modern materials. There has been a lot of interest in Greenland paddles in the BASK club lately, so I scheduled a Greenland Paddle practice in the calendar. It was billed as "not canceled by any weather" because this type of paddle was used by Greenlanders to go hunting even in storms. The weather was overcast, drizzling and threatening to rain the morning of the practice. Despite this eight people showed up and got into their wetsuits!
We paddled out into the shallow water off China Camp and I gave a little lesson in using the Greenland paddle. I have developed the following progression that I think will help people learn to use this paddle. The first step is to learn to scull with it. Sculling means slicing the paddle back and forth next to your boat while adjusting the angle so it pulls your boat sideways. I claim that this paddle taught me how to scull because it was easy to feel when it was at the right angle to provide the maximum amount of "lift" to pull the boat sideways. Getting a feel for the angle of the blade is necessary for all the other Greenland tricks and sculling can be practiced in a non-threatening position, namely sitting upright dry and safe in your boat.
The next step would be to learn the sculling/resting brace. This is done with the paddle extended to one side. Your "inside" hand holds onto the paddle near one end while the other end extends out for more leverage. Maligiaq Padilla (the 1998 champion Kayaker of Greenland) teaches this by falling over and sculling to bring his face back out of the water. I recommend working up to this by leaning straight back onto your back deck and sculling off to the side, then sweeping back upright again. You lean farther and farther out as you become more comfortable depending on the lift from the end of the blade. Each time you sweep back up you learn that you can get yourself upright from a position more extended. Eventually you can fall over and catch yourself with the sculling blade, and discover that you don't have to work very hard to hold yourself there.
I like to joke that the maneuver of sweeping and sitting back upright from this resting brace is the last quarter of a roll. Everyone can successfully do the first half of a roll, namely falling over and hanging upside down under the boat. It is the second half of the roll that everyone finds difficult. But once you have mastered the resting/sculling brace you know that you can get back up from a position part way over. All you need to do to complete a whole roll now is do the missing quarter of a roll: From completely upside down into the resting/sculling position. You can do this by sculling up or by placing the paddle on the surface and sweeping up. Once in the resting/sculling brace position you can relax and catch your breath, confident that you know how to get the rest of the way back up from there. The final step, as Maligiaq taught it to us at his clinic, is to do all of this in one motion. You start the sweep to bring yourself up into the resting/sculling position. But instead of stopping there to catch your breath you continue the sweep to the back of the boat and sit up.
A few experienced paddlers, like John Somers, were able to do all these steps. But everyone learned some exercises that they can do on their own to work up to a roll. After the practice was over most of the kayakers left and three of us got back in the water to do a short paddle. We went around The Sister islands to the south and back north to Rat Rock. It was raining heavily by the time we got back. One kayaker, Doug, said "Standing in a bucket of water and taking my wetsuit off in the rain convinces me that I am never going to talk my wife into being a serious kayaker". I replied, "You forgot to mention that it is a bucket of ice cold water".