How to Roll a Flat Bottom Kayak

-- Last Updated: Jun-21-15 10:05 PM EST --

I recently got a flat bottom Riot Glide Kayak. It's meant for WW, but I can't roll it for the life of me. Any tips, especially due to the hull design?

...also, I was wondering how this kayak would fare in the ocean? I am going to the jersey shore next weekend and was thinking of bringing it.


I am not sure if you can scull because that is the very thing that allowed me to learn to roll anything. Really.

Before sculling my rolls were marginal and only on a good day with an easy kayak.

Now I can roll with a sail deployed:

Try This
Come up with your head way, way back. Also get your knee/thigh very involved in righting the boat. (not your hip).

You can do it.

What do you mean? In what way should I involve my legs?

ok, thanks
I’ll try that.

How is your outfitting?
The Riot Glide is an early “planing hull” kayak but it is not unusual in that most whitewater playboats have a flattish or flat bottom these days. C1s are often even flatter and wider and can be rolled.

Back in the later 1990s when this boat was designed, whitewater kayaks did not have the type of adjustable outfitting you see today. To get a good fit in the boat generally required padding out the sidewalls with minicell hip pads and then shaping them to fit. The underside of the deck and/or the knee hooks often also required padding.

Planing hull kayaks with a sharp chine can be harder to roll than longer, more rounded sea kayaks. You won’t see many whitewater kayakers using a slow Greenlandic or sculling type roll to get these boats upright. That is partly because in a rapid they want to get their heads up as quickly as practical, but also that this type of kayak often requires a more explosive type of roll to “get it over the edge”.

Not knowing what type of roll you are attempting it is hard to offer concrete advice, but in order to translate the motion of your lower body to the boat you will need to be fairly tight in the cockpit. A C-to-C roll can sometimes be difficult in a planing hull kayak with a sharp chine because it is hard to wrap your non-sweeping hand and arm around the hull before commencing the snap. A sweep roll might work better since the hull has already rolled partially upright by the time you have swept your blade out to 90 degrees.

When I lived in NE Pennsylvania I took a sit-in whitewater kayak to the Jersey shore a number of times to surf the beach break. Although I had a good time, I concluded that a SOT kayak was much better suited for this purpose. The waves tend to break at the shallows created by sandbars and if you capsize there it can be very difficult to set up to roll because of the relatively shallow water and you can get worked pretty good before you can wet exit. The result is a boat full of sand. But it is a lot of fun if you stay upright.

Rolled other boats?
I just checked to see if you have posted about other topics. I don’t see your name showing up in the last 6 months anyway.

So it would help to know if you have rolled other boats and what they were. As above, this is a pretty flat hull and things are a bit different than for a sea kayak in how it moves. But if you haven’t rolled a touring kayak, comparing the two is not going to be very helpful.

Thank you. I just got it. I am a noob when it comes to kayaking. I want to go down Tohickon creek in Bucks County, but want to learn to roll before that. So what I’m getting in terms of recommendations is to do a sweep roll using the sully technique. I’ve just been trying the Eskimo roll, but that hasn’t been working.

Legs drive the roll
If you were sitting in a swivel chair and wanted to rotate without your feet touching the floor, you might brace a hand against a file cabinet or desk and use your lower body to turn the chair. The roll is similar, with the paddle blade providing the bracing and the lower body rotating the boat. The knee/thigh on the paddle side drives against the underside of the boat deck. The flat aspect of the bottom has little to do with difficulty since it doesn’t engage until the end of the roll. It’s more the design of the deck and the sides, although I would contend that isn’t much of a factor. Yours is a slab-sided kayak and might tend to hang at the 90-degree point, making it more critical that you execute a full and continuous body rotation.

This is the first I’ve had
I probably should have got something for a beginner but I got it at a good price. So, I haven’t rolled anything before. Again, I’ve tried the Eskimo roll but that hasn’t been working. After work I’ll try the sweep roll while scullying. Do you think that would work?

OK - starting from total scratch…

– Last Updated: Jun-22-15 9:05 AM EST –

By the way, it is sculling as in the same term used for rowing.

Learning to scull well requires good paddle sense. It is a great basis for learning a roll. But if you just got the boat it is unlikely you have that yet.

That said, if you spend time getting it you will gain basic boat control which is always good.

The "Eskimo roll" is not a useful term. It usually means a roll that is 360 rather than 180, but other than that it does not define anything about the actual mechanism of getting the boat and you back upright.

The most common roll type in the original era of that boat was the C-to-C. It was the basic whitewater roll for many years.

The alternative that has developed since and is easier for most people to get is the sweep roll. Learning to scull will get you to a roll, one that is pretty much the sweep roll. That is because there isn't much diff between a sweep roll and coming up in a single sculling stroke. In fact that is how I got my left side roll. Which I have to go do again but I know how so it is just the time.

You should not be taking this or any boat into the surf until you have that down. You have to be able to put the boat on an edge in waves to avoid getting smashed around. I agree with the above, if you plan to do that get your hands on a SOT that you can more safely fall off of. Just don't get between it and the shore when you do so, and don't do it where there are any swimmers that could be hurt by a 50 pound projectile.

You may be able to work from a book or video and get a roll, some can. Many can't and there is nothing wrong with that. It requires extremely good kinesthetic sense to figure out where all the body parts are when first learning a roll, and not everyone has that any more than not everyone is a good singer. So consider lessons, and if you are going to do that do it soon. It can be really tough to unlearn all the bad habits you can get from unsuccessful rolling.

There are a bunch of videos and books and evryone has a favorite. One of the folks whose work a lot of people like is Ken Whiting, and he has done book and video. Eric Jackson has stuff out that people like. A good little reference to add to the basics is a book called "The Bombproof Roll". It includes a lot of info on what the paddler is doing wrong based on how a roll fails.

I first learned a roll in a planing hull WW boat. So you can do it. Personally it took the sweep roll to get me started but once you get upright they all become a bit easier.

But once you learn a roll in controlled conditions doesn’t mean you’ve got it down for real conditions. Practice in gradually less controlled conditions until you’re comfortable. Once you get your first roll in a real situation (and keep practicing), you’re all set. It’s a progression of steps.

Tohican Creek
This is actually a well described river by the American Whitewater folks. Here’s what they say about the stretch that you are most likely considering.

Note that it talks about the class 3 parts as a good stretch for novices. In WW terms that usually means that you have learned some basic boat control and have demonstrated the ability to capsize and wet exit without panicking. The latter because capsizing is a normal result of learning boat control.

It also means you have figured out the basics of managing a boat in moving water, like mooning the current and getting into eddies.

A roll is definitely a solid asset in moving water, but knowing how to avoid one is as important. If you are asking how to use knees and legs in a roll it is unlikely you know how to manage a boat edge in moving water. Given your goal, you would be way ahead finding an outfitter that could get you going correctly in a whitewater class.

River Description

Typically releases are scheduled for March & November.

Hope to see you there!

The Tohickon is a jewel to us locals. It offers some great play, scheduled releases, and lots of activity after heavy rains. It is a good Class III run that can be viewed as a stepping stone for novice and intermediates or as a fun play creek for intermediate and advanced paddlers. There is a fun play hole that serves up some great surfing and verticality to those that are patient. There are at least six challenging rapids in this 3 mile stretch that will keep anyones attention.

Scheduled two day releases are generally the last weekend in March and the first weekend in November.

It isn’t the shape of the bottom that
makes certain kayaks hard to roll. It’s the shape of the top and the sides.

What kayaks can you roll? The Riot should roll with C2C and a strong hip snap, and also with a sweep roll.

I have an extremely hard-to-roll Noah Magma, but I learned to roll kayak in that boat. Strong technique is your best answer. The Riot has helped you by showing you where you need to improve.

First time in a boat
OPer has not had a kayak before, and never rolled one. This is about the foundations of how to roll, not about how to roll this boat.

wet skirt
Thanks for the info. I’ll have to look up those pointers of basics needed for WW you mentioned.

I was thinking… my wet skirt is actually sort of ripped… it was a small so I split it so I could fit. Now in plan on fixing it for my size (I need a large), and I think that could be a problem? I cant really snap my hip if I am not fully attached. Right?

Get lessons - no relationship
Skirt has nothing whatsoever to do with a hip snap. You must still not understand how you are supposed to fit into the boat.

A skirt does have a great deal to do with keeping enough water out of the kayak so you can maintain control of the boat is things like surf, which you want to take the boat into soon. Ripping a skirt to make it fit was silly, you might as well be without it.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-15 12:20 PM EST –

I took it down the seam I plan on widening it..
But anyhow, what kind of roll besides the c to c and sweep could work? That's what I have been doing and really struggling. I'm a pretty athletic guy and see people on YouTube doing it easily!

ok, checklist:

Spray skirt

drain plug


hip pads

foot pegs

NOW you’re ready.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-15 12:37 PM EST –

I have no hip pads.. do i need those?.. I was not even aware my kayak had foot pegs.