Learning to do Back Deck Roll

OK I know this immoral to a bunch of people, but when I fail at rolling I can seem to get myself up doing my own ugly version of a back deck roll. I am short and have a heavy torso. I believe the physics of my mass closer to the axis of rotation makes this the most efficient way to get up quickly. I am doing this in a Necky Jive in surf if it matters. Does anyone know a better location that describes how to do this properly?


(Yes I know the standard swindle is that this will blow a shoulder or end up getting my face smashed but so far I only get my face smashed setting up for a sweep roll.)

reading that little piece was about as clear as mud to me… The pictures helped though. The pictures concern me because the paddler appears to be very exposed right at the outset of the roll. I would hate to use this as a combat roll in surf. Having said that, I do have a suggestion for a similar roll that you may like. It is often used by Greenland paddlers but can also be accomplished with a modern paddle. It is called the Greenland Standard Roll. You can see a video clip of it here:


In a nutshell the roll begins tucked (forhead to the deck if need be) then perform a sweep roll with a “layback” finish. For a technical “how to” you can read more on the qajaqusa.org web site. My understanding is that finishing the roll in this position is very stable and that only in big surf or dumping surf would it not be a desierable finish position. One of the things I like about this roll is that you can pull the paddle back toward you (sliding it over the water) after having completed the sweep. It provides a lot of extra support and creates a nice finish to this roll.

-I hope this helps even though this isn’t exactly what you were looking for.


Try This Link
for better description/instructions and video:


This roll is more akin to the Greenland forward sweep roll. Folks who have a normal (bow to stern) sweep or C to C, often find it difficult to learn because it’s not hip action that makes the roll work. Instead you do an ab crunch (head to knee) in concert with the forward sweep to bring the boat up.

I think if you don’t have a regular roll down, maybe it might be easier to learn this. But I think most folks can do a normal sweep or c to c with practice and coaching.

I can do the backdeck roll but it’s rare for me to use it. Probably because it’s not my “go-to” roll. I have to think about before doing it rather than doing it reflexively. This too, of course, is a matter of practice and doing it over and over again.


you doing a standard layback sweep roll. As you raise yourself up to a sitting position, you simultaneously roll the blade over and do a a low brace for added support and stability.

It’s what I do a lot in rough water with my sof and my boogie which has a very low (and low volume stern). In my standard ww boats, I tend to do more a C to C type of hip snap because the the aft coaming is tad bit higher. This prevents you from sweeping all the way aft and diminishes the chance of success with a layback roll. Success in rolling up is better with the pronounce hip snap/head dink associated with a C to C roll.


Where’s rroberts? He can break dance
on the back deck, although he can’t do much else.

The roll in the article is fine, IF…
…you’re leaning back on the aft deck when you capsize, but I would not choose to assume that position intentionally. It’s essentially a Greenland reverse roll, which is a low brace roll with a sweep from stern toward the bow.

Given the choice, I prefer to capsize forward and sweep bow to stern, coming up on the aft deck. You’re better protected during the roll and it’s much easier.

Better Idea
Get the new DVD from Eric Jackson on rolling and bracing. He is a master at teaching the roll and his system will have you rolling reliably in no time. The back deck roll is ok if you are playboating in water that is relatively deep. It’s major advantage is that it is fast. Otherwise I do not recommend it. There are safer rolls that are just as fast for ordinary paddling.


Oops, wrong URL


I’m in a similar situation as you as far as the physics you describe. Also, I have poor flexibility bending forward into a tuck position, so it’s difficult for me to extend my paddle upwards toward the water’s surface. For this reason, I use the reverse screw roll, as described in Derek Hutchinson’s Book “ESKIMO ROLLING”. This roll works beautifully for me. As to the safety issue, first, while lying against the back deck, I extend down into the water 12 inches, (as measured from the rear hatch I’m lying against), but while in a forward tuck, I extend down 18 inches as measured from the same plane. Thus, I am 6 inches closer to the bottom rocks in the forward tuck. Second, this roll involves reaching to the side as soon as a capsize occurs, which results in the head being in a natural “cage”, formed by the lead arm. I am not looking straight down, and my helmet, which is a full cut Protec with ear protection, is “looking straight down” at any rocks from its side. Third, this is a fast roll, lessening any exposure time to rocks. Fourth, you don’t get water up your nose doing this roll (o.k., that’s comfort, not safety, but it is nice to be back upright again without sneezing/coughing). Fifth, it works for ME, and I’ve never had any safety problems using it, even in big surf, even around rocks. If it works for you, I say go for it, with no apologies.


it;'s not really a back deck roll per se

– Last Updated: Mar-03-04 4:10 PM EST –

as much as it is a low brace reverse roll. the power of the roll is coming from having the blade in the low brace position, or below shoulders and sweeping towards the bow. I think the photos are actually quite confusing from the euro ww perspective because the paddler has his paddle twisted to start sweeping by cocking his forearm across his neck, while his low hand is in a normal paddling position. This is done to compensate for the feathered blade. The greenland variant of this roll, for the set-up has the paddler completely twisting his torso facing his gunnels with his paddle blade held in the normal extended position across his chest. in the setup the blade actually lies across the opposite gunnel, (the one that will enter the water first) and then he capsizes by going in back first. The sweep must be with the complete torso and not just the arms, and then you finish over the foredeck.


It's a neat roll and an excellent one to know if pinned to the back deck in a low brace position in surf. But not one I would choose to set-up into if I had a choice.

Any Roll That
gets you up is a good roll. :slight_smile:


the lay back…
roll comes in handy when you dump in big surf and still traveling at a good clip, just sitting up a little while pushing the paddle blade away from you and your up like magic and still surfing the foam pile back in control

I just try to humm a tune in my head, relax, let the turbulance go and wait til the wave has lost it’s grip. Heck the times I had rolled up in the middle of the foam pile, I generally went right back over again. :frowning:


Hey thanks !
Somebody who knows where I am coming from, I’ll try to find the book.

Yup that’s where I am coming from
"Lay-back roll comes in handy when you dump in big surf and still traveling at a good clip" I manage to get myself back up sometimes but I’m not doing it like the webpage above. Also I don’t use a feathered paddle in surf and I am trying to figure out what the set up should look like. The picture looks like you tie yourself into a pretzel before tipping over. Usually I find my self upside down, flying towards the beach and just need a way to flip up quick or get off the freaking wave or foam pile.

Eskimo Roll
I have the book too and don’t want to discourage you from buying (just don’t accept what Hutchinson describes as “Greenland Rolls” as being totally accurate, though they will work).

However, if you want a quick on line reference - moving pics and description - for the reverse screw roll, here’s the site. Look about 2/3 of the page down:



Thanks sing!
By the way what tune do you hum in your head.

I just keep saying to myself Why am I doing this!

Amazing Grace… :slight_smile: