Boat for rolling

I didn’t want to hijack the paddle float discussion, but Celia’s post there got me thinking:

Is there a particular boat that’s easier to roll than another - but for a beginner or “nonroller”? I’m obviousdly not referring to an ulta-skinny, advanced-paddler, Greenland-style boat that makes you feel like you’re going to take a swim as soon as your hind end hits the seat :).

What I mean is, a boat that can be rolled for practice but that can still be fairly stable to paddle around in various conditions. My boat is so beamy that I think if I were to capsize it, I’d be doing a wet exit every time - i.e. I don’t have the skills to get it back upright. So I’d like something with ‘normal’ stability, if there is such a thing - but not TOO much - so that I can still practice/work on my skills. Because it seems to me that there’s a point at which a stable boat becomes SO stable that the paddler isn’t learning anything, and that may be a danger unto itself. I initial bought my current boat because I was LOOKING for that stability (I’m 6’2", 230 and don’t have a very low center of gravity to help me out, which I discovered very quickly in the whitewater class I took). But now I’d like to branch out a bit and work on my skills some more.

I’ve heard experienced paddlers say that “any boat can be rolled” and that may be true for THEM, it’s not for someone like me - not yet, anyway.

Outer Island
Impex version of this crusing boat (designed by Jay Babina) is a popular boat for stable cruising and easy rolling. But, due to your size you might want to look at a boat with a higher front deck such as the Greenlander or Greenlander Pro by Nigel Dennis Kayaks. I have a Greenlander and find it stable (not quite as the Outer Island) and almost as easy to roll. It has about two inches more of front deck height though for more room even though its listed as a medium sized paddler boat. I am 6’2" and 185 and I am LOOSE (very) in it!


best rolling production boats…
1. Impex Outer Island

2. Valley Anas Acuta

3. NDK Romany/Explorer, Nigel Foster Silhouette, and Valley Nordkapp LV (tie)

4. Valley Pintail/Skerray/Avocet, WS Tempest, Necky Chatham, etc.

Impex Force 4 or 5
20.75" Hull Width and 15" across the seat makes for quite low volume on the sides of the boat which I’ve found quite easy to snap back towards the primary stability which obviously brings you on around to upright, whether this be with a paddle, norsaq, ping pong paddle, etc. (didn’t include hand roll in there as I’ve got to padd the side sof the seat a little more before the next pool practice session)

That stability that you initally looked for in a kayak can come from the beam of the boat but yes, if you manage to knock it over it’ll be a bear to knock back. Stability from fit of the boat to your body not only will help keep you upright but will also allow your skills to progress without plateauing as can happen with a super broad boat.

Go play with some skinnier sea kayaks that have enough deck height for comfort but provide good contact at hips, thighs, back & feet.

See you on the water,


Hyde Park, NY

What’d I start?

– Last Updated: Mar-14-07 5:24 PM EST –

Whichever musing started this - yes, as above there are a (happily) increasing number of boats out there that are dead solid in conditions, comfortable for tripping and still are what most would call easy rollers for an average sized male. And the view for average sized women is improving as well, though still not quite as long a list. I can't improve on the posts from schizopak and Marshall.

The Explorer has been traditionally regarded as particularly kind to new paddlers, but I've heard similar feelings about the Outer Island and the Impex Force boats from those who have had them in real conditions.

Also, that any boat can be rolled bit is true and works great in the pool. But it is only true for most people after they have done a heck of a lot of rolling. And at the end of a long day, having to worry about rolling a cranky or diffcult boat loses its charm. There are people who paddle more difficult boats to roll because of their other features, but for day to day paddling the easier rolling boats are pleasantly less fuss.

Romany, Elaho DS

– Last Updated: Mar-14-07 5:50 PM EST –

There are a few production sea kayaks whose primary is high enough to be reassurring to inexperienced paddlers, yet are lively enough to be 'easy' for learning skills such as rolling while being forgiving of imprecise technique. Both the Romany and original version Elaho fit this catagory. The Romany is better behaved in conditions and has higher primary.

The Explorer is an easy roller which is also a very forgiving boat with very high primary and can handle anything. Many like the Avocet for rolling.

The Outer Island is about the easiest production boat I've ever rolled, but I'm not sure it would be a reassurring boat for a novice paddler. The originating poster is way too big for a Silhouette, which becomes VERY tender with a large paddler. The Nordkapp LV (while being a great boat) is not a novice boat.

Tempest 170
The T170 has more primary stability than most, at 22" beam, and a little flatter bottom on the shallow V, I think. Rolls very nice. Also lays on it’s side well for side sculling.

I’m 6’ 2", and stated in the boat at 255 lbs. 240 lbs now. Just put 1/2" of minicel on the seat risers for hip padding. The sides of the seat are outboard of the coaming. The boat comes with strap in hip pads that didn’t fit me well. I like a relatively tight cockpit. Plenty of room in the thighs, and very nice adjustable thigh hooks.

You’d have to try it and see what you think, of course. The above mentioned boats are worth trying too.

Paul S.

learning boat
It is not necessary to learn to roll in the boat you intend to paddle. Learn to roll in a nice warm pool in a WW boat supplied by the instructor. Or if that is not possible get a cheap used old school WW boat. You can probably sell it again for what you paid for it. Once you can roll the learning boat then it is just a matter of some minor adaptations to roll your sea kayak.

WW boats
There are ridiculously easy WW boats to roll - mostly the old school types. The Piedra and the Pirouette that are under our porch are among them, and with good hunting they can be gotten quite cheap. And we have been enjoying the heck out of having short, indestructable plastic boats to throw over snow banks and thru doors for winter pool sessions. I highly recommend having at least one of these things around.

But having spent time this last fall rolling all of our boats in close time, when we were picking up the first used WW boats, I can’t say that the two WW boats mentioned above are any easier to roll than a Romany, and certainly no easier than our second-year DS Necky Elaho.

There does seem to be this perception out there that anything long is necessarily harder to roll though. A young man who was a quite good WW kayaker got into my Explorer LV last season and his first comment was that he didn’t know if he could roll a sea kayak. After seeing the box that he’d been rolling, one of the newer and difficult WW boats, I was half expecting him to windowshade. He managed to stop just short of that, then did a hand roll no problem, and this when he was really tired at the end of a long day on the job and then in the pool. His father, another WW guy, was also somewhat surprised.

used old school WW boat
They are the only ones that can be as easy to roll as a decent sea kayak.

They can also be had for a song (we paid $150 each for the two under the porch)which you can sell them for when you wish.

RPMs are very popular for pool use among sea kayakers I know.

If you want a boat that you can actually use as a sea kayak as well as rolling boat, then look to some of the boats mentioned above. If you shop carefully used poly Avocets and Elaho DSs can be had for under $1000.

Forget The Boat…

– Last Updated: Mar-14-07 8:08 PM EST –

go take a couple of lessons, where the boats are provided, and go from there.

Once you learn to roll, you may be able to roll your current boat. If not, you may purchase another boat but NOT with just the notion of the ease of rolling. The new boat should also provide other performance features you want besides the "stability" aspect that you seem to indicate as the deciding factor for your current boat.

Yes. If you learn to roll and develop your technique well, you almost can roll most boats out there, especially at your size. Your center of gravity has to do with the design of the boat and the feel of stability in staying upright. In terms of rolling, your size has nothing to do with it.


The Pirouette is a great learning boat.

Yep I agree
fact is I rolled my Scupper Pro a couple of times the last time out. I have to admit though, its no Romany :slight_smile:

all three, own an OI, have have owned two Explorers and a Romany. I’d say that the OI is easier to roll, but the Romany is very close. The Explorer is easier to roll than the Force 4 as its back deck height is lower. I also own a Pintail and have rolled an Anas, with the big difference here being the availability of an ocean cockpit. Still, both the Pintail and the Anas are more in line with the Force than with the OI as rolling machines. BTW, I’m having an Outer Island build–ready in May.

Wow - so much good info
Thanks gang - looks like I have a lot of research to do! I had initially planned on getting another folder that was more rollable than my current one (I don’t really need the fold-a-bility: I just like the wood frames), but now I don’t think it really matters - hardshell or folder - as long as I’m on the water.

Thanks again!

Folder options
Feathercraft Khatsalano or Whisper with rolling rib modification (lets you do a better layback).

Don’t have one, haven’t paddled one. Have watched a few. Many others here can give you good feedback.

Get the “Greenland Rolling with Dubside” DVD - it will likely alter your perceptions and research approach.

CD storm
I finalized my roll quite nicely in a CD storm. Quite nice with the rounded hull. Rolling a different boat took a little adjustment, but once you get the technique down you should be able to roll other boats with different hull designs

Yeah, as a lover of folders
the Khats is a “dream” boat, even though it’s not wood. Probably on of the best greenland style folding boats (if not the only one - ?). But that’s about $5,000, which means I’d have a great boat, but I’d be single almost as soon as I got it home :).

I’d still like a more performace-oriented boat, hence this thread, but instead of getting a Khats, I actually thought about building a skin-on-frame boat along the lines of the ones Tom Yost makes. But that’s in the future.

Size affects fit

– Last Updated: Mar-15-07 11:42 AM EST –

Which is where a number of boats become much more difficult rollers for me. I have to be able to be in contact with something. With any kind of adequate fit I can roll a boat that is over-volume for me.
As the roll advances this becomes less important, but a couple of years into having reasonably reliable roll I'm not seeing a point at which it will ever be a total non-factor. Probably means I am a functional but form-wise lousy roller, but I am probably a typical lousy roller.

Yea i had the same problem. the first time i tried to roll a bigger boat, i had all sorts of issues, but once i got the hip/thighs going stronger, it worked for me.