How important to have an offside roll?

-- Last Updated: Jul-29-05 2:12 PM EST --

I have mastered onside roll this spring/summer, starting with a pool class, and then working on my own. My onside roll doesn't fail, even in 3-5 foot waves on the Great Lakes. I struggle with underwater orientation on the offisde set-up/hip snap. I can get the offside only about once every 5 tries, and I usually have to switch back to the onside to get back up. How important is it to have both sides, if I will only be kayaking on open water in the Great Lakes? I won't be doing any whitewater. It seems that I could trust my ability to set up and snap up on the onside(my left), no matter which side I capsize towards. Derek Hutchinson states in his book that one side is OK for sea kayaking. Thoughts, anyone? ?

surf, wind, current.

all reasons to have a roll on both sides. If you learn to roll on both sides you will be in balance with your paddling. one side only and you are outta balance.

bracing, boat tilt (edging) and general comfort will be greatly improved with the addition of this basic skill.


offside also
helps if your onside would be rolling into a strong opposing current.


– Last Updated: Jul-30-05 7:01 AM EST –

I swam a couple of times when I was one-sided because I didn't capsize fully inverted(unburped dry top?), and so couldn't do my normal setup because I was stuck on my non-rolling side.

Try learning a different roll on your offside. I had a hard time trying to mirror my onside, and it was easier just to learn something different.

Good point
My onside is a brace roll but offside a sweep roll works better and I can’t say why,it just does.

if you got a solid onside roll, you’re pretty much up in 75% covered in most situations. Just keep working those offsides in your practice FIRST. Most folks will work their strength because of the positive, feel good feedback. But, if you want to get beyond “feel good”, work that off side conscientiously.

Personally, I worked my off side so much, it became my “on-side” in that I go right to that first even though my former onside is still solid.


"2 is better than 1"
I will continue to quote this “Little Caesar’s” pizza commercial as it contains great wisdom.

When first learning to roll, I had trouble with my “offside” because of blade orientation. I was doing the sweep without realizing that the angle on my feathered paddle was quite different on the left side compared to the right side. Once I straightened that out and started to sweep with a flat/slightly climbing angle on the blade, my offside became consistent and reliable.

IF you miss a roll…
on one side, you’re already set up to roll on the other side, and you have momentum to help. No matter how reliable a roll is, many things can go wrong. The water may be chaotic and unpredictable, you may get tired, your hands could slip and make the paddle dive, etc, etc.

two examples
Odd, I would almost say that havig a solid roll on both sides is more critical for sea boating than WW.

One reason is surf zone. You will broach and flip sometime (or multiple times) in sooner or later going in (and sometimes out) of the surf zone in a sea boat. If the wave does not pass,and you are side surfing upside down, you can only roll into the wave. Don’t plan on always flipping so that you can use your “on side”.

Second is wind. Depending on several factors- strength, boat volume/windage, but mostly wind speed, there is a point where you can only roll up with a set up upwind. Set up downwind, and it is likely that you get part way up, then the wind pushes you back down. Setting up upwind, the wind helps.

I think someone else mentioned it, but it is a good idea to practice both sides so that the very concept of an “off side” does not exist.


keep working on it
If you don’t have a roll on both sides you can get into trouble if you get flipped in a rip current or against an obstruction. When you get into one of these conditions you will understand quickly. Keep working on your offside roll, it will come quicker than you think. I enjoy the challenge of learning new rolls on my offside. In fact some of the greenland rolls are easier in my offside than my primary side.

with all respect to the father of modern
sea kayaking: derek hutchinson.

I would say being able to perform all skills on your offside is very important.

Plus it’s fun. It gives you something to work towards.

From being even moderately exposed to surf, (lake michigan), and minimally to whitewater. The offside is an essential skill there. For sea kayaking it comes up more often than one would think.

Such as when you raft up to get something out of the day hatch, you turn and overbalance while right next to your buddy, so when you go to setup there, you hit a kayak and can’t roll, so then you have to switch and then roll up on the other side.

Even while in rough water at sea sometimes you will fail on your onside because it is downwave. So switching to the oncoming wave side will allow you a better chance for success. and these are just two reasons off the top of my head. The big one though is that developing an offside will strengthen your onside roll. Knowing that if you fail your offside that you can switch and hit your onside roll is a big confidence builder in your rolling, and it is more realistic practice for a time in the future when you might actually HAVE TO ROLL.

I really suggest that any sea kayaker who hasn’t thought of doing white water should go give it a try. I’ve said before that white water crystalized all the liquid nodules of skills you develop. A white water paddler has to use all of their skills everytime they go downriver to stay upright and safe, unlike sea kayaking where you are training for some unlikely event in the future where you might in some “crazy circumstance” have to roll.

It’s funny when I was playing soccer in high school, college etc, no coach I ever had told me that I should only learn to perform a pass, shot, or dribble maneuver with only one foot. But somehow this bollocks passes for paddling.

Never missed offside roll in ww c-1,
and haven’t used it yet in ww kayak. Certainly nice to have, especially when playing in ww holes or when getting trashed in surf. But you can go for years and years without it.