back deck roll?

Any hints on learning the back deck roll? At one of the summer symposiums, Doug van Doren insisted it was a great roll to learn, and I guess I figured out why yesterday, when I got plastered to my back deck in some surf. The kayak ran aground before I decided whether or not to set up for a layback roll, but while I was thinking deep thoughts (ha!), I realized this might be a good time to use a back deck roll.

Is the dubside dvd a good place to start? The web descriptions I’ve looked at seem pretty confusing.

right here


– Last Updated: Aug-31-06 12:20 PM EST –

Thanks, but that back deck roll has you rolling a full 180 under your boat. The one I'm thinking of starts with you on your back deck, and coming up on the same side--sort of a reverse sweep, so it's good when you blow your roll or else when you get pushed onto the back deck for some reason.

Here's a brief description from an article by Ray Killen about greenland traditional techniques: " If they capsized while coming down the face of a breaking wave in the stern rudder position, they would roll up from that position while laying on the back deck, since it is almost impossible to bring the paddle to the bow for a normal setup while in the turbulence. "

That was the exact situation I found myself in yesterday, minus the knowledge of how to do the roll, of course.

Just one comment

– Last Updated: Aug-31-06 12:46 PM EST –

Looks like others said the same thing while I was typing the one below. So re later dialogue, I actually haven't practiced this much with a forward sweep w/either the Euro or my GP. But I should. The charm of this one is that it works in a host of difficult conditions and is very fault-tolerant for sloppy rollers like me.

The article on this site is a good one, but in the situation described above the paddler was already pretty much on their back deck, yes? So they can skip worrying about doing it as a 360 degree roll and go right to the very end. (which I find less confounding than moving all over the place for a back deck roll with a Euro paddle anyway)

In that case, the basic move is just to stay as glued to the back deck as you can while you lift the boat with the desired knee and do a quick sweep of the paddle for support, as the boat comes up keep sliding onto the back deck. (If you wear a tow belt this'll be a good reason to start wearing it rolled around to one side).

In most boats it'll require a lot less oomph and support to get it up from the back than from more forward, though in water that is posing a lot of resistence this may not be very helpful. Someone who uses this in surf successfully would be a better judge of that.

If not extended, just make sure the paddle isn't being held in a way where you'll hit the near end on the way up with the boat enough to inhibit you.

That is the same roll…
You can initiate it from upright or from underneath the water on your backdeck. If you have a greenland paddle, a reverse sweep works and if you don’t a standard backdeck or steryl roll works.

Check out some of my videos at

Particularly check out the reverse sweep roll and I have about 5 different backdeck roll clips using whitewater kayaks, sea kayaks, euro paddles, and greenland paddles.

reverse screw roll?

– Last Updated: Aug-31-06 12:41 PM EST –

Maybe this is really just the reverse screw roll? Maybe I shouldn't worry about what it's called, but just find a spotter and start practicing it and be careful with my shoulders. Seems like it would be easy to let your arms get out of the safe box. Thanks for the advice, Celia.

I do use a greenland paddle. Doug demonstrated this as a forward finishing roll, but I guess you could also try it as something similar to a recovery from a balance brace (although for that I have my non-paddle holding hand go over the far side of the boat for balance.

Thanks for the clips!
Thanks for the links to the clips. When I get to a faster online connection, I look forward to viewing them. Dialup connections have their drawbacks.

Biggest single trick
Is staying up against/as close as possible to the back deck so you can really slide up onto it as the boat comes up. If you let yourself get separated from that surface too much, you turn into almost a rear anchor of sorts and it gets tough to keep track of your body orientation. At least for me anyway.

My not-expert suggestion - capsize and park yourself facing down, back on the rear deck. Have the paddle extended into a real secure position, and then make sure that you start pushing your thigh/knee downward before starting to move the paddle. The back will tend to come up in rhythm if you focus on keeping it against the back deck.

It feels pretty wierd the first few times, but it gets more comfortable pretty fast. If you can go out and play in waves and current on your own and come up, I suspect that the worstproblem you’ll have is window-shading the first time you get it.

There are actually two kinds.
There is the low brace version, which is what Ken Whiting is doing in his p-net article. It is a low brace because the back face of the paddle is down and the arms are above the paddle. This is also know as the “dry head” back deck roll. If you do the same thing while sliding along the face of a wave it is an air move. The high brace version can be done going all around or down and up. The down and up is simply a reverse sweep. The paddle face is down and your arms are below the paddle.

I had spotted that the paddle was below the arms in the article on, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it’d leave you with a dry(er) head in a wave situation. At least an able-to-grab-a-breath head.

I personally haven’t tried it with the paddle shoved so down, but it’s not so far from a position I have to be in anyway at times to get unstuck from under the boat. Except it does seem to change the management of the head just a bit. Going out for some practice tonight with a few folks, will give it a shot.

I wonder if having to bring the head from being down inenthe

Well, I tried it tonight, and the forward finishing kind just put me into a setup position for a regular roll, not right-side-up. So I switched to essentially sculling up a little and then sliding onto the back deck and up, which worked fine, but it’s not a back deck or reverse sweep roll. It’s just an easy way to get up when you’re plastered against the back deck. It did feel more like recovery from a balance brace or sculling brace, which I guess is what it is.

Forward Finishing
Got out there doing other stuff tonight and forgot that I wanted to mess with this. But as to the forward finishing, I find that takes a lot of concetration for me at the moment becuase it so changes my sense of timing on when to start the thigh pushing down. Just not used to doing it with my body moving forward. But I have been able to do it here and there if I really consciously control my thighs and when they start the boat moving.

As to what it feels like - if the boat is solidly upside down it’s a roll, even if it feels shallow.