failed roller

Random bits and pieces
Excuse the late night rambling:

I’m self taught (but two of the videos already mentioned helped immensely).

I credit GP with much of my success. I spent no time or effort on thinking about blade orientation and such*.

Given that blade feel/control is important I’d say use the paddle you have the most time with and don’t switch until things start working. For me that was GP. Normal paddling helps with paddle feel/control issues. *I had several hundred miles on my GP before I really started trying to roll with it - so had no paddle related issues rolling. My girlfriend has less than 50 miles and considerably less familiarity with her GPs and it seems to really complicate things for her that were automatic for me.

I have rolled with all my paddles now except wing - which I expect to be quite easy and will do next time I have it with me - and half paddles. I assumed a euro would be harder/more complicated (dive, less buoyant, etc)- but found they worked just fine too. Paddle is the least important element - don’t focus on it more than anything else. With correct body and boat motion a 2x4 would work. So would nothing.

Try another boat - any boat. The differences between them will help you feel what YOU are doing and may break you out of ruts you didn’t even know you were in.

Rolling really is just another stroke. It’s simplicity is what makes it hard to teach and our preconceptions are what make it hard to learn.

When you pop up that first time it’s almost a non-event as actually rolling is MUCH easier than almost rolling!

Working on the offside was even more awkward than first starting with onside - but came along much more quickly (don’t put it off after getting onside). Still shaky, and not pretty, but working more than not.

The roll is always there, you just have to pay you dues in the form of attempted rolls to get it. How many attempts it takes is different for everyone. You won’t know how many until you succeed. Best to keep at it.

Some need consistent frequent sessions to keep it fresh and see progress. Others need more time between to let things sink in. Relax and focus on the timing of the elements each try. Forget about the time spent. It takes for it all to come together. Just know it will.

Give it decent attention/effort, but not to the point where you’re not enjoying your water time.

Wet exits are a key part of learning. Don’t look at bail outs as failures, but as steps on the path. Any and all rescue practice and play helps. Mix it up a little.

Be clear about your motivation. A couple paddle float rescues was all the motivation I needed to decide I would learn to roll. I committed to that - but with no time limits in mind. Exploration vs. expectation.

Be sure you are NOT trying to roll yourself up out of the water. Focus instead on getting the kayak (hip flicked) over and off you then back under you in a smother motion.

Outfitting cannot be stressed enough - or can it? I am not a fan of overly snug fits in sea kayaks. Good control through contact points yes, but wedged in - no. Tight might be good for rolling - and many much better rollers than I may disagree - but I like to paddle long and hard too. My boat needs to work for both. I find some ability to move in the cockpit can help rolling and particularly side sculling. Contact points for WW may be feet/knees/thigh braces/hip pads/seat/backband - but I get by with feet/seat/backband/thighs in my sea kayak. I can wedge in when I want to and be lose enough to pump my legs, rotate and shift in the seat a little when just paddling. Even the Greenlanders like to leave a little room at the hips.

But then again I didn’t get my first rolls in my kayak - I got them wedged tightly into a Pintail that’s seat is too narrow for me. I immediately transferred that success back to my boat though, and find mine much easier to do things in now. I can reliably get the Pintail up - but I’m too tight in the seat to do much else.

Kim can’t roll yet but I’ve helped her into a balance brace on two occasions in her Pintail! I can’t do it in either - but could easily in a Yost folder. Boats do make a big difference.

My boat has I pretty high rear deck. This limits my layback a little. The more upright finish in “The Kayak Roll” video is better for this boat, but I can still finish facing the sky or anywhere in between. If I keep it more specifically one or the other finish positions the roll seems cleaner though.

Having someone there while you practice - even completely unskilled - can be very helpful. I will practice alone now that the basic sweep roll is reliable - but didn’t like to before. I mostly paddle solo and that used to really limit my practice sessions.

Having another paddler there who can offer bow rescues (or stand beside you) to save you bail outs will let you make 10x the attempts and get you rolling 10X sooner. If that person is an instructor - 20x sooner (assuming you already watched those videos!).

The extended paddle roll will open the door to much more. Once you have it you can really begin to work on offside and other rolls, side sculling, bracing, and more aggressive leans and edging with more confidence.

I’m pretty new to rolling still and don’t even question coming up now unless I’m getting really tired. Extened sweep roll is that easy and reliable.

Blowing an offside and recovering onside feels better than getting that first roll. Getting first offside better still. Now if I could just figure out that reverse sweep…

The biggest bonus may be that the better your roll gets, the less likely you are to need it.

Again, sorry to ramble.

What’s wrong with the Pawlata

– Last Updated: Apr-07-05 10:37 AM EST –

if it works consistently? I realise that a whitewater yaker needs something quicker but for sea kayaking the Pawlata will consistently get you up plus put you in an extended brace position if things are a bit hairy. Go with what works is my opinion.

Just keep your elbow down because that extended paddle can generate a fair amount of force on your shoulder if you don't.

some comments

– Last Updated: Apr-07-05 10:49 AM EST –

The Pawlata is an excellent and powerful sea kayaking roll but I don't believe it is an ideal roll except for people who have limited flexibility, etc. You mentioned that the pawlata wouldn't be functional in whitewater. In that same line of thinking, the conditions that would cause you to flip would make the pawlata less than ideal. For example, if you are doing a surf landing and flip, setting up the extended paddle is inviting the waves to rip the paddle out of your hands. If you are rolling in confused seas, a pawlata does not put you in a strong position to reflexively brace on your offside when you come up to the surface. The pawlata (if you grip the blade), can potentially snap off the blade of the paddle, cut your hand, cause you to lose your grip, etc. Also due to the strength and forgiveness of this roll, for beginners it promotes poor form, a lack of a hipsnap, and an over dependance on the paddle for rolling.

With that said, I learned this roll first and I continue to teach it to students with the disclaimer that it is a backup roll. Yes, if you capsize you should roll up in a way which you are most comfortable (which could be the pawlata) but I feel this roll really comes into its own as a platform to learn other rolls from.

Good comments

– Last Updated: Apr-07-05 11:16 AM EST –

In my mind I equate the skills needed for surf kayaking to be similar to those needed for whitewater. I have one of those "Hairy seakayaking situation" books at home (I can't recall the title right now but you know the type) and I was amazed at how many of the expert paddlers in the book resorted to the Pawlata when the going got tough and their normally bombproof screw roll just wasn't cutting it. I use a 90 degree feathered Toksook (Derek Hutchinson) design paddle simply for the reasons that it is extremely strong and the blades have no sharp edges. Plus the symetrical blades and the 90 feather always allow me know how the blades are oriented.

That said I'll keep practicing the screw roll, I can make about 3 attempts before I run out of wind and use the Pawlata to pop up. One day I'll get some real instruction.......


You can always get alot of advice concerning rolling. Here’s my 2cents. If you have only gotten one paddle float roll in several sessions the good thing is you must be doing something terribly wrong. Check your boat fit first. If you are a small person in a big boat it is’nt a problem if your outfitting is proper. Sea Kayakers tend to not have very tight hip pads and thigh pads. You want to be tight in the boat.

Second work alot without the paddle. A good hip snap and proper head position should result in only minimal pressure from the paddle needed to get you up.

Third, find a good instructor. Consider a back deck roll. Stay with it. The biggest problems with rolls are learning bad habits and then not being confident. A sometimes roll is not very useful as you have to plan to swim. A never miss roll allows you a huge measure of safety.

If you are motivated, you can learn it. good luck,Frogge.

Back Deck Roll?

– Last Updated: Apr-07-05 12:43 PM EST –

as in the stern to bow, reverse sweep roll use by playboaters? I would not suggest that as roll to be learn by a seakayaker as the longer boat gets in the way. The extended paddle, reverse sweep Greenland roll is more appropriate, but generally after learning a layback roll which builds off the sculling and balance brace.

I am not sure the backdeck roll is a particular easy roll for a white water beginner to learn either. Curious whether you have taught a newbie this as their first or second roll.


I Tend To Start Off With The
Pawlatta too with a total newbie. They can work their way down to a regular grip roll by shortening the grip on the loom.

Truthfully, in the ocean and even in surf, I much rather be with someone who has a bombproof extended paddle roll than a half a$$ normal grip roll.

White water, however, has constraints that can impact someone who only uses and extended paddle roll.


definitely agree
that someone with a bombproof pawlata is better than a shaky standard roll. Heck, as I was a sea kayaker first, my first few whitewater runs were done with a pawlata roll only. It wasn’t ideal and I swam a few times but it did encourage me to learn other rolls quickly. Comparing the merits of various rolls is a luxury that comes with learning a wide range of rolls and I would never discourage a person from learning a pawlata roll over a standard roll. I would merely explain to the student that once you learn one roll, it is in their best interest to keep learning more to solidy their skills and increase their options.

That’s Roll I Learned And
Taught myself. I started out in surf with that roll and I never had to swim, even as a beginner surfer, because of a failed roll using the Pawlatta.


Yes it is a sweep
that I am executing. Right is the on side so what I do is drop the left knee, push with the left foot pull with the right knee, start my sweep and feel for the lift(which happens a little later with the GP), reach out a little with the body keeping the elbow down and the left arm on the hull and stay tucked forward a little. By the time the paddle is @ 90 degrees I’m up. My left hand is just above the deck in a short jab position and the right blade is on the water. My head is about over the right side of the cockpit looking down and a little right.

People that watch say it looks smooth and easy. Little do they know the effort I have put into this. My biggest downfall is my analytical mind. I think too much.

Anyway, it may not be text book but it works for me.


My first roll class is on the 24th. I am anxious to see how I do. One thing I have learned from this thread is that I will choose a boat with a snug fit on that day. (Maybe I should just take my own?) Anyhow, my husbands first class he rolled 8 times on his ownbut many of the other students struggled and some did not roll. He has set the bar high for me but now I am motivated to beat his 8, LOL. Great thread, I’ll let ya know how I do

Get a different instructor?
If your instructor hasn’t had you trying at least SOME of the things suggested on this board, he or she probably isn’t good at teaching.

There’s a difference between knowing how to do something and teaching others to do the same thing. Everybody is different. Being able to tailor the instruction to fit the student makes a GOOD instructor who’s worth the money, from everyone else who could give you pointers for free.

to learn C2C
get the book “the Bombproof Roll and Beyond”. “the Kayak Roll” video is great to use along with the book, although it doesn’t teach a C2C it is still very helpful.

Age - got my first kayak at age 58, my first roll 5 months later at age 59(last year). Maybe having a narrow boat helps?

I have to disagree about the extended
paddle position being a handicap when having to switch to a low brace from an extended paddle position.

I’ve been able to do it successfully plenty of times, granted this was with a symmetrical greenland paddle. But it isn’t a pawlata, but a standard greenland roll, or storm woll. But the concept is exactly the same.

Plus you should theoretically be rolling up into the face of a wave anyway just to make sure you are in position when the next one comes.

Granted I would not want to perform a pawalata/extended paddle roll in white water anyway, but that’s different than surf in my opinion.

It Surfing 3 Sec Or Less Interval
waves, than, no, you can’t convert to brace after coming up. But, anyone trying to surf waves like that, ain’t surfing. The west coast waves with their 12 second or more intervals… Heck, you can roll up, eat a quick hotdog and then brace. :slight_smile:


…has just taken on a whole new meaning!

Great description of available time!

You Know…
I don’t bother to surf when intervals are 6 secs or less 'cause the waves are just riding over each other or fading right under you.

From 6-8 seconds, you got two attempts at a roll from when a wave releases you to the arrival of the next one.

9-12 seconds, man… that’s like surf heaven in NE. Hum a song, then roll up.

12 seconds, I think I have died and gone to California. I keep looking for mermaids and Gidgets. :wink:


Can you grab the throat ot the blade
and a forearm’s lenght dow the shaft. Derek advocates this a a transitionin his kayak rolling book