Howdy all, can you answer this for me?

My husband and I have been paddeling mostly whitewater for 2 years now. We’ve learned all of our skills in Inflatable Kayaks, but have just purchased hard kayaks and are enrolled in classes. (Today was our first class actually.) Anyhow, while reading the post on “When is an emergency an emergency” I realise that it is mostly speaking of open water. Anyhow my question is this, and I realise that it may sound ignorant, but since I have not yet rolled (next week I tackle that) I have no way of knowing the answer. I read of rolls failing, and having to wet exit. I can understand that as being an obvious possibility in whitewater due to a pin or shallow water or something, but in open water what is it that could cause a person to not to be able to roll and have to make a wet exit? In my mind, which is obviously unclear on this issue, other than sheer exaustion from numerous attempts due to enormous waves, I just cant see why a person could not do what he knows how to do (roll.) Please forgive my ignorance and enlighten me, I just want to learn :slight_smile:

Waves, wind, illness, injury, panic,
equipment failure…many different things could cause a roll attempt to fail, so the important thing is to be prepared IN CASE.

You never know about those unknown unknowns.

Not rolling when you know how to roll
There are a lot people that will tell you they have a 100 % reliable roll. Even they themselves will tell you they have wet exited for one reason or another. An injury, a sickness, exhaustion, lost paddle, bad timing in consecutive capsizes, ect. There are a lot of stories about people that say they have a bomb proof roll that still end up outside the boat.

Failed rolls.
First of all, from my observations, the vast majority of sea kayakers do not know how to roll. Many of those have never tried. Others may have rolled at some point in the past but have not maintained a reliable roll through practice. And finally, it’s difficult to simulate in practice the chaotic conditions, the degree of suprise, and the lack of physical and mental preparedness that are likely present when a real roll is needed.

I have a goal of practiciing my roll every time I paddle (during the warmer months, at least) and roll pretty reliably. Will I be able to roll for real when I need it? Time will tell.

Thanks a bunch…
Definately informative. I am clueless about sea kayaking and open water kayaking and after thinking about it I can see how many of those kayakers may never or rarely have to call on rolling. In the whitewater world though, it’s pretty standard that a person should have a good roll and continue to practice it often still keeping in mind the possibility if not certainty that they will at some point fail and have to wet exit. It seems to me though that the same thinking SHOULD apply to any type of kayaking. I would be more frightened to wet exit on open water far from shore than in a river. Just my thoughts. Thanks again.

Eric Jackson says:
“It is better to die in your boat than to swim.” :slight_smile: Obviously that is a joke but the point is that swimming in WW is dangerous. So a bombproof roll is a great asset if you are river running and many of the same things that cause you to miss your roll in open water would cause you to do the same in WW.

Today i was surfing in the middle of
this class 3 rapid and fell over in my kayak and hit my head against a submerged rock, the big instinct is to wet exit as not to hit your head again. It is necessary to fight that insticnt and do as i did and hang in there and roll.

Out in the ocean while surf kayking is when i get most concerned about successfull rolling because the shore is just so far away and in no way do i want to swim. It is then that i do my worst practice rolls. Sure it is flat water between the swells but i stiffen up and do everything wrong in my practice roll.

Lastly in cold water rolls the body immediatly wants out and everything i have learned goes to hell in a hand basket which results is the head coming up first and resubmerging. As a result sometimes in cold water it takes a couple of attempts to make that successful roll. Instead of making that second attempt it is sometimes inviting to just say to yourself, “i am outta here”. Part of the trick is to hang in there, relax, think of the error and do it right.

Even while sea kayaking…
a big wave can be enough to suck you right out of the boat. These same waves can knock you over again & again as you try to roll up. Once you get tired, your technique can quickly go away. A poor roll attempt can also result in a broken paddle, and bigger trouble.

Tom Berg says:
There are kayakers who have swum and those who will.

you have the reasons. Wait till you’ve been rolling for a few years then come back and tell us why your last failure occurred. Mine was because I was moving about 15 mph with big rocks of bemo ledge flying by about 3 feet from my head. Got me scared.

Again, thanks…
More excellent insights and observations. Nobody WANTS to swim whitewater (sept those crazy riverboarders) but I would still prefer to swim a river than be out of my boat far from shore in open water.

Lack of air
Just wait until your lesson, then you’ll understand.

All of my unscheduled tipping over is in the surf zone at the most unoportune time, getting hit by waves or pearling at high speed literally knocks the wind out of you, knocks your paddle from your grip and as you and your boat are doing swirleys you get completely disoriented, even if big waves aren’t pounding you finding your self suddenly upside down without air with cold water in your sinuses and ears sort of erases a lot of your training and practice.

Glad I asked this question…
You have given me and I am sure others good food for thought. I certainly wont be taking my hard kayak in any WW anytime soon. I especially appreciate the observations above about the instinct to want out rather than to hang in there. Our instructor today told us some guy took his class then took his boat out in WW without a helmet and I think he hit his head and had a long swim. Geez.

The last time I missed my roll
Was in surf. I didn’t set up when I went over hard. My paddle was in a funky position (and it’s a funky paddle too and one I don’t use very often). I came up into a balance brace position and went to take a breath so I had time to get my head straight (and paddle). Just then a wave broke on top of me and I sucked in water. My thought was that a swim wasn’t life threatening but breathing water was, so I popped right out. In fact though there wasn’t much thought in it. Sucking in cold water has a way of inducing panic. Being a hang glider pilot/instructor I don’t panic for just anything but that’s a good way.

I’ve had 4-5 other capsizes in surf or goofiness and barely even got wet before rolling up. I even came out of my boat in surf and got back into my boat under water and rolled up before coming up for air.

I definetly need more unplanned capsizes so I can get really good at it. From a pool standpoint it seems as though you’ll never miss a roll after you get it but if you push yourself it will happen sometime, you just need to be ready for it.

excellent question

– Last Updated: Mar-14-05 4:18 PM EST –

and maybe naively an excellent point.

My thoughts on this are:

Sea kayakers are for the most part, a lazy bunch when it comes to skills. And while open water has it's hazards, most "sea kayakers" from my experience aren't really sea kayakers, they are lagoon paddlers with $3000 sea kayaks. The "sea kayakers" may have a roll even, but chances are they would never go out intentionally in conditions where they would actually have to roll. As a result if they ever do get out in conditions that are rough, their flat water skills, or lagoon skills are never tested, so they fail. Or worse
these skills are totally absent.

On the reverse side, white water paddlers develop these skills with the full intent on using them every single time they go out. One doesn't learn how to roll because of an unforseen capsize at some hazy time in the future. The paddler learns to roll because the next time down the river you will most likely capsize more than once. Rolling is easier than swimming.

My experience with sea kayakers may be somewhat tilted, but the majority of them are over forty white males, slightly out of shape who have more money than sense. They buy a $3000 kayak, learn to go forward, buy a greenland paddle, and then never go out in any situation where they would need to roll.

So really the question of when is danger danger? Well that's pretty relative. If you are accustomed to rough water and have the skills and experience to deal with the situation, danger is different for this person, than it is for the lagoon sea kayaker with the $3000 kayak, greenland paddle, and lagoon skills.

I am thoroughly insulted by your comment
I’ll have you know that my SEA KAYAK cost MUCH more than just 3000 dollars.


A lagoon AND LAKE paddler

I’m glad to see
your sense of humor is intact

Kwikle - sour grapes…
I say that anyone willing to shell out any $$ to go out and paddle anything larger than a puddle is to be commended for doing so. They could just stay home, flip channels while they eat chips, or even just surf kayaker websites to make one sided comments.

Sorry, but those who give one sided opinions regarding sea kayakers abilities or motiviations for paddling must be suffering from “white male over 40” blinders or are just too busy sucking up beer after they ran their last level 2 rapid and congratulated themselves on being real paddler. Good for him.

I will keep paddling my expensive boat in whatever conditions I warrant to be challenging, yet not foolhardy regardless of my not impressing the “real paddlers”. If staying home and working on my next boat instead of braving force 7 gales with 15-20 foot waves is being a flatwater paddler, then so be it. I will leave running risks for no reason to the “real paddler”. I will read about you in the news.

How would you diferentiate?
It’s always a bit touchy to try and descibe the differences between people who own sea kayaks, those who may venture out on the ocean in calm conditions and those that enjoy the stuff of small craft advisories.

Keith voiced an opinion that, while a bit direct, was not without it’s realistic points. Remember that his response was directed at a WW paddler (please re-read the initial question).

There are people that own sea kayaks that cannot handle them in moderate conditions. Many sea kayak owners cannot roll. Many are middle-aged and in less than great shape. These are facts not opinion.

There are also sea kayak owners that go out in conditions more closely resembling WW on the ocean. How would you describe the difference between these two groups?




– Last Updated: Mar-14-05 11:15 AM EST –

"My experience with sea kayakers may be somewhat tilted"

Crossing over from whitewater to sea kayaking a year ago, I must say that obserrvation is quite accurate. (except the white male over 40 part, there're plenty of female seakayakers who lack the skill too, but maybe they have more sense than to waste their life like their male counterpart)

That comes from a different expectation of the two kind of kayaking. Whitewater kayakers mostly enjoy the rush, the danger, and thus the learning of skills required. It's all part of the fun, not a chore. Seakayakers, flat water or ocean alike, are out there mostly for the scenary and solitude. So skills are thought of as something they "have to" learn rather than something they "love to" learn for the fun of it.

So typically, when a seakayaker learned the roll, they thought they got it and can forget about it. They may even pratice it a few times in flat water. But that's ususally the extent of it. While most whitewater kayakers love to perfect it just for the heck of it. Not to mention they're forced to pratice it every time they're in the river.

There're rock garden player and surf kayakers who love the skill developement for the fun of it. But they're not your typical "seakayaker" we think about. They're more like whitewater kayakers in the sea.

To me, a former whitewater kayaker, the rushing river and the rocks were just the excuse. The real reason for going down it is to show off my fancy moves. In other words, the river is just the theatre. I am the performer. There lies the difference.

Whitewater kayaker in the sea
"There are also sea kayak owners that go out in conditions more closely resembling WW on the ocean. How would you describe the difference between these two groups?"

They’re whitewater kayakers who happen to live by the sea.

I see a lot of them in SF bay. The rivers are a couple hours away, the ocean out the front door. If you’re a accomplished kayaker who enjoy the rush of riding the wave, it makes a lot more sense to enjoy the rock garden and surf near home than to haul all your all the way up the Sierra and sleep in a tent etc.

See my post above.