A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

New Rebel Greenland Kayaks with Cheri and Turner

September 30, 2017
Emilie Phillips

Update fall 2018:

It was raining down in Connecticut, pouring really. And a few bolts of cloud to cloud lightning flashed above New London. But this was the day Cheri and Turner had chosen to demo the Rebel kayaks. My Mom had just bought the smallest of the Rebel Greenland line — the Naja, almost an exact replica of her East Greenland style skin on frame. My Dad and Tyson wanted to try the larger boats in the Rebel line — the Ilaga and Greenland Toc.

Isaac floating in his new dry suit

A few other people showed up at Bluff Point State Park for the demo day. We waited until the thunderstorm moved off, then we jumped in. Isaac wore his brand new dry suit, so he literally jumped in, not even waiting for us to burp the suit. With the suit full of air, he floated on top of the water. He looked like a sea otter rolling over and over.

John, Cheri, and Turner on shore

We had brought four of our own boats to paddle out to the beach on Fishers Island sound after the demo event: our tandem, the Anas Acuta for my Dad, my Tahe, and Mom’s new Naja. We parked the tandem on shore during the demo. Turner and Cheri had never seen it or any of our pre-Greenland boats. We told the story of our progression from plastic intro sea kayaks, to the Bullitt, to the Greenland style kayaks. Turner knew the Current Designs Squall, my first boat, and had worse things to say about it than I do. I convinced Tyson to join me in the Bullitt to attempt rolling together. We succeeded at two rolls, but our third required two tries. Enough, said Tyson, he wanted to paddle a solo after two years propelling Isaac in a tandem.

Tyson enjoying his Anas Acuta

Dad was scoping out the Ilaga, so Tyson paddled his Anas Acuta. Tyson relished playing in the Anas Acuta. He could turn and roll and carve. Tyson tried out the largest of the Rebels, the Greenland Toc. It fit him just right. He described the Toc as faster than his Anas Acuta, but turning less well. He seemed torn between the fun play boat and the lighter layup and faster boat. Of course, it’s all moot if he has to keep paddling the Bullitt.

Cheri, Trudy, and Emilie in boats. Isaac playing sea otter in the water.

I decided to demo the Naja. I knew it was designed by Johan Wirsen, the same person who designed my Tahe Marine Greenland, but I was surprised at how similar they are. The larger Ilaga is identical to mine except for the deck lines and sandwich construction vs fiberglass weave. The Naja is a little shorter and narrower. I paddled the Naja out the cove and back. It handled similarly to my Tahe. With the lower volume, I had to temper my edging lest I scoop water onto the back deck while turning. The size seemed just right for a cheater rolling kayak. So back near shore, I started with a hand roll. Cheri came over.

“Put one hand behind your head,” she instructed.

Boat-side hand behind my head, I tipped over to my off side. I flexed easily in the tulik and came up. Same on the other side.

“Now both hands behind your head,” she said, “and tip your head back more.”

I tipped my head so far back, I clunked it against the gunwale. When Cheri does a straight jacket roll, you see her pull her core up over the boat first, then her torso, and finally slide her head out of the water onto the back deck. I felt that same progressive motion.

“Prayer position,” Cheri said, “and pull yourself up with your core muscles.”

I fumbled my first attempt and recovered with a standard hand roll. I tried again, but the idea of having no arms to help at all was too distracting. I couldn’t achieve the same rhythm of core and head as I had with the simpler roll.

Isaac diving from Trudy’s Rebel Naja

Meanwhile, Isaac was busy commandeering any small kayak he could. Mom’s Naja was his favorite. He could climb into the boat by himself and leap off back into the water. He figured out how to paddle it in circles, backwards, and forwards. At one point, playing in the water with the Naja, Isaac accidentally flipped the cockpit over his head. He swam out from underneath all by himself. Progress towards a wet exit!

We kept playing around until another thunderstorm rolled in and poured an ocean full of water on our heads. The thunder hit while Isaac was in the bathroom. “It went ‘Boom’, ‘Boom’, ‘Boom’!” he said. My Dad bought the demo Ilaga on the spot. If only the weather had been nicer, we could have visited longer with Cheri and Turner, and we could have paddled out to the beach.

Continue reading more about the new Rebel Kayaks when we take them surfing.

All Photos


9 comments already.

Let us know what you think

See the Comment Policy for appropriate content.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments (9)

  • I’m about to buy an ilaga, I’m 5 foot 8 inches in height with a size 9 US shoe, do you think I will be comfortable in it?

    • I’m 5’8″, 130 lb and size 10 shoes. I fit comfortably in my Tahe Marine Greenland which has almost exactly the same dimensions as the Ilaga. Are you looking for a touring kayak or a rolling kayak? If I were picking a kayak purely for rolling, I’d go with the smaller Naja, but for day touring the Ilaga sized kayak is much more comfortable. I have taken my Tahe for a three day camping trip (https://j3.org/2016/06/muscle-ridge-camping/).

      • Hey Emilie, thank you for your help, it’s my first kayak, I love the look of it, I just paid for it this weekend, I will try have it delivered the end of the month, I love the pictures of your trip, Il post some of mine when I get it, thanks again Emilie lass ☺

  • Hello friends,

    I am short and lightweight Italian paddler: I am currently very much attracted by greenland style kayaks.
    However, when I read reviews about them I understand they are to be used for rolling and other advanced maneuvers only: am I mistaken ?
    As a matter of fact, I’d rather use i.e a Naja or Blackpearl LV for day touring , fast accelerations, surf, quick and low braces while rolling is still not my first passion, while out there in the blue.
    Because of that, would you still recommend me to go for a greenland or should I refrain ?
    Are Greenlandic kayaks designed for extreme maneuvers only or can I live them for a more playful day touring too ?
    Thanks a lot for you attention and time,

    Ciao !


    • I use a Greenland style kayak for my every day touring and surfing. I believe it is important to find a boat that fits, and for smaller paddlers, the only appropriate kayaks on the market are the Greenland style kayaks. I have a post on some of the other kayaks I tried: https://j3.org/2017/05/set-yourself-up-for-success-sea-kayaking-guide-not-applicable-to-guys/

      It is possible to get a kayak that is too low volume. I would avoid any kayak that is too tight to paddle comfortably for a whole day. And also avoid a kayak where the front deck submerges in common waves.

      The Greenland kayaks are narrower than the British kayaks. I think this is a necessity for anyone light. I’m 60kg and I can’t edge most of the British kayaks without throwing my weight dangerously far over the kayak.

      There are compromises in any kayak, so a lot of it is what you want. It sounds like you have test paddled some kayaks. If you like them, got for it.

  • Hi, and thanks for the valuable information on your blog.

    I’m male, 5 foot 9 inches, 155 lb, 11 US shoe, do you think the Naja would still fit (just for play not touring)? Or is the Illaga the way to go?


      • You might fit. It’ll depend on how flexible you are and how tight you like a kayak.

        Also, what do you mean by playing? If you just mean rolling, the Naja should have enough volume for your weight. If you like surfing or tidal races, you’ll need the higher volume of the Illaga.

  • I have now had the Naja for about 1 year. We have not had the opportunity to tour/camp with it, but it should hold adequate gear for 3 days or so. We backpack. I was looking for something toward the touring end after building and using a traditional skin-on-frame kayak that is about the same dimensions as the Naja. One can hardly carry a lunch in a skin-on-frame.

    I am 5′ 5″ (165 cm) and 108 lbs (48kg), so definitely on the small end of the scale. I have extra padding on the sides at the seat area. Shoes are women’s 9 (men’s 7). The feet definitely have to be in minimal booties.

    The Naja turns easily, but tracks well even with my small size. Nearly every other kayak has been too big and I would constantly get blown around. Just minor correction will keep the kayak on track even with a substantial wind. Both primary and secondary stability are reliable. I can readily do a traditional greenland roll.