do i need a skirt to roll properly?

After tipping my kayak on accident I am determined to learn to roll without any lessons, classes, etc. I have a clearwater georgian bay (touring yak) that I use in mostly ponds. I have not had a successful roll yet but can it be done without a skirt? I have learned to re-enter my submerged yak though. Any advice?

You can roll without a skirt. It’s often easier because it’s easier to get the boat back under you. But it feels very different than rolling with a skirt and an empty boat.

Nah, get a skirt.
I mess around rolling and paddling my boat full of water and it makes everything much more difficult and my kayak doesn’t hold much water.

Can be easy…
… to roll a flooded boat. The hard part is not going right back over!

A flooded boat is less stable. Less stable can be easier to roll, but harder not to roll!

The skirt isn’t really specifically for rolling. Its job is to prevent flooding and the resulting loss of stability (and to keep cold water out where that’s an issue - which is just about anywhere but S FL or other tropical paddling places!).

Skirt is useful for edging (if you don’t dip the coaming - you’re not really pushing it), deep(er)braces, rolling of course - but mostly just for paddling in textured water! Even smallish chop/waves water will lap over the sides and can bring in a large amount of water in a short time.

I use mine more than not as I am not too fond of pumping out!

Non-rolling Expert Opinion
Speaking as one who may break some kind of record for most hours spent learning to roll, I have two opinions.

From the point of view of mechanics, water gets into the boat when trying to roll it even when wearing a nylon spray skirt (which I wear). There must be much more water in the boat if you don’t have a skirt. This just makes things kind of sloshy, and the boat quickly becomes harder to control when it’s rightside up.

From the point of view of fear factor (my biggest challenge), not having a skirt is probably a big plus. By feeling less trapped, I imagine you’d feel more comfortable with hanging upside down.

I hope to post the next episode of my quest for the holy roll next week. That is if I can get away to paddle this weekend.

Good Luck,


Don’t use a skirt…
…unless you have a good quality hose on under it!!

I prefer to wear a drysuit or even a wetsuit as they show less of my hairy legs…heh heh heh

(couldn’t resist…)

Why learn the hard way?
Sure, there are people who can read a book, watch a video and go out and get a reliable roll after some amount of effort on their own. But it is a particularly hard way to learn for most. Believe me, even you use a class or two to “get” your first roll, you’ll have lots and lots of time afterwards to practice making it happen repeatedly. You hardly short yourself of personal achievements by taking a little instruction.

If it is a problem with access to instruction, maybe a question on this board about local clubs etc would help. There are often people within a paddling group who have gotten their roll and can help others very effectively. But I’d really recommend working with someone at least at the start.

Bigger issue than a skirt for rolling…
… may be the large cockpit and lack of thigh braces (from pictures I’ve seen) in the Georgian Bay. This could make things harder for learning to roll.

I’m self taught - but lessons are a good idea. Why not shorten the learning curve if you can?