Greenland Rolling with Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson

I was lucky enough to attend the NSW Sea Kayak Club event hosting Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson and their Greenland kayaking (qajaq) day at Watson’s Bay, Sydney, Sunday 23 April 2012.

Cheri Perry demonstrating learning to roll with a 'seal-skin' airbag

Cheri and Turner have taught in all manner of symposia across the world, teaching greenland rolling skills and skin on frame kayak building too.  They are world class and, now even come with their own DVD produced by adventure cinematographer Justine Curgenven, This is the Roll.

What a day.

I joined the program in the morn after the yoga session.

Session II for the day was Cheri demonstrating various sweep, pry, sculling and hand (or is that body?) rolls with Turner providing seamless, in-sync commentary from the shore.

Turner Wilson provides commentary for the rolling demo. A perfectly in-sync team with Cheri

At first I thought the lack of clapping for Cheri throughout her demo from the spectators must have meant they didn’t see the skill.  Surely the spectators couldn’t do these fancy rolls already.  The answer was so much simpler:  they were all so gobsmacked by Cheri’s demonstration of her skills, her sublime and smooth execution of the rolls, they were speechless, unable to utter a sound to grunt, let alone cheer and unable move a limb to clap.  It was hard not to be awestruck with the skills that are so far beyond so many of us.  For me, I’m not sure whether the underneath the hull sculling roll, the straightjacket roll or the effortless hand roll was the best.  My target list of rolls to learn is now refreshed.

For session III, we shifted to a grassy park where Turner and Cheri plucked 6 individuals from the crowd at differing levels to teach.  More than that really, they were showing us how they teach people.  Lessons then moved to the water to finish the teaching/learning experience.

Turner Wilson gives Rae some land based body positioning instruction

The beginners were given a lesson in the standard Greenland backwards finishing roll.  Tom had never rolled and Adrian, whilst a proficient roller, had never picked up a Greenland paddle and suffers from lack of flexibility.

The intermediates received a lesson in the standard reverse sweep roll.  Ann C. and Rae D. jumped in here.  Both are solid Greenland rollers ready to progress.

Turner Wilson gives Rae some land based body positioning instruction

The advanced group received a lesson in the storm roll, a forward start to forward finishing roll.   That was Ian V and I.  We can both execute standard Greenland reverse sweeps already.  I’d heard of a storm roll but never studied it or watched someone perform one, let alone attempted it.

Cheri built the roll up by starting with a 90 degree sweep then pry recovery.  A pry is pulling down, something we are constantly telling sweep rollers not to do.  A pry is much harder on the body, requires muscling up compared to a sweep.  The pry had my left hand merely pressing down, holding the paddle firmly onto the kayak’s upturned hull as a fulcrum.  Funnily enough, I was then told not to pry but to continue the sweep to the rear and recover forwards.  It seemed to work and hopefully I can repeat it and record it on video so I can review it and embed the learning experience in my head and muscle memory.

Cheri instructing me (Photo by Owen W)

Session IV was held up the road at the Vaucluse Bowling Club.  Cheri and Turner presented a slideshow on Greenland kayaking culture and tradition and the Greenland rolling and ropes competition.

The key, Cheri and Turner emphasized, at the actual Greenland rolling event in Greenland, is one of participation rather than competition.  The Greenlanders are determined to keep the history and tradition of their culture alive and this is done through participation rather than the more limiting elitism of competition.  All of the children get involved, in kayaks in the near zero temperature waters from the ages of four!

I believe that the spirit of participation is something that our club practises also.  It is the essence of the NSW Sea Kayak club that it is a recreational club and not a competitive kayak racing club.  It allows for paddlers to explore sea kayaking within peer groups roughly equivalent in skill level and to learn by doing.  That doesn’t mean we can’t demonstrate the skills we’ve spent hours learning…..in a positive way though…..

Cheri Perry and me after Cheri and Turner taught me the storm roll - who wouldn't get a photo with greenland rolling royalty

To all the NSW Sea Kayak Club members that couldn’t make it, you missed a great day out.

Thanks go to:

• Dee R for organizing the NSW Sea Kayak Club event

• Rae and Neil D for hosting them

• Rob and Expedition Kayaks for loaning the gear and the learning sessions

I shall update this post if I find someone that photographed or videoed me being taught.  If you have this, please let me know.  I also captured some video of Cheri’s demonstration.  I will post an extract of that in due course.

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