Hand Roll Tips

-- Last Updated: Jun-30-05 5:08 PM EST --

Has anyone perfected their hand roll in a sea kayak?
I can roll with a paddle, have read hand roll techniques in books, pondered over pictures, watched a friend make it look so easy, I can get the gist of it when someone guides my hand, and did it once purely by accident,

but usually I lose it all when I try on my own...maybe I'm thinking too much.
Any tips?

sea kayak or whitewater?
I’ve perfected my hand roll in whitewater kayaks (can roll with a closed fist on both sides and an elbow on my onside) but am still struggling with my sea kayak hand roll. What I like to do is setup perpendicular to the kayak as close to the surface of the water as I can. At that point, I sweep with my inside hand (hand closest to the kayak) while hipsnapping hard. I finish the roll by laying on my back deck, swinging the inside hand out to balance me and sweeping with my outside hand simultaneously.

I’m foggy in the middle
Thanks for your info!

I’m with you for the setup, and I understand the follow through at the end,

but when I’m underwater, I get foggy with what to do with my hands after I’m setup. Arms together? Which direction? Across the surface? I also have shorter arms, wonder if that makes a difference, less surface area. Or a good excuse.

It seems natural with a paddle.

Variation Of Schizopak’s
two handed roll, though the timing is a little different. In the capsized position, I reach up as high as possible, facing the hull. When I am ready to roll, I push away from the boat while turning the body to facing the bottom. As I am turning to face the bottom, the inboard hand (if you think of holding paddle, the hand closer to the hull in a roll is the inboard hand) sweeps down (think doggie paddle). When the inboard hand is almost finished sweeping down, the outboard hand begins sweep down. Just before the outboard finishes sweeping down, the inboard hand is being pulled out of the water to throw across the kayak as a counterweight. To pull the inboard hand out of the water, the body begins to torgue around to again facing the surface. As you throw, the inboard hand to the other side, this action pulls your body across the back deck.

Here is the key thing. Despite all this stuff describing the hand motions, I focus on driving the the outside knee up forceably once I begin to sweep with the outside hand. If I don’t do this, the roll gets blown.

If the two hand sequential sweep doesn’t work, try the linking your thumbs together and doing a simultaneous sweep out/down and then pulling and throwing your inboard hand across the the deck as you would with the sequential two hand sweep. Everything here is essentially the same as the other roll except that both hands sweep at the same time. Derick Hutchinson has a reference to his roll in his book, Eskimo Roll.

Both of the above rolls work for me in my white water, surf and SOF boats (in practice). I can’t do the single hand sweep, layback roll (Greenland). But, I haven’t try this with a tuiliq which may make it easier because of the additional floatation.

Also, it easier to jumpstart the hand roll by using a ping pong paddle or web gloves. Once you get the motion down consistently remove the helping tool. You’ll find, again, the consistency is really with getting your body high up on the water early on and then really driving your knee up as you sweep, more than the hand motions themselves.


Depends on the sea kayak
If it’s a Greenland rolling boat, oh yeah – one handed with a closed fist & real close on the elbow roll.

In an NDK Explorer or a VCP Anas Acuta or Pintail, or Impex Outer Island, nice & reliable.

In my BBK Recluse, it’s serviceable, but not technically pretty.

Forget about my CD Caribou. I’ve only succeeded once in 8 years & it was damn ugly.

In my WW kayak, the sky is the limit.

Here’s hoping my kayak I designed rolls like my WW kayak!


Very true
Some sea kayaks are way easier then others.

Super easy: Qaanaaq 512

Easy: Inuk, Anas Acuta, Sirius, Avocet, Tempest 165.

Hard: Vyneck

IMO the hand roll really isn’t a hard roll when performed in an ‘easy hand rolling kayak’. In my club for example, we have more members who master the hand roll than say storm roll or reverse sweep roll.

This is all for layback style hand rolling. I find forward style hand rolling much harder. In fact I have to use a throwing stick.


perfected no, performed yes
I can perform a forward starting aft recovery handroll on both sides in my sea kayak, and in a pyranha s:6.

I even hit my forward starting forward recovery norsaq(handpaddle) roll twice in a rowlast night!

What specifically are you having difficulty with?

My only secret for this is a really vigorous hipsnap and being able to get really far back on to the aft deck. Also floating your torso right at the surface is key. But all of this is fairly simple stuff.

the single hand sweep
in your sof should work for you sing, (if you take off your lifejacket).

Psst. Don’t tell anyone at the bcu I said that, they’ll take away my thermos.

Don’t Worry…
I won’t tell as long as you don’t tell the Greenland zealots that I use a Euro too and that I don’t automatically don a tuiliq everytime I am in my SOF. :wink:


Developing technique
I find that using what ever I can to perform a roll (easy to roll kayak and roll aids) helps develope the technique required for that roll. I have been using a euro paddle blade, that has a strap in the middle of it that secures it to my hand for learning different hand rolls. It works great for giving me the extra support to learn and execute the rolls. It also allows me execute the roll with my hand in the proper position for hands only rolls. I’m going to give it a try on my elbow to see if it can help me learn the elbow roll.

Bombproof roll…
My favorite rolling book is the “Bombproof Roll and Beyond”, by Paul Dutky. His information on hand rolling is extremely good. Although he doesn’t go into the Greenland rolls, which is my passion, much of his information is universal.

I recommend it highly.

Greg Stamer