How many sea kayakers roll?

“enabling” psychobabble

– Last Updated: May-14-06 10:35 PM EST –

Don’t logically argue. Just go for the ad hominem attack. You're either with us, or belong in a 12 step program.

My position: Rolling is good, and should be a goal of anyone who would be a sea kayaker, but you can go to sea without it. You need to have boat handling skills, dress for immersion, check the weather, know the current, tides, and environment, have some navigation skills, and to have competent partners, and be conservative in decision making. A sea kayaker develops skills as a prudent mariner. Somebody who is motivated enough to have these accomplishments will soon learn to roll.

Evan, I like your attitude, but I have not evolved as a rolling instructor yet. I love facilitating skills sessions, and am grateful to those who have helped me.

We’re the enemy???
Now I’m confused. I thought it was the terrists.

Define Sea Kayaker
Normally I hear whitewater vs sea kayaker. I don’t do whitewater - I just paddle on lakes. I don’t know that I am considered a “sea kayer” due to my Pungo being a recreational kayak, but I don’t think I could ever roll the Pungo because of the cockpit size - 54 inches long. Unless I can hang on by my toes, I don’t think there is a spayskirt that can contain me. Should I be concerned with trying to learn rolling? The outfitter that I purchased my kayak from said that I probably couldn’t roll it if I tried. If I’m not a sea kayaker, is there a name for me? (be nice).


How about kayaker?
I don’t think most seakayaks see the Sea.

Seeing the sea

– Last Updated: May-14-06 3:16 PM EST –

Gosh, the fog must get thick where you are. Here on the coast of Maine, we sometimes get fog so thick you can't see the bow of your boat. But I'm not sure I'd even go out if I wasn't able to "see the sea" right beside my cockpit.

I Went Out Once…
into Boston Harbor early on, without any skills. My gut told me it was wrong. I spent the fall into the Spring, learning self rescues and rolling before headed back out again. My the following summer, I was comfortable paddling the inner harbor alone.

Following a lot of surfing practice on small waves where I didn’t bail, I felt much more confident going out beyond the inner harbor. At this point, I don’t see many situations while doing touring that I would feel like I would go over. If I did it’s no biggie since I have yet to encounter the same forces out in open water like I do in surf and white water that would blow my roll.

Is talking about rolling “elitist?” Dunno… My personal opinion is that going into conditions that could force a capsize, without rolling skills, does ratchet up the danger level, especially in the normally chilly to cold waters of New England. So, would that be “stupid?” I guess folks can rely on their guides, trip leaders and partners… Personally, that’s not my inclination.


Guess I am an elitist.

I still teach from time to time
for the fun of it. When helping a new kayaker the first thing I teach them is how to get out of the boat, back in etc. Right away, before anything else. The second thing I teach them is the roll! This does a few things. 1. Gets them realizing that kayaking is a water sport, and being upside down is part of it. 2. They quickly learn to roll before being indoctrinated with all the mystique…It’s just assumed that they will learn this base skill…and they do. 3. It allows them greater range in learning edging, bracing etc. 4. They become more confident when they realize they are doing in day one what the majority can’t, or won’t, and this accelerates their learning.

My experience is simply that the longer they paddle without a roll, the harder it will be to teach them, so nail it right away. It is an easy skill, and a foundational skill. We make it hard with all the nonsense.

Once a person is rolling, regardless of the type of roll…really matters not, as long as it’s a “safe” roll biomechanically, I have them do 1000 rolls in the next month. Let me tell ya, these folks HAVE a roll after that. Forget the pools I say and get in the real world, unless it’s frozen. Better to have one crazy good reliable roll than 10 different rolls, although those who practice all the fun rolls tend to have a great roll due to excellent comfort when inverted!

Certainly one can paddle without rolling, and have a lot of fun in safety. Rolling just opens the door to more paddling options. So the argument for not rolling, when it’s such an easy thing, is beyond me.

If a person has a phobia, some weird medical condition etc., perhaps they need to take another approach to the sport that allows for their genuine limits.

However one enjoys the water is great. Roll or not, just don’t hype yourself or others out of learning.

It is easy to get lost in categories, and forget the importance of skills in relationship to comfort and fun. A few years ago, I went to Newfoundland with a very shaky roll, and had much less fun and a lower margin of safety that I would have today with a confident combat roll. My buds were very kind, and kept an eye on me, but I didn’t like that I put them and myself at risk. Compare then to now: I took a surf class a couple of weeks ago and capsized a bunch of times pushing my limits, always rolling up mostly onside and occassionally offside. The instructors were worried until they saw that I wasn’t–the rest of the class played it safe and stayed upright or wet exited. I think I had more fun. A few days ago on a club paddle I was hot so I rolled to cool off a few times, while others (including some who can roll, but not confidently) complained about the heat. Completely unnecessary. Not that I’m all that good at it, but I like working on the GP roll progression because I know I don’t have to worry about coming out of the boat. The ability to roll makes a huge difference in how much fun it is to push the boundaries of my competance and so to learn new and fun stuff. Sure, it’s a safety issue, but for many folks who wouldn’t necessarily seek out the surf zone or find themselves in dumping conditions rolling is one of those skills that opens the door to lots of other things that are part of the experience of having fun in a sea kayak. Did I mention that rolling is fun all by itself?

It is generally encouraged…
“It is generally encouraged, or even assumed to some extent.” - Greyak

That is my sense.

Why I asked
I started this thread because it is a question I am often asked. People see kayaks on top of my car and ask me about them. Some of the most common questions are about rolling. Most often: “Can you roll?,” “Do you have to be able to roll?,” and “Do most sea kayakers roll?”

My answers usually are “Yes,” “It is safer to be able to roll,” and “A lot do.”

I’m hoping for some fresh obsevations to use in my replies.

Rolling was slow coming for me. By the time I could roll, I had worked a lot on braces and sculling, in addition to other rescue techniques.

Evans’ approach makes sense to me and works.

There are an infinite array of skills of which rolling is one. I agree it is a very important skill, but it is not an isolated one.

top 10%
From reading this it looks like I am in the top 10%

I paddle in surf where bracing and support strokes WILL NOT work if you make a mistake. Rolling in big waves is very easy because of the energy of the wave. I love it! The wave just rolls you back up. Before I learned to roll in real conditions I enjoyed kayaking. After I learned to roll in real conditions I LOVE KAYAKING!!! Everyone should learn this very valuable skill. It will open a whole new world. Unless you enjoy boring flat water.

new perspective
I used to have a more purist ideal of what this meant. But I guess it has become a bit broader based on some other observations about other aspects of my personality and the personality of others.

It all depends on how “into” kayaking you want to get. You can be really into kayaking and not roll I think. You can be really into going out and seeing wildlife, the sea, lakes, rivers, and creeks and not care one jot about rolling.

Or you can get really into the specifics about the mechanics of kayaking, sculling, draws, rudders, sweeps, rolls, and so on.

I am really the same about kayaking as I am with everything I do, I tend to get drawn in, and let things get pretty out of control. Whether it’s running, biking, kayaking, or camping.

I want to know about all the mechanics, the intricacies, and be self-suffficient. It’s just how I am. I want to see how far I can push myself out of a sense of pride. If I see someone else able to do something I can’t. I ask myself why I can’t do it. And I work towards it until I can do it. This doesn’t apply to just rolling, it applies to all of kayaking. If I see someone else able to ferry glide, or surf a wave I can’t, I want to know why.

Maybe other people I paddle with are exactly the same, I don’t know. But it’s helped me become a better paddler, certainly not world class. But I stand apart from your average couch potatoe. I probably spend the same amount of time on my feet, in the saddle, or on the water as most americans spend watching tv.

So I guess my question back to the poster is wisolj?, how many obsessive compulsive, competitive, skill oriented paddlers do you know?

I know 4-5 off hand, and alex from here seems about the same. But I think that is the real question.

how many obsessive compulsive…
"…how many obsessive compulsive, competitive, skill oriented paddlers do you know?"

Well, some are more obsessive than others. My wife and I appear obsessive about skills compared to many we know. However, I know a few more obsessed than we and some, while invested in skills, less obsessive.

I tend to not be competitive. I like being with people more skilled than me, I learn so much. I know a couple of paddlers who have been at it much longer than I who can convey a world of useful skills and information.

This is a very deep, nuanced and complex endeavor. I hope to still be enthused and learning couple of decades from now…

How “into” kayaking do you want to get
Yeah, that sums it up. I started out paddling a rec. boat on local lakes for 1-2 years. Then I bought a whitewater boat and took a roll class before I ever put that boat on a river. Six months later I bought my first sea kayak which was easier to roll than the WW boat.

I MUST be able to paddle anywhere at anytime. This includes lakes, slow rivers, fast rivers, bay and ocean. Wind and waves are a LOT of fun when you have “roll confidence.” I’d imagine that if I didn’t have a roll, I would just stay home sometimes, and that’s just not an option.

Oh please …
“I hope to still be enthused and learning couple of decades from now…”

I’ll bet you’ll either be a crotchety old man by then or will have just completed the design, testing and introduction of the fourth sea kayak in the Wilsoj Kajaks line, a hyper injected blow fused platinum/carbon/kryptonite boat for smaller paddlers, especially for women. It will be called the Celia, will weight 8 lbs., and will be able to survive a drop from the international space station through the earth’s atmosphere vitrually unscathed. It will land in the Hudson River and immediately disolve due to a spill of molecular acid that chemically reacted with the contamination caused by all of the kayakers who used 303 aerospace protectant on their boats over the past two decades. It will list for about 6 billion yen (our new currency), but in today’s dollars that would equate to $24.95. The downside is that it’s VCP hatches leak and account for 5 of the 8 lbs. total weight.

nuanced, but deep depends on the person
i agree it really is something you can spend a lot of time getting into.

The trick is knowing when it interferes with the rest of your life!

who you calling obsessive compulsive?..
:slight_smile: I can quit anytime I want dammit! Just because I still can’t straitjacket roll after trying for a year doesn’t mean I’m developing some sort of inferiority complex… err… yet. Honestly I’d quit kayaking if there were no more mountains to climb. Luckily for me the mountains are infinite.

As for rolling, it’s just damn fun and it goes hand in hand with one of my favorite past times… breathing.

A kayak company actually superplastic formed two Titanium surf kayaks! They’d withstand much of what you list (fire, chemicals, etc.)!! Unbelievably crazy strong, but you’ll never see em… NOT marketable. How could you sell a Ti kayak to people that think Diolene is cool???

You can only innovate at the pace that your market will accept…In Sea Kayaking, that’s pretty damn slow!

Irrelevant, seriously
Any time wasted on debating “elitist” or not is pointless. Those who complain about that are doing so to sidetrack the discussions to feelings instead of facts.

Bottom line: We as a community are remiss if we don’t encourage rolling and promote it as a basic skill for sea kayaking. “Don’t want to” and “don’t need to” are short sighted and basically illogical viewpoints.

If 90% can’t, this should not be used as evidence against learning. It should be a wake up call. A paddler not learning is one thing. People can do what they want. A paddler discouraging others be downplaying the usefulness it quite another. That I will get worked up about on a public forum. Many more read than post.

At what point along that continuum?
I ask, as I would not put rolling on a timeline - or use it as setting any acheivement level. Doing so could give some the impression it is something for “later”. Putting it on a continuum starts setting it up like gettting in and padlding = level 1. Wet exit = level 2. Paddle float rescue = 3 star. Yuck.

Develop multple options, as soon as you can. Simple.