Crutch for my roll

  This past year practicing totally on my own my initial roll attempts where poor at best. Disgusted but not giving up, in the middle of the season I attempted the extended balanced scull brace from a small bit of information I found on the internet, and remembering reading somewhere that “Greenlanders are taught the extended sculling brace before they are taught to roll”. Well the extended balanced scull brace I found quick success with. Within a few days I could go from 90 deg. or 180 deg. And sculling back up. I then tried this with a variety of paddles and although each paddle did have a different feel to each, I was still able to scull back up from the inverted. <br />

With this newly found technique I went back to giving the 360 deg. Roll a try again yet this time I planned on adding the sculling stroke at the end of a failed sweep. This worked great for me, and I found I was rolling time and time again while using the scull as a final crutch to complete my rolls as needed. Even if I came partially up and fell back under I just extended the paddle under water and sculled back up. Now without having to go through the wet exit and entry routine I found I had more time and energy for rolling practice where now my roll has improved with little or no sculling stroke crutch needed.

Well all of this has me wondering why is it that I haven’t heard more of the extended sculling brace stroke recommended in books or DVD’s as something that could be an intermediate step in learning to roll or as a crutch to a poor roll. I haven’t found that I strained any of my muscles or joints, so I don’t see this as a reason. I also found it works with a variety of paddle types. So I ask all you wise ones out there, is there some major negative aspect to learning to roll this way? Am I developing any bad habits from this method that could lead to poor form in the future?

Chris in North Jersey.


– Last Updated: Sep-14-04 1:19 PM EST –

The Greenlanders learn sculling and balance brace first as these have all vital moves for a successful roll.

Why do Euro users not approach it that way first? I suspect because there seems to be among a good number of folks the perception that an "extended" paddle is bad, whereas with GP users it is part of the repetoire. I also suspect some of us go to the roll first because it's more "sexy" than sculling.

Speaking for myself, I am also self taught. I learned to roll before really learning to scull or brace. I guess if I weren't successful, I would have gone to sculling and learning to brace first and trying again... Maybe. I converted to GP from Euro paddle for touring a year after I learned to roll. If I had started with a GP, I may have gone with sculling first. I don't know...


PS. Once you have your roll and sculling down, you can pretty much do it with any type of paddle and just about any kayak, short of the widest rec boats. Good technique is good technique.

Anybody watched you?
If your rolls are routinely failing when you’re most of the way up and need a sculling “crutch” to finish, I would guess that you are not keeping your head down long enough. If you could have someone knowledgable watch you, or better yet tape you, you might get a better idea of what’s going wrong.

Learn them togather
I’m not sure if “no one mentioned” sculling as an roll aid. The first part of a sweep roll IS a sculling stroke. And it usually doesn’t take long for a student to grasp the move, though not neccessarily the terminology. (A student learning c-2-c roll, however, doesn’t neccessarily need to use much paddle action at all.)

Yes, I learn to roll up pretty quickly without learning sculling. But when I saw someone doing it, I imitate with easy success. I think knowing one is an “aid” in learning the other for sure but I can’t tell with the same certainty if one is easier than the other. I suppose for those who had trouble with one, trying to learn the other might be a good experiment.

Good minds eye.
LeeG, you are so right! I know my (fat) head is one of my problems. I have already noted that my best rolls are the rolls where I concentrate on keeping my head down. These are the rolls that I have found that the “crutch” is not needed.

Chris in North Jersey.

sculling before rolling
I learned to roll in the manner you have described, first with a euro paddle and then with a Greenland paddle I carved. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be enough sharing of the wisdom of GP paddling in the general touring / recreational kayaking community. If there were, I am confident there would be more taught about side sculling as a precursor to rolling. In the meantime, follow the discussions at to learn more. Happy paddling!

It has been suggested before.
I know because I suggested it. :slight_smile: Sculling is also a part of Eric Jackson’s system of rolling (see his DVD “Rolling and Bracing”). I myself use sculling to bring myself and my paddle partially up and then do a C-to-C hip snap. Makes for a very fast roll, which you sometimes need in whitewater.

extended paddle
Useing an extended paddle is great way to get the extra support you need when learning a new technique or roll. I usually start out with an extended paddle when learning a new roll and then shorten the extension as my technique and form developes. I watch videos of the roll I’m trying to perform and keep trying to critque my form until the roll becomes easy.

It’s not a crutch…
Side sculling and back sculling are legitimate techniques.

Sounds like you’re doing quite well Chris. You’re right it should be taught that way more often.

Use what you need but if you’re euro

– Last Updated: Sep-15-04 12:00 PM EST –

styling try to learn to do without extending the paddle. When you are getting thrashed in surf or you head is zipping by rocks at 12 MPH you'll want up fast with a grip that enables a reflexive brace or quick stroke. And this is stuff from sea kayaking; forget the Whitewater.

With an extended greenland stick your grip is much more secure that with an extended euro and it is much easier to brace or slide to standard position when you are back up. With a greenland stick, I would absolutely extend.

Congratulations on your progress! A great success so far.

Work the hip snap/head down thing.

Confessional time: It took me about two years to work fron a reliable flat water pawlata roll to a reliable sweep roll for the sea. Still working on my off side.

My Hand roll? ha, ha!

I Disagree

– Last Updated: Sep-15-04 4:29 AM EST –

with the idea that you need a fast roll in the ocean. 99% of the time, in touring, there is no need to rush a roll. Indeed, rushing is what often causes most folks to blow their roll in the first place when they first get into rolling. This is true even in surf. If one doesn't have a surefire roll, it's better to wait until the energy and foam has passed and then take an extended paddle roll. Far peferable to rushing and blowing a roll. In current, rushing a roll right after flipping, minimizes your chances for a success. One should wait a second or two until the body and boat are equalized with the current speed before attempting roll. Speeding only increases the chance of blowing the roll by going to the wrong ("upstream") side. When one is equalized with the current, there is no "upstream" or wrong side to roll. With rocks zooming by the head, when do you see that in ocean kayaking? You would have to be playing in a rock garden in surf. Why would anyone go there if they don't have a reliable roll? It's a recipe for potential disaster. I don't care if one is paddling with partners, a person without a reliable roll simply should not be in there in the first place. Expect partners to come to one's "rescue" in tight quarters, with rocks and moving current is simply unfair and downright dangerous.

Personally, I'd much rather paddle with a partner with a surefire extended paddle roll than one with an iffy regular grip roll, in rough, cold water conditions. When someone comes out of a boat and swim, you can see the demoralization. It's not a good mental state to be in, especially when that swim can lead to a worse situation.


it’snot the 99% that harms sea kayakers

– Last Updated: Sep-15-04 1:37 PM EST –

That's why it's a safe sport for the prudent. It's the one percent. That's why I plan for the 1%. If one takes 50 trips one may well run into the 1% contingencies.

Of course if one's circumstances do not require a quick roll then an extended one is totally valid. It all depends on where one wants to paddle. Or where one ends up paddling due to exigencies.

In my experience it is really hard to change grip on a euro paddle underwater in surf. Extending to the throat of the blade is one thing, to the end another. Sometimes it is hard just to keep your grip on your paddle.

Yes, getting up slow is better than not getting up. Yes I have missed and made rolls in places where rocks were nearby in the ocean and I was moving fast. (I do not know how close; rocks two or three feet from my head seem really close to me!) Yes, I am still working on my technique, so that larger worlds open up to play in.

From time to time very competent paddling friends offer me an opportunity to test and improve my skills with the understanding that they will be taking the trip with the first priority of teaching. When those trips come along I throw myself into things pretty hard. I have never needed a rescue in order to live. I believe there was one situation where without a friends help my boat might not have made it home whole. It was on a trip where I was not invited as a peer but for my training. (Thanks Brian)

The generousity that those who are in no way my peers have shown me on these trainig trips, is one reason that I am willing to "hold the hands" of others who are not yet quite my peers. That generousity from others and opportunity of service to those who have serious intent are two of the major reasons I like the sport. Your reasons for liking this sport are probably shaded differently.