Cost/Format for kayak roll instruction

For those of you who signed up for classes to learn to roll a kayak. I’m curious.

How much did it cost to register for the class? How many times did the class meet? How many hours was each session? What was the ratio of students to instructors?

For those of you who are teaching. How much did you (or do you currently) get paid?

Do you have any suggestions/ideas on what format works best would be greatly appreciated.


costs very widely

– Last Updated: Oct-29-08 4:29 PM EST –

I had a two hour course in crappy water at a big kayak symposium for about $30. Then I paid $90 or so for a two hour class in a nice heated pool with a very good instructor. It seems two students per instructor is common.

I think most all only schedule a single session for an hour or two. Some students get the hang quickly and others like me practice some after a class then schedule another (and maybe more) before finally getting things to work. A pool helps a lot for me.

You really don't want too long of a session since fatigue and getting a bit dizzy will make things worse. Having multiple students in a session letting some rest can help with this.

You can improve things a lot by reading some and first practicing hip snaps on your own -- no paddle using anything from a friend to a dock or pool side to hold on to while getting the motions of the hip snap down. The instructor can then focus more on proper movements and your hipsnap may have become more automatic. Otherwise the hardest part of learning to roll is trying to do seven things correct all at once.

I can roll somewhat okay now, but may take yet another lesson to have a good instructor fine tune/troubleshoot my roll to make it more reliable.

a bit different instruction
seems to end up being the key for every individual. I first learned by signing up for pool sessions, not a class. $5 to show up and use the pool for 2 hours, and I believe it went on for 8 weeks. I jumped in and started my attempts based upon what I saw in a book. Different people then came up to help me. The second night I rolled a few times, but just felt lucky. The third night I rolled a few more times, but still just felt lucky and not consistent. Someone gave me a copy of “The Kayak Roll” to take home and watch. The 4th night, everything clicked. I rolled 10 times in a row, I rolled in several other boats, with different paddles. I let go of the paddle when I rolled over, then found it, set up, and rolled up, etc. The 5th night, it took me 1hr 20 minutes to have my left hand roll equally as good. Then I rolled several times, every time I went out, both directions, all winter long, icy water, whatever, so that it became calm reflex. But my point is that with all the instruction, the video put it all together for me. It’s different for others. I’ve taught several people to roll. One guy this summer had taken a 2 hour class where he didn’t manage to roll, and we had him rolling in around 40 minutes. It wasn’t me. He took what he had from the class and I managed to communicate to him the right couple of missing links. Another guy I worked with for probably 4 hours total on different days, and a friend spent about 20 minutes with us and managed to communicate something to him in a way he could manage - I told him to keep his elbow tucked over and over and over. My friend pulled out a sponge, put it in his armpit, said don’t lose it, and up he rolled. So my suggestion would be to take the class, spend $30 on a video, don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to ask several different people for help. The “somehow, accidentally” feeling roll is only a small step from a confident roll, so don’t give up until it’s done. The rewards are great.

I paid 45 bucks for 3 hours

– Last Updated: Oct-29-08 10:20 PM EST –

at the local parks and rec center and came up empty. It wasn't the fault of the instructor, I had a Mirage 19 at the time and was using a Euro blade and never came close.

Move forward a few weeks and the key to the Magic Kingdom of rolling was handed to me, I bought a Lumpy GP paddle and I have been rolling and learning skills ever since.

My teacher is now a good friend and he/we did it in less time and less effort than the previous attempt.

I managed to roll
for a 1st time at the end of a 2-hour $20 group lesson in a pool. But I could not replicate it again later, until I switched paddles to a wing paddle - I have not had to do a wet exit since even though I sometimes miss my first attempt if I rush it.

My club also has winter rolling sessions for $7 for about 2 hours in a pool - folks help each other and I expect these will be really helpful.

Once you get one type of roll it really opens-up possibilities to practice other types - you can always come-up with your “reliable” roll if your new roll fails.

ANother instructor locally charges $50 an hour for 1:1 or 1:2 or 3, FYI.

From the slow-to-roll

– Last Updated: Oct-30-08 11:12 AM EST –

I think I have the local record for how long it took me to get it. But I spent quite a while desensitizing to claustrophobia to stay in the boat once I was upside down, so much of the early time was not about learning to roll as much as making it to a count of ten with the ability to think still intact. But that'll happen with some and there's not much you can do about it except be patient. I had body surfed and been tumbled plenty in waves as a kid, so even I was surprised when I found out I had that response. I'm still too prone to hitting the beach swimming rather than in the boat in surf - it'd probably be better if I was uncomfortable swimming in the white stuff.

Once I was ready to learn to roll, the best format for me was a one on one with a friend in a local pond, with no one who had seen my previous run of flops watching. The first few times I got up it was also thanks to that friend's big-ass very old-fashioned wooden WW paddle. In hindsight I'd have gotten my percentages up sooner if I'd known about the whole GP thing then, or if I had the Epic foam core paddle sooner. Anything to help resist the diving blade, something my Aquabond did happily. Getting into the Explorer LV from my Squall also jumped my percentages from one in three to three in a row the very first session. The Explorer was more forgiving in the latter half of the roll and that happened to be where most of my mistakes occurred.

In the local pool sessions that work the best, there is usually someone working one to one with each person trying to get a roll. They also switch around some - a change of eye can help. There is a fatigue factor - someone first learning really can't work for more than about 15-20 minutes steadily and hard without getting tired. So you need time for a break and then another round.

Local pool costs are pretty low - $15-20something per session for the ones sponsored by the local chapter of the ADK, closer to $33 per session at a local YMCA where a coach runs winter stuff and a couple of higher prices if an outfitter is doing it. But still not the numbers I've seen in Boston area for pool sessions.

There are those annoying folks who get it in one or two sessions without any particular issue. But from what I've seen that's at best half. Why are you asking?

To answer Celia’s question.
We are in the planning stages of putting a winter class schedule together with the city. Offering roll classes and kayak polo.

~60$ for 2 hours, 1:3 instructor:student. If the ratio gets higher, students get knackered.

Local club organizes “free for all” - you show up with your kayak, paddle, helmet and 6$ for 2hours. You can flop on your own, or get club members help you with flopping.

As instructor, I’d say that instructed rolling is more successful :wink:

What I Wish They’d Do…

– Last Updated: Oct-30-08 4:46 PM EST –

We have recently had 'free for all' pool sessions in the winter. No instruction; just pay some money, bring your boat and have at it.

What I would like to do is trade some instruction time for some pool time. I would agree to instruct for an hour and then work on my own skills for an hour... no cost to me. The students pay for pool use.

I ain't certified by any three letter acronym but I got my buddy rolling in his third session.

One more comment

– Last Updated: Oct-30-08 5:23 PM EST –

OK - I lied about the one more part.

If you are talking about putting together sessions - the number of classes may come up. One local guy makes a rolling/bracing "class" four weekly classes at a local YMCA, pay for all 4 up front. He starts from a brace and scull that happens into a roll and has fairly good success. While this ups the odds of success for the student, it also seems to reduce the number of takers over the outfits that suggest sequences of two sessions.

The expectations thing may be the trickiest part. It seems that many adults, especially those who have been paddling for a while without really learning how to brace or scull, come in unready to encounter glitches in the learning curve for rolling. Having taken so long myself, I saw an awful lot of people come in and just plain give up if they hadn't gotten the thing in two classes. In my unscientific opinion, this was more of a guy thing. The women, if they came at all, seemed to come in with lower expectations and were more willing to keep trying even if they didn't succeed in a certain time frame.

The other questions are timing and followup - as in when do you want to offer the pool sessions, and do you want to take advantage of that student interest for classes outside as well. If you want to make that kind of linkage work, the never-rolled-before classes probably should happen in spring at a time when the next session outside wouldn't necessarily be months away. That'd leave the earlier part of the winter for those who have a roll and just need to tune up, or add the second side, and prep work like bracing or sculling.

Do you plan to provide boats that are outfitted, would you be attracting a mix of long boaters and WW folks? If a mix, do you have thoughts on how to deal with someone who shows up with a boat that has a huge cockpit and has no outfitting? Not the majority, but people don't know what they don't know.

There are instructors here who can do a much better job of talking about approaches to some of the above than me - just thought it was worth mentioning given your purpose.

Rolling classes
I’d recommend short-session, 2 or more class series. In a pool or pool-like environment, max two students per instructor. Each class no more than 1 hr, even 1/2 hour might be best.

The first class would be a run-through of what you need to do to roll. The student can leave this lesson with practice exercises, and a recommendation to buy and watch the DVD The Kayak Roll. Maybe 1 in 10 students will succeed in rolling that first class, even the prodigies will need more training.

No sooner than a couple of weeks later, class 2. After their interveening practice, the students should arrive at lesson 2 OK at hip-snap, setup, being upside down under water. The second lesson will get quite a few rolling. The more talented ones will be already progressing towards a usable roll.

My first lesson was very long and inexpensive, but not productive. My second and third were $50 1 hr tutorials with the best instructor around, quite a bargain. I now have a new two-sided combat roll, at a rather inflexible age of 52.

My son (21 yrs old) got a few minutes of instruction from me, in cold Puget Sound, then a 7 student, 1 instructor lesson that afternoon in the same water. He was the only student to roll that day.

Plastic boats to begin.
I expect the majority of those who sign up are planning on paddling WW boats in the beginning.

The city currently has paddles and skirts to go with the 6 plastic WW boats (with outfitting), a mix of old school/new school. The boats will be offered on a first come first serve basis, after that you can bring your own boat and gear. Of course if you have your own gear you will be encouraged to bring it.

If/when someone shows up with a long fiberglass/Kevlar boat with a large cockpit and no outfitting. I will encourage them to begin the learning process in a boat that “fits a little tighter”.

We have at least 4 maybe 6 kayakers willing to show up and teach.

I’ve been trying to teach my GF
and she hit her first roll two weeks ago. She was amazed just like I was when she popped up and I wasn’t touching the boat. I then turned on the camera I had mounted to her bow and she flubbed the next 15 trys but something wonderful happened when we viewed the videos. She picked out her own mistakes and realized her fear of being upside down had her starting her sweep before her head hit the water. Watching others on video helps but nothing compared to seeing your self.

My camera is an Olympus 1030 and the mount is a suction cup with a goose neck and the cobo provides a great learning tool. Our lakes are too dark to see the under water part so we are looking forward to a few pool sessions where she can see what is going on under water.

She also realized she was under for only a few seconds and had plenty of time for a wet exit or for me to flip her

Our club
Teaches through a local community education program in a school district pool. For $35 a student gets 1 hour of classroom instruction and 2 hours of pool instruction. We provide one ACA certified instructor and one qualified assistant per student. If a student does not learn to roll we try to provide free opportunities for them to continue (like informal instruction at a local lake or club pool time). It is a great bargain in my judgment but our goal is the safety of paddlers rather than profit.

Some observations …
4 to 6 instructors and 8-12 students could make for a very crowded pool. We use a couple of different pools, but normally our instructors are standing in the water to instruct, not paddling a boat like EJ teaches from. So, if we’re standing in water, we can’t use the deep end very effectively. As a result, we can’t have too many students or instructors working at once.

Usually we have a mix of sea kayaks and WW boats. We use only the shallow end of the pool which is seperated by a bulkhead from the deep end. It is a large pool with eight lanes. Optimal is 3 instructors and 6 students, but we sometimes will have up to 8 students and use 4 instructors. You might be able to handle more students in a large pool like ours if all the kayaks were WW boats.

For non-rollers (and probably rollers as well) one hour seems to be about the maximun time before us old guys and gals poop out. The (generally) younger WW students can abuse themselves for longer periods of time, but our sessions are only 1 1/2 hour.

All this is dirt cheap for club members. Generally, they pay $15 per session, but I would consider this more of a group lesson using 3 to 4 instructors rather than a private lesson for 1 or 2 students. Private lessons should be significantly higher. We are able to offer this because it is run through a school district’s continuing education program and I’m sure the school is offsetting some of the costs (lifeguard, etc.)

While all of the instruction is occurring in the shallow end, the deep end may be used by those who want to tune up their roll. Club members pay the same $15 fee to practice on their own and/or work with friends for up to 1 1/2 hours.

Good luck!


Serious Question
What can you learn in the class room? I ask because I would like to know if it is verbal or a dry demonstration? I wasn’t able to see it in my mind’s eye until after I had rolled many times and still cannot demonstrate dry. Being able to roll is one thing, teaching is a whole new ball game.

I was recently enlightened …
to starting out dry. I’ve been doing dry demo rolls on the deck of the pool in a WW boat for a couple of years. I think it’s helpful for students to see this.

Recently I assisted in two rolling classes that began with body stretches on land and then went on to demonstrate and practice hip, torso and head movement on land before heading to the boats. It’s quite amazing what you can see when a boat isn’t covering half of your body. The students can actually see what the lower half of their body should be doing. I’m going to start using dry land, boatless rolling when I teach.

Now I’m really getting envious of
all the economical training opportunities some of you have available to learn rolling.

Does anybody know if there are any clubs or groups offering rolling classes with pool sessions in the western NC area? I know there are some great professional operations in the region (white water oriented) that charge really big bucks to provide their training - and I’ve heard it’s the best - but our budget can’t handle their prices!

I show the short videos from Expediciones Chile. You can see them at

I also talk about such things as how to do a hip snap and how to move the boat with your body rather than the paddle. It is really just a kind of informational foundation for what is done in the pool.

We’re supposed to get paid? Jes funnin.

I volunteer to teach at the Y and teach for an outfitter. The outfitter pays a per centage of the fees to the instructors.

Y instruction is in their pool. Outfitter is at the lake.

At the Y it’s 3 or 4 students per and with the outfitter 4 to 6.

Y charges $25 for 2 hour session to members and $40 if not. Outfitter charges $60 for 2 hours but we go longer if someone wants to keep at it.