Best DVD to learn kayak roll

I would like to learn how to roll my 15 ft touring kayak. I don’t need to learn a lot of different rolls. I don’t plan on making kayak rolling a hobby. I just want to be able to do a roll recovery should I ever get upside down in rough water on a lake far from shore. Paddle Store has several DVD’s that purport to teach how to roll a kayak, each for about $30. I would appreciate any reviews of these DVDs or suggestions regarding the ONE best DVD to meet my needs. Thanks.

Dave LeBlanc

Eric Jackson - Rolling and Bracing
Of the videos I looked at this was the best for being able to go out by yourself and learning to roll your kayak. It also integrates bracing and paddle dexterity which will make you a more confident and skillful kayaker. I think most people who watch this are rolling within about 20 -30 mintues. It may be an ugly roll, but it works.

what kind of ugly roll? :slight_smile:
what kind of ugly roll? :slight_smile:

I agree. Mine’s ugly, but it’s not EJ’s fault.

I’m not sure if their is a best 'one’
It really depends on your body style, flexibility, coordination, and to a lesser extent on the boat and outfitting. For teaching, I use parts of several rolling videos depending on the paddler I am working with at the time. I like EJ’s for some aspects and Kent Ford’s The Kayak Roll for others. I also use some things from Dubside’s and Ben Lawry’s videos. I haven’t looked at Jay Babina’s First Roll video, but have heard good things about it from others.

If you’re confident your boat is outfitted decently and you have a good fitting spray skirt, you may be able to successfully learn on your own - many people have. But, I would recommend picking up at least one of these videos and using it as a supplement to formal instruction. It could be a faster way to a successful roll and you probably will pick up less bad habits.

If you do go down the self taught road get someone to video your attempts, so that you can compare them to what the video actually is showing. Many paddles think they are doing exactly what they see, but in reality they are often much different.

Good luck!



A lot of DVDs were mentioned as being most excellent for learning rolling. All of them lack the instant feedback you get from a good instructor/coach.

Sign up for a rolling class, it might save you aggravation of collecting bad habits.

new video coming out
There is a new video coming out this May or so by Helen Wilson. I interviewed here for the next issue of California Kayaker Magazine, and she said the video is aimed at teaching people to roll. First section covers the basics of rolls. Second how to diagnose and fixes problems. Third gets into more advanced rolls.

She is primarily known as a Greenland roller, but she says this is aimed at anyone in any boat using any paddle.

I look forward to seeing this when it is out.

Instruction IS best
Nothing beats a good coach for learning to roll. If you cannot find or afford a good coach, rolling class is the next best.

There are a lot of good DVDs on rolling. Jay’s “First Roll” may be the best if you are not going to use an instructor or another paddler to spot and give feedback. Ben Lawry’s is also good for the self-learner as starting on land eliminates the fear and problems of starting off under water :wink:

couple thoughts

– Last Updated: Apr-07-10 3:26 PM EST –

Agree with others that unless you are a natural/prodigy, instruction will get you farther initially than a video alone. At a minimum, I'd suggest finding a partner who can do a bow rescue so that every failed roll doesn't become a wet exit and swim.

For what it's worth, I thought The Kayak Roll was quite good, but I was viewing it after I already knew how to roll from the perspective of learning to teach rolling.

Also, while you don't need to become some sort of Dubside-eque rolling guru to have a reliable roll, if you don't practice it on a regular basis (particuarly after you just learn it), there's a very good chance that it won't be there when you want/need it.

EJ’s DVD Helped Me… BUT
I’m really not qualified to compare DVDs 'cause I only watched one. EJ’s ‘keep your head back’ and ‘a roll is just a brace’ instruction was a huge help. BUT if I had it to do over again I’d get rid of the euro and learn to scull and roll with a GP.

another vote for Jay Babina’s
"First Roll". I learned by watching this DVD and practicing it in the pond. It worked great for me. I would recommend (as he does in the DVD) doing it with a Greenland paddle - even easier than with a euro paddle in extended position. Once you’ve got the “first roll” with extended paddle on one side, you can practice other positions with a back-up that you know will get you up.

First rolls
What you want to learn is a practical roll, which will get you back up and functioning when you are in conditions that might cause a capsize. I recommend a sweep roll, gets you up in fighting position.

The best video I have seen is Kent Ford’s The Kayak Roll.

You can waste a lot of time and never be successful trying to learn to roll on your own, whether or not you have a good video. Ask around about who in your area is good at teaching rolling, then spring for a session or two with that person. The video is a good supplement. You can go back to the video when your new rolling skill regresses, which is quite common.

ken Whiting
Great to watch after taking a lesson. I give it 9/10.

My experiene in teaching rolling
to middle aged people with limited flexibility and proneness to disorientation is that they have big trouble with a C-to-C roll (surprise!, doh). They also have trouble with the sweep roll (“The Kayak Roll” DVD) because the body movements are harder to learn (they require more coordination and sense of body position). The roll that EJ teaches (which is a C-to-layback roll) works for virtually all of them. Many learn in the first session. The interesting thing is that moving from the EJ roll to a sweep to layback (the roll that Jay Babina teaches) is quite easy. Adding a GP then is trivial. So, if you do not have access to instruction (or don’t want to go that route) I recommend the EJ DVD. But instruction is still the preferred route. Avoid and instructor that wants to teach you the C-to-C roll!

The Kayak Roll -killed my roll

– Last Updated: Apr-07-10 7:43 PM EST –

Although lots of people swear by this video, I don't think many of them actually learned how to roll watching the video. I took a roll class and successfully rolled several times the first night. I then went out in the ocean and could not do under combat conditions. Bought The Kayak Roll to tune up what I was doing wrong. My sense was that the video is too dogmatic in the technique and and timing and coordination. Surf kayak hulls have a shape where you have to time the sweep and hip snap quite differently than an easy boat to roll, I understand this quite well now, but had no clue about this from Ken Whitings video. With EJs video I practiced for a bout 15 minutes in the pool and could roll my whitewater boat, surf kayak or a seakayak. Took it to the ocean and it still works just fine. I post this once a year so no more Kayak Roll video posts from me this year.

what do ya want to learn to roll over a kayak for?? Us canoe guys avoid that at all costs! You realize you’ll get all wet right?? Plus all your goods will wash down stream. There goes the fishing rods and beer.

I’d get yourself a nice canoe and get that kayak out of there if ya have to go flipping it over all the time.

Believe it or not…
you might also find something worth while on Youtube.

that’s the trouble with videos
There are clearly many ways to roll, and even for each type of roll, there are various ways to learn it. Each paddler is a little different, and the skill of a good instructor is customize their lesson to what will work for each student. A video can’t do that. Each video has to more or less chose one way of teaching the roll, and stick with it.

So, many good videos out there, but it might be tough to find one that teaches in a way that you can learn. If you are lucky enough to have access to a good coach, they can figure out the way that you are going to learn best.

Of course not all instructors are like that. If you call a coach about rolling lessons, ask them what roll they teach. If they name a single roll that’s probably a bad sign. Look for someone who answers that they teach various rolls to students depending on what works for each individual. That way you won’t end up with instruction that tries to whack a square peg through a round hole.

dvd mixup?

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 1:27 AM EST –

Seadart refers to Ken Whiting's DVD, The Kayak Roll. I think he is confusing this with Kent Ford's DVD entitled "The Kayak Roll." Ken Whiting's DVD is entitled "Rolling a Kayak."

"The Kayak Roll" is a different and great DVD by Performance Video. The roll taught is similar to this one:

I agree that learning from a DVD entirely is not optimal. I used the DVD in conjunction with lessons from several of the instructors on the DVD, and that was great. I don't think it is reasonable to expect to quickly learn a combat roll the is reliable enough to count on in rough conditions off shore. Although I won't miss in the pool, I still encounter problems in the conditions that could capsize me.

Agree with Jay’s first roll
Learning the Greenland layback especially with a GP is the easiest first roll and Jay’s video lays it all out in an easy to understand format. You’ll also find a lot to like on you tube. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is kayak outfitting has a lot to do with being able to roll. Dubside’s video does a very nice job of addressing how to set your kayak up for rolling. Lastly, the advice to work with a teacher is also very good–find a Greenland symposium and you’ll be rolling within a day, maybe two.