Practice Kayaking Indoors

Building a Greenland Balance Bench

Using a Greenland Balance BenchWith the recent cold weather I wanted to find a way to work on my paddling and edging balance while staying dry, or at least warm. The Tipping Without Flipping  class only happens once a month in a heated pool, and I needed something for the time between classes. I remembered seeing something while attending Alder Creek’s Spring Paddle Fest 2016. The local Greenland Paddling Club, Qajaq USA, had two Greenland Balance Benches on display. A Greenland Balance Bench is a rocking bench that simulates the movement of a performance sea kayak so that you can train and build the muscles necessary to balance in your boat. The Inuits would use these balance benches to prepare their children to hunt by kayak. After playing with them a little I remembered thinking “I’ve gotta make one!”. After some online research I found they are very simple to construct. All you need is:

  • 4 foot long 2×4
  • 3 feet of 2×6
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Compass or twine
  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Nine 3 inch wood screws
  • Screw Driver
  • Drill and bits (optional)

The plans are open to interpretation and there are some pretty incredible variations out there, but for a simple bench this is all that is needed.

Step 1: From the 2×6 cut three pieces one foot in length.

Step 2: Mark the center of one long side of your 2×6, this will be the bottom. On the sides mark 1.5 to 2 inches from the bottom.

Step 3: Using the Compass (or your pencil and some string) draw an arc from the mark on one side, through the center mark on the bottom edge, to the mark on the opposing side. I used the string method and found that using a non-stretch string such as nylon twine or fishing wire, and securing the board during this step helped out tremendously.

Step 4: Using a Jig Saw cut along the line you drew in Step 3. I started at the outside edges and cut towards the center. Because of the flex of my Jigsaw Blade I found this to be easier than trying to cut from the center toward the edges.

Step 5: Sand it smooth.

Repeat steps 2 – 5 for a second 2×6 so you have a total of two.

Step 6: Measure from the ground to your hip. Use this measurement to determine and mark the length of your 2×4. This will give you a good length so that as you sit on the bench your knees will be slightly bent, just like when you are in your kayak.

Step 7: Cut the 2×4 to the length you just determined in the previous step

Step 8: Mark the center of the top of your two semi-circle 2×6 pieces and the center of your 2×4 on either end. Line these marks up so the semi-circle 2x6s are at either end of the 2×4.

Step 9 (optional): Drill pilot holes for your screws.

Step 10: Screw the 2×4 to the semi-circles using your 3 in screws.

If you are like me, got excited, and jumped on at this point, you might have noticed it’s a little uncomfortable for your butt. Remember that last 2×6 that until now has been sitting all lonely thinking you forgot about it?

Step 11: Mark the center of your last 2×6 along one of the long edges and align it to the center of the 2×4 at one end. Attach it to the 2×4 using the 3” screws.

Step 12: Find a hard surface to practice your balance on while you watch tv, drink beer, or read.

I ended up making two variations to my own Balance Benches. I cut a notch into the seat to that it would sit flush with the 2×4 on one of the benches.

For the other I cut one notch into the each of the 2x6s so the 2×4 would sit flush with the top of the 2×6. I like this board a little better. While slightly more work to make two notches instead of one, It has a cleaner look and makes stacking a second board easier.

If you find yourself getting bored with your Greenland Balance Bench there are a few ways to up the difficulty.

Challenge 1: Make sure you are on a hard surface. If you are on a softer surface, say carpet, dirt, or sand, the board sinks in and gets held in place. By choosing a hard surface such as hardwood floors, cement, or blocks of leftover wood you free the board up for maximum rocking.

Challenge 2: Raise your center of gravity. You can do this by placing one balance board on top of another. Or just adding padding to the seat. Its also a good demonstration on how raising your center of gravity affects balance.

Challenge 3: Make a curved platform for the balance board to sit on. I did this by flipping one balance board from Challenge 2 over and placing the second board on top of it.

Challenge 4: Make the Balancing surface narrower. By making your rocker more of a V than a U you can make it feel a lot less stable and make it more challenging!

by Matt Maddalena