First rolling experience.

-- Last Updated: Sep-25-06 2:13 AM EST --

Performing the standard Greenland roll. Sometimes I just don’t come up to the recovery position, laying on the surface of the water, after the sweep. After the sweep I’m still under the water. When I do come up I keep coming up nice and fluid to the upright position. But sometimes I just don't come up during the sweep.

I’ve enjoyed reading others attempts and experiences at first rolls. Thought I’d share my own.

I hit my first rolls in a Greenland rolling class at WCSKS. Hit three in a row at the end of the class. I ended up in a 1:1 session with Don Beale as instructor. Very lucky. He’s a good instructor; observant, patient, and very good at evaluating the student to identify areas for focus.

I had been in two pool sessions and one lake session before this. Had viewed 4 different roll and brace videos; The Kayaker’s Edge, EJ, Grace Under Pressure, and Nigel Foster volume 6, in that order. I’d still like to view Jay’s 1st roll. I found EJ and NF the most useful for me.

I also did some floor exercises at home; 1) sit in the kayaker position, stretch forward trying to get my head as low and outside of my knees as possible on both sides to increase flexibility for the set up; and 2) practice falling over on each side, then hip snap and push up with my off side hand and having my head come up last, goal of minimum pressure to push up, purpose to gain technique and muscle memory for the recovery.

Going into the class I was weak in two areas; 1) I didn’t really have the sculling down, 2) I didn’t understand the correct motion for going from set up to recovery (brace up) position using the sweep.

Having the instructor place his hand near the seam of my boat as a safety catch while I practiced sculling, and call out my mistakes; “your blade’s not flat on the water. Look at your blade,” “You’re reaching out too far. Your hands should be in the chin-up position.” was hugely valuable. After about 30 minutes he had me laying all the way down in the water and sculling, for a few seconds anyway.

Then I needed to understand that the sweep motion is simply bringing the paddle from the set up position to the recovery chin-up position ready for the hip snap and high brace.

I had left my nose clips and goggles in the car like an idiot. Don insisted I use his, but they weren’t staying on and I was distracted by drinking salt water through the nose. Finally with 15 minutes left in the class, I said “I’m kind of beat. Let’s take 5 and I’ll be right back with my clips and goggles. Came back and hit three on side rolls in a row. Missed the off side. A very good day. If you’re out there, thanks Don!

I stayed in Washington for the following week for some camping and more kayaking. Just got home last night. Two days after the class I practiced sculling some more and got where I can lay right in the water looking up at the sky and scull pretty consistently then brace back up. Did have to push off the bottom once. Can also fall in the water and easily brace right back up (EJ CD style). A little shaky a couple times with the paddle pretty deep in the water on recovery, but have never missed in about 15 tries since the class. I tried a roll on two different days though, and missed both. I didn’t have my goggles, which was a factor, but obviously not the whole problem. I’m still not always coming up to the recovery position after the sweep. Sometimes I’m still under water. In future pool sessions I’m going to work even more on my scull to the point where I should be able to just scull to the surface from upside down and then brace up; and also work on the sweep making sure I come to the chin-up position. I think I’m still reaching out too much and trying to use my arms instead of my torso. I think more sculling work will also serve to help the sweep. We’ll see. I’m very hungry for a consistent on side roll so I can start working on off side and other variations without a spotter.

By the way, WCSKS was great! Highly recommended for any beginner within a day’s drive distance. Fun for experienced folks too I would think. There’s more and more good instructors volunteering their time. The class room sessions were great too. An MD gave a great talk on emergency kit and emergency medical treatments. I also attended a yoga class for kayakers, and a very good class by a well respected boat builder in the area, on boat repair, both field and in the shop. Those were just a few.

Paul S.


"I’m very hungry for a … roll"
watch those carbs!

The difference:
One goes to the hips, the other comes from the hips. :wink:

Once you get sculling, deep or diving paddles will no longer matter. In fact you may be better off knowing how to roll from deeper, green water when the top is foamy and gives no purchase.


Standard roll tips

You are making very good progress. I did want to mention something that you wrote:

“Then I needed to understand that the sweep motion is simply bringing the paddle from the set up position to the recovery chin-up position ready for the hip snap and high brace.”

The sweep does more than just get the paddle into position for a “hip snap”. For the Greenland standard roll you should be feeling substantial lift from the paddle as it sweeps. In fact this lift can become so great that no hip-snap is needed, but it can certainly help to use a good snap to amplify the rotary motion created by the paddle and your body movements.

As you extend your body away from the kayak during the sweep, the kayak responds by lying on its side. During the sweep your body should be actively lifted upward so that your head is only inches below the water.

In time you will discover that the motion of your torso, coupled with a gentle unfolding of your lower body (hipsnap) is the key. But for this to happen you will need to hone your paddle control as well to create lift.

I recommend sculling as a precursor to the standard roll. It will teach the correct mechanics – and your face should be looking straight up at the sky as you recover, with your hands still in the “chin-up” position on the paddle.

A good video of the Greenland standard roll can be found on the QUSA site at .

Greg Stamer

Good going!
gets easy and even more fun from here.

For consistency - do your thinking before and after the roll, not during (unless you’re purposely hanging out midway sculling) L. Getting comfortable hanging out anywhere but upright - so you’re not in any great rush to pop up - will pay off. Sculling work is a great help with this, letting you pretty much toss out the limiting idea of upright vs. capsized. Let the water support you so you barely have to scull at all.

Since you’re going G-Style, I’d definitely recommend you add two more DVDs to your collection: Jay’s “1st Roll” you already mentioned (great for solo work), and “Greenland Rolling with Dubside” to bring it all together and show you a good bit more.

I learned primarily off “The Kayak Roll” which essentially teaches the same roll - but with and upright finish. Handy for kayaks with higher rear coamings that can make laybacks less feasible. Then I got “1st Roll” which teaches in reverse, and helped with sculling and offside. Then EJs which has great attitude/simplicity/clarity - really helps when things aren’t “just so”. Recently I got Dubside’s too, which has great perspective on the paddler’s relation with the water, and his gear. Also goes farther than the others in getting across the variations and blending of techniques (incorporating varying amounts of sweep and brace in different rolls, etc.), and how the rolls all relate to each other, that allow you to roll in a wider range of gear/conditions vs. a single technique that may only get you a roll if done just right.

They are all good. Since you’re rolling now the the overlap (what matters) and differences (options) in all will more make sense and be of more use than they might have before.

good job
You may want to sculling then letting the boat come over onto you as you tuck into the setup position. Then reverse it and go back to sculling. That helped me break down the process. Then you can set up, capsize, and come up to a scull without rolling up. Then put it all together.

Good for you for working both sides. That’s my weakness.

I’m envious… wish I could make event

Congrats on the rolls. Don Beale and Ginni as instructors, not a bad mix (grin).

Enjoyed reading your report as I seem to be living my paddling experiences through your posts these days…


Thanks for the encouragement

– Last Updated: Sep-27-06 1:51 AM EST –

Sounds like continueing to perfect the sculling is a good plan.

I appreciated all the comments. Getting to where I can scull with little effort is analogous to the swimming experience. First you learn to dog paddle and pump furiously with hands and legs thinking you need all that effort to stay afloat. After a while you can lay in the water in that same position and splay the arms and legs out in a very light frog motion to stay afloat. Part of it is a more honed awareness over time, of buoyancy and the effect of body movements on buoyancy.

Also appreicated the comment on sweep providing lift and the whole sweep and recovery being one fluid motion. When I do come up that's the way it feels.

Anyone want to swap Jay's first role for my EJ, even temporarily? I actually found Grace Under Pressure and NF volume 6 at the public library. I'm gonna do a broader search and see what I find. I'll probably buy the Dubside. He entertained me so much at WCSKS betweeen the rope gymnastics and the rolling that I feel I owe him :-). By the way, I got to try the rope gymnastics. That was impossible for me. Maybe when I lose another 60 lbs.

Paul S.

Here’s a final update.

– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 11:50 AM EST –

I went to a pool session last Wed, expecting to improve my sculling and hoping to perfect my on side roll. I found something out. It’s a lot harder to scull in fresh water than in salt. At least I hope that was the factor. I could not lay in the water and scull confidently like I had in salt water. As soon as I would start to slide my torso off the back deck, my scull speed would have to increase, would get erratic, and paddle would dive. I could lift the paddle back to the surface to get momentary purchase, but not for long, then have to pop up. Wasn’t hitting rolls either. Sometimes I'd roll assisted by paddle scraping on the bottom. Other times I’d sweep and just wouldn’t come up. 5 or 10 tries and I’d be wasted.

Second pool session, bam!, half way through, had a light-switch break through, rolling with complete confidence, at least 20 of them in the last 45 minutes. Wished I had hours left. Felt like I could do them all night. Sweep or C to C, eyes closed, no problem.

Here was the break through. I kept working on flopping in the water and coming back up on the same side. Progressing to flop in, stall for a second, taking my time with the paddle, don’t press on it right away, then popping up. Pretty soon, my entire head would be under water before I would come up. Then I decided to see about something we talked about above. Flip over and see if I can scull to get near the surface, then pop up. It was amazingly easy. Didn’t take much paddle motion at all to get near the surface. I can’t lay on the surface sculling, but easy to get near the surface from upside down. So now I had confidence and was relaxed. That was the light switch. I figured, ok, try the sweep roll and if I’m not coming up, just stick my paddle out to the side, scull a little, and pop up. Well, I swept slowly thinking I was then going to scull when my paddle got out perpendicular to the boat. Once my paddle got perpendicular to the boat, I realized, hey, I’m in the same position now as when I sculled to hear the surface. So I just popped up.

Basically I was trying too hard and expecting too much from the sweep. Too anxious, tense, fast. If I wasn't popping up by the time my paddle was perpendicular to the boat, I thought I'd failed and would give up. It seems easy now to use a little bit of paddle motion to get _near_ the surface, then pop up. But a half hour before that, trying too hard, it all seemed impossible. Now I can hardly believe what all the fuss was about.

I’m not trying to gloat here. I struggled for 8 sessions over 2 months. Some get it in one session. Some in a year. Relax, patience.

I’m gonna keep working on the sculling. It’s a foundation for sure.

I tried an offside roll toward the end of the session. I was amazingly disoriented, more so than when I had tied it a few weeks ago. I think because I’ve now gotten so used to the on side, and the off side is a mirror image. I’m going to work on that mentally while on land. Visualization. Next week it’s all about sculling and rolling on the other side.

I think part of the reason it's difficult for me to lay on the water and scull is the high volume boat. But not the whole problem of course.

Paul S.

Freya Hofmeister
learnt me the greenland roll. See pictures;

Sweeping generalizations
Just curious (and asked more for the benefit of those whose light bulbs haven’t gone on yet): When you are sculling - what speed you’re doing it at and through what range of arc?

Before the light bulb?


Early on it seems pretty common for people to do short fast choppy sculling. Frantic and rushed, like most early roll attempts. The less it works, the faster they go and the narrower the arc - and the less it works…

Slower wider side sculling offers more support - though not intuitively for many until felt a few times. Going slower/wider gives you much better control over the angle/lift.

Now that you see that the sweep roll is a sculling brace - with no real difference other than speed/timing/pauses/etc. - you can keep exploring all the extra margin these rolls offer.

Offside is something you just need to play with. Yes, it’s a mirror image of the same thing - but don’t expect it to FEEL the same. For some it does, for others it’s more like starting over, or just plain weird. If you keep trying to find the same feeling on the other side you may waste a lot of time. Just trust the basic method and let if feel different. Pay attention to the kayak and let the body find it’s own way without a lot of commentary/judgment. Work on it now - more than your onside - otherwise you just reinforce the imbalance. Easier to learn and integrate before you have one side burned in over 1000 rolls.

Fast short vs slow long scull

– Last Updated: Oct-04-06 4:01 PM EST –

"Early on it seems pretty common for people to do short fast choppy sculling. Frantic and rushed, like most early roll attempts. The less it works, the faster they go and the narrower the arc - and the less it works...."

This describes exactly my surface scull. I've tried the slower longer arc a few times thinking it might be more effective, but couldn't make that work either. Because I've seen some seemingly experienced people use the short stroke for surface scull, I figured it was ok. Appreciate the confirmation to work on the longer slower stroke.

"Slower wider side sculling offers more support - though not intuitively for many until felt a few times. Going slower/wider gives you much better control over the angle/lift."

This describes my underwater scull to come to near the surface, and subsequently the sweep to come to near the surface, for my now easy, successful rolls. I think the reason I learned to go slow right from the start on the scull up from upside down is because I'm already down, so I'm not frantically trying to keep from going down.

I appreciate the advice on the offside roll. I probably would have spent at least some time trying to make it feel like the onside. I hope it's not as bad as throwing a ball with the left versus right arm! More like switch hitting I hope.

All, I've picked up bits and pieces from a lot of you, including in other posts, which I've used, or at least tried. I haven't always acknowleged you by name, but thanks!

Paul S.

Possible insight…
Or maybe I’m just all wet here. :wink: If you’re doing the long slow sculls under water and short quick sculls on the surface, it may be an indicator that the boat’s not upright enough. It sounds like the exact same thing I get when I’m in too deep of a boat for me or when I just get a bit laxed and the boat starts to come back over on me. I end up doing these mini high braces to correct until I can arch my back a bit more and get the boat to pull on me instead of pushing.

Also for giggles, if you can do the back slap to stop on the water, try placing your outboard blade as far forward before fully capsizing. Then do your back slap followed by the recovery sweep of sculling, finishing on the back deck. That’s a Greenland high brace recovery, no submersion required.


Quantifying sculling speed.
For the uninitiated, the best way I have found to describe the speed of the outside hand during sculling is in relationship to the speed most people use when normally petting a dog or cat. This speed, matched with a slight planing angle to the leading edge of the blade produces an efficient and supportive scull.

You may have already come to the same conclusion.

Sculling, things to work on.

– Last Updated: Oct-05-06 11:42 PM EST –

Thanks Chris and Jim and others. I'll make sure I'm pivoted in the seat with my back against the water, and make sure and keep the seams of the boat angled toward the horizontal plane. And slower longer strokes, of course. Now that I can roll, I can work on the next level of sculling ability without concern about going under.

It's great how the two compiment eachother. I couldn't roll until I could scull better. Now I can learn to scull better because I can roll.

Paul S.

P.S. I see an SOF boat in my future.

Next steps?

– Last Updated: Oct-12-06 3:41 AM EST –

Got the offside. Spent some of last Sunday at the lake just working on the layback scull on the right (off) side. Then tonight in pool session I started flopping in the water on the right and coming back up. Then upside down and scull up and recover. Same progression as I used to get the on side.

Then a very nice lady offered to spot me for a few tries on the off side. First try, very disorienting still, I needed the spot. Second try I had to sit underwater and really think about paddle orientation and think about which way to break the wrists so the paddle whould lift on the sweep, not dive. I knew to go really slow, don't rush. Next few were paddle scraping on the bottom but comming up. Within 30 minutes I was rolling consistently.

I will say (admit), at the lake last Sunday, water temp 63F, no dry top because the glue was drying on the neck gasket, I hit one roll and missed one (aarrrgggg.) I was anxious because I knew I was alone, no dry top, and if I missed I have to come out of my boat (water was down and shore was steep.) So I rushed and I think I also lifted my head up. The only thing that kept me from hitting that roll was my own anxiety. Really reinforced for me that I've got to keep calm, relax, and ssslllooooowwww is the way to go.

I'm thinking the next things to work on are roll using the standard forward stroke grip on the GP (I did that once tonight); no nose clips and controlled exhale (that's gonna be difficult); starting with paddle in awkward positions; pulling storm paddle off the deck and roll; wind and waves when I can find them.

Thoughts on next steps?


Paul S.

I hereby declare
this thread misnamed.

And congratulations on the off-side roll! You win. :^)

next steps
Congratulations! Most of your next steps seem like a good idea, particularly capsizing in odd positions and rolling up. But ‘no nose clips’ in fresh water can be real masochism (not to mention a nasty sinus infection). I know it’s nice to get practice for whatever conditions might come up, but it’s simple enough to do what white water kayakers do, and put on your noseclips whenever you’re paddling in conditions that might lead to a real capsize. Rolling should be fun, or else you’re not going to practice enough.

Thanks on nose clips, other next steps

– Last Updated: Oct-16-06 2:03 AM EST –

You saved me from some pain for sure. On the other hand, some day I may go over when I totally didn't expect it, and the pain of nosehailing water may be enough to blow my concentration. Maybe I'll try no nose clips with controlled exhail when my roll get's more second nature, or in the bay on incoming tide where the sailinity seems really neutral to the sinuses.

I got back on my horse out in the lake yesterday. Never missed a roll, out of about 30, equal onside and offside. Dang near missed the first off side though. Main thing I learned was if someting doesn't go just right, like the ground is closer to my head than I thought it was going to be, or set up isn't just right; pause, assess, and don't rush. I know Celia has illuded to this too.

I agree, awkward positions is high on the list. Thanks for reinforcing that. I think a couple of others are to wait a full 10 seconds before rolling up (saw that suggestion on EJ's video) and fail the roll on purpose and roll up on the second try, or just try more difficult rolls but second try with standard roll if fail the first. This would be to condition the mind to think of extra time to asses and giving it a second try when necessary to be business as usual.

Paul S.