Need help with my roll

I took another rolling lesson this past Sunday. I was extremely encouraged with the progress that I made with my roll. However, my one consistent flaw was that my paddle was diving, rather than sweeping along the surface of the water.

It was odd, b/c when I would do a “dry run” without going upside down, the instructor said that everything looked good on a very consistent basis. However, when I would tip over and do the actual roll, many times I would blow the roll by not keeping the paddle blade on the surface.

Does anybody have tips on what I could do to solve this glitch in my roll?


Jeff P.

Put a sponge in the armpit
opposite the side you are coming up on. This will keep you from “punching” that arm forward. Next, loosen up the hand on the side you are coming up on. Classic cause of diving paddle. Finish by looking at your blade. Buy Eric Jackson’s Rolling and Bracing. Rolling is another good video.


check your blade angle
A slightly climbing angle may help. I’ve heard it recommended more flat on the water, but being slightly climbing is better than slightly (or a lot) diving. Watching the blade (dive mask helps) helps too. One problem I had that caused diving was my sweeping blade starting under water. I had been getting my hands clear of the water, but the angle of my two hands put the sweep blade under water.

+1 on the sponge under the arm…
This is a great tip… “Punching out” with your offside arm is a major cause of ‘diving paddle’…

Also, watch your blade angle. Angle it like this, but less extreme…

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(Nice representation, huh? :wink:

Use a GP

NICE :slight_smile:

Use a GP
Actually, that would be my advice for every new roller–and it’s not cheating.

I find GPs a PITA to roll with
I can do it, but it just doesn’t feel right. And NO, its not because it is ‘too easy’ and ‘effortless’.

I am ready for the bashing and onslaught. But keep in mind the dangers of making blanket statements like ‘use a GP its easier’.

OK, it felt like cheating
I tried with my Euro and it dove and did all manner of wrong things.(operator error) I learned to brace with my GP first, then eased into rolling with a good instructor.

I have since tried with a Euro and can’t make it happen, may explain why I don’t own one anymore.

I was kidding about cheating.

Another Greenland Paddle Vote
An extended GP sure does feel like cheating. The angle is always right and the leverage is great. The GP is also much easier to move around under water than the euro.

Focus on getting your head way up near the surface when you’re upside down in the set up position.

I somewhat agree
I use a GP about 90% of the time, but I find the EP easier in many ways than a GP to roll with. On the other hand, the GP might be more reliable and it definitely offers many more ways to roll. Often I go out just to play with the GP and trying different rolls which I find very beneficial on several levels.

Regarding diving paddle, if you focus on unwinding the torso and not sweeping with your arms, getting your head close to boat and surface, your hands above the water, and your torso rotated so your shoulders “face” the side of the boat; then the paddle will take care of itself. Getting everything setup properly before starting the roll is very important. The set up is not how you position yourself before going over, it is how you position yourself before starting the roll.

I don’t believe in watching the paddle as I found that distracting. I focus on the correct “feel” of the motion as I unwind and keep my eyes closed.


Along the line of what Kudzu said but
in a different way. When you drive your head up, you tend to square your shoulders to the sky. If you are working on a layback roll, the starting position should begin with squaring your chest to the surface. Come out of the boat and rotate to keep your chest parallel to the surface. Your outward arm is now in a position to run along the surface as your torso rotates. Keyashunka has good advice with the watching of the sweep. Roll, square up, and do some false sweeps to see the paddle angle before you start the roll. Head down, constant rotation pressure, and slither onto that back deck. By the way, I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night, Bill

Do you have a friend with a camera
I was watching video with my GF of her attempts to roll and she picked up on her errors immediately. In her case, she started her sweep too early.

I recall being told to let go of my paddle once upside down so it would float flat and into position to begin my sweep.

I’m a know nothing but hope this helps

What I did…

– Last Updated: Mar-17-09 9:23 AM EST –

I spent a looong time with that issue, in my case mostly due to anxiety and rushing things. So everything that could possibly be a cause of a diving paddle was happening, but 90% of it was in the hands. These are things that work for me when I have to renew the right each spring or, probably like this year, entirely recover my left side. Try one at a time and see what works best for you. I think the below stuff in not affected by whether a layback roll or a more forward one.

If you don't have one yourself, try to borrow a Euro that has a foam core. The tendency of these paddles to float combined with the natural inclination of a dihedral blade to rise is really helpful when you are learning.

Consciously relax both hands before starting the sweep. Stop and restart if either hand tightens up upon moving the paddle until you can start it without a death grip. (Best if you have someone standing by to get you up on a signal unless you have air tanks.)

Practice starting the sweep a couple of times before you actually go for the real one, to pattern the hands staying relaxed as the paddle starts moving.

Stop the sweep when the paddle is out between 45 and 90 degrees from the boat, look at the paddle and again make sure your hands are relaxed and the blade is at the right angle.

Head last and down - for some it works to think about keeping the ear of the side you are coming up on pinned to the shoulder, or you can do the sponge thing which ends up fixing the head problem as well as shoulder, or if you are more talented than me under water grab the strap from the should of your PFD in your teeth. Or come up with your own.

Get your torso up near the surface of the water before you start the sweep. (Yoga helps.)

In general go slow.

As to starting with a GP - a GP can be easier when learning because even if it starts to dive the wood keeps it from being a sudden shot to the bottom of the pool. And it tends to slow the roll down a useful smidge.

On the other side, I've heard the argument that someone who switches between GP and Euro can end up being less than flexible in their rolling ability if they stay stuck in the layback roll that tends to be the first one taught with a GP.

Also, some argue that the learning process is best approached differently between learning with a GP and an EP. In the GP world, the roll is often just a natural outcome of first learning to scull. With Euros, people tend to go straight to the roll and leave learning to scull well until after. Since learning to scull usually includes many opportunities to roll, you can argue either side of this and be right.

And be aware if you need different tricks than the standard approach. Based on what I know now, if I had it to do all over again I'd find someone who could teach me a roll with other than a paddle to start - paddle-float, hand paddles whatever - because my base anxiety level made things go bad as soon as I held something whose movement needed management. I should have spent longer really learning to roll and getting by the in-the-boat claustrophobia before I added any paddle. It would have been a faster path for me than doing it the usual way.

The biggest mistake for me

– Last Updated: Mar-17-09 9:52 AM EST –

Was that I kept trying to "force" the roll. I took a class that started me with a WW C2C roll in a WW boat. The form they taught us was explosive motion and kick. It worked. At the end of the session I could roll on one side.

However, from too much practicing in the very explosive way the roll was taught I strained my shoulder and still trying to recover to this day after several months. And I still do not have a reliable C2C roll with just any paddle (works great with a wing, a little less easy with the GP in normal position on the loom, more often than not I can't do it with short euros).

I did learn to do it with the wing paddle reliably in a relatively relaxed way with none of the kicking and explosiveness of the original instructor's way. As soon as I allowed myself to slow down and relax. The wing I have does not have as much floatation lift as a cored or GP paddle but it beats them all for generated lift when in motion and that helps tremendously in a quick short sweep roll on the move.

Since then I picked-up the GP I learned to relax even more. The few other rolls I know now work much better with barely any effort needed in some of them (like a butterfly roll). And that's in a "regular" not low volume Greenland kayak (the G. kayaks do make rolling feel like cheating even more than a GP paddle does!).

I did my butterfly roll, without instruction, at the end of the second open pool session. By the 4th session I could do it pretty much effortlessly on either side. That taught me to relax and from there I learned the sweep roll and also to go sideways in the water face down and come back-up without rolling.

As Ceila said - the key is to try and slow down. That is not only to feel better but to allow the body and boat to gradually flip-up from vertical under the kayak. You can't move too fast under water so the slower you do it the less resistance and you can actually rely on your PFD's buoyancy to lift you up sideways rather than hanging under the kayak vertically. Help that with the initial sweep. Before you begin the final sweep/push down, your body should ideally already be very close to the surface on one side of the kayak, you turn the kayak onver the edge so that you get some help from its secondary stability at that point and on your way further-up in the next move and you only use the final sweep/push to get up from pretty much horisontal position in the water.

To practice this you can try laying back/sideways and just float there with the paddle in your extended hand, then slide back over on your rear deck as in a layback roll, if you kayak alows you to do that. This is the last phase of the roll. Next you can practice the first phase - to position yourself for it from under the kayak by allowing your body to float-up and extend sideways. Then link the two.

Another trick - use a small paddle float while learning to let you go thru the motions and to also bail you out if you can't roll after several attempts without having to wet exit. I use my daughter's old "learn to swim" jacket, which is excellent for this - it's smaller than a paddle float and I can either just use that without a paddle or I can slide my paddle thru it so the float is in the middle of the paddle (for butterfly rolls learning) or just use it at the tip of the paddle like a regular paddle float (it is a 2-piece foam held together by some bungees). This float is probably 10x7x2" and I carry it as a safety device on my rear deck during normal paddle outings (a full-size inflatable float is still deflated in the cockpit if I really need it).

Some people find this helpful.

question for jcamry
straight shaft or bent on your paddle?

greenland paddle just makes you think that it offers more ways to roll…other than a few rolls like the continous storm and the spine roll with a feathered EP…all the rolls are doable with a EP.

I’m on dial up…so this is a short clip

Best Wishes


If the issue is a diving paddle…
Use the C to C instead of a sweep.


bend wrist
A lot of good advice above. You might also try to bend your sweeping wrist more forward before you start the sweep. Sometimes it feels like the blade is starting flat, but is actually starting on a downward angle. When you are sitting upright in the boat, move the paddle so it lays flat in the water on the side of the boat, and take careful note of the angle your wrists makes to have the paddle lay flat.