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Why Is It Called an Eskimo Roll?(aka Kayak Roll, and how to do)

Eskimo rolls, also known as Kayak roll, is a fascinating maneuver. It has a rich history. You must have seen a kayak overturned in water, and in a matter of seconds, it is brought back in an upright position by the paddler. This act is known as an Eskimo roll.

The maneuver requires a lot of practice, skill, and precision from water sports athletes or paddlers. You might wonder why this water sport technique is called Eskimo Rolls? Before we get into further details about this kayaking spectacle, it is crucial to understand it’s history. Because history often holds the key to most of our questions.


From Where the Name Eskimo Roll Comes From?


The history Kayaking goes back to the early 1600. The indigenous people who lived in Greenland, Alaska, Canada, and Siberia originally developed the kayaks. The hunter-gatherer societies used kayaks as hunting boats. They relied entirely on hunting for their survival.

They hunted arctic animals with ease, and with time mastered the skill of righting a kayak from the capsized position. These groups spoke Inuit and Yupik languages and are also referred to with these names. However, collectively they were known as Eskimos, a colonial name given to them by non-indigenous people. Do keep in mind that usage of word Eskimo is now somewhat prohibited and considered offensive.  

Fun fact, as per a study conducted around 1911, almost 40% of the total Greenland Intuits knew how to roll. Whoever said necessity is the mother of invention was absolutely spot on. Now that we have deep dived in history of Eskimo Rolls. Let us look at how someone can do an Eskimo or Kayak Roll.


Master the Four Steps of Eskimo Roll – You can do it


We may have evolved and not rely on hunting for our survival any longer. However, for kayaking’s love, paddlers keep surprising the world by coming up with different records from time to time. It is unbelievable that a few of them can efficiently perform this roll multiple times in seconds. While the roll is fun to do, at times when you are stuck in a kayak upside down. It can save your life.


Step 1 – Tuck and Paddle 

As soon as you find yourself turned upside down in the water while Kayaking. You need to set yourself up for the roll. To do so, bring your body closest to the front deck of Kayak. This saves you from smashing your body against rocks, which can be deadly. Once you are tucked up nicely, you need to hold the paddle parallel to the Kayak on one side. Try to reach out of the water. This is the setup position for the Eskimo roll. If you do it right half, the battle is won.

Step 2 – Rotate the Paddle 

The second step is to raise the paddle as high as possible. Start rotating the paddle in a perpendicular direction to the Kayak. This requires a lot of strength and is the critical step for a successful Eskimo roll. As you keep rotating the paddle, try to bring the blade of paddle towards the surface of the water. This is like your paddle has become the motor, and you are running it manually. 

Step 3 – Snapping the Hip

By now, you might be thinking that the rotation of paddles will turn you around. Let me disappoint you; this is not the case. The Kayak is turned back by the hips. The horizontal paddle placement and the rotation are just to support. The hip snap, along with the pressure applied by paddles on the water’s surface, will turn the boat around. Wait, the roll is not complete yet.


Step 4 – Follow Through

You may have made a recovery and now turned the Kayak; however, if you don’t follow through properly, there is a high chance of ruining the Eskimo Roll. Keep balancing the Kayak by using your body and paddles until you are completely stable. Congratulation, you have made it through.


It doesn’t matter what we call it an Eskimo Roll, a Kayak Roll, or an Inuit Roll. The history and technique of this kayaking maneuver are intriguing. We are pretty sure even if someone calls it an Eskimo Roll, they don’t mean to offend anyone. If you are a paddler, you must learn to roll; it will give you great satisfaction and joy. Make sure you practice well to master it. 

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