enough kayak rolling! how 'bout canoes?

-- Last Updated: Jan-27-06 9:40 AM EST --

I have no idea if I'll ever be able to roll a canoe. I don't know how difficult it is.

I read the instructions in "Paddle your Own Canoe" and tried to apply them last year. I found out two things very quickly: that everything is different when you're upside down and that my primitive thigh straps and no toe blocks were not going to get the job done.

This year I've got a Mohawk saddle with toe blocks in my Supernova and would like to have another go at it once the water warms up.

What say you canoe rollers? Any tips or techniques that are describable with words outside a pool?

crank 'em tight!
My biggest problem rolling a canoe was that I kept slipping out of the thigh straps as well. Once I really cranked the straps on tight, rolling wasn’t a problem. I’d recommend float bags as well as rolling an open canoe without them isn’t too much fun (or is it a lot fun?) Since you’re kneeling, I found it worked well to initiate the sweep or c-to-c motion and then scull forward to finish the roll. I’m looking forward to working on more canoe rolls as it’s a different challenge. Good luck!

c to c
Can you describe what that is. (Guess I’m not afraid to flout my ignorance).

Two biggies
1. You need to snap your hips from your brace position (either high or low). Actually, you are really lifting the knee on your on-side.

2. Keep your head low. Chin on your chest


who hasn’t rolled a C-i in 25 years

Have the boats, but not the shoulders!

– Last Updated: Jan-27-06 10:20 AM EST –

Found out quickly after learning the roll that with my hereditary shoulder impingements it is just not a good idea to roll or do anything overhead.

I know of those that roll: decked canoes(Loon and Sea Wind), open white water canoes (Probe 12), and open standard canoes, big ones (how do they do that?!).

I'll just have to be content to watch as when the doctor says "Well, we really do not know what is wrong. The x-rays do not show anything. But don't worry, when we open it up we will find something and fix it." To which I have always answered, "Yeah right, sounds fine Doc, and if you do not find me there as scheduled just go ahead without me!"

So you can always borrow one of mine to roll: Probe 12, XL11, Dagger Impulse, WildFire, FlashFire (should be easy). I'll watch and take fotos. :^)

If you hurry you can probably still get that last Probe 12!!!



Is a kayak roll where the paddle is placed perpendicular to the boat when setting up to roll and then a draw is initiated in the water timed with a hipsnap to roll up. It gets its name from the shape your torso makes (first one C when setting up and then another C when you crunch your body to the other side to complete the roll).

Granted I’ve only rolled a canoe twice so I’m not by any means an authority. I’m sure there are some recommended methods of rolling a canoe. What made sense to me was that I initiated the roll with a high brace sweep out to 90 degrees and then finished the roll with a low brace sweep to the bow using the same blade power face and simply rotating my hands on the paddle while throwing my head as deep into the canoe as I could. I was impressed how smoothly canoes could roll.

thanks Mick
Just go ahead and put my name up under the deck plate in black sharpie so you don’t forget where it ultimately belongs! I know you have a lot to keep track of.

That gives me some things to think about and practice mentally.

Super video for canoe rolling
Its actually a VHS entitled, “Solo Canoeing: Whitewater Bound” A flatwater lesson with Tom Foster on whitewater techinque. Distributed by: The Outdoor Centre of New England 413 659 3926.

The open canoe rolling section runs 6 minutes of a 99 minute cassette.

…canoes like Suc man…huh huh huh(Best Beavis I know how to do)…j/k

Last summerl…
Last summer a buddy who has his canoe roll down, was trying with some success to teach the canoe roll to another buddy.

I had no plans on getting involved in the impromptu class except to watch(I was there test paddling a new WW canoe). But the buddy in training needed a break, and the trainer buddy called my name & I answered. It was 95 degrees & I thought, what the heck! While I did not become an expert by any means, I was able to do one roll successfully, without assistance, on my own. Also able to do 3 or 4 “almost there” rolls.

If I had followed up on that session a few times(I didn’t), I truly believe I could “get er done”. The one thing I am sure of is that technique is “much more” important than muscle power.

Too much power equals wasted effort.

I’m going to give it a go again in Feburary.

Since the first time I saw someone roll a canoe, I have never seen anyone do it better than that person. The paddler was Carrie Ashton. She made it look absolutely effortless on either her on or off side. She was also one of the most graceful persons I have ever seen in a canoe; her strokes were perfection, and she was a quality instructor to boot!


videos help if you can’t find a helper
Ask over on http://cboats.net/cforum to see if there are any experienced OCers in W PA who could help you learn.

Next best, grab copies of Kent Ford’s “Solo Playboating” and Bob Foote’s “Open Canoe Roll” - http://whitewatervideo.com has them both. I taught myself to OC roll using the footage in those two videos.

Find a pool session if you can. It’s a lot easier to dump water out using the side of a pool than it is in a lake or eddy (no mud or rocks to deal with), and the water’s usually cleaner and warmer.

Finally, a few random observations (which probably will make more sense if you can see a roll broken down on video or in person). These are my personal failing points. If I blow a roll, it’s because of one of these reasons usually:

  1. Keep your forehead glued to your paddle shaft.
  2. Get your bottom (t grip) hand out away from your belly before starting your crunch/hip motion.
  3. Try to read the label on the side of the canoe before you begin sliding your nose across the gunnels.
  4. When you think it’s time to start moving your head into the boat/across the gunnels, leave it in the water for another moment and try even harder to ‘read’ that side label :).

    And remember, you don’t need a lot of muscle strength to do this. Your body goes through a wide range of motion in the roll, but it should feel nearly effortless if you’re doing it right. Just because an OC is big and rolls slowly compared to a kayak doesn’t mean that it’s a brute force movement. Now, maneuvering the boat once you come up full of water definitely IS a brute force exercise :).

    For the disorientation of being upside down, pick a few simple physical reference points (like hands in relation to head and belly, body swinging out from the setup position, shaft on forehead, etc.) and practice those on dry land. Then when you’re in the drink, ignore your sensory input and just make those same motions. It takes a lot of fish couting time before you begin to have a sense of where your body is intuitively (and once you start flipping in waves and current, it gets confusing all over again). So having some simple positions to fall back on and perform by rote will get you oriented even when your innner ear is telling you things are all wrong.

The Hardest Part
Is staying in the boat.

Get your outfitting good and snug. If my saddle is more than 6" (ouch!) I have to use toe blocks to keep my knees pushed forward.

If your butt is coming off of the saddle it’s going to be tough to roll without coming out.

The other hardest part if you’ve never done it is getting the body mechanics. Hanging around upside down in a boat is one of the most disorienting things I’ve tried. If you can find instruction take advantage of it. If you can find someone who knows how to do it, see if they will help you. The Bob Foote video is good. I’d love to see the Tom Foster but I suspect that will be hard to find since OCNE is long defunct.

The OTHER hardest part about learning is having to drag the boat out and dump it every time you try. Find a C1! With that and a spotter to right you if you don’t make it those yaks got nothing on ya. Once you get the C1 roll the OC1 is not far behind.

I second everything Somalley said but take exception to one thing Schizopak said. I find it easier to roll an OC1 back up without airbags. Keeping it up with a full load of water is another thing.

Two things are dogging me now on the river with my combat rolls.

Keep your head down!(talking to myself here) Keep your #@&ing head down!

AND Hipsnap. Hip snap! Use the bloody hip snap!

The head is a panic thing. The hips are bad habit. It’s so easy to muscle up on a low brace in the pool that I don’t have the hip snap ingrained.

For now I’ve got to think then roll.

i stand corrected…
This thread piqued my curiosity so I started reading up a little more on rolling OC1s and yes it seems that float bags make rolling harder since you’re rolling yourself up (higher center of gravity) versus rolling the canoe under you (and underwater) without bags. That makes sense to me. Now I have to convice my friend to bring his float bags to the pool so I can experience first hand the increased difficulty!

low brace
The standard method is basically a (very deep) low brace.

Rolling an open canoe from a high-brace start is pretty risky in terms of shoulder damage.

I think you’ll find lots of detailed discussion on this on cboats.net.

The Thrill of the Paddle book is also worthwhile.


Almost rolled a canoe once!
I had a Michicraft 17’ HEAVY aluminum canoe for several years.

One time my wife and I were paddling, and took our 85 Lb black Labrador retriever along.

3’ away from the dock, she (Black Lab) decided she needed a drink, and we almost rolled over sideways! Water was coming in over the side until I got the dog sitting back in the boat.

OK, I know this isn’t the “rolling” you are talking about, but I thought it was good for a “chuckle”!

Happy Paddling/rolling!

on-side roll

– Last Updated: Jan-27-06 2:44 PM EST –

One thing not mentioned is that the standard way to learn is to tip over to your onside, stretch out into the setup (shoulders quare to the bottom), and roll up on a low brace - rotate the boat under you and lift yourself over the boat, keeping your head low & last.

However, because the best part of learning to roll (other than its cool factor) is improving your brace; while paddling, you won't tip over to your onside as much.

And then what do you do when you've flipped to your offside, and now you don't know where to put your blade or which gunwale to lift?

It's more confusing under water when you go over to your offside and have to do this real roll - all the way around.

So, as soon you can roll up on your onside roll/brace, start flipping to your offisde and getting comfortable upside down and figuring out how to move underneath your boat in order to get back to your onside setup.

If you can roll equally on either side, switching hands is also an acceptable option when you flip to your offside.

Check out cboats.net, tighten your outfitting, find a mentor or buddy, and good luck!


Does rolling a canoe have any
practical purpose other than saying you did it?


– Last Updated: Jan-27-06 2:59 PM EST –

I'd say being able to right your boat and stay in it after you tip is pretty practical!! There you are, still paddling instead of you and your stuff floating down the rapids. It's a nice option.

1) Perhaps the most important thing is how much confidence it gives you in your low brace. That's the biggest thing that will keep you from swimming so often. I just think of it as the best brace practice there is.

2) Once you have some confidence in a roll, you can play/surf much harder and try learning new things, because flipping isn't such a huge hassle. Especially if you get an electronic bilge pump so that you don't even have to go empty.

3) As mentioned up top, rolling itself will also prevent you from swimming, which can be hassle-ridden and risky if you get separated from your gear, and sometimes there are places where it's safer not to swim.

Granted there may be places where it's not bright to stay in and roll, but you don't have to try rolling every time you tip - it's just another self-rescue tool to have up your sleeve, or in your tool box, wherever you keep these things. Just another stroke. Another option. The more rescue options you have, the safer you'll be.

There's nothing to loose by working on it. I don't understand why some people question, or even turn their noses up at, the value of rolling a ww canoe. The more strokes you try, the better a paddler you'll probably become.


4) It does impress your friends and confound kayakers.