Another Request for Rolling Advice

This weekend I went to my local pool and attempted to roll. After having watched Kent Ford’s video “The Kayak Roll” many times, I figured I had it in the bag! Well, I spoke to soon. I think I have the set-up right and can begin the sweep, but for the life of me I couldn’t get any torso rotation started. I can muscle my way up, but it is a labor intensive process that I know won’t work consistently. When I’m upside down, I can’t figure out how to get that rolling knee to engage - and perhaps I was engaging both knees, which I know will keep me upside down. As an additional data point, I’m a big, muscular guy up top and am wondering if that extra weight makes the roll more difficult?? Any advice? I’m signed up for some instruction…I know that advice already :slight_smile:

For what it is worth…
You well may be engaging both your knees or the wrong one more. I had forgotten, but early on when I was trying to just throw my hips around it tended to engage the offside (wrong) knee rather than the correct one. Somehow focusing on the hip rather than the knee got the wrong one involved.

I figured it out by practicing a very slow motion roll up against pool side and others’ bows, and really noticing thru it what the quad muscles in each leg are doing. That was the way I spotted the moment(s) in my rotation where the wrong knee was tensing up. Suggest you do the same, and don’t even try to include the upper body until you have patterned coming up on only the onside knee and leaving the other fairly passive.

The good new is that it didn’t take long to fix that part once I realized it. (My overall roll is a much much longer story, but it was the coordination and paddle part that took me so long.)

Hope this helps.

Same thing
Nearly the same thing happened to me. I took a rolling lesson, and managed to do a few successful rolls by the end of the class.

The next time I tried on my own I couldn’t make my knee move to start the hip flick. My brain knew what to do, but the signals just wouldn’t go through.

Try working on the hip flick off of someone’s bow, or the side of the pool.

Which roll?
If you’re doing a layback sweep roll, one way to initiate the body movement is to allow yourself to float to the surface while you’re in the setup position before you begin your sweep.

This gets the boat rotation started before you begin your roll, and makes it easier.

If you’re doing a c-to-c, it helps a little.


Go Back To The Pool Edge

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 3:21 PM EST –

and work your hip snap/head dink. Isolate and develop the feel of that, then go back and add the paddle sweep later. Unless you're doing a layback type roll, a strong hip snap is the core action for making a roll a success or not. If you don't even know what knee to put pressure on, then it's pretty clear you don't know how or know the feel of the hip snap.


PS. If watching a video will give me skills by osmosis, I'd be a darn class v paddler by now as well as surf kayak champion. ;)

Good advice

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 4:33 PM EST –

Some things that helped me....(and I'm not very good at it, so my advice may not be worth much)

Make your hip snaps at the pool side very snappy, work on getting them very fast and smooth until they are very good.

Then forget some of the stuff in the Ken Ford video. If you have a large heavy torso the layback roll will help you beat gravity. If you get into the set up position start sweeping don't try the strong hip snap until the last part of your sweep. If someone has a perfect roll their paddle may be doing no work, but for you it may be planing on the surface of the water and providing lift to stabilize a portion of your weight as the boat rolls up. I think the Ford Video is misleading on this point.

One problem is that you get lots of advice from people who have very different body types, what works for one person may not work for you, especially ignore advice from tall thin people, then short very thin people ... also the boat you are rolling does make a difference when you are starting to learn. But it sounds like you need to work on righting the boat with driving your knee and snapping the hips.

Some suggestions
Hip snaps on the side of the pool are only minimally helpful for the sweep roll. Instead, with your boat upright, rotate your torso counter clockwise, clockwise, counter clockwise, etc. As you do so edge the boat. So for counter clockwise raise the left knee and push out with the right heel. Reverse it for clockwise. Then with your paddle held normally, end the counterclock wise rotation with the paddle parallel to the water on the left side. As you rotate back, sit up and then place your paddle parallel to the water on the right side. With your boat upside down and you in the set up position, practice slowly moving your body directly out and up toward the surface to start the roll. Have someone standing by to flip you up since the point of the exercise is to train your body movement. Finally, remember, your paddle does not roll the boat. The correct head and body movement translated into raising the rolling knee rolls the boat. The paddle just hangs back there and follows wherever your body goes. In particular the paddle does not start the roll. The head does. Good luck.

My two cents
My first roll, last year in a lake in jersey,

was an attempt at the c to c … no instructor,

got the info from the net and books…there is a

lot of mechanics to remember and the fact that you are

trying to over come the fear under water at the same

time makes it difficult to execute it every time.

So, maybe 50% of the time I would get it right.

I stressed out my shoulders working through this.

I guess it was my third trip to the lake that I

decided to try the greenland sweep layback roll.It

was easy!, a very stress free roll.I wish I had tried it first,I messed up my shoulder and lost half a season…I think its a great first roll and

for me, the only roll I want…

Some Boats…

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 4:36 PM EST –

especially if they're big and/or have a high aft coaming relative to the paddler make a full layback roll difficult if not impossible.

I'm constantly pushing for "lower volume" day tour boats which makes, among other things, sculling and rolling easier. But, heck, that's a rant that I just need to fold the cards on.


First Time
All good advice that I will take into consideration. Like all things, it’s one thing to read something in a book and quite another thing to perform it for real. When I’m upside down, I feel like a lead weight pulling me straight down. I can perform a sit up (while capsized), lean forward and to the side of my deck to get that paddle in a good position. But between not being familiar with the knee/hip snap feel, I find that I am simply sweeping the paddle and the boat doesn’t even start the rotation. I will work on the tips mentioned above. You all make it sound so easy!

One thing to watch is to
not sweep with your arms. Hold your elbows at your side and sweep by turning the torso. If I just move my arms, I never succeed.

You need to keep looking down the shaft of the paddle. If you do the roll taught in the Kent Ford video correctly, you don’t “hip snap”. Instead, it’s a constant upwards pressure with the rolling knee.

You can also try taking your non-rolling leg off of the pedal. That way you won’t be putting any pressure with the non-rolling knee.

If you do it all right, you will be upright and wondering how you got there.

been there, done that!
Set up,set up. Be sure that your set up is so that your chest is over your knee and that your paddle is flat above the water. Then reach out, not back with the paddle, this is where I get my boat rotation, then just keep your eyes on the paddle blade and blow bubbles. Go back to the edge of the pool and try the hip snap, then as far as you can reach out from the edge of the pool try the hipsnap again and you will feel the rolling knee engage even more and see what I am talking about. just try it.

Don’t lean forward to the side. Lean directly to the side. I had the exact same problem, and that cured it.

One problem with posts like this…
…is that you get flooded with advice!

Watch your paddle blade. It will help you keep

your head down, but nothing can replace formal


Another thing to watch
Is your hand on the side opposite the sweep ending up in the proper position or are you punching out or down?

I still haven’t totally figured out why I tend to stall 3/4 of the way through my roll. I had a great session in the pool with one of the white-water guys and he said it’s my head but is that a cause or a symptom? Anyway I was getting most of mine by the end. Interesting, I was doing better with a C-to-C.

So, I think you may want to work on sweeping outward, following the blade with your eyes, as others have said; bring the back hand up to the finish position; and go ahead and lay back or C-to-C just to break any bad muscle memory. Think kneeing someone in the crotch rather than hip snap.

There was a series in Sea Kayaker a couple of months ago that taught the roll “backwards” that looks interesting. has a good
and very scientific explanation that may help some, it’s a different perspective. I used a paddle float the first few times to concentrate on just the hip flick without worrying what the paddle was doing. That seemed to help.

Good Luck


two more cents
For what it is worth

I tend to agree with waterdoc when he said “If you do the roll taught in the Kent Ford video correctly, you don’t “hip snap”. Instead, it’s a constant upwards pressure with the rolling knee…If you do it all right, you will be upright and wondering how you got there.”

About a year or so ago I learned this roll and when you get it there is no muscle involved. I switched from a c to c because I wanted something easier on my body. Keep in mind that although this is a sweep roll there is never a time that you lay on the back deck.

If when you practice you consistently do the same thing wrong you might want to stop till you have your class. No use getting bad habits ingrained. If the person you take the class from does not teach this roll I suggest you learn the roll he/she teaches as once you have “a roll” others tend to be easy to learn. Than you can pick what you like

Hanging like a dead weight?
If that’s how you feel when you are upside down… it suggests that you don’t have a good sense of contact between your posterior (butt) and knees/thighs and the boat. Or if it’s there mechanically, you aren’t feeling it.

One other thing I had to practice was coming up and really trying to kiss the front deck before moving into the full setup. It settled my sense of purchase and balance in the boat, and got me into a tighter position so that when I initiated the rest of the action there was some impulsion. Again, I am not an expert and this may not matter to many. But it helped a lot for me.

It’s probably less crucial these days, but it is still one of the preparatory things I do at the start of a practice, even when I am having a really good night and hit the pool feeling like I could knock off a roll right off.

Just a curiousity question while I am here on the lack of snap needed for a layback - wouldn’t some amount of snap still be needed if you were bringing up a partially loaded boat?? Seems you’d want some help to provide a margin of security and avoid putting weight on your shoulder.

my own roll problems…
I too totally agree with waterdoc when he said “If you do the roll taught in the Kent Ford video correctly, you don’t “hip snap”. Instead, it’s a constant upwards pressure with the rolling knee…If you do it all right, you will be upright and wondering how you got there.”

2 weeks ago my roll came together and bam - everytime I would come up and think the instructor had rolled me up. What really clicked is how much the upper body movement creates that pressure on the knee that rolls the boat, and I agree that it seems more smooth working of force than a “hip snap” which makes it seem like a single, momentary event.

All that said, after rolling numerous times in an RPM, I switched to a Riot Booster. This past weekend in the pool, I only managed one very ugly roll, so now I’m back to feeling very discouraged. Rolling the RPM was nearly effortless; rolling the Booster seems nearly impossible.

Will I ever get that “effortless” feeling in the Booster with it’s flat planing hull? It’s also much taller right at the front of the cockpit so it’s harder to reach up and out of the water when upside down.

Any words of encouragement or advice?? Any one go from a very easy to roll boat to a harder one?


Somewhat discouraged,


keep at it!
The timing is slightly different with a planing hull boat but in the long run you will become a better roller. The RPM is extremely forgiving of poor technique which is a good thing to learn on but very bad if you are refining your skills. I have been in the Booster several times and it in fact rolls extremely well and it is one of the easiest river runner/play boats to roll out there.