Learning a C to C Roll

I’ve got an instructor who is working with me on learning the C-to-C roll. I’ve had one 90-minute session where we progressively worked on me rolling up from lower and lower positions, until I was rolling up from complete submersion with just a slight amount of instructor-supplied lift on my paddle at the start of the hip snap. (I hope that made sense.) I got a good sense of what needs to happen, timing, etc…

However, my instructor is now busy or out of town for a couple of weeks, and I want to work on this.

If I’m by myself (in, say, 4 feet of calm clear water, near shore) would it be a good idea to initially put my inflatable paddle float on my paddle, and practice the mechanics and motions of the C-to-C roll like that for a while, and then progressively release air from the float until I can do it without any air in the float?

My reasoning: I don’t want to go through the drill of initially trying the roll, probably/maybe not getting up and over (or working too hard since my technique isn’t refined), and then having to wet exit, start all over, and getting tired out too fast.

Is this a good temporary approach for a couple of sessions until I get the muscle memory and mechanics down?


The method you suggest is exactly how I got my first roll, prior to any instruction other than reading some books. Since you’ve already had some instruction, you probably already have a good headstart on most people (strong hip-snap, keep your head down, etc.).

Discovering this technique saved me countless time-consuming and tiring wet exits and re-entries, allowing me to concentrate on the actual rolling.

If you stick close to shore, as you gradually deflate your paddle float, you’ll be able to push off the lake bottom with your paddle to bring yourself upright, should you miss a roll.

You might also want to try a Short Pawlata Roll: left hand gripping the paddle shaft near the throat of the left blade, right hand near the center joint of the shaft. It’s esentially a C-to-C but with a longer reach with the right blade (assuming you’re rolling up from the right), hence greater leverage. As your roll gets stronger and more dependable, it’s a simple matter to begin migrating your hands back to the normal paddling position.

Good luck!

Add A Spotter
If you can in addition to the paddle float idea. I think the feedback of an instructor is a an important part of what they do. One issue with the paddlefloat and a spotter is that the spotter won’t see a blade orientation issue or if you are relying to heavily on the float to help you up. When an instructor holds the blade, he/she can feel the pressure and tell you if you are pulling to hard on the blade.

By the way, I’m no expert at this, but I’ve spent a lot of time trying.


that makes sense …
I’ve read and been told that I should not rely too much on the paddle to come up. I’m just looking for a way to practice this while I don’t have a spotter, and at the same time, not introduce bad habits into the mix. Good suggestion though - thanks…

Do not extend your paddle.
You are just asking for a shoulder problem. People who do a high brace and push their paddle away from their body often suffer the same result. There are people on this board who can testify to that from personal experience.

A spotter is a good idea even if they cannot give you feedback. They can certainly learn a hand-of-god rescue so you don’t have to wet exit. Bracing off the bottom is not a very good idea.

An alternative to using the paddle float, which can teach you paddle dependence, is to use a kick board. Try it intact first. If you can come up, cut off 1/4 of it. Keep doing that until you get to a size that is problematic. That is where you should practice (with a spotter, of course).

Other things you can do include repeated reverse sweeps. Do a reverse sweep on the right, then on the left, etc. Keep doing them until you get tired or your abs start to ache Be sure to rotate all the way to the rear to start and use rotation to do the sweep. You will be surprised how much stronger your abs get and how much stronger your hip snap becomes.

if it isn’t reliable, c to c
is hard to practice w/o a spotter in the water or via eskimo bow rescue as the timing is critical and it takes a lot of energy. I agree with previous comments, but would encourage you to learn to use the paddle float to right yourself sort of like handing on the the edge of the pool rather than using the paddle float to lever off of with the paddle. If you miss a roll, just grap the float and use it to get to the surface, then hip snap up. That way you’ll be able to avoid pulling on the paddle and developing bad habits. Ditto for the roll itself–DO NOT rely on the paddle float, but concentrate on the hip snap. Lastly, when I was learning, I learned the rentry and roll early and simply practiced rolling a boat full of water. It isn’t that hard, and it took away all of the stress of wet exiting, emptying, getting back in, … Good luck to you and have fun, John

kick board
You mean, use a kick board (or a piece of styrofoam or something like that) by holding it in one or both hands or under my forearm, and as such, focus on hip snapping and the rest of the body movements and focus less on the paddle pull thing. Correct?

So there’s a message coming through - the paddle float on the paddle can create bad habits or problems that I don’t want, and that I might want to come up with other ways of rolling up if my actual C-to-C roll fails (i.e. the kickboard thing, holding the inflated paddlefloat, etc.).

So, would you have the inflated paddlefloat attached to the front deck rigging, and if the roll fails, I just reach over, unhook it, move it over to the side, and right myself while still holding onto the paddle?

Overextending the arms …
… can indeed cause problems with shoulder dislocation, which is the beauty of the Pawlata roll: it does NOT rely on an extension of the arms. In fact, by adopting the proper hand position for the Pawlata, you are extending the paddle INSTEAD of your arms.

The arm movements are nearly identical to those of the conventional C-to-C roll; only the paddle is extended. In fact, the longer lever arm provided by the extended paddle actually REDUCES the required force, and is no less safe than greatly increasing the surface area of the blade, the principle behind attaching a half a kickboard to the blade.

This site describes the Pawlata, among other rolling techniques:


I personally utilized the Short variation of the Pawlata (not shown, but described in my previous post) because it is closer to the normal paddling position, so is easier to migrate back to the usual hand placement. Once mastered, it is fairly easy to begin working on the Screw and Sweep rolls, which are ultimately safer and probably easier anyway.

I’ll agree with others here who advocate a spotter, especially if it’s a paddling partner who’s at least equally knowledgeable and interested in rolling techniques, as they can observe and advise. Then take a break and switch roles. It’s the next best thing to an instructor.

I hold the kickboard …
…with both hands – fingers on top and thumbs underneath. I also do the setup and sweep part of the roll although that is optional. And yes you are correct that when you have a kickboard portion that you cannot use to get you up with flotation only you will learn not to rely on it (or the paddle). Also, if you keep going you will end up doing a hand roll.

Here’s What I Plan To Try
It requires working by a dock by myself with a few feet of rope hitched to the dock hanging in water. I sit next to the dock, rope hanging in the water next to me, place my paddle in the water next to my boat on the side opposite the dock. I enter the water on the dock side holding on to the rope loosely, and let go of the rope once upside down so it sits there as rescue device. I come up on teh side of the paddle grab the paddle, setup and sweep. If the roll fails, just grab the rope and pull yourself back up to dockside, take a breather, and repeat.

By the way, I’ve been trying the first roll video technique, but I find myself going for a bottom brace, and was told by an observer (who rolls) that I’ve got to start doing it with no possible support for the blade.

Good Luck,



– Last Updated: Aug-23-06 8:40 PM EST –

I would like to add to the good advice you have received here.

Concepts. One way to help guard against developing bad habits is to truly understand the concept and monitor the action. Once you sweep the paddle out to the 3 oclock position, (bow being 12, stern being 6, so leftys will sweep out to 9 o'clock)) think of the boat spinning up underneath the paddle shaft. Just hold the shaft with float on it, but don't pull down on it, just spin the boat upright with your hip snap. You will be able to tell how much pressure you are putting on the float. It really shouldn't move hardly at all.

Second thing is to keep your eye on the paddle float at all times. This will ensure proper head placement. While you are upside down, looking up at the float helps keep your head and torso in the first "C" position. Then as you roll upright, keeping your eye on the paddle float helps to keep your head down, which is the second "C" position. When you finish each float assisted roll, freeze in the end position and ask yourself, " do I see sky, or do I see paddle float?" Obviously, if you see sky then your head is up, if you see paddle float, your head is down.

Keep it simple. Concentrate on hipsnap and these two things. Work in a short amount of attempts, take a break, paddle down and back (whatever) then try some more. Long periods can wear you out and get frustrating and contribute to bad habits.

Keep us posted on the progress.


excellent advice - thanks … (nt)

a few other thoughts
Make sure you have a loose grip on the paddle shaft. That will help keep you from pulling down on the paddle. When I was learning the c-to-c I would even open/flex my fingers a few times as I pushed my hands above the surface to make sure I was staying loose.

Also, I learned the extended paddle roll (Pawlata), which helped with muscle memory, and also gave me a solid back-up roll if my c-to-c attempt failed. If you use the correct hand positions, it’s actually less stress on your body as you’re getting more support from the paddle blade.

Just my .02 worth.

leading with the back of the wrist
that’s what helped me keep the paddle near the surface and not pulling down, leading with the back of the right wrist letting the blade hold the surface.