Minimalism and Paddling

Minimalism, the art of doing more with less may have a lot to do with paddling.

Rolling in particular has the minimalist bent to it. First you learn to hip snap, sweep and brace with the paddle in order to get oxygen. That’s pretty simple, (relatively speaking). If you decide to get more into this, getting your “offside” roll comes next. This comes next, the ability to roll on both sides, is fairly important as I see it.

If you progress past this you’re off into new territory that is fairly esoteric, but still plainly within reason. There are steyr rolls, reverse low brace rolls, storm rolls, deep paddle rolls, behind the back rolls, and behind the head rolls. See the Rolling Videos at: “Qajaq USA. “:

Over the last year I’ve been working on trying to get onside/offisde hand rolls, forward and aft recovery. The forward recovery rolls are still touch and go, but I think I have the technique. I just have to try and train my muscles to do it over and over until it is ingrained like the aft recovery hand roll. I’ve got it to the point now where the kids and I can play the tip daddy over game in the pool with
no paddle. I’ve had to push some kids out of the way to get a good sweep and hip flick, but I haven’t had to swim yet!

It occurred to me one afternoon this winter while I was doing a static brace in 34 degree water that there is something sick and wrong with minimalism.

We have all sorts of advantages even within paddling, levers and fulcrums so to speak that allow us to lift the pyramid blocks a little easier, and I try to go back to the deadlift method. Is there a self-destructive bent in this sport.

Why isn’t it enough to be able to roll with a paddle, must I really learn how to roll with my elbow?
I know the answer for me is yes, but why? Is it learning something new? Is it doing the rolls with a Norsaq? (rolling stick). Or is it doing the rolls with a 2 kilo brick that will be the final achievement. I don’t know. I think maybe there is something in human DNA that makes people a little coo-coo. If you learned to fly in an aeroplane would the natural progression be to move to an aerolight, then a glider, then a parachute, and then the acme batsuit Wile E. Coyote uses?
Maybe not.


  1. I think of gear as detracting from minimalism (if that should even be a goal given the necessesity of safety in kayaking) rather than skill aquisition. Going out with tow ropes, survival gear, spare paddle… or for whitewater helmet, knife, throw bag, pfd, hand paddles, z-drag kit, saw, etc… that’s complicated. I think skills promote minimalism to a certain extent. There’s nothing more minimalistic for me than grabbing my kayak, my tuilik, and my paddle, and going out to have a good rolling session. 3 items and that’s it.

    Sure I like working on my elbow rolls and all sorts of other silly stuff such as cartwheels and bow stalls, but that doesn’t complicate kayaking for me. It’s just in my nature (and in yours I would wager) to not be satisfied with reaching the peak of a small hill. I create a mountain of skill goals in my head that I will probably never overcome but continuing to challenge myself to climb ever higher is half the fun of this sport.

    Coincidentally, I had some video shot of some forward finishing hand rolls and I added them to my club website. I forgot to bring my camcorder when I had the Silhouette in the pool so I’m in an RPM which is a total cheater boat.

  2. It means nothing. My snippets of insanity are very minimalistic. Applying meaning to them would be complicated

  3. Whuh? Not sure what the tootsie roll comment means.

  4. Tootsie rolls are good too. I had some today. But not in a pool