Roll Question fro Jay Babina

-- Last Updated: Sep-17-07 1:40 PM EST --

In my seemingly neverending quest for a roll, I have turned my attention to the sweep roll (most of the trainers I've studied under teach C to C). Greyak will be happy to hear that I have abandoned the paddlefloat, which is highlighting my plunging blade problems. This weekend, I reviewed the sweep section of the Jay's First Roll DVD (the more I watch it, the better it is), went out to practice (which didn't go well), then came back and reviewed the pool underwater shot of Jay's roll, and noticed some potential corrections.

So Jay, here's my questions:

- From the vantage point of a person standing on the bottom of a pool looking up at your roll directly above, it seems like when you setup for your sweep, the trunk of your body is about 90 degrees with the boat (not 90 degrees hanging down, 90 degrees with the side). It almost looks like the position you take when sculling for support. Is this correct?

- When you setup for the sweep, it looks like your body is very close to the surface of the water. Is this correct?

As always, comments from the non-Jay Babina's are also welcome.

FYI, in my practice, I am not setting up before I submerge, as I do not think that I will have this opportunity in a real capsize situation (observed from real capsizes). Instead, I am placing the paddle in the water on the sweep side of the boat, submerging on the opposite side, grabbing the paddle, and setting up for the sweep.



– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 2:28 PM EST –

set up for the roll...don't worry about real conditions yet...learn to roll first with every aid (including setting up) then start doing the capsize without setting up, capsizing with the paddle stowed on your deck etc...

Rolling is very very easy...teaching it or learning to roll is is actually able to explain the actual feeling that is a need to find it...then you'll say "is that all there is to it?"

don't make finding the feeling that a roll is , any harder by trying to do it any way other than in neutral water and with all the easy tricks first.

Best Wishes

Remember... it isn't the paddle that rolls the's your thigh and your use of the salsa hip move....use the water to glide on as you roll the boat with your thigh and do the salsa hip...only use the surface tention of the water for a little support....

oh and don't be afraid to spin your butt in the boat or lift it off the seat if need be.

Think...rolling over in a mummy sleeping bag and making it roll with you....think ...rolling out of bed in the morning....don't worry about having your feet on the pegs. They arn't really necessary if you are properly ingaged with your thigh (singular) and your hip (singular)

My experience
Hi Lou. In case no one else mentions, you gotta have earned the persistence award.

Just a comment on what I found re the setup, the idea that you won’t be set up in the real thing. That’s true but… starting out in a setup both builds muscle memory for the likely significant number of times that you will be able to go to a setup to roll, like in just about any second attempt, and tends to keep your body from going into excess arm and torso movements. In my case, excess movement has a high likelihood of translating into waving arms and a diving blade.

As to getting the torso near the surface near the start of your effort, in my own case that has the effect of lifting the boat so it is already halfway up. So the torso up there has as much or more to do with giving me less of a roll to have to actually complete than anything else. But I am also pretty well habituated to being in a sculling position when I am that close to the surface, so whatever weighting or thigh action has to happen there is usually automatic. Have you noticed where your boat is if you get yourself to where your torso is just under the surface of the water (facing up easiest to tell)?

Peanut gallery reply while you wait …
… for Jay’s response.

“it seems like when you setup for your sweep, the trunk of your body is about 90 degrees with the boat (not 90 degrees hanging down, 90 degrees with the side). It almost looks like the position you take when sculling for support. Is this correct?”

Skip measuring “degrees” and just tuck forward and down to the side (which becomes up toward the surface after capsizing).

Try sweeping with your body vs. your arms. From setup all the way through to layback recovery you should sweep out and around with your torso (while driving knee). Arms don’t need to move very much - mostly just extensions of torso sweep and slightly adjusting paddle position from start position to finish position. This does not require much arm movement at all. Excessive arm movements relative to torso with only invite diving blades and messed up timing.

“When you setup for the sweep, it looks like your body is very close to the surface of the water. Is this correct?”

Yes - Getting as close to the surface as possible and sweeping just below the surface makes things much easier. After capsizing and still in setup - but before initiating the sweep - try to tuck a bit tighter up toward the surface as much as possible using the non-rolling knee. Initiate sweep and relax/disengage that knee and begin applying pressure to the rolling knee. Nice thing about the sweep roll is the timing of the knee/hip torso drive is not as critical and ca be spread out. You should feel when and how to apply the pressure much more than thinking about it. Pay attention (physical, not mental) to twisting the hull over. Being closer to the surface and sweeping with torso will both make this much more effective and easier.

“FYI, in my practice, I am not setting up before I submerge, as I do not think that I will have this opportunity in a real capsize situation (observed from real capsizes). Instead, I am placing the paddle in the water on the sweep side of the boat, submerging on the opposite side, grabbing the paddle, and setting up for the sweep.”

You are NOT in a “real” situation, you are in a LEARNING situation. Stop improvising and making thing unnecessarily harder. It is counterproductive. Keep it simple and take FULL advantage of the teaching method. All methods teach some variation of setup/home base/whatever for a reason: IT WORKS!!!

In a “real” situation you usually CAN go to setup - particularly in typical sea kayaking scenarios - you just do it underwater vs. before capsizing. Practice going back and forth between setup and finish position while inverted and you have 90% of the roll. Just add knee drive to twist the hull over.

Work on “no setup” stuff (and all manner of roll variations) later - AFTER you have a reliable sweep roll working. Things that are important now (like setup - and getting near surface) will become more automatic and so less crtical later - in some cases not really even needed - but they still need proper attention when learning if you want to have any chance of learning good basic mechanics.

find Jay
For years I tried and tried learning from several people.

Jay had me straightened out in about two minutes. Sweet success and several dozen rolls later, I threw up…oops…dizzy!

Kiss the deck
That’s how instructors described the setup position that I try to emulate. If I’m seeng Jay’s position correctly (and I reviewed it frame by frame), he’s not in that position when he initiates a sweep.

I may not be a paddling “natural” but hopefully my persistence will make up for it someday:)

Thanks for your comments…Lou

Well spoken as always
Thanks Greyak. I’ll try this next time out.


The setup looks laid back here
Initial doesn’t look like Jay’s setup or or sound like Greyak’s.

There are a growing number of good rolling examples on youtube that have been filmed in pools with underwater cameras. I myself have had better success in my longboat with the C-to-C than the sweep.

You mention the paddlefloat. See if you can pull yourself up or angel roll with it.

Learning Approach?
I definitely agree with those recommending starting in the setup postion. Don’t make it any harder on yourself! It’s all about muscle memory at this stage.

As for blade diving issues - it helped me a lot to actually open my eyes and look at the blade. If the water is relatively clear you should be able to see the blade. Also, relax your grip a little as the blade “wants” to be face-down. You should be able to feel it immediately if the blade is diving. Stop, back up, adjust the paddle (or your wrists) and start again.

Watch the blade as you sweep - this will encourage you to move your blade, head, and torso in unison.

The biggest thing for me was keeping my head under water as long as possible. Pretend you’re pushing off the water with it.

Good luck!

A few thoughts
For the record - I’m not the expert, you are. Everyone eventually develops their own particular style that agrees with your boat and body. I just came up with an easy learning method that works for a lot of people.

It’s pretty hard to sweep out the paddle and not have your body travel out with the paddle. One advantage of practicing from the set up is that you end up ON THE SURFACE on the other side in position for the sweep. If you fail with the roll and plunge back in, you will be hanging upside down under the boat. Ideally you would do a crunch and lift you body up to the surface and sweep out again. You can roll from the settled position but obviously it’s much harder since you have to come up from more distance. From the crunched up position it’s way easier to use your hips to twist the boat up. From settled you will have to do more leveraging. That’s why when beginners fail with their first attempt they rarely get their 2nd attempt. So until you are nailing it every time, I think you’re wiser starting from a set up even if you drop in on your roll up side if needed.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the actual degrees of how perpendicular you are to the boat on the sweep. Just do what feels natural. In most cases you will be 90 degrees out. I looked at my “Bombproof Roll and Beyond” book and they show the paddler 90 degrees out for their C to C or Screw Rolls. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize exactly what you’re doing.

If you’re failing concentrate on keeping your head back best you can. Make sure your paddle is in the purchase position and not in the slicing position. Try best you can to use your hips to assist the most you can. I totally know how hard it is to be thinking about 4 things at once.

Have someone watch you who can help fine tune your problems. Sometimes you can’t quite tell if you’re off with something especially when learning. You can always retreat back a bit to those leaning in the sand exercises and work your way back to where you are as a refresher.

Best of luck!

Now that Jay has responded…
here’s a tip that Matt @ Body Boat Blade suggested, as an alternate set-up. Instead of tucking on the opposite side you will roll up, put you paddle at 90 degrees to the kayak, power face down, and sweep it forward to parallel the boat as you go down ON THE SAME SIDE YOU PLAN TO ROLL UP. You end up with both the paddle and your body ready to start the sweep roll on the correct side.

I like this set-up better than the common one because it more closely matches the way I would probably capsize in real conditions.

I hope I have described it adequately–it’s easier to demo than to describe.

I Can with Paddle Float
It’s when I take it off that things go wrong.


very good stuff
Great discussion and thanks Greyak for the description, you took the words right off my keyboard.

In light of all the talk about setup here, I’d like to ask instructors: why not more stressing of the setup? I think it’s the most critical part of the roll. To me, the “hip snap” is more intuitive than the setup. I would think, that after learning bracing, then learning a wet exit, hten learning to be comfortable upside down in your kayak, the next progression would be the setup. Get the person in the position greyak describes, and then bring them to the surface. No roll attempt, just repeat that setup until it comes with muscle memory. THEN try the next step. My main barrier to getting a roll was that my setup was not consistent or strong.

As for the hip snap - for me this is an inaccurate description of what happens to me during a sweep roll. To me it feels more like a diagonal crunch, the rotation of my torso moving the blade through the water helping my onside knee to come up to my chest.

Thanks Jay

I am familiar with this method
It’s certainly worth a try

What Helped Me
Get your head way up near the surface while in the set up position (upside down).

Bring your head back as you swing the paddle back.

Don’t think ‘hip snap’. Think ‘thigh twist’ or ‘quick knee lift’.

The closer your head is to the surface, the more ‘thigh twist’ power you have to come up.

An extended Greenland paddle provides SO MUCH lift and always lets you know the blade angle.

Look at first clip again

– Last Updated: Sep-17-07 5:07 PM EST –

Ignore the nice slow controlled capsize and you can see at mid point when inverted he's leaning forward and to the side with paddle pointing forward. Essential he's gone to "setup" while in-between and under, just not a very tight or rigid setup position and no clear start/stop to/from there as it's not needed (once your past you 1st Roll anyway). The last half is a pretty standard sweep with layback recovery.

Think of the setup position as being relative to the kayak - regardless of whether the kayak is upright or not. "Set up" is a position you go to up or down. It's the starting point of the roll - not of the capsize. It's where you initiate the sweep from. You don't need to set up before capsizing. You can get there after while underwater - which is good basic practice stuff. Still, while learning - go to setup while you have air most of the time. One less thing to do while inverted.

Can you take a drive?
Seriously Lou, you’ve been at this a while and heck only knows what less than helpful habits have formed of which you are not fully aware. Is there a way you can get to Jay? I think he is within a reasonable drive of you if you can lay your hands on a car.

Thanks All!
I have plenty to try at my next session.

By the way, I don’t have a paddling partner to critique what I’m doing, however, I think I’m consciously incompetent enough to know what I’m doing wrong.