Easiest roll technique to learn

-- Last Updated: Aug-10-12 11:46 AM EST --

I am trying to teach myself to roll my kayak. I would like to take a class to help me with this, but there are none in my area.
What roll technique do you folks find is easiest to learn? (I feel that once I learn to successfully roll, I can focus to the other techniques.) I have the DVDs of "EJ's Rolling and Bracing" as well as "The Kayak Roll".


Probably the sweep. If you are learning on your own then youtube is your best friend. Here is the first of dozens I found googling “sweep roll” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HiBlHQzGIY

What boat?
There are boats that make it easier to learn a roll, though once you have it down you can carry it to other boats. Sometimes it is a good idea to see if you can find a beater old whitewater boat to start. They can often be found for as low as $100 in some areas, and they make great crawling-up-muddy-creeks-and-carrying-over-beaver-dam boats afterwards.

Derek Hutchinson’s book on kayak rolling shows a technique for practicing it on land. I followed his instructions and was able to roll on my first try in the water.

I’ll amend my post above,extended paddle sweep is easier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD2ZbXnrNss

Self taught
I taught myself to roll. Had never watched a video or anything except for a couple short ones on youtube. I was surprised how easy it was. A couple of the things that helped me:

Don’t start out trying to do a full roll where you go over on one side and come up on the other. If you’re right side is your dominant side, as mine is, then capsize to your right side and then come back up the same way. It’s a lot less disorienting.

Have someone standing in the water next to the boat to roll you up when you can’t do it yourself. Much easier than repeatedly wet exiting and swimming to shore to empty the boat. You’ll definitely need the help, a lot at first.

I found it much easier to learn with a single blade canoe paddle. It was easier for me to tell the blade angle with my top hand on the grip and it also made it easier not having to worry about the other blade.

The first day met with little success, although I did get a few unassisted rolls they were spotty. That night I watched some youtube videos and tried to read what I could find online. They made a lot more sense after I’d attempted rolling than they did before.

After an hour or two on the second day I was to the point where I could consistently roll back up without the need of someone standing by. I went out every evening for the next week and practiced for an hour or two each night.

The hardest thing to overcome, and the biggest obstacle to rolling that I found, was keeping my head down. You want to get that head above water and take a breath but as soon as you do your weight is too far out to the side and you go under again. Your head needs to be the last thing to come out of the water. Pretty much every time my roll fails that’s what I can attribute it to. It takes a while to get used to it but it makes all the difference in the world. Forget about hip flicks or raising your knee, they take care of themselves if you keep your head down. Everything else will fail if you raise your head.

The best way to experience this is to stand next to the boat with someone else in it. Have them capsize and roll them back up. Try it with them sitting in a fully upright position and try again with them leaning flat over the back deck and trying to keep their head in the water. You’ll see how hard it is to pull them over when the head is high.


The Kayak Roll worked for me
I have both EJ’s and The Kayak Roll videos. I had spent a few pool sessions trying to roll with the help of others, and pulled off a few, but didn’t have it learned. I watched The Kayak Roll, and it all clicked. Two more 2 hour pool sessions, and I had a solid roll on both sides. I did work pretty relentlessly at it though. But it certainly paid off.

My approach may have been similar to yours. I learned to roll first, and used those skills as a foundation for everything else. It seemed to work pretty well for me.

If you learn the sweep roll well, you will realize how little leverage is actually necessary from the paddle. It’s mostly about twisting your body up to the surface and rolling your hips underneath of you. Actually, from the startup position, it’s impossible for me to sweep my front hand out without my hips twisting. Sitting on the floor, you can’t demonstrate the sweep of the blade without rolling your hips over and ending up on your stomach. So often, I’ll see folks outside of their kayak trying to model the motion of the sweep. They’ll take their front hand and raise it up above their head. And they’ll be trying to visualize everything. But that’s not at all the motion that happens. The only way to model the correct motion is for your hips to do a 180 while your paddle sweeps from front to the back. In the startup position, you’re already extended about as far that way as you can extend, and the roll works by forcing that front hand to extend all the way around. It’s impossible without moving your hips. But if you simply roll your hips over 180 degrees with it, you can sweep right through.

Everyone seems to have something different as the last tweak that clicks to get them there. I think the Kayak Roll does a great job of isolating the different potential tweeks. Others have really good luck with EJ’s video. I guess I explained the above to help with the visualization process, because that process is often pretty difficult. And I so often see people trying to do it and demonstrate it off the water in a way that isn’t helpful.

EJ’s Video worked best for me
I also watched the kayak roll, and there were some instructions that messed me up in the beginning. EJ’s method is more intuitive and works easier with more hull shapes like surf kayaks. If you have a very high back deck it might not be so good.

Also: The extended paddle sweep roll is pretty easy and reliable if you can find someone to show you how. It’s good to know as a backup when all else fails.

Probably EJ’s
for self teaching. But if you want to learn the sweep by yourself here are some tips. Get a long sea kayak paddle (about 230 cm.) with a 60 degree offset. Get an older model WW boat. There are lots around and you might be able to borrow one. Then when you set up with your right hand forward, tuck the back paddle blade under your arm at the bicep. The front paddle blade is now at the perfect angle and you can only move the paddle around by rotating your torso. You should come up after a couple of tries. Keep doing it until you develop some muscle memory. Then move on to handling the paddle normally and with a paddle of the length and offset you use.

And I’m So Arrogant…

– Last Updated: Aug-10-12 5:24 PM EST –

I'll tell you where EJ went wrong: Every time he says "hip snap" you need to think and do "thigh lift" or "knee lift".

My roll was crap when the advice was "keep your head down." My roll took off when EJ said "keep your head BACK." My roll also took off when Pnet brother Sing said "right the boat with your knee."

I think hula dancers and strippers could right a kayak just fine with their hips. This old bike riding man does much better with his thigh.

Whatever works
The main thing is that your knee, thigh, and hip need to work together as a unit. I have had students who when told to use their “rolling knee” could not rotate the boat until they started with their hip. So the key is: do whatever gets all three in sync and working together at the same time. If saying knee snap does that, fine. If imitating a salsa dancer does that, also fine. If emphasizing one part does not engage others, try something else.

Whatever works. I’m so arrogant I’ll suggest to EJ: In future instruction, please suggest “some people have better results righting their boats with the thigh rather than the hip.”

Depends on person
Different techniques are easier for different people. I tried learning with a sweep roll and couldn’t do it, then started trying with the paddle out 90 degrees and it came easier. Other people find the sweep roll easier.

It depends somewhat on your flexibility.

Good luck with that
I don’t want to dis EJ. He has contributed an enormous amount to our activity. And I own one of his boats. But he does make mistakes. The most glaring error in his rolling video is having people learn to “cock up” while right side up (put the paddle perpendicular to the water) and then saying that right side up is the same as upside down. Well that is true but not the way he means. If you rotate the cock up paddler 180 degrees then his/her paddle is pointing straight down, not parallel to the water surface. People on Boater Talk challenged me on that but the truth prevailed. To my knowledge EJ has never corrected that. My point is that he is unlikely to respond to your point.

This is the Roll
Highly recommend “This Is The Roll” available in the Pnet store. Best $30.00 I have spent for instruction. Just phenomenal teaching. Clear, concise and simple techniques.

They teach 3 basic rolls with Greenland and Euro paddle.

Even demonstrate knee lift in a hollow kayak frame so you can clearly see the technique.

What else can I say!!! Take your pizza and beer money and put it to better use.

paddle vs body
I’ve never taught anyone roll so take what I say with a grain of salt.

I also wasn’t self-taught. So take what I say with a BIG HANDFUL of salt!

I’ve done a few different rolls since my first one, which is a C2C. I now prefer a blended C2C+sweep roll. So I’ll share what I feel is the difference in different roll that makes it “easier” for one person while not for another.

  1. C2C is largely a “body-centric” style of roll: coil up on one side of the boat, un-coil and coil up on the other side – using knee or hip, depending on your preference. The boat right itself.

    As a body centric roll, people have good body awareness AND flexibility find it easier to learn while people who don’t have good flexibility find it…not so easy.

  2. Sweep roll is a more “paddle-centric” roll. You basically sweep (actually scull) the paddle to generate lift in addition to knee-lift, works even for people WITHOUT too much flexibility. However, the timing sychronization between the paddle sweep and the knee lift can be tricky when first learning.

  3. In either style of roll, you can do it with extended paddle, or have a paddle-float on the blade to help get some extra lift. Some say it breeds bad habit, but that’s a quibble more for teaching than for people learning on their own. I’d suggest give it a go without any aids first. But if you got stuck making no progress, extended paddle/paddle-float can be quite benefitial.

Do not do a C-to-C with an extended paddle. You risk shoulder dislocation.

shoulder injury is one of the biggest risk of self-taught paddlers. Not just extended paddle moves.

I heard plenty of stories of dislocated shoulders from bracing and rolling, NON-EXTENDED paddle. Even a case of doing a bow rescue!

Sweep roll, wearing a dive mask
Watch the blade’s initial position and its path of movement. That will at least take your mind off of other things that might cause you to lift your head. Also good for getting used to being upside down and still knowing which way is up.

I have both The Kayak Roll and EJ’s DVD and found the first more useful. However, when I bought them I already had a roll, just not a good one. The Kayak Roll DVD’s troubleshooting section is great, especially (for me) the kinesthetic tips.

But there’s nothing as helpful as having live lessons with a good instructor(s).