hand roll lessons learned


I want to share my experience in learning to do a hand roll:

After a lot of effort, including rolling with Norsaq, I was still not able to hand roll my kayak last summer. Then I saw a Ken Whiting hand roll video and I was able to do the hand roll on the first session after watching that video. I believe the video was a whitewater style roll on a sea kayak, where you kind of get out way to side and slap the water to bring yourself up.

After learning to do the WW hand roll, a Greenland style hand roll came fairly shortly afterwards with some more effort.

What I think I was doing initially was trying to use my momentum to come up in one motion. I’d get stuck part way up and fall back over. Learning the WW hand roll gave me more confidence to concentrate on what I was doing wrong on the Greenland hand roll. What I found was that I needed to slow down, get out to the side, do a hip snap and come up with good form.

Sometimes my hand roll doesn’t work and I go to the other side and am able to come using the momentum I gain from doing that. I think I am actually doing a back deck roll. in fact, the easiest way to do the hand roll from an upright position, for me is to do a back deck roll- because of the extra momentum it gives me. I find coming up on the same side requires me to use better form to make it work.

I hope my experience stated above might help others who are having difficulty with their hand rolls.


I hadn’t thought of doing a back deck hand roll, but now that totally makes sense. I’ll try it next time I’m practicing.

Sure, I hope it works for you. It’s been a while since I was practicing a lot of hand rolls (one or two here and there is all I can handle in this cold weather), but I think just getting yourself back towards the end of the boat with your back up against the back deck of the kayak and going back and forth, the boat should want to roll over fairly easily with you in that (back deck roll) position. From your post, it seems you understand the mechanics involved.

straitjacket roll
Not too many people can do a staitjacket, no-hands kayak roll, but basically everybody I ever saw do it did so by keeping their torso way back on the rear deck:


By laying on the back deck
your lowering your center of gravity which is an important part of technique with any roll. Glad you found a technique that helped.

thanks, makes sense
I want to play around with hand rolls in spring when it warms up. I’ll have to remember this.

Take it slow…
Another key is slowing down your roll. Wait until your face/chest is as far to the surface as can be until rolling your hips and trying to come up.