layback rolls

I fall back on a layback roll as a last resort/reliable technique for me. I confess I’ve never had to get back up in dumping surf but can use the layback to get up in 2’-3’ breaking waves. I hear often (and agree) that the layback is easiest to learn. Any thoughts on the disadvantages of the layback in conditions when you really need a roll?

Layback roll
Layback rolls are handy because they are easier to learn and don’t require the gymnasics needed in the C to C roll. The white-water people don’t tend to like them due to the fact that it leaves the head /face unprotected from rocks. In the C/C (or other forward facing rolls), the helmeted head is better protected.In addition, the C/C roll leaves you in a good position to continue paddling, while the layback roll requires you to sit up again to get in position.

As a sea kayaker, protecting my head isn’t an issue. and the layback rolls work just fine.


– Last Updated: May-14-07 4:00 PM EST –

from what lies beneath the surface is probably the biggest issue. Being top-heavy, I have also found that being "layed back" is a very unstable position for me. I prefer to be able to immediately be upright to get in a paddle stroke or low brace vs. the extra second of instability I would have recovering from the layed-back position.

I like to practice in a local shore break where there is sometimes good challenging conditions to learn from. I've pearled the bow and had it hit bottom, as has my helmeted head.
While I like to practice and play with a nice slow lay-back roll, in conditions I find a storm roll to be much faster and offer better protection.

it’s nice to be in a position
to apply power or bracing when coming up

the myth of the protected head
I agree it is important to protect your head. Which is better protected? Getting up 100% of the time, or getting up 75% of the time and re-exposing your head to rocks.

No matter what type of roll you use your head is equally exposed to rocks, unless you fail.

Look at Eric Jackson’s DVD. He promotes the head back position and he’s a whitewater guy. Has good teeth; nice straight nose; speech isn’t slurred; and he has his kids roll that way.

Yeah but…
…the sickly phrase “face plant” is heard often enough amongst ww paddlers to make you wonder if EJ might be wearing dentures.

I Thought of That
He might have gotten a nose job as well.

face plants…
happen protected or not

don’t understand the protection thing
When I do a layback roll, I have my face toward the surface through the whole roll. Start tucked forward facing up, end up laying back facing up. So where’s the risk to my face?

I suppose if you go back over you may end up face down. That’s probably a good reason to learn a reverse sweep roll. But the main thing is to get back upright.

layback with low brace recovery
A layback is often combined with a low brace on recovery for additional stability. You may want to watch the video clip for the “Greenland standard roll” (layback roll) on the Qajaq USA videoclip page at .

The “storm roll” (a forward leaning, low-brace roll) is great for storm and surfing conditions. That said, the layback roll is my bread-and-butter roll for most sea kayaking situations.

The layback can be done with very little energy, yet is so powerful that we often demonstrate it while having someone hold on to the bow and stern of the kayak.

Greg Stamer

The only disadvantage is

– Last Updated: May-15-07 8:27 AM EST –

the one second that it takes to get upright and back into your paddling position. There's a few white water videos around where the paddlers use the lay-back style of rolling.

I have never seen anyone in danger in a video or live where any style of rollup made a difference. The old saying is: the best roll is the one that works. It's good to practice many styles. Sometimes you may capsize and catch yourself with a high brace and if you have a real hip-snap, you can pop yourself right back up. I think when WW paddlers learn the C to C, it can lead to quicker high brace recoveries because the hip snap technique is incorporated into that style of roll.