Mask & Nose Clips Rule for Practice

Just started a 4 week advanced pool class the other night. My mission: to find out where my short lived roll went and get it back. Easy, you may say, but not I, as I suffer from that fear of voluntarily tipping the boat over and my instructors tell me that I’ll never learn to roll unless I do this.

But this year I’ve am armed with a pair of nose clips I got from Xmas, and a really nice swim mask I found on Sierra Trading Post. And, with more instructors than students, I have no place to hide. “…Lou, why don’t you show the class what a bow rescue looks like…”. With the hot lights of the advanced pool focused on me, I flipped my old Dagger Crossfire. The difference was amazing! The combination of very clear vision & no water up my nose put me at ease. I was thrilled and encouraged to do more, and spend more time hanging upside down.

Then my rolling instructor (seeing that I found a way to hide upside down) cornered me, “…Lou, why don’t we try some rolls?..”. I was really able to focus on making corrections and I was able to attempt rolling many times without feeling like I just came out of the spin cycle.

I still can’t roll for beans, but I’m encouraged that something will come of this, and it won’t be red eyes and clogged sinuses.

If you are going to a rolling class (especially if you are uncomfortable flipping the boat), get a decent mask and some nose clips.


I hae a similar view
but some have others and are vehement. I endorse learning a new roll iwth a mask and doing most practice with nose plugs. However, if you capsize, you will capsize without any of these so practice without them too.

Glad you are having fun.

I’ve found that rolling in pool or lake, getting water up my nose is intolerable and I don’t roll without noseclips. On the other hand, salt water doesn’t bother me at all, so I do all of my unrestricted rolling on the ocean which is where i’m going to need my roll.

Thanks for that post, Lou
I don’t roll either, hard to say if I ever will or not, because I too get skitzy about voluntarily capsizing. It’s not as easy to capsize, as it would seem.

Thanks for the advice about the mask and nose clips–and I agree with you PeterK, you won’t always be so lucky to be wearing them when the situation presents itself–but anything to flatten the learning curve is encouraging. The hiding upside-down bit was very amusing. I tend to be grabbing the loop and surfacing so fast, I hardly realize what had just happened to me.

Good luck hiding and learning,


Train the muscles
What ever it takes to get the muscle memory. Once your body knows the moves then you can worry about rolling with out the mask and noseclips.

IMO the ocean is kinder to my eyes and nose than freshwater and both are kinder than the chlorine in the pool.

My thinking is that once “muscle memory” is established through many correct repetitions (which I don’t have yet), these things will not be necessary.


You hit the nail

– Last Updated: Apr-21-05 3:23 PM EST –

on the head. Pool classes are for learning & honing skills. Students should be put at ease in order to learn more effectively. Masks and clips help put students at ease. When I was learning to roll my C-1 back in the early '70s my buddy pooh-poohed my desire to wear clips while he was coaching me at teh Lower Yough put-in. Long story short: Severe sinus infection.

Combat rolls are more intense, and after learning the basics rollers need to practice without learning aids in order to get a taste of the real world. But students progress faster if, as you have noted, they "feel at ease".

Congrats on your progress!


Weaning off the mask later
Mask and plugs definitely helped me - and still do working on new stuff.

Once you get the feel down, simply leave the mask on but keep your eyes closed. Amazing how unimportant seeing is. Then mask off is no big deal.

Clips off is not much of a transition later either.

For practice sessions I still use both - but not 100%. I always throw in a few without either or both.

Only reason I use the mask at all now is to protect my contacts. They are less affected by saltwater and tend to stay in OK (not in fresh!) but better safe than sorry when it’s just for fun anyway. Salt water is definitely easier on the sinuses.

mask for learning, clips for pratice
The first time I went to a roll class, no one told me I should equip myself with mask and nose clips. Just luck had it I had my swimming goggle with me. But I had to just tough it out with the water in my nose part. Blowing air out continueously helped but it cut short the time I can spend upside down. I managed to roll up at the end of the class anyway. I also had a king size headache for a week after that class. :o(

Since nose clip only cost $5, I bought one. What a difference it makes! Now I can try as 3, 4 or even 5 attempts before having to come up for air.

First time I needed a combat roll when I got washed out of a surfing hole, I couldn’t roll up. Why? I wear contacts and I had to keep my eyes close to prevent it from floating out. And I hadn’t praticed rolling with my eyes close!

Start from scratch. Learn to roll with my eyes closed. Turned out not as hard as I feared. Roll back up with only a few tries.

That tought me a lesson. I had to pratice in a more realistic setting. So now, at the end of every pratice session, I loss the nose clip and try a few more rolls to get used to the water in my nose sensation.

For learning to roll for the first time, being able to see where the paddle is helpful. So learning with goggles and open eyes is easier. But in real situation, the water may be so mirky you can’t see a thing. So, once a roll is reasonably reliable, it’s time to pratice it without the aids to simulate real-world situation.

Keep eyes closed
I’ll agree; keep your eyes closed while learning to roll, even if you wear a mask to protect your eyes.

Nose plugs are an excellent aid to comfort and learning, but remember to also learn to roll without them!

Keeping Them Open Helps
I’ve found that being able to see the position of the blade helps. After each attempt, the instructor explains what needs to be corrected, and it’s easier to visualize the correction.

Also, I’ve found that I am more relaxed when I can see everything, and inclined to focus on a correct sweep. Once I’m comfortable with a roll, I will start to do it with my eyes closed.


Hanging around

If your wet exit is good try just going over and hanging out for a bit. Look around, take in the view, check your pulse, say a few oms. Then pull the grab loop and come out. Do that a few dozen times and you ought to be relaxed enough to start thinking about roll mechanics.

Nothing wrong with baby steps. Take enough and you’ll get where you’re going.

You can always close your eyes…

– Last Updated: Apr-21-05 5:03 PM EST –

... even when rolling with a mask. In fact, you should be trying that as your roll solidifies, along with various non-setup rolls. Try, for example, tossing your paddle in the air and catching it as you capsize.

As for rolling in a pool without the mask or clips -- fine if it works for you. After about four rolls and fresh/chlorinated water up the nose, I can't taste a meal for half a day. And in heavily chlorinated pools, my eyes sometimes sting almost too much to drive home. But no problem in sea water.

BTW, in the Boston area, at Decathalon Sports Megastores I found a terrific selection of solid looking but really cheap -- like $10 or so -- full swim masks that cover both eyes and nose, so you don't also need nose clips. It makes me wince about spending $70 on a standard diver's mask a couple of years ago.

I like to wear mine just to look at

– Last Updated: Apr-21-05 5:02 PM EST –

stuff underwater too (from my boat). But if I do a lot of rolling with a mask I get dizzy. I'm definitely a wuss about getting water up my nose tho.

one step @ a time. I appreciate that–
I had never really thought about having to be cool with being inverted before thinking about moving on to the next level. Trying to take on too much at once could defeat the process of learning! Thanks again Tommy. . .I take it you were directing your remarks to both Lou and me?

dag :*)

Eyes Open/Closed
One of the guys in our group who coaches likes to have people start learning a roll with their eyes open, to basically reduce the amount of time it’ll take to get the paddle into a reliable angle and position. I have to agree that at times it has been useful for me to run the roll in disconnected steps and sight the paddle position at each one, like in winter pool practice where I haven’t been upside down in several weeks.

I also have to remember specifically to open my eyes, and can only do it wearing goggles because I have never swum with then open under water. If I am any example, he is right. It took me damnably long to get the paddle work solid enough that I wasn’t killing a good starting hip snap with fatally messed up paddle action.

Most people I know locally who got a roll have found it faster to learn with something like goggles and nose plugs that allow you to learn the action without the distraction of stinging eyes etc.

That all said, I now have to spend this season learning to tolerate water up my nose because that’s now quite distracting. So - if you want to save time in the total effort of getting to a relaible roll, it may be good to start taking off the nose plugs and the goggles somewhere earlier in the process than I have.

Use of dive gear
I REALLY agree with having the proper equipment on to make one comfortable in the learning environment. Having taken PADI dive training I completly know how fear can paralyse a student to a point where no learning occurs.

As a last resort I would even consider a pony bottle air tank and a regulator so that I would feel completely safe as I learned to roll.

Once you have the mechanics down, it is time to take off all the safety gear and roll it SOLO on your own.

The best feeling is when you start rolling for the fun of it … and look forward to doing it.

I attended a Philadelphia Canoe Club event last year and watched a bunch of them roll together in the river. They were having a lot of fun!

Impala Bob

I had this crazy idea
of attaching a hose to the end of a snorkle, snaking it through the spray skirt by my waist so the hose ends up in the cockpit where there’s plenty of stored air. I don’t think I’ll ever try it, but I think it would work as a “poor man’s” air tank.


Unless your spray deck is really leaky, I don’t think you’d get more than one breath out. Interesting idea, though. Let us know if you try it.

Despite what is being said here
I think you will find that using the mask without closing your eyes will actually impede your progress. It maintains and creates a dependency on visual orientation. What you learn is muscle memory tied to visual cues. Then you have to unlearn all that later. The nose clips, however, are essential. We simply supply them to our students.