My Further (NOT) Rolling Adventures

For those of you who are amused by my ongoing misadventures at pool class, you will be happy to know that I failed once again last night. However, I feel now that I am now confused (physically more than mentally)at a much higher level. I dare say that I may now be an expert on the topic of not rolling.

This week I started working at the wall. Going down on the side farthest from the wall, I pulled my self up using the edge of the pool. After a while, I became quite proficient at this. I could do it on either side. I was virtually spinning the Crossfire (aka old ww boat) in the water, when an instructor paddled over. “…Why don’t you try that with a paddle float instead of the wall…”.

This drill took a little getting used to, but it’s really cool. I had to hold the float with both hands against the boat (just like in a setup)or it resists going under. Once I came up on the other side my instructor showed me that I could just lie on the water (able to breathe) and practice hip flicks. It was clear to both of us that my hip flicks weren’t always doing enough of the job.

So the last pool class ended with no roll in sight, but not for lack of trying (for about an hour). I had a lot of fun though, I’m more comfortable with flipping over, and I’ve got some new tools to use out on the water this summer to continue my quest.


I feel your pain. I have roll class Sunday and I will let you know how it goes. Dont give up! Heather

Good Luck!
No doubt you’ll have more luck than I. I really am enjoying it. I get bored with things that are too easy.


"I get bored with things that are too easy."

So things being difficult is what keeps you interested? This could be your stumbling block! L

First thought in my head when I hit my first roll was something like: “Man, that was easy!” Sort of surprised me. The ease was the most noticeable difference over prior attempts.

ALMOST rolling IS rather difficult. Actually rolling is quite EASY. If you like difficulty - you may never roll!

Stop making this so hard - or as they say in the Kent Ford tape: “Shed the resistance!”

Easy for You! Not Easy for Me
At the beginning of this set of classes, and instructor who has worked with me on rolling before worked with me. We took a “just do it” approach. I know in my head what the mechanics are. That didn’t work. So I’m working on getting the pieces to work, especially the hip snap. I believe it was you who mentioned that this where I needed work last week.


Try this
Get a copy of Jay Babina’s video “First roll” (Disclaimer: I’m in the video, however I have no financial interest in it’s sale or production).

He has a step-by-step approach that breaks down a basic sweep roll into exercises that you eventually put together and roll. I’ve heard of people using it as their only instruction & having a roll inside of 2 weeks. YMMV, of course.

Rolling is only hard until you get it. Then, it’s very easy. You’ll understand once you nail your first one.

Keep at it & don’t take it too seriously. Relaxation while inverted is key.


Just missed that tape
Someone lent me that tape from class last week and I didn’t get to see it. Since last night was the last class and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again, I returned it. Maybe I’ll just have to get a copy.



do not get discouraged
it took me a long time, (about 6 months to get a roll), then longer to make it reliable. Now it is second nature.

Keep trying.

final piece of the puzzle for me
Was setup, upside down in the water, the instructor took the paddle and ran it across the surface of the water letting me get a feel for just exactly where the paddle was supposed to travel (sweep roll). Then he bopped the bottom of the boat to tell me to hit it and I just about flipped over the other side I came up so hard and fast. This in a relatively wide and flat Pyranha I:3. And me being the picture of what the typical WW paddler is not! Let’s just say I’m the last man to get hypothermia. The proper paddle position and a driving onside knee was what did it. It’s not the hips, but the knee that drives. I think the “hip-flick” is a misnomer.

Keep it up, if a duffer like me can do it (sometimes) you certainly can too.


How long should it take?
My personal experience, my teaching experience, and my observation of others leads me to think that while the sweep roll is a fine roll it typically takes the longest to learn. For some people this is months or years. The C-to-C is also a fine roll and people who in fact learn it take less time than with a sweep. But there are a reasonable number of people who simply cannot do the C-to-C (too stiff, too fat, short arms/torso). Almost everyone I have taught the EJ roll to has learned it quickly (on average an hour or so). The only exceptions so far are an older guy who could not lean back far enough and a middle aged woman who spent an hour at it and got tired before she succeeded. I expect her to roll next time. I say all this not to start an argument over which roll is best but rather to suggest that if you are having trouble learning or relearning a roll you might want to at least investigate the EJ roll. I am also willing to put my money where my mouth is. I live on a lake in central Michigan. If you can get to my house some weekend I will give anyone a free lesson.

Yup, the knee
My instructor kept telling me to drive the knee and use less upper body.


What is the EJ roll?
I know quite a few different ones (Greenland paddle addict), and I’ve never heard that one explained.

How do you do it?


Modified C-to-C roll
I’ve never seen anyone do it with a greenland paddle. EJ = Eric Jackson, former WW rodeo world champion, kayak builder, master teacher. Basic roll: set up, move paddle to 90 degrees, do hip snap by throwing head and body down and back, move body over to stern, sit up erect.

EJ roll in a nutshell
Basically it is a C-to-C roll with a layback. The progression that EJ uses seamlessly links braces and rolls which is an extremely effective method of teaching the roll.

I agree with Dr. Disco that the sweep is slightly harder to teach conceptually to new students but I find it (personally) to be more effective in terms of developing sculling, paddle dexterity, and other skills down the line. For anyone in the Fox Cities (Wisconsin) area, I’m always open to helping someone with their roll as well.

Instructor I worked with prefers to teach the C-C, but after about five minutes with me, he declared me a “sweeper”. To fat and inflexible to reach over the boat in a proper C-C. Sweep was much simpler (for me). Adding laying back helps even more.

Also, I took a sea kayaking class that taught us the extended paddle roll. I got that first and with that under my belt, I was able while practicing to do it the “right” way and if I failed, to pop back up with the extended paddle roll. In other words, it simply gave me the confidence to practice without constantly having to wet-exit. The instructor in this instance had most of the class rolling inside of about 45 minutes. Watch your shoulders with this one tho’. If I let that paddle get behind me, I certainly felt it in my shoulder.


Thanks for the explanation.

No problem to do that. Kind of the opposite of a “Sweep-to-C” that most people who paddle commercial kayaks with high rear decks have to do.

Any true layback is tough in most sea kayaks, because the rear of the coamings are too high. Once I got a boat that I could lay down on the rear deck, it opened up a whole new world of rolling to me.


Risk of injury?
Not knowing what an EJ roll was I did a search nnd found your description ( which said,

“… has you bracing on both sides, then deep water bracing on both sides, then rolling on both sides with a setup, and finally rolling on both sides without a setup. In my experience that has a better result than learning only the on side first. I learned on side first and my off side is simply not as strong as my on side and I have to force myself to practice that side. I agree with those above that it is very useful to roll on either side. It is even better to start out doing both sides.”

and a description by schizopak which said,

“EJ stresses rolling up from whatever position you end up in. As his roll is taught as a series of progressively deeper high braces, it becomes clear that rolling isn’t some sort of magical trick but rather just an extreme brace. Although EJ’s roll is best classified as a modified c-to-c or a layback c-to-c, if you watch the video closely, he does many sweep/screw rolls as well. Basically I like how he blurs the stringent aspects of the various rolls into a singular action of righting the kayak. I personally learned the Kayak Roll method first but used EJ’s video to help me develop my hand rolls using the vertical paddle roll training.”

It sounds like a great method to learn to effectively brace and roll, IF your shoulders can take the stress. I know that mine certainly would not. I have an effective sweep roll which places much less stress on my body than doing a progressive series of deeper high braces. You may argue that most people would not be injured if the high braces were done correctly, however, the student only needs one deep brace with the arm in the wrong position to suffer a chronic injury. Many sea kayakers seem to be middle aged (or beyond) they may want to seriously consider the relative risk of injury when selecting a method to learn to roll.


I appreciate the offer
however, I live in NYC, kind of a hike.

I think you may be right though. Most of my instructors teach a C to C, however, the time that I was able to do it, I was shown a sweep roll (seemed like the one in the Kayak Roll). I figure when the water gets warm enough to play in over here, I’ll work by myself on a sweep roll.

Thanks again for your generous offer,


EJ Roll = C2C with layback

– Last Updated: May-10-05 4:12 PM EST –

See the Eric Jackson Bracing and Rolling video.

IMHO, the roll itself is not what's so neat about the EJ approach. Yes, the layback helps a lot to get started.

The real innovation is starting with a deep high brace, and then working that into a full roll, treating the two as variations on the same basic manuever.

And, EJ's very strong advice to make the deep high brace work is to drive your head into the water as hard as you can. It seems that, if you train like that from the get-go -- and it's pretty easy on a high brace -- you will have the basic body motions down when you move to a full roll. In particular, you will never have a problem with raising your head and thereby unwinding your hip snap motion.


Actually the roll is quite safe.
It is hard to get the paddle in a position to injure your shoulder if you do the brace/roll by putting your head in the water back and away from the paddle. But all rolls have the potential for shoulder injury with bad form.