Helping a friend to learn to roll

Hi again. I was wonderign if anyone on here could offer some advice. I am helping a friend to learn to do her roll. Currently she has a beautiful hip flick, as she demonstrates during practice drills. She says her problem is getting the clearance for the paddle to sweep. She says that she cannot get her arms to clear the upturned hull. Because of this she says she feels her paddle is diving. Hard. She knows the technique and the movements. But continues to stumble over the paddle shaft during the initial setup for the sweep. She paddles a Seaward Cosma. I have rolled the boat myself, and found it to be a nice, smooth rolling boat. Any advice ??

ps: we’ve tried pointing knuckles out to get the proper planing angle for the blade to get support. Thanks guys…I appreciate it…so does she :slight_smile:

Extend paddle - sweep with torso
1. Extended paddle gives less chance for boat/blade interference (and easier roll).

2. Torso driven sweep makes it easier to feel when to drive the “rolling knee”. Arms need not do that much - and I think a lot of arm movement is one cause of diving paddles and can also cause timing/coordination issues. Better to keep arms from moving around unnecessarily and in close to avoid other issues.

My 2¢ as a novice roller.

relaxed grip
Blowing a few rolls often seems to result in a death-grip on the paddle, which in turn leads to trying to pull down rather than sweep.

Work on a relaxed grip.

Also, work on set-up position. Get a nice tight tuck and actually curl the body around the boat. Then focus on estending the whole body.

Follow the blade’s movement with your eyes.

All assuming you are trying to teach a sweep.

How big is she?
The Cosma might be wide/deep for her, making things more difficult if she has short torso and/or arms.

Can she get the blade on top of the water at all? I find that in my Squall I have to consciously stretch my upper body so that I can get the paddle on the water surface. Sometimes I slap the blade on it to make sure it really has cleared the top; this move also gives more oomph with which to start the sweep.

The Kayak Roll video also gives a good tip for avoiding diving blades: relax the grip on the outboard hand as the blade sweeps 'round to the rear. You end up holding the paddle very lightly on that end, which allows the water to release the blade.

Great, I’ll try out these recommendation
s. I think the death grip might be one of the problems. I can see how it would lead the blade to dive.

Size of paddler
I would say she is five foot six, maybe 120 pounds. I am the same size, with an extra twenty pounds, and found when I rolled it, that i really had to loosen up my grip on the paddle shaft, in order to get the clearance around the hull. I am goign to try out some of the things recommended into this chain. Thanks!

Another Novice View
Here’s what I learned with the help of a very good instructor:

When my body was coiled up with my head closer to the deck, my arms could reach higher and clear the surface easier (to clear the hull?).

I learned to treat the sweep like I did when learning to scull, gently skimming the blade across the surface (which prevented me from plunging the blade) and allow the uncoiling of my body to provide the power.

If I remember correctly, my instructor had me extend my paddle with the float on it and lay in the water (he held the float at first) and sweep my way up. He did the let the air out of the float thing until I got it with nothing. Then I had to try the entire roll.

These things helped me and I think I was stuck with the same problem.


See, the boat likes high to me
around the cockpit. and thats one of the things we were trying. Getting as close forward as she could to the spraydeck, giving her the clearance, but in doing that the paddle seemed to dive…

Agree with prior suggestions, would add the following: focus on bringing the paddle blade that is not used to roll, up and around the side and bottom of the boat as far as possible, in other words set up with both blades out of the water, the rolling blade on the water surface the off blade on the bottom of the boat which at set up will be out of the water.

“Radical View, Maybe…”

– Last Updated: Jan-20-05 1:52 PM EST –

a diving paddle, for someone who knows how to hip snap and the timing for it, won't necesarily kill a roll. A diving blade will hit the bottom of the arc and begin to swing back up, provided deep enough water. Right then and there at the bottom of the arc, there is ample support for a hip snap and roll up. Refer to Hutchinson's book, Eskimo Rolling, and you'll see his "storm roll" (as opposed to a Greenland style storm roll) utilizing specifically a diving blade. This roll is very effective and powerful. The problem is that a beginner doesn't know the timing and will not get it.

I personally believe in teaching touring (as opposed to ww) beginners the extended paddle roll as viable first step. For a shorter paddler and/or someone in a deep boat, there is less effort to clear a deep hull with the inboard blade. This effort at clearing the hull can create a diving blade. The extended paddle will minimize that part of it. Combined with slapping the sweeping blade onto the water surface and keeping a loose grip with the outboard hand, an extended paddle grip will make getting the correct angle easier.

Once a paddler gets a reliable extended roll, this becomes the basis to practicing shortening the paddle grip. With experience of successful rolls, blade orientation becomes more automatic based on the feel of the blade moving through the water.

Back to the diving blade. Once someone has a good sense of the roll and the hip snap and timing involved, diving the blade does not mean an automatic blown roll. In fact, in high deck kayaks, I purposely have to dive the sweeping blade a little bit just to clear inboard blade over the deck. But I can feel when the blade hits the bottom of the arc and find the support right then to hip snap up. If I were to try to a flat sweep with the blade in a high deck boat, I find my inboard blade can and will hit the side of the boat before my body reaches 90 degree to the hull and thus preventing me from getting to the position to hip snap.


It may help to work on body position without the distraction of the paddle. Here’s one good drill if she’s got noseclips or a mask, and a spotter: Have her capsize and hang straight down with her arms hanging straight down. She sould then arch sideways towards the surface as far as she can, trying to get her arms out of the water. Relax, and repeat on the other side. When low on air, tuck & tap, and hipsnap up on the spotter’s hands.

This helped me realize that I didn’t need to hang on the paddle to get into position.

The tricky bit is realizing that the knee that gets you into position – the “high” knee – has to relax as soon as you start to drive with the low knee. If they’re both tight it kills your hipsnap.

It helped me to really focus on watching my blade and sweeping out and around, not down. If you sweep in an arc with your lower knee engaged the torso rotation will bring the knee – and the boat-- up. It doesn’t matter if the paddle dives a bit. Starting to roll up as soon as you start to sweep, instead of a C-to-C roll, will help make room for the inboard blade.

And since rolling is a huge head game, it might help to put her in a smaller boat until she gains confidence. Knowing you can is at least half the battle.

Thank you
For this thread! I have another round of rolling classes this weekend. Friday in Middletown Ct and Sunday in Windsor, CT.

Will try the no-paddle technique, that sounds very helpful.


extended paddle
I agree – my wife started with an extended-paddle roll, and it was a huge confidence booster.

She’s got a short torso, and her first attempts at a C-to-C type roll had been very frustrating. Being able to roll up with an extended-paddle sweep was a major victory.

If the paddle continues to be a problem, you might want to try a greenland paddle or storm paddle in an extended position. It’s easier to manuever in the water, and gives great feedback on your sweep technique.

Not so radical actually
There is a roll called a “slash” roll, which is a modified sweep roll. It is commonly used in Europe and the Western US. For the set up the paddle blade is at the same angle it would be if you were paddling (wrist is straight) and is NOT out of the water. The roll, as with all sweep rolls, is accomplished by body rotation and raising the rolling knee. The paddle will dip down to start and then rise and end up parallel to the surface on the surface. The key is to just let the paddle slide through the water with no resistance. Focus on body movement, keeping your head and shoulders near the surface of the water, and being sure to move your body directly out and up at the beginning. It will seem strange to pop up with almost no effort or paddle resistance and with the paddle at about 90 degrees. The hard part is trusting the process and not using the paddle.

A Discussion of this roll

Learning to scull before rolling
A frequent poster here (Jed) helped me understand the merits for some people of learning to scull to the surface as a foundation skill taught BEFORE set up,rolling knees, and any style of sweep, extended, other paddle assist.

The muscle memory learned by doing this (like using the extended paddle in some ways) helps emphasize the feeling and placement of the paddle that will allow for getting the boat turning while not diving the paddle. IF the boat begins turning right away most paddle boat interference is reduced. Then the interaction of a specific paddler with X torso and Y lenght arms can learn to adjust to Z lenth boat!!!

Hey if that is clear as mud, my apologies!

Pretty Common “Greenland Approach”

– Last Updated: Jan-20-05 4:55 PM EST –

I've seen folks learn to roll within an hour using that approach. But I think it's so much easier when this approach is done in a skinny, low volume Greenland style boat, especially with the added floatation of a tuiliq on.

Personally, I learned to roll before learning to scull. I was also using a wider boat(Capelookout). After learning to scull in a skinner boat, I probably couldn't scull effectively with the Capelookout. I can now with much more experience under my hull(s). A balance brace with the Capelookout or even my Montauk is still out of the question. These are just to high volume for me to accomplish the balance brace with.


Sculling is an excellent foundation
I have a friend that taught a couple of people to roll by having them work on their sculling first. I watched and thought it was a great approach. (One of the people he got rolling again was my wife.)

Sculling up and down really helped her with the second half of her roll.

What you say makes allot of sense
Learning these things is in some ways more science than art. LIke as you say if we look at the person’s physical type, the boat, and the componnents of rolling, it makes sense that a certain type of person with a certain type of boat who learns a certain way could have a much easier time learning.

Plenty of room for art, but some science here is helpful.

Another tip
With the Squall, I need to coil my upper body tightly so it is as close to the kayak as possible. (Agree with lalleluia’s comment on this below.) If I let my body lean out away from it even a little bit, I cannot get the paddle high enough (geometry!). This position “winds me up” a lot and works well but it’s not exactly relaxing.

With a shallower WW kayak, the opposite was true: I got the best sweep by extending my body out and relaxing while sweeping. After the blade passed a certain point, the boat practically rolled itself up…easier than in either of my sea kayaks. I did not try it, but it would not surprise me if I could lie quietly like that for several moments and then scull back up.