How to learn hand roll progressively after being able to roll with paddle

I need help to progress onto handroll. Any tools or any advice and how everyone progress onto handroll? Learning process?

Start with a really easy boat to roll, give yourself that confidence advantage. If you can borrow one of the super roll friendly old school WW boats it’d be worth trying. Pirouette era. I lost my left side roll over the last few years due to two family health issues in sequence that trashed my time for serious wet work. But in a boat that does not make life too difficult I have been able to recover my right side roll each season, and last I checked I can still hand roll my little Piedra on the right.

There are a couple of intermediate options to help. One thing sometimes recommended is to use an object on your hand that has a lot of flotation, like an inflated bag from the Roll Aid device. I happen to disagree with this advice. I think it is better to use a tool with maybe less flotation but one that was specifically developed for the purpose of developing a hand roll. It’ll make you rely on your body more, which is crucial for a hand roll. People don’t realize until the paddle is gone how much they may have been relying on it.

Here is something that the Inuits have used for a long time and still do. It is a Norsaq -

Or you can grab any old piece of wood. A GP is imperfect because you still want to be able to do a sweep for a hand roll, but not necessarily with something 5 ft long.

I have the same goal, and am watching this thread with interest.

Two things that immediately spring to mind that have been helpful to me:

  1. Learn a Greenland butterfly roll, and use progressively less buoyant paddles/objects for support while doing it. I have found that this is one roll where the boat I’m using has a big impact on my success rate, thus highlighting flaws in my technique.
  2. Practice with half of your Euro paddle. I actually think this is a valuable skill to have anyway. If you capsize and lose the paddle you’re holding, it would be great to be able to grab half a paddle from your deck and roll up with it. Because you lose the leverage of a whole paddle, it also accentuates other weaknesses.

I got very close in my Sirocco (sold now) but it rolled like a barrel. It’s hard to find someone to help with this, as it’s not a common skill even among people who can roll with a paddle.


Agree with what C posted.

Some other thoughts, Worse part of learning to roll is when you are not successful, having to come out of the boat, draining the boat and re-entering to restart. Obviously, if you have a good reliable paddle roll, then keep a paddle accessible in the deck lines, so when you blow your hand roll attempt you can grab the paddle and roll up with that. This minimizes PITA-ness of coming out, draining water and re-entering routine.

Whitewater boats, depending on hull shape, can be easier to learn hand roll. You are still going to flub initially. Problem with ww boats is the lack of deck lines to store a paddle or norsaq. So, I cheated and worked my way to a full handroll using this:

Made up initially for the less than ideal body mechanics needed for hand rolling.


I still have a pair of gloves somewhere with rubber webbing between the fingers that I used to use when learning to hand roll. These had enough flexibility that you were able to grab and hold a kayak paddle while wearing them. I don’t recall who made them, but they look very much like the paddle gloves shown in sing’s post.

Some whitewater kayakers use rigid hand paddles. These have a larger, firm surface area that would probably make hand rolling easier still. If you practice hand rolls with another kayaker, your buddy could offer you a bow rescue if your roll failed, which would make things a lot easier.

Whatever you use, I would not use something that required both hands to hold. Being able to swing your left hand and arm across the hull (if you are rolling up on the right side of the boat) can really assist your roll as you come up.

Ping Pong paddle is a good option too.

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I like that. I’m going to keep my eyes open for one at the thrift store…

Suppose I could just cut something out of a piece of plywood… but I’ll still keep watch. :slight_smile:

Another option is a paddle float. You just keep letting more and more air out of it till its empty…Then web gloves after that. Her is me from 2 years ago in pool. At end of video I have paddle float for hand roll.

You hit right on the points I’d bring up. Work on body rotation holding onto the side of a pool, or someone’s hand that’s standing right next to you, then try a norsaq. Then use the same body rotation as with the Norsaq bare-handed until you get it. Best in an old-style WW boat like you said.

I taught myself how to handroll that way in my Pirouette S and a norsaq in one pool session. YMMV