Advice on rolling a fully loaded kayak

Any advice welcome for tips on loading and rolling a fully loaded for expedition kayak. I understand that it is slower, but possible, and yet how one load’s it may make a difference. I have heard that fully loaded kayaks may under some conditions be very hard to roll even for advance folks and that this may be one place to invest in a foot or batter driven no hans pump, especially during a crossing and or off shore.

looking forward to learning…

You need to learn how to re-enter you kayak. That’s more important than the roll.

The idea is simple: keep the heavy stuff low, on centerline, and as close to the cockpit as possible. Use lighter, compressible stuff to keep it in place. And don’t put anything metal under your deck compass.

A properly loaded boat can be harder to start rolling, but once past the tipping point it really wants to be upright again.

Learning to scull up can be a good option for a slow-rolling boat.

hard/easy to roll
The most important variable in whether a boat is hard or easy to roll is the match between the effort of your hip snap (or hip pressure for a sweep roll) and the resistance of the boat to rotation. You want your maximum effort to occur at maximum resistance. A fully loaded boat rolls differently in this sense and depending on whether you are early, middle, or later with your effort may make it seem harder or easier to roll. There is also a certain amount of inertia to a loaded boat that has to be overcome. So my recommendation is to slow down the boat rotation early but exert continuous strong effort early as well. As indicated above once you get to the secondary stability point you will need comparatively little effort to finish the job.

What He Said

Dr. D. Thanks. Sounds like you have both the experience and have really broken it down it into the why how, in what order.


the reason for a foot or electric pump has nothing to do with rolling. If how your kayak is loaded can affect your roll your roll is marginal already and you would have felt the affects of poor packing while paddling in rough conditions.

I heartly agree. Sculling up(the sculling roll) is bombproof in anything but the surfzone - loaded boat or not.

Whenever I’m tired I automatically falls back to sculling up instead of using the sweep roll. It takes a bit more time but always works.

I recently put up some rolling clips, which demonstrate sculling rolls:

Sculling roll:

Sculling roll with outrigger paddle to increase resistance:


Lee, say more
Yeah, when explained to me did not make sense. Why do

some folks feel it is essential to have that kind of pump

on their expedition yaks?

how’s that ?
if you can roll, you’ll not have to re-enter since you’ll not have exited in the first place, eh?

Oh really???

– Last Updated: Nov-11-04 4:34 PM EST –

How is it that learning to avoid having to wet exit in the first place is less important than knowing how to re-enter? It's also a pretty safe assumption that if the poster knows how to roll, then he's probably done his share of wet exits and re-entries in the process of learing roll. It sounds like his question is strictly about the difference between rolling empty and loaded boats.

Let me guess: You don't know how to roll, do you?

removing water
handpumps and paddle floats are kind of an anomaly for practical worst condition self-rescue in that any condition that dumps an experienced paddler out will make holding a pump instead of a paddle a gurantee to going over again. You can’t hold a paddle and pump at the same time with a hand pump. WIth your skirt off water will come back in. With a foot pump and a relatively low volume cockpit you can re-entry/roll put skirt on and brace while your feet are pumping.

Hand pumps and paddle floats are supposedly self-rescue items but I think they’re primarily a way to sell another $75 of goods.

Pumps and such are useful in assisted rescue scenarios so that potential rescuers and rescuees can reduce the load on their partner but my take on it is that kayaks aren’t really designed for wet-exits,I mean the craft is derived from cold water use where any length of immersion for a solo paddler was a one way ticket. If you’re planning entirely from a solo expedition paddling perspective then you’re making a judgement call you won’t need rescueing.

Foot pumps are a good idea but so are electrical ones.

Found the link via qajakusa.
All I can say is “WOW!” Peter, you’ve got a good set of movies there. I bookmarked the link as soon as I saw the first clip. I’m sure I’ll be checking them out more as I learn to scull and such. Question though: how much hip snap is there really in the storm roll?

As for the original question, my experience is that a boat properly loaded/ balanced/ ballasted within its listed capacity is actually easier to roll than when empty. Basically, you just try to keep yourself from impeding the progress, and brace at the end.


Hip snap
>Question though: how much hip snap is there really in the storm roll?

In my case not much. I’m often advocating loose fit and raised/pumping legs when paddling. While this is great for forward efficiency, it’s bad for forward hip snap as there’s little hull contact.

But in general it’s my impression that the forward hip snap is a good deal weaker than the layback hip snap.

One thing more on the sculling technique. One very efficient way to learn sculling, is to have a helper hold the boat in the right position. Then the pupil can concentrate on the ‘butter on bread’ motion with the paddle. That way my kayak club have had beginners doing sculling in a short time.


I agree if solo and paddling the edge

– Last Updated: Nov-11-04 7:43 PM EST –

a hands free pump is a must!

If you blow a roll, reenter and roll is your next best option of you are solo and conditions are tough. In such conditions pumping out your boat wiht a hand held pump could be tough.

for a heavily loaded kayak,

– Last Updated: Nov-11-04 9:15 PM EST –

the extended paddle roll will give you much greater leverage. Instead of having both hands on the paddle shaft, you grip the end of one blade in one hand (keeping that hand close to the chest), grab the shaft with the other hand and scull or sweep with the paddle extended perpendicular to the boat, this is a very powerful roll technique.

motion. Proper posture and IMO a regular grip on the paddle.

It’s all the same, just slower.


definitely agree!
The sculling roll is great because it slows down your speed of rotation (please correct me if i’m way off base) and provides consistant lift. Normally with a kayak that is loaded, it does not roll as quickly as an unloaded kayak and therefore you need to be able to match the speed of rotation with the speed of your paddle blade. Although the sweep roll is my personal favorite (or c-to-c for boats with high combings), I like using the sculling roll as a backup roll as it doesn’t require as much of a hip snap and is easier to perform when I’m exhausted. It’s amazing how effective it is. When I do a sculling roll in whitewater, my friends have claimed that I pop up quicker than with a sweep roll (3 quick sculls and i’m up)! Of course if I’m dead exhausted and the scull fails, I tend to go for an extended paddle roll (on flatwater not whitewater) as it requires almost no hipsnap at all.

I must be dense
but I banged off a bunch of rolls last summer with my yak fully loaded with camping gear and I couldn’t see much difference,I seemed to snap back up just as quick.I do keep my decks fairly uncluttered other than map,compass and spare paddle,no junk piled high to screw up the CG.

I do think Pahsimeroi should post a profile though and explain further why he thinks wet exits are so much fun.

He couldn’t be sponsoonman,could he?



I Agree…
That it doesn’t make much of a difference, although there is a slight “hinge” effect, as one sometimes find with ww boats or surf boats. It doesn’t necessarily make the roll harder though it does impart of different sensation. The feel/effect is affected by the load (inside the boat) relative to the point of balance.

What I found disruptive is a loose load in the bulkheads, you can feel and hear the load moving around. This may be disruptive to end balance, like rolling with water in the boat, you can come up and then go back over again.

In my big touring boats, I pin the load down with inflated float bags. This keeps the heavy stuff low and centered in the boat.