PFD impact on rolling

So in the Kayak Roll DVD they mention that the flotation dynamics of the PFD may affect your roll. So if that is true what would be the optimum PFD for rolling? What is the trade-off if any?

The optimum PFD for rolling…
… would be the one you’re wearing when you capsize! Practice or not.

Whatever PFD fits you and the rest of your paddling needs it the one to use. Rolling is part of paddling. Just look for PFDs that are comfortable over distance, allow full range of motion, and stay put when swimming.

In my high flotation
PFD I float on my side. In my other PFD (17 lbs of flotation) the boat rolls upside down.

That’s my kayak roll.

It has very little effect with a sea…

Whitewater kayaks sometimes will stall part way over but I’ve never experienced it with a sea kayak. Anyway—whitewater or sea—I’ve never heard of anyone shopping for a pfd based on a concern of the effect it will have on the roll. Go with Grayak’s perspective.


Six of One, Half A Dozen The Other…
More floation helps with those ever so slow, G style rolls (ask Paul). On the other hand, if you only got a roll on one side, you may be in trouble if you go over on the wrong side since the PFD (especially hi floating ones) inhibits your ability to get to the onside.

Also, without a PFD, it’s a tad bit harder to reach up to sweep. However, if you know how to roll already, then you know you really don’t have to reach up for the sweep to get support. But, if you know how roll, it doesn’t matter with or without PFD. You adjust accordingly.


Not trying to sound as if I know what I am talking about here but…I am finding that it differs with the boat – this applies for rolling only.

I absolutely agree with Greyak and others that the best one is the one strapped to you when you capsize but I have noticed that when I was first trying to roll and didn’t have many moves down, a higher flotation pfd was easier to come up with but equally hard to get under the boat with…In other words I sort of had to dive into the water to get the rotation to come up the other side - ok kinda an extreme example but there have been times when I had to drive the boat over a bit more and the pfd then floated me up to the surface.

What I am probably going to do is try and find one that has minimal flotation but that I can manually fill up with air when I need it. This can be particularly helpful when practicing. The problem is that I do not want one that has a C02 cartridge.

The Kokatat Sea 02 is close…maybe if I just take the cartridge out altogether? Rather not have it at all though.


Use what you have.
Get a PFD that fits you well and stay with it. If you were going for a rolling national championship then maybe you might want to cheat a bit. Most rolling DVD’s and instruction never deal with the actual capsize where you may be face down on your off side of the boat (floating there). You have to learn to go under the boat and twist it away using your legs and hips and get into position to finish your roll. Be brave and practice this. Just lower yourself into the water gently. You’ll float there a bit. Then force your self down under the boat and around to the other side to complete the roll. This is what a capsize will be like! A drysuit will also cause this.

There’s nothing wrong with practicing a roll from your set-up position because this will refine your body movement / hip snap and famialarity with being under water.

I would not adapt the PFD to rolling but learn to roll well by practicing with the one you have. Just tuck tight to the boat when entering the water and give yourself a good shove. But also practice the floating position as I described and you will be light years ahead in rolling ability for when you really need it.

whole thread is kind uv weird for me…I’m a sinker. even with a 3mm tuilik and a PFD on , I can sink and hang upside doun in my boat. never have to fight my way under…the balance brace is extreemly difficult for me to do. This must have to do with body weight distribution or maybe weight . or maybe because I squish the air out of my tuilik by wearing my PFD over my tuilik instead of inside it, thus trapping lots of air.

Is everyone that has this problem really really light weight ? do you wear your PFD on the inside or the outside? whats the deal here?

some of us have to be able to roll because we can’t float or do a decent balance brace without holding a huge breath of air. Or am I the only one…or is it the salt water?

Best Wishes and puzzeled


balance brace isn’t a floating trick…
but rather a balance trick! Rather than thinking you need to float yourself to the surface and hold yourself there with bouyancy, the idea is to twist the boat upright and find the balance point (versus flotation point) of the boat and your body. It’s like an inverted J-lean. Flexibility has a lot more to do with the success of balance bracing than bouyancy.

I’m a total sinker as well. I can’t float on my back in the pool without sinking all the way to the bottom. However I am fairly skinny and when I have my PFD and tuilik on in my low volume SOF, capsizing completely is very difficult. For me the boat makes a bigger difference in regards to ease of capsizing around versus the flotation I’m wearing.

it’s about finding that “balance point”. the boat serves as one half of the floatation and your body is the other. But the body is greatly aided by the PFD and tuiliq.

I know with a tuiliq on, I can balance brace without any thought. With just the PFD, I have to really arched my back (to the point of discomfort) and push the boat away from me with one hand. Without the PFD, I can get my body back up but never to the point where my head is above water to breathe.



– Last Updated: May-08-06 1:37 PM EST –

turn to show me this summer. I get the balance point, then as I am laying alongside the boat, I just slowly start to sink my face deeper and deeper, untill I am so deep that I can't bend my back enough and ...I slowly sink until the boat hits it's fall over point. I know I out weight you by about 65 or 70 pounds .....but still I sink

I would think that it could be my age but I know many my age that can Balance brace with more than just their nose and eyebrows showing.. could have been all the years I spent working in the woods behind my Belgin or all the wood I sawed on my mill had it's toll but my back seems flexiable enough these days since I no longer do those things....much

tricksey little hobbitsees....I tend to think that the under 5'6 and 140 pound crowd has an advantage here.......but then I cound probably wear 2 or 3 PFD's before I would ever have to even think about how to get under the boat....

Alex....I'll see you at training camp this Aug. until then maybe I can find someone else that knows the secreat handshake and show me....or show me how to gain more flex in my back.

Best Wishes

sing…the only way I can really get the balance brace is to twist sideways in the boat and hold the side deck line with my hand that is toward the back of the boat…then flop backwards with my paddle in hand and other arm outstreached. the slap of the paddle on the water allows me to stay close enough to the surface to get a BB…however I slowly sink

Best Wishes



– Last Updated: May-08-06 1:43 PM EST –

it's probably the flexiability that I think about it, my son can do one with his ears almost out of the water. he is about 6 foot tall and 170. I might have to sit on him to make him go under while doing a balance brace. never asked him if he has to fight his way under the boat to do a roll....never even crossed my mind before I kept reading it on the net, that anyone had that problem. Doesn't seem that anyone that couldn't get under would even have to learn to roll....rxcept for fun....just slide back on the deck....

best wishes

I would guess that most people that have to fight their way under the kayak in order to do a 360 deg roll, don't really relaize that some have quite the oposite experiance

BB and under the boat
Those of us who find a need to fight our way under the boat are pretty aware that others don’t have this issue - especially when you get stuck under there the first time you try a full roll and find after gasping up and out of the boat that the guy standing in the water had no idea why you were taking so long…

I’ve been told by WW paddlers that anyone could encounter this, if they hit strong current that forces them to roll up on the same side to which the current is flowing. Don’t play with rocks myself - but I believe them.

As to the balance brace - it’s harder for people who have a fair amount of weight in their torso and insufficient flexibility to get their back really flat to the water. I think the problem is still as above - that the boat isn’t at that sweet spot in terms of balance. But it’s easy to argue that if you are having to pay a lot of attention to just getting rotated, you lose some focus on the leg that is balancing the boat on its side. So the fix is to stabilize the torso position so that you can get back to balancing the boat effectively.

The smallest things can make a difference in that. One silly little thing worked for my husband. I noticed that the way he placed his hands had the shoulder that needed to be more down sticking up, and vice versa. So take the hand that is holding onto the deck rigging in back, make sure it is facing palm up, and if possible even stick it under the edge of the boat. And make sure that the hand holding the paddle is facing palm down.

That’ll get both of your shoulders flatter to the water, and maybe make it easier to focus back on whether you have really gotten the boat balanced.

That point varies with the boat. While in a Romany type hull you can get the boat just about exactly perpendicular to the water and it’ll stay upright, other hull designs may need to be pushed back further away from you so that they are more like 120 degrees away from the water on the side where you are laying.

fit is more important…
…than floatation for rolling. The roll requires a good range of motion, make sure the pfd is not so long or bulky that it inhibits your ability to bend forward and sidways. Not many of those around anymore, but beware.

Current whitewater PFDs are evolved
for rolling. They stay close to the body, so they do not resist the motion of the body through the water in the “down” part of the roll, and they do not pick up a lot of water, so that the paddler does not need to lift extra weight while finishing the roll.

I don’t think the amount of floatation is an issue, once you are used to the PFD. But if you use an older, multi-tube, waist-skirted PFD, you are likely to have more difficulty rolling than with modern designs.