Best roll for stable rec kayak

I have a cheap 10’ recreational kayak and a nylon skirt that fits it well enough to keep it from being swamped. It’s not a whitewater skirt and not a whitewater boat. I took it to a pool session in hopes of being able to roll it and came close but failed with a decent C to C and an okay sweep. To be sure it wasn’t totally operator error, I swapped into a sea kayak and had no trouble at all rolling it with much less effort. Anyway, a link the reverse sweep was on the front page today and I looked at that. It mentions being pretty powerful. I think I need power because the boat is a little wide and very buoyant, so it does lift you completely above water level during the roll. Not sure if that makes sense, but with a ww or sea yak, you sort of roll the boat under you without your body weight really moving much in the vertical plane during the roll.

Bed Roll.
Rec kayaks aren’t designed to be rolled. By contrast, touring, sea, and ww kayaks are designed with rolling in mind. No ww kayak design team would send a boat into production if it wasn’t susceptible to being rolled.

I think that non-rollability is a sort of safety factor for rec kayaks, because it keeps their owners out of serious rapids and heavy ocean surf for which rec kayaks are not suitable, anyway.

Watch for a good used touring or ww kayak.

Kudos to you.
Depending on the model of rec kayak, you may or may not be able to find a roll, but if you enjoy the challenge, keep at it. As long as you are having fun there’s no reason not to give it a try. There is a video on youtube of a guy doing a greenland roll in a pungo 140. I would not have thought it possible. It may not be of any real world use, but he can do it. No harm trying. While at the pool it may also be useful to practice some wet re-entry techniques. These may have more real world applications. Stay safe, have fun, and learn all you can.

So then, what does he have? The wrong
boat for situations where he may need to roll. Plus, if he changes to a boat designed to be rolled, there will be some serious adjustments needed.

Rec boats have giant cockpits, and spray skirts for those cockpits are unlikely to hold on the rim.

There’s no point in congratulating someone for doing something that is difficult, risky, and that doesn’t make sense. It’s like urging someone to take on a road rally in a Chevy Suburban.

just in case
I did practice wet exits and on water re-entries. I used to do ww kayaking back in the 80s and I am not trying to get back into that but it makes me feel like I should be able to roll my boat. I mostly will be fishing and poking around in lakes, swamps and slow rivers; exactly the sort of thing rec kayaks are made for. I will also do a few class II rivers. Really not looking for a sea yak or ww yak right now.

Anyway, I did come pretty close and I feel like I did do both halves and just never got a complete one. By that I mean I was able to brace past the point of secondary stability where I would have gone over if I stopped sweeping and on a couple of my failed roll attempts I had the boat and my body at the same point but had my paddle too deep.

I think it is rollable though I do hope it has no real world application.

no one is urging me to to danger
Not even me…

I just like the idea of being able to roll it.


– Last Updated: Jan-04-14 10:36 PM EST –

Last summer I borrowed a 10 foot rec kayak to play in some mild wind waves near shore - had a blast surfing it. Of course, I had to see if I can roll it, even though I had no spray skirt. It rolled surprisingly easy - no major effort needed. It's a matter of timing and technique not force. Of course, not as easy to roll as a river runner or a modern sea kayak, but not super hard either. I wouldn't want to learn rolling in it though, but it could be used as a yard stick for the effectiveness of your roll. Boats that are easy to roll mask mistakes: I could hand roll effortlessly in one sea kayak but another, very similar one, gave me trouble initially, until I improved my roll further (both were properly outfitted for me, just different "personalities").

It half-filled with water on the first roll, but I could roll it a couple more times before it sunk under me, with me in it. I was, of course, near shore in warm water, so I just stood-up, emptied it, and pulled it to shore to end an enjoyable afternoon on the water.

A roll that is not very fast (lots of water to move in such a wide boat) and does not require a full layback (high seat back) is best with such wide boats. The so called twist or screw roll I think is the most effective for this kind of kayak, but requires some hip snap, where it doesn't in a narrower boat. As mentioned below, an extended paddle can help, but I think that could give one a false sense of success by allowing brute force to be used instead of good technique - those are the rolls that break paddles too...

I could roll it without a skirt
I didn’t bother trying that, but feel pretty certain I could. Partially swamped, it would roll under you without lifting you up. I rolled a big canoe once with a lot of water in it, but I could not do it when it was properly rigged with flotation.

Can We See the Link?
Not sure what a reverse sweep is.

reverse sweep
Often starts with a layback position. Can you do that in this boat?

link to roll

layback position. Can you do that …
Good question. I did have a little trouble locking my knees in leaning back. I saw the “storm roll” where you stay bent forward in a video and that might be something to try. It did not look as powerful though. It had been over 20 years since I last rolled a boat before last night so my form is not great. I used a friends sea yak just to make sure I was using at least reasonably correct mechanics but I am not sure that totally validated anything. When I popped right up first attempt in his boat, I told him it was like cheating it was so easy. Everything I tried worked in his boat, even just bracing and sweeping. They go over real easy also though; I don’t think I would like it as a fishing platform.

It’s not a big deal if I can’t roll. I don’t plan to use it where I would expect to go over and even if I do manage to roll it I still wouldn’t use it in conditions where I would need to depend on it. But since I tried and came close, now I want to do it.

Reverse Roll
The competition version of this roll is usually performed by rotating, arching your back and falling over on your back (more of a “belly-flop” with your back than a layback). It’s easy to enter head first, if you arch strongly. While this makes for a clean entry (that competition judges like to see), it also adds risk, so take caution that the water is deep with no obstructions.

This is a very popular roll in Greenland because it lets less water into the cockpit when wearing a skirt that doesn’t seal tightly (often in summer in calm weather the Greenlanders use a skirt that is held by suspenders and does not close at the top for ventilation – this roll is valued there for allowing less water to enter the cockpit). This is probably moot in a rec boat, however.

The reverse roll works well to roll an open canoe, so might work reasonably well with a rec boat.

The strongest, most powerful roll in the Greenland arsenal is the “good old Greenland standard layback roll” with an extended paddle. You can roll just about any kayak with this technique – as long as you can stay in the cockpit. It’s powerful – at demos I often have one person hold onto the bow and another hold onto the stern of my kayak and use the standard roll.


Greg Stamer

skirt is similar
I do have a big Lavika nylon universal skirt and it does leak some when rolling. I used the nose of another boat several times even though I wasn’t quite getting up with the paddle. That’s another thing that made me feel like it is very doable; Eskimo rescue was fairly easy to do. Anyway, it let some trickle in on every roll. I didn’t get the skirt purely for rolling, though it would be nice. It is for warmth when it is cool out and to keep chop and small waves out. I think some folks responding think I want to use it as a whitewater boat or sea kayak. I might do some class II rapids or play in waves right at the shore in the summer but it is a rec kayak and I know that.

Two rolls to try
The put across or extended paddle roll (Pawlata) is a very good roll to know and it works ~100% of the time. Especially good for rec boats. It’s not so much about brute force as is is about leverage, and with a wide boat you need help, also adjusting your weight forwawrd or back to find the sweet spot where the hull rolls over easier is important.

You can also see if you can pull off the back deck roll used by waveskiers, I can do this with sit on top kayaks, but have never tried it in a rec boat. It too is a powerful roll that works with hard to roll boats. you do not need to be laying on the back deck but close to it.

Even tandem open canoes are rollable
I don’t know the answer as to which double blade roll would be the most effective for a wide rec kayak, but I can’t believe the width itself would be an insuperable obstacle.

Open canoes were rolled by many boaters in the 80’s, and the 34" beam Whitesell Piranha was marketed as a “rollable” hull design. John Berry told me people in his club were solo rolling Grumman tandems back in the late 40’s.

I could also roll an open canoe with a double blade Pawlata, and suspect it would be a powerful, if less elegant, option for a rec kayak.

Reverse Sweep

– Last Updated: Jan-05-14 6:39 AM EST –

Some folks may do great with that reverse sweep. My short, inflexible torso won't allow me to even get set up for it. I agree with Mr. Stamer:

"The strongest, most powerful roll in the Greenland arsenal is the "good old Greenland standard layback roll" with an extended paddle."

The only thing I would add is that FOR ME the absolute most purchase/lift/bite I get from a GP is when I push it down and forward.

Set up.

Sweep the paddle back.

Push the paddle back DOWN and FORWARD as you right the boat with your hip/knee.

(your mileage may vary)

edit: Some time back someone on the Qajaqusa site posted old, silent 20's footage of Innuits rolling their kayaks (qajaqs). I got a big kick out of the guy who finished his roll with a little push forward on his paddle.

OCs get water in and that helps
The trouble I was having is that the yak is big and still completely buoyant. A lot of rolls depend on being able to sort of slip the boat under you. I have rolled a canoe in the past. It had so much water in it that just bracing as it rotated was all I had to do. The points at which it would have had primary and secondary stability were meaningless. Passing the point of secondary stability of the unswamped rec yak is a bigger deal. It is doable; I am convinced of that.


If you did ww kayaking in the 80s,
why are you wasting time trying to roll a completely unsuitable boat? This isn’t a hobby.