Bombproof Roll

I have started reading some book about a bunch of guys kayaking down river Nile. Anyway, in the first chapter the author mentions his buddy rolling without the use of the paddle (i.e. handroll) and he clasifies it as “Bombproof Roll”

I’m pretty sure if a bomb hit a kayaker straight on then a roll would not have saved the unfortunate soul


I also hear the term bombproof roll here and there and I always just thought it was attributed to a roll that ‘never fails’, or the quickest roll that will get one right side up in the surf or rocks…

Not really a good term except that it
helps stress how reliable a roll should be to boat in the toughest conditions.

Never a man couldn’t be throwed.

Never a boat couldn’t be rolled.

a roll that 'never fails’
is the usual definition of a bombproof roll.

We all aspire to a bombproof roll. In reality, everyone’s roll fails a some time.

I always keep Rick Storer’s note in mind: ‘A bombproof roll is a roll which hasn’t encountered a big enough bomb.’

The term can only be used by
inexperienced people. No matter how well you can roll it is only as good as the conditions you practice in. In extreme conditions there are so many variables that you can’t practice in them all. If you think you have a bombproof roll, you haven’t seen a big enough bomb.

I always considered it a poor choice of words…just shows how much war is ingrained into our culture.

Perhaps Greenlanders have a more apt expression.?

"come home roll"

I venture a guess that nobody witnessed the other kind.

Bombproof, 'bom-pruf, adj. Reliable (etym. < early 21st C. hipster-dufus boating slang, cf. n. ‘yard-sale’, v.t. ‘to boof’, ‘to May-tag’).

Two types of paddlers
Ones who swim all the time and ones who at some point will swim…

snark attack
I can’t believe “bombproof” is getting snarked on. It’s been in use for so long. I’ve grown up with bombproof. Really now it’s just “bomber” , so get with the times.

Reliable roll
Many of us choose the term “reliable roll” since as others have already agreed, sooner or later you’re roll will fail. The best that we can ask for is any recovery skill that keeps you and you’re paddling partners as safe as possible. I think it’s more realistic to practice as many self rescue options as possible and along with good bracing and boat control you have a better chance to recover from an unexpected situation. A good solid roll in varied conditions is the icing on the cake.


There are always conditions …
where even the strongest roller will fail. So that is acknowledged. But what we are really talking about is the ability to roll up in “ordinary” conditions virtually every time. The definition of ordinary conditions would be something like conditions that happen frequently enough for a reasonable number of paddlers to encounter. A bombproof roll does not mean you can roll in a Tsunami. I think it is a meaningful term for the conditions that most of us encounter. It means that you have mastered the skills necessary to roll in commonly occurring difficult circumstances every time.

Makes sense to me
I’m actually at the point where when I blow a roll I can set up and try again several times. I haven’t needed an assisted rescue or wet exit in a while. This was not so last year so I’m pretty happy with my progress. To me these skills are a life long journey and I’m having fun getting there.


Do not forget…
If you have to roll you have already made a mistake!

That’s A Flat Water Kayaker Perspective.
go watch white water (and some surf) players. Rolling is integrated into the “play.” Can’t roll, can’t play.

Dr D – you hit it right on. Of course, one can go out in conditions where failure and death are almost assured. But, how many folks do that? Most try to go out in conditions within their ability. It just the conditions and ability can vary greatly among paddlers.


I am sure that was TIC
Kayaking without rolling is like having sex without penetration…so if you get wet, you are doing it right


– Last Updated: Jun-11-10 8:35 AM EST –

I was actually talking about practice and play sessions. Intentional rolling and trying new things. I have'nt been knocked over in conditions yet. It's just a matter of time I know. :-)


Sing you are right…
That was from a flat water perspective. There is obviously all types of paddling but I stand by my statement as far as flat water paddling goes

Learning is never a mistake
If you are learning to push your edge, or get a deep brace, it’s rare that it’ll happen well without being willing to capsize. This is true in flat water as well as messy stuff.

It just may not be that your best, at that time in those conditions, isn’t going to be successful.

And then, there are times that a capsize is on purpose, or unavoidable. If someone is really tired and in challenging stuff, the water can outpower the paddler. If you are in surf and at risk of hitting another kayaker, you have to capsize to stop the boat. This can happen even with well-seasoned folks if they just couldn’t see the other person taking the waves from the trough they may have been in.

Being willing to capsize while learning is, ironically, the best way to reduce the event in normal paddling.

Bomproofing your roll
Years back I did a Bombproofing article for SeaKayaker magazine.

Chris Cunningham the editor didn’t want to use “bomproofing” and changed it to “reliable rolling”. It ran in Atlantic Coastal Kayaking with “bombproofing” a few years later.

Here it is if you want to read it:

BTW: I am 101% convinced you can learn a totally reliable roll in a pond. The experience of getting rattled and anxiety in choppy water is what causes the failures, not lack of technique. You can’t duplicate that by setting up and doing a roll in choppy water.

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Never was I saying that learning is a mistake. But that being said touring kayaks are made to be paddled upright and if you are hanging upside down and did not put yourself in the position on purpose than a mistake was made.

Learning is never a mistake but mistakes are part of the learning.