Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

So you can roll. Now what?

I know a few people who are really good at rolling sea kayaks, but that is on nice flat water. Do you rollers take it to the ocean to practice for real?How do you know what you can do is serious slop?


  • Is that a trick question?
    Try to roll in the swells, then
    Try to roll in the soup, then
    Try to roll in the break, then
    Try to roll in the clapotis...

    Once that works, start on reenter and roll :)
  • Good point
    Also, is your nose clip in place, do you have your glasses or sunglasses secure, is your spray skirt on. I don't practice rolls with a nose clip. I'd look pretty stupid paddling around with a nose clip on.

    In the summer I usually paddle sans spray skirt. Too hot with it on. I'm resigned to wet exits in that case. Unless of course, conditions warrant, a spray skirt would be prudent to have on.


    (owner of a pretty sloppy roll)

  • Just a practical question.Back when I
    was a pain boater,I learned to do a paddle float re-entry on nice , quiet water. I never tried it in rough conditions , but it didn't seem like it would do much good in rough water, boat swamped,etc.
    A roll is obviously a better method of self-rescue,but we are 200 miles from the ocean,so I'm wondering if a proficient flat water roll translates to the real thing.
  • your talking about a combat roll
    -- Last Updated: Jul-18-08 2:51 PM EST --

    or, as some people call it, an unplanned roll. The only difference between a planned roll and unplanned roll is in your head---just remember to take your time, get in your set up position and perform the roll--this is easier said than done. Your first impulse in a capsize is to pop the skirt and get out of the boat.---best way to practice it is to do WW or surfing--in otherwords activities where you will likly flip--that's the way to develop it--and despite what people may say, nobody has a perfect roll all the time--although some seem damn close.

  • Options
    Bombproofing the roll 101
    Anybody who can roll in calm water can usually roll in rough water. The problem is not doing a set up and rolling in rough water. The problem is that if you capsize you won't be in your set up position and there's an excellent chance you won't be on your good finishing side either... plus the paddle won't be in the right position.

    Here's a beginning exercise you can do in calm water. Set up as usual except lower yourself in the water very slowly. Push your arms out as you enter the water causing a stall. Now using your torso muscles, pull yourself down and under the boat and around to your finishing side. Position your paddle as best you can, sweep (or whatever style you do) and roll up. Wear a dive mask for starters and later you can abandon that. Practice this and I guarantee you will be light years ahead in preparing for an actual capsize. Going out and doing a few rolls from your set up in rough water is a tremendous false sense of security.

    I wrote and article in Atlantic Coastal Kayaking a few years back on a series of exercises in bomb-proofing the roll and I'll have to get it on line.

  • I'd like to see that when you get a
    chance to circulate it. Lots of good ideas floating around out there and I might be able to put a couple of more arrows in the quiver.

  • Options
    Fair-weather rolling
    Extending Jay's comments a bit...

    Once you have the roll, make sure you practice without an elaborate "setup" ritual.

    One advantage of white water (and white water practice on flat water), is that it makes the roll a normal/common thing.
  • It's a good question
    200 miles from the ocean...try 1800. We do have WW rivers and play parks, so that's one place to practice, or so "they say."

    Another step in the right direction might be practicing on windy days. Even small wind waves have differences in rolling feel, depending which direction you roll up. I don't mean just wave on the left or right, but in front or back. To me, in back (being pushed forward) felt weirdest.

    I learned how to set up the usual way (tuck on the opposite side that I will come up). Later, an instructor advised me to practice by going over on the same side with the paddle sweeping forward from 90 degrees. The idea was to make sure it was in good place to start the sweep to roll up, but it also makes a lot of sense in that if I capsize, I seriously doubt I'll be setting up in a tuck--it'll be because I failed a brace or failed TO brace on the same side. I also practice by going over with the paddle in various other positions, and when in motion from having paddled forward or backward. It's not exactly moving water, but it's a step away from an artificial, planned setup.

    The funny thing was that after I had switched to practicing with the sweep-out instead of tuck, the tuck became slightly intimidating merely from not having done it in so long, and never having done it that way on my "other side". So...I made myself practice it both ways, both sides, and it really was no big deal. Just a small mental hurdle that I no longer worry about.

    By coincidence, yesterday I was rewatching the EJ rolling DVD and was reminded of another exercise to practice: go over with the paddle deep in the water and vertical, then roll up. (Gonna try it this weekend.) In this DVD, he claims that if you can do that, you are ready to learn to hand roll. Now, I don't know if the hand roll would be useful in a for-real capsize, but it seems that having practiced it might provide more confidence that the body motions are correct. So maybe that's one of the "next" things to try.

    You asked the same question I keep asking myself, and I doubt we're the only ones. There is so much crap about "pond paddlers" etc. that it's hard not to wonder if it's all for nothing. Except that it also happens to be fun, especially in these dog days of summer.

    Jay Babina's comment gives me hope that all of this flatwater roll practice will someday prove useful. I only wish I had someone else who was equally interested in practicing this stuff together.
  • Options
    4 minute mile
    "Now, I don't know if the hand roll would be useful in a for-real capsize, but it seems that having practiced it might provide more confidence that the body motions are correct."

    If you can run a 4 minute mile, an 6 minute mile is easy.

    Rolling with a paddle is a 6 minute mile. (Hand rolling is a 4 minute mile.)
  • Then learn to roll a wave ski ....

    (It's a tiny bit harder than a seakayak.)
  • Now what?
    Methinks the safest way to work on a real-life roll is to find a whitewater play spot upstream of a flat section. Go in the hole, try to play, get spat out upside-down, roll up, repeat until it's normal.

    In the right spot it's pretty safe because if you wait a few seconds, you're back in flatwater. As you get more comfortable you can start coming up immediately in the bumpier stuff. A good play hole/wave will provide nice variation for your capsizes.

    It's not as easy to find a range of conditions in such a short distance on open water.

  • Thanks!
    Encouragement is always appreciated.
  • Real world rough water rolling ....
    There are a few things that are different.

    Have you ever been really pummeled by a wave and held under? I'm talking a big bad M.. F... wave 8 or 10 ft.

    Sometimes the initial impact knocks the wind out of you and instead of being able to gasp for air you are under water. Sometimes all you can manage is to hold on to your paddle with one hand. Lot's of times you lose your paddle.

    Sometimes the wave holds your kayak underwater, sometimes it recycles at the front of a foam pile, with the water so areaated you can not find any purchase with paddle for any resistance at all. Fortunately when that happens if you just try to stick your paddle up you will roll, the problem is figuring out which way is up.

    Sometimes you get thrown head and shoulders into the bottom or a coral or rock reef and dragged along. Sometimes you get tangled in a dense patch of kelp.

    Sometimes you get trapped in the impact zone in shallow water with short period dumpers coming from different angles and rebounding off the beach too... wave after wave thrashing your boat in the shallows. If you are waiting for things to calm down so you can set up, it's not going to happen.

    I personally think it's a lot easier to roll on flat water than in rough water.
  • It Translates
    I had to do a re-enter and roll in some rough conditions and the only practice I had done was in calm stuff.

    Sure wish I had had my nose plugs on. I bet a quart of salt water drained from my sinuses.
  • Options
    I rolled for three hours with only a little water in one ear, so I'll probably pick up some ear plugs if I'm going to practice.

    The ocean and salt water will take more technique to stick it on the first try.

    Right now I'm only at about 80%, but also have a lot of experience windsurfing in 30 knot winds on the ocean.

    If the surf isn't too heavy I'll go to the beach tomorrow and practice surfing, bracing and rolling.

    I already have a lot of experience in the surf and know my own limits. I may just find a little side cove with a nice beach.

  • I Made Up an Exercise
    I've been going over with my paddle tucked under the forward deck bungies. It forces me to take my time and be calm in less than an ideal set-up. If I ever get knocked over and lose my grip on the paddle I will have had lots of practice rolling up with my spare.
  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Jul-18-08 5:54 PM EST --

    I’m a self taught roller and for me one of the characteristics of being self taught was that for some time I had a very marginal roll. My roll has improved over the years and as a result of practicing, using a Greenland stick and having an easy to roll boat. I now have a very reliable roll. One incident during my unreliable roll years taught me that there is a quality that distinguishes a swimming pool roll from a genuine oh shit! roll, and that quality is having the presence of mind to pause before you execute your roll and set yourself up to do it right the first time. If it doesn’t work the first time the second effort is likely to be worse than the first.

    About 14 years ago I found myself in conditions that were at about the limit of my ability at that time, when a trawler crossed right in front of me; its wake coming from forward and the three foot chop coming from behind combined to support my kayak from both ends sort of like a roll of toilet paper in a toilet paper holder. The trough between the two waves was right under my cockpit at the very moment when a good brace would have been very desirable. It was at this time that I learned about the relative ineffectiveness of the air brace and as I settled into the fully inverted position I reflected on how very advantageous it would be to execute a successful roll within the next few seconds. It also occurred to me that I was very capable of executing a sloppy unsuccessful roll. My conclusion was that I should take two or three seconds to set up properly, think about the sequence of movements to do the roll correctly and to not panic. The result was that the roll worked. My point is that you can hold your breath a whole lot longer than it takes you to execute one successful roll and it is better to invest this time in making one successful attempt rather than using the time to make several unsuccessful attempts.

  • Now what?
    Whats the sense in rolling if you don't practice? If and when I get in the ocean I always make it a point to roll up as many times as I can against the wind and with the wind, one handed, and as Kudzu mentioned having to retrieve the paddle from wither the back deck or front deck.
    One of the things I learned a long time ago was a comment from Sing where you take a second to let the conditions, i.e. wave rolling over you etc to assess which side is best and what will be the easiest. Now in surf which I avoid, my ass is up the fastest way I know how, with hands firmly gripping the paddle to get forward momentum right away and get some sort of control. Not a big fan of creating a trench in the sand with my head.

    I need to get to an ocean! having withdrawals.

  • Options
    you can forward stroke... now what?
    to me that is a parallel to what you are asking. You use it and practice it all the time in all conditions.

    I started on flatwater, then swell, then a loaded sea kayak (super easy), then chop, them surf, then whatever came along.

    Once I learned to roll I practiced all the time - in all conditions. I started surfing and for a long time I would let every 4th or 5th wave capsize me so I could roll up. Or, I would just paddle out and let a wave knock me over.

    Islander - "The ocean and salt water will take more technique to stick it on the first try." The difference between flatwater and roughwater is mainly in the head. The technique is to know you can do it and to NOT do anything differently.
  • yeah
    but the trouble is you rarely capsize in flat water:)
  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Jul-18-08 11:30 PM EST --

    "The difference between flatwater and roughwater is mainly in the head. The technique is to know you can do it and to NOT do anything differently."

    The difference between flat water and rough water are the waves. Several posters illustrated this point clearly. If you plan to pretend like the waves are just in your head the roll may not be effective.

    You also can't open your eyes the same as fresh water.

    I was just responding the original posters question.

    I didn't say it was impossible, just more challenging.

    Edit: sorry, PaddleMore, but your post confused me. You said you started out on flat water and gradually built up your skills, up to ocean conditions? Then you tell me that there is no difference between flat water and the ocean? It's all in my head?

    You completely contradicted yourself there.

    It takes a gradual process and some people may not ever fully appreciate the ocean.

  • Now that I can roll
    I am trying to sing http://youtube.com/watch?v=wGQTVu6A7AY
  • Gum Tree Canoe
    Can you learn Gum Tree Canoe ....


    we can do a duet next year at the Symposium.
  • Good advice
    I got a similar tip when I started playing around with WW paddling about 10 years ago (And I still just dabble in it as a skill builder, tho I enjoy it): Count to three before you do anything, and get composed. Then make a decision and roll. Works great for me.

    Also, learning all those different GP rolls helps immensely, too, because you realize that you're never really far from a setup position if you're calm (Or at least not totally freaked out the first few times you capsize for real).
  • ...just $.01 from an OC-1 dummy
    -- Last Updated: Jul-19-08 9:56 AM EST --

    As to doing an "offside" roll, remember when passing objects...whether it be rocks, or anything...on one's offside(as many people occasionally do...leaving their onsides free to the open waters), if you flip in those close quarters...there'll often be no room for an onside roll. Without pushing off from the object, thus giving yourself space...you easiest choice is an offside roll.
    So if your offside roll is "off", practice relaxing, then pushing off the object..or even sculling the hull around a bit(if needed), then wind up to roll...etc.

    OC-1_dummy's $.01....

  • Options
    Slightly off topic...
    My favorite places to kayak are the more sheltered rivers and creeks. I see plenty of SOT out there that have nice range. So even if you can’t roll in challenging conditions doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the coastal areas. You can also find a safe place to hone your skills.
  • Options
    sorry... 2 seperate things
    I described how I learned and progressed. BUT, I didn't need to go through all those steps. When I was going through the progression I very rarely missed rolls. It wasn't because I practiced a lot and built up my skill at each stage - it was because I was comfortable rolling a kayak. In fact, I actually think I rolled my kayak in the surf (a few times) before I did all of the other stuff. But, I went through the progress because I thought it was necessary - it wasn't.

    Once you can roll comfortably in flatwater there is no difference in technique. The waves aren't as big of a factor as people make them out to be - mostly they are a non-factor.

    People psyche themselves out of a roll because they expect there to be huge difference. When that happens they try to get their head out of the water, rather than trying to roll.

    You will want to progress your skill on flatwater so that you do not need to open your eyes - roll by feel not by sight.
  • Options
    if your offside is 'off' then you
    stop thinking in terms of offside and onside. You work on both sides until you have 2 on-sides. Problem solved.
  • Options
    ok, sounds reasonaable
    I think what you are saying is that is someone develops a bomb proof roll on a lake then the adjustment to the ocean will be a lot easier.

    That happens to be the same approach I'm taking, so thanks for clearing that up.

    I could have gone to the beach today, but instead went back to the county park and practiced rolling.

    I know that sounds like common sense that someone wouldn't just head out into the ocean their first time here, but people do exactly that and get in trouble.

  • yep
    -- Last Updated: Jul-20-08 9:26 AM EST --

    I know from experience that there is a strong pull to practice the rolls I know, but the key to rolling in conditions is to practice (1) my weaker rolls and 2) moving from out of setup to rolling up on either side, e.g. to end disorientation. Rolling is easy: getting oriented takes time, and the less time taken the easier it is not to have to rush a roll.

  • SOT recovery is also...
    .. a bit of a different deal in textured water.

    If you plastic SOT drivers have ever had a wave pick your kayak up and drop it on your head in he middle of trying to remount you know what I mean.

    Way too many folks assume the flat water practice is enough with these - if they even do that. Some folk are natural water babies and hop on and off pretty much anytime/anywhere, but there's also a lot of "I don't need to do all that, I have an SOT" mentality out there.

    Like rolling, you have to relax and work your timing with the waves. Long swell is easy, but try it somewhere with with steep reflecting waves (need not be very big, just close and disorganized - and or breaking) and it's a different deal. Practicing in this (with onshore winds) gets very tiring very fast. Tired enough to really increase your risk level after just a few remount attempts. It will also usually result in changes to your outfitting and what gear you carry and how it's stowed.
  • sot?
    get a couple of thigh straps and roll it.

  • Options
    good point but

    The point I was trying to make is that there are a lot of more sheltered rivers that would be like paddling a lake. Most people around here just do that instead of open water wide rivers or the ocean.

  • Good luck in surf
    I've rolled a few SOTs. Only ones I'd do that with on purpose was a Tsunami X-1, and the Rrrapido. Both craft made for surf zone. The majority of SOT (as good as they are for what they're designed for) are plastic barges that are more like paddlable rafts, and should be treated about same for recoveries. Rolling them is pretty much a flat watter trick, and if anyone can take that to sea, well that's impressive. Thigh straps suck for rolling (better than nothing), and really SUCK for paddling any distance. I used mine on my Tarpon as shoulder carry straps.
  • "Most people"...
    -- Last Updated: Jul-19-08 9:12 PM EST --

    ... don't roll either, even though most who do consider it a beginner/basic skill that opens the door to other things.

  • Not really a big deal.
    I get thrown of my Cobra Strike all the time in rough water, there is a spot where we like to play with reflected waves from heavy surf. Just climb back on. I know lot of people can't do it, but that has more to do with fitness and lack of upper body exercise. Very few die paddling sit on tops so what does not kill them will make them better.
  • Options
    That's true,
    but my comments or suggestions were intended for the original poster who was asking about the difference between rolling on a lake and rolling at the coast.

    My comments have been consistent with other people experience. It is more of a challenge on the coast.

    I was suggesting starting in a more secluded river, because even that is more challenging than a lake. You have to factor in the tides, motor boats, oyster beds. Heck, you can cut your foot wide open at the boat landing. The tide may pull you into a bride piling.

    When you get used to that move to a bigger river and it will be more challenging. I've noticed that 20 knot winds with quatering waves and tide take a lot of skill.

    I wasn't suggesting someone panic, not be confident when they are in rough conditions, etc. I also wasn't suggesting not learning how to roll a kayak in this thread.

    My point about the SOT folks who stay in a safe calm river is that they are having just as much fun as anyone else, especially some nit picker on the internet.

  • Strike is surf specific...
    ... more like a wave ski and meant to be rolled (with same techniques). Quite a bit less to toss around than larger SOTs. I'd put it in with the others I mentioned, and certainly not the barges.
  • Options
    Some links
    This is to the local paddling club

    you can see that they rate each trip from one star to four. First you have to take the one star to prove you can keep up, then the two, to make sure you can handle the wind and tide. (it can be quite strong)


    The is the link to the Charleston County Parks and Recreation, who sponsor the East Coast Kayak Festival.


    They also have the same process of skill level and can offer all kinds of great classes. I met two of the instructors yesterday that were giving a three day introduction class to coastal kayaking. They even have a rolling class and advanced classes.

  • stars...
    "first you have to take the one star to prove you can keep up...


    where does it say that in the website.

    If I read it right: YOU are the one who rates yourself. this rating is great to make a decision based on your self assessment of your skills. I don't understand your comment that you have to take a 1 star before you can go to a 2 star. Did not see that anywhere.

    for example I have a BCU 3 star and have done 4 star training in some pretty heavy duty clapotis and "conditions" I am mostly a solo paddler who is not adverse to washing machine or confused seas environments and go out when I have the opportunity.
    For me to go on a trip with the low coutry paddlers will I have to
    1. show my BCU card (have an ACA membership too)
    2. demonstrate my bow rudder and sculling draw in wind and waves?
    3. Be given a 10 mile loop to complete in a timely manner while all the "members" sit around assessing my form and stamina?
    Have my gear checked for appropriatenes?

    I'm kinda digging at you here. And I did a trip once with the Low country paddlers on the Edisto. 10 miles is absolutely nothing if you are going with the current.

    to be honest, I have been thinking very seriously about getting down to Charleston and paddle some of the coast line. Only thing I have done a couple of times is put in at the folly river boat ramp, paddle the river out to the surf and waves, play around a bit and come back. Both with and against the tides. have thought a great deal of joining the Low country paddlers and still might.
    Just gotta get down there for one of their paddles.

  • your right
    -- Last Updated: Jul-21-08 9:30 AM EST --

    rolling is a beginner skill that even experts should practice(to ensure consistancy). But its amazing how many people, including many who post here often, can't roll and don't really want to learn. For most kinds of sea kayaking, unlike white water, the need to roll is not crucial(it is however nice to know) if you always paddle with a partner who can do an assisted rescue, or in really calm water where you can do your cowboy or float recovery

  • Options
    lowcountry paddler stars NOT BCU stars
    they are two VERY different rating systems that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

    The lowcountry paddlers' rating system is pretty lame. For example, the LCP 3* is for "Paddlers who know they can paddle against the tide (yup), know they can keep up with club paddlers from past experience, and who have done several paddles over 10 miles."

    Brazilbrasil - anyone who has a BCU 3 star/ ACA Level 3 can easily keep up with and out paddle most of the lowcountry paddlers.

    It is a social club, they don't do club sponsored paddles in surf or open ocean. They do occasionally have 'show and go' trips for surfing - you don't have to be a member of those.

    Next time you are coming down to Folly let me know. We will go out and hit the surf - I know some good spots. We can also paddle out to the jetties and surf there.
  • Options
    ccprc is a good resource
    they are a strictly ACA organization so they use the ACA levels - different from the lowcountry paddlers and BCU. CCPRC isn't the only game in town for instruction.

    There are lots of good resources in charleston for kayak and instruction, check around a bit. It is an awesome place to paddle with lots of good instructors.
  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Jul-21-08 9:40 AM EST --

    I clicked on the link that explains their rating system.

    Sorry you couldn't find it. It was right there at the tip of the page.

    Several people here suggested that there is no diferance between kayaking on a lake and the coast.

    I posted two links that illustrates that there is a rating system for coastal paddling.

    I also provided a lot of other information such as building up your skill level.

    Putting in at the back of Folly is a gentle area.

    I was the only person to suggest building up your skill level and not just thinking the ocean is one big lake.

    Two college students drown a few years ago.

    I know people who head right out to the deep ocean on their first day without any knowledge of the area or weather patterns.

    I don't know anyone's skill level. They may be a complete beginner. I'm only suggesting being prepared to handle those conditions.

    Edit: I'm not sure that paddling on the one * is an absolute requirement before the **.

    They used to not any kind of rating system, just "beginner", "intermediate" "advanced"

    It's pretty laid back. They may have to have some kind of rating for their insurance policy. That's why they state that each individual is responsible for them selves. I also agree with that as well. Otherwise some people will show up without any basic skills, and expect everyone else to compensate for that. Or if they are injured from their own lack of training, they can't sue the paddling club.

    That's why I posed both links.

    There is no way I can assess anyone's skill level.

    You can call them for their rules.

  • club member
    Being able to roll was for me a big confidence booster knowing I am more likely to stay in and with my boat when (not if) I do go over. I like being able to explore the region between upright and upside down and benefit from improved control and stability this skill encourages. Rolling and deep bracing also provide another means to cool off, show off and occasionally lose sunglasses. I do practice rolls in a variety of conditions as they present. Same for self rescues in preparation for failed rolls. And you can roll sans skirt but not pump.
  • putting in at the back of Folly
    -- Last Updated: Jul-21-08 10:27 AM EST --

    is a gentle area. paddling out to the lighthouse and other areas are not.

    I got the three star BCU and joined the ACA specifically because I knew there were trips that would require some sort of proof of competency. Unfortunately, I have paddled with 4 star and "intermediate and advanced" people in mild "conditions=chop and confused washing machine seas, that I was very happy I had my tow rope with and because of that i am very leery of going out into conditions with people unless I have paddled with them before. In a club environment maybe that is not as easy just due to the nature of the beast.
    I have no disagreement with you about a slow moving river being different from a small pond being diferent from a large lake being different from coastal waters being different from open seas. the farthest I have been out is 5 miles and I can assure you it is very very different.
    And THAT is precisely why I love Kayaking!
    (with a capital K)



  • 3rd link on the drill down

    second line:

    "The skill level of each paddler is self determined"

    Its on a third link from the first page BTW. You first have to access the trips and then the ratings explained on a pdf file. However there is mention that they have a new rating system on the first page.

    but who's nitpicking?

  • Options
    worth repeating
    the lowcountry paddlers are more of a flatwater club than anything else. Keep that in mind while reading their rating system.

  • yeah I know paddlemore
    -- Last Updated: Jul-21-08 5:18 PM EST --

    just pokin a bit. all in fun

    I kinda like flatwater trips sometimes too. Today did 8 miles using Greyaks woodwing with a top speed for over 1000 yards of 6.5 or so. I forgot to turn the thing off (GPS)when I stopped at an island for a quick swim and a clif bar and headed back.
    (sitting on the back part of your pfd with the two side panels on either side of your hips keeps your head above water and you are in a barcolounger!


  • Swimming, Crawling, and Rock Climbing
    Swimming, crawling on your hands and knees in surf, and rock climbing are good back up skills for anyone who plays in the surf on the west coast.

    Come on. I know I am not the only one here that has ever crawled back up onto the beach on his hands and knees....That is why wet suits come with knee pads!
Sign In or Register to comment.
Message Boards Close

Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!