How important is an offside roll?

How important do you think an offside roll really is?

For some reason, I’m having trouble learning it (I paddle with a greenland paddle, so it ought to be just the mirror image of my regular roll).

I haven’t missed an onside roll this season, and I make sure to practice that a few times every time I’m out, but I can’t seem to come anywhere close to my offside roll. Trying it is fun, if frustrating, but in real situations, how critical is it? (If I go over on the ‘wrong’ side, I have no trouble slithering under the boat and setting up for my on-side roll–especially after all these failed offside rolls. At least all the failed offside roll attempts means my onside roll after a weird setup is getting very reliable.)

The more you paddle in waves, wind, current, and obstacles, the more likely you are to encounter a situation that makes it easier to roll up on one side than the other.

Try learning a different roll for your first offside. I had the same problem trying to mirror my onside roll, and actually found it easier to do something different. Once through that mental barrier, it was easier to work on devloping the same techniques on both sides.

Not to gloat but
I hit my first full offside roll with a GP today.

I spent several sessions not trying to roll offside but to get a good scull down on that side. My scull still needs work (on both sides actually but offside moreso) At first when I would invert fully I just switched to my rolling side and rolled up. Then as I started to get it down, I’d do a half-roll on the off side. Finally, today I tried the full roll. I think this approach minimized getting into bad habits, since I don’t have a handy local instructor. But getting really great help on the one side had given a foundation to build on.

How important is it? As said already that depends on conditions. It’s probably not as important as having a roll on one side but it is useful. I don’t think of it in those terms. I think, “what can I learn next?”

Keep at it and have fun!

I found out
the hard way last year in some pretty rough conditions. Big thunderstorm with wind gusts over 50. I was in a serpentine canyon with high verticals and did not see the storm coming. Nearest landing was .25 mile distant.

The gusts knocked me over and I used my strong-side screw roll, came up and was back over in a couple of seconds. I was beam to the wind and being blown even while upside down. Tried a layback thinking it would be better in the wind, but my layback was not good enough to do the job. Finally got up on my strong-side with another screw roll but it certainly taught me a lesson. I was tired and wired. Got to shore and waited her out with no further issues. If I’d had a good weak-side roll, I could have rolled with the wind instead of fighting it.

We all learn to roll as a safety skill but spend most of our time rolling recreationally. Some wisely work their offside, I did not.

When I returned from that trip last year I spent the next several mornings working my weak side. I really had no excuse as I’m quite ambidexterous. Wasn’t hard to develop the offside, just needed to feel it every day for a week and practice it thereafter.

Good WW kayakers don’t have an offside. I don’t think long boaters should either.


Head games
Don’t fall into the onside/offside mental trap.

Down on either side, up on either side. Anything else is not logical.

Don’t settle for half a skill.

I doubt anyone’s roll is really that solid unless they have it on both sides. Both sides is a useful skill, one side more of a trick. Not something to rely on or settle for, but a great stepping stone to getting the otehr side.

It may not feel the same on both sides - but that doesn’t matter. Let it feel different, let it work.

Keep at it. Work that side as much as you have the other. Use onside ONLY to recover from failed offsides for a while. Since you can do this you have all you need to get the other side up to speed.

Not Important…
until you need it which can be anytime in more challenging conditions with wind and obstacles. I have had situations in white water and in high wind/waves where I had to switch sides because the other was impeded.

Right now, my somewhat iffy offside on my waveski seemed to have disappeared. Spent two hours working it yesterday back to iffy. Because I am only “iffy” on the offside, I never feel as confident going out on big wave days with my waveski as I do with my kayaks. It’s mental but based on reality 'cause I have had days in my kayaks where 25 knots plus opposing winds would wreak havoc on the onside roll but make the roll on the other side a “breeze.”

Anyway, here is a mental obstacle in practice. Most folks like to do what they are good at. In this case, it’s the onside. Don’t get into the mental trap of seeking just the positive reinforcement of the onside. Dedicate and make yourself go for first for the offside on any rolling practice (early on this approach resulted in my offside become the onside). If you blow that, you can comes back to the onside. Thus, the onside gets practiced anyway as you practice the offside. Since you are using a GP, it may also helped to just do some offside extended GP sculling with a spotter. That will cover most of what you would do anyway on an offside gp roll.


Desireable for all
but less important for a sea kayak tourer than a sea kayaker gyjmnast, wave player surfer.

Notice that in the long run it’s still important.

Obviously for white water totally necessary.

Work and get it. Anything from spinal misalignment, or weaker abs on one side can make it more than a head game.

That’s fine, recreaction can be a journey towards healing of the body can’t it. Step to the next level.

Offside roll?
You actually answered you own question. You were able to get to your favorite (on-side) roll no matter how you entered the water. Most paddlers will successfully use their on-side roll for everything. Keep practicing the off side. However it will take quite a while for it to be automatic like your on side. For 99% of sea kayaking your on-side will be fine. If you’re a white water paddler or always in the surf zone, you will find that having both sides in good shape are needed. But you don’t go into that type of paddling unless all your skills are good for the task like your off side bracing too. Try tying your shoe with your other hands. It may never get as smooth as your favorite side unless you practice constantly- do you want to do that? One good solid roll is 500% better than two marginal ones.

offside used?
A year or so ago, Jay Babina argued that he doubted many people would actually use offside roll in a real situation–so getting one side bombproof was probably better than both sides so-so.

I think I need a spotter–I learned my onside roll with a spotter, and right now I’m at the same point on my offside roll. I can scull back up from almost upside down, but once I get all the way upsidedown, it falls apart.