Question for rolling instructors

When teaching people to roll in their own boats - how many of you get into their boats and roll them before working with them (or vice versa)?

Sure, basic techniques/concepts are the same in all boats - but seems to me every boat is different and directly experiencing what they’re up against might reveal something to you that could make it easier to help the student. Obviously some won’t fit, but most should be in commercial kayaks with adjustable pegs. Not too many learning to roll (sea kayak) have aggressive paddling, foamed bulkheads, etc.

Rolling their also clearly shows the student their boat rolls just fine - and such an image could be helpful in something that’s 90% mental.

Seems most who teach have good rolling boats (again, I mainly mean sea kayaks - but applies to WW too) - but not all students do. Having them switch boats can provide a little different feel. I got my first rolls in another boat - which was just enough of a change for me to get a bit different feel for what I was doing. I then transferred what I felt back to mine.

Anyway - who swaps, or at least tries the student’s boat?

Never seeen this done
by any instructor. The ones I’ve worked with usually put folks into a whitewater boat that fits.

never swapped boats during the session
but I am familiar with the boats and have been in them/rolled them in the past. I know you referred primarily to sea kayaks, but as it is currently winter all our rolling sessions are indoors in a swimming pool with whitewater boats. Most of these boats are RPMs or similar so they are extremely easy to roll. The only situation where I might change my instruction based on the boat was if the boat had an extremely high rear combing which inhibited layback rolls. In that case rather then teaching the sweep/screw/slash roll, I would teach the C-to-C or sweep-to-C.

Interesting idea
However, I teach rolling in a pool using WW boats so it doesn’t really apply.

I did have an interesting experience along that line. One of our group is an ACA Instructor Trainer and a BCU gazillion stars and I have never seen him miss a roll in any circumstance. When I brought my Drago Rossi Fish to class he tried to roll it with a C-to-C and couldn’t do it. It took a sweep roll on the third try. So you never know. Boats are quite different.

.It Helped Me, Guys
An instructor got into my Squall and knocked off a roll once, also had another person who was working with me use my paddle. In both cases it helped me to see what my problems were better than I could tell upside down.

Re the Squall, it helped to actually see someone bring the boat up and pass thru its secondary stability point. In the second, the person was able to verify that yes, my carbon fiber paddle needed more attention than her big wooden one. (I use an Epic Signature paddle now…)

I should note that I have had to overcome a not slight issue with claustrophobia. No way I was ever going to get a roll in other than my own boat which I trusted and felt loyalty towards, so the whitewater boat option was not there for me.

For people with my issues just starting down the path, it would be awfully helpful for an instructor to get into the participant’s boat and show that it can be done, as Greyak mentioned.

Potential size issue
I learned to roll in a Squall also. Before I tried it, the other person told me the Squall was “easy to roll.”

Unfortunately, as soon as I capsized, I literally fell out of the kayak, even with sprayskirt on. Yes, that time it was my fault for not pushing against the footpegs while underneath, but there was another problem, too: extremely loose fit.

The same person later installed some Ensolite pads AND additional minicell foam to allow my thighs to actually contact the thigh braces. I completed my first roll not long after that.

Even now, I have to consciously press up against the thigh braces when rolling this kayak. So I see a problem with a (probably average-sized) instructor thinking a student’s kayak is “easy to roll”, when that student might be only 4’10" and swimming inside the cockpit.

Yeah, I do It
when it seems that the person can’t visualize what I am talking about, or I am trying show something like a reentry and roll, or accessing a back up paddle and roll.

I’ve rolled smaller and bigger boats. Smaller boats are obviously easier. But, I don’t even mess with the foot pedals or outfitting with the larger boats since the person is going to get right back in anyway. So, I usually splay by knees as wide as possible to make contact and do some sort of modified sweep to C2C. Bigger boats rolled this way were a Gulfstream, Seayak, Capella, and some sort of Wavesport (?Y, Z) a Dagger. It doesn’t matter as long as I have contact through the knee to transmit the hip snap.

I’ve also put smaller paddlers into my skin boat if they fit and they are learning a layback roll and/or sculling.


Surf Kayaks

– Last Updated: Mar-03-05 6:20 AM EST –

are very different to roll for someone never having been in one. If the seat is raised enough (as some surf kayakers do to their seats for more lean out leverage), a layback is probably the easiest (my Boogie). If not not, a very aggressive hip snap on a C2C type of roll is needed to roll. My Venom forced me back to a very aggressive C2C. That boat scared the crap out of me the first several times out when it took me several tries to roll back up whenever I flipped over. Not good when in big breaking waves. Now, it doesn't seem any harder than any other boat.

Actually, on the second outing with my Venom, on a big wave day, I signaled my surfing buddie (who was then using a white water boat) that I was headed in. He asked me what was going on. I told him that I wasn't able to roll my Venom up well. I didn't trust the boat (or me in it) and I was getting scared to hell out there in the big waves. He tried to convince to try again but I was adamant about not going back out. I told him to keep surfing and I'll keep eye out for him on the beach. Anyway, my buddy moved up to a surf kayak himself. On his first day out, an a pretty mild day, despite a bombproof roll in his white water boars, he came out of his boat twice and swam. On his second time out, again with me but on a bigger day, he swam again. He then stuck to some of smaller, reformed waves for the rest of the session. When we got in, he said, "You know... I couldn't understand why you were so scared with the Venom. Now, I understand. I was really afraid out there today because I couldn't roll this surf boat consistently." My buddy is getting better with the surf boat, but each time we've gone out, we would get past the break zone and he would have me spot him as he did a couple rolls before we even start surfing.


Boats & Foam
We try to get the student in the best rolling boat possible and also carry foam to improve boat fit. It is often easier to learn in a good rolling boat then transfer the skill. It is also usually quicker to teach a person with little or no paddling experience rather than one who may have developed bad habits.

Practice makes Permanent


– Last Updated: Mar-03-05 8:39 AM EST –

"Practice makes Permanent"

Bad practice can imprint bad habits but it is not permanent. Anything can be improved (or worsen) depending on how something is practiced.

Look at any sport which require high level of specific skills. You will see the folks changing coaches and techniques all that time to fine tune a performance, or to change technique/approach altogether. How can this be if it's "permanent."

If something is "permanent", then there is no sense in trying to get help or a coach because once someone has bad technique is now "forever."

I think the statement is used by those who want to drum up beginners into classes. I am not saying classes are not a good thing. Quite the contrary, but lets avoid the scare tactics, okay?


I think you misinterpretted sing…
Correct me if I’m wrong but pblizardkayak might be saying something more in line with “perfect practice makes perfect” and his choice of the word “permanant” might not have been the best. I have often fought with students who have preconceived notions of how to roll from previous instructors and I need to constantly remind them to trust me and forget a lot of things that they’ve learned. This is particularly true for those people who watch various rolling videos constantly and have an amalgam of contradictory techniques infused in their head. I do like “clean slate” students as it’s easier to teach them the right form from the beginner rather than having to unlearn things and then teach. Of course you’re correct in saying that nothing is permanant. Although I have what I consider a fairly “bomb-proof roll”, if I went away from kayaking for a year or two, I’m not certain how bombproof I would be. Also if I got lazy with my form and only practiced in an RPM all the time, the next time I got on the river with my playboat, I may have difficulties.

Perhaps, Wrong Choice Of Words…

– Last Updated: Mar-03-05 10:53 AM EST –

but it does give of a "fright" doesn't it.

Here's how I look at it, take competitive fighting, e.g. boxing, kickboxing, grapplers, mixed martial arts, there are some many different basic techniques involved to practice and master to be good and competitive. Folks will naturally favor a certain approach, certain techniques, etc. But, the top notch competitors will study films of their opponents, and change up techniques to capitalize on the perceived weaknesses of the opponent. Talk about some drastic and intense changes in practice mode... The fact is a good coach can and will break it all down and build it back up. What the heck is a roll compared to that?

Go back up to the post on different boats on different roll techniques. Of course, you have to adapt to ensure a greater percentage of success. but it's doable.

If one is going to instruct, you take the student at where ever they are and work it. I thinking working with someone who is open minded and committed to learning makes it easier. I don't think whatever habit, or non habit, matters as much except in affecting the speed of learning. Heck, there are folks who have little natural coordination but will get a roll eventually if they are committed and work long enough at it (with a patient enough coach).


lol, how did I know martial arts would
enter the picture! Actually I’m a fan of mma and have done some grappling in the past. Kayaking is infinitely more straightforward and the adaptability required is nothing compared to when you are facing an opponent. I definitely agree about giving the student the best chance for success and the coach/instructor needs to be as flexible (if not more so) as the student.

On a side note, how are you able to devote time to paddling as well as martial arts? I have completely neglected my brazilian jiu-jitsu club since I have gotten serious about paddling and have some guilt about that.

Dude, Stake Out
two to three one hour workouts during the work week and you’ll be in okay fighting (but not competitive) condition but definitely in shape for paddling.

I’m training my 15 year old son for his first MA match in May. His idea, not mine, since as his dad, I actually do get worried and would get a squeamish if I see him get hurt. BTW, he trains TKD regularly. I train him boxing, grappling and “dirty tool” work.


that’s awesome. good luck to your son!
Also in terms of physical health, how do you keep from getting injured as our paddling arms are often at risk during martial arts? The guys I used to workout with are great guys and I trust them, but nevertheless, after an hour of armbars, my elbows and shoulders are all tweaked out and not in any condition to paddle/hand roll, etc. I’m a little skittish right now as I remember last summer missing a week or two of paddling after taking a hard armbar (my fault, I didn’t tap soon enough).

I like the “amalgam of contradictory techniques” infused in my head!!!

Gives me options.

No “Hard Stuff”

– Last Updated: Mar-03-05 12:35 PM EST –

in several years, since I don't compete anymore. Last time couple of times I got injured was in MMA sparring matches. Guy went to throw me, I latched on to his neck, went over and pulled him over with me. We both landed on my one shoulder. I managed to choke him to a submission but was out for the next month after that. Ditto when someone landed on my ankle. My last FMA stick fighting match, I thought I poke some kids' eye out, which prompted me to give up on competition altogether. The competitive fire in me no longer burn bright enough to eclipse the fear/remorse of hurting an opponent seriously.

My workouts these days is mostly solo bag and FMA weapons work just to stay in decent shape. When I work with someone, it's usually to train them with reflex drills (on striking arts) FMA flow drills and technical refinement around specific impact attacks and footwork.

Some grappling pics from the not too long ago "glory days."


Examples of extremes ??
Perhaps, Wrong Choice Of Words…

Posted by: sing on Mar-03-05 10:49 AM (EST)

Here’s how I look at it, take competitive fighting, e.g. boxing, kickboxing, grapplers, mixed martial arts, there are some many different basic techniques involved to practice and master to be good and competitive.


Do you really think that the average paddler has much in common with a competative fighter? The fighter has trained dilegently for years to learn to do what they do. The average paddler doesn’t train at all. How can you use the example of what happens with highly trained atheletes to illustrate a point relative to completely un-trained paddlers?

Would you as quickly share expert MA insights relaitve to some obcscure nuance with MA novices before thay have a frame of reference to understand the ramifications of those nuances?? An instructor cannot teach to a student before the two have a common frame of reference. As the students understanding becomes wider, they are able to relate to finer and finer nuances.

I think this is why most of the world has adopted a progressive approach to education.



i think the boat confuses the issue
granted the instructor at least checks that there is adequate contact between the butt, back, feet, knees, and thigh braces. I think you are ok. But if it works to help get someone rolling, why not try it?..

Yes. There Are Parallels

– Last Updated: Mar-03-05 3:43 PM EST –

I have trained folks with no MA backgrounds and have had them do quite well against folks with "more training." I am not going to go into specifics of the training since we are not talking MA's here, except as OT. Feel free to email me if you want references from others (meaning certified, high ranking BB's) who know how I train folks. I won't deny that there is a self selection process that happens with folks getting into this as well. This means, at least in the mental/psychological realm, they are different than the average person.

I think "experts" have a way of making the physical training sometimes more complicated and mystical than it it is. It may be in their interest to do so. Frankly, I have never charged folks who trained with me. I have never asked for allegience from them either. I welcome beginners as much as folks who have or continue to practice with other styles and teachers (of course, some of their teachers are not as opened about that). In fact, the more diversity in perspectives and training backgrounds the better because it pushes everyone to really test and examine their own techniques and perspectives. In terms of folks I train with, all I expect is hard work with no BS and no egotistical crap. Because the ring doesn't lie and the ultimate truth is that we're all one opponent away from defeat because someone out there already has our number. I guess, with too much ego around paddling, the ocean will punch the ticket at some point.