roll sweep direction difficulty

Many sweep roll instructions include something like; sweep the blade out and near the surface. I find getting this initial sweep direction correct one of the most difficult aspects to get consistent. My roll fails about once every 10 times, and it is mostly due to this initial sweep direction being wrong.

Any suggestions?

Sometimes rolls just fail, no matter how good we are. Try it again before punching out and you’ll probably recover it. Usually mine fails because my paddle is not out of the water enough as I begin my sweep. Just keep practicing to build that muscle memory. It becomes instinct. Sounds like you’re doing pretty well.

can you be more specific?
I have seen quite a few people suffer from “paddle dyslexia” when attempting to roll. Some wind up sweeping with the rear paddle blade beneath the boat.

Is this what you are doing, or are you sweeping the rear blade out away from the boat, or is the paddle blade diving as you sweep?

Try to concentrate on the feel of the hull against both your wrists as you set up and don’t start the sweep until this feels right. Remember that the front blade is always the one that sweeps out away from the boat (unless you are doing a “rodeo roll” off the back deck).

Are you pulling the blade down?
Need clarification on what you mean by not sweeping it in the right direction.

Spank yourself…
With the offside blade, that makes the rolling blade go where it needs to go, and keeps it close to the surface. This has worked for a lot of newbies I’ve helped.

as you rotate under
keep your shoulders square,your elbows in,& keep your hands in set up position. Don’t move hands at all.

As you come around, tap the boat bow w. your leading hand (right hand for righties)

Gets you oriented, get the paddle ready to plane on surface, and makes sure you get maximum distance for sweep.

You can take it from there.

off-side hand?
As mentioned above, and you must have figured out to make it work at all, the front hand always sweeps out and away from the bow, and ends back at the stern.

From start to finish of the roll, your body rotates 180 degrees. However, your paddle must not. It starts blade face down at the bow, and ends blade face down at the stern. Your sweeping hand starts with your fist aiming past the bottom of your thighs, and ends with your fist aiming up past your shoulder.

A common problem is punching out with your non-sweeping hand. So try paying attention to this hand in order to control your sweeping blade orientation.

You start reaching up above the water with both arms extended to get the paddle up to the surface. Your non-sweeping elbow is fairly close to your body. You need to keep this elbow right against your body through this whole motion. From the start of the sweep, to the end of the sweep, you should do a gradual curl with your non-sweeping hand. So it too starts with fist aiming past your butt, and at the end of the sweep is aiming up above your shoulder. It’s the same motion with your non-sweeping hand as doing a curl with a dumbell. You must keep your elbow against your side with this nonsweeping hand. Just put your elbow against your side, curl your fist up, and notice it aiming up above your shoulder. Now punch out, to see that if you did this, your fist is pointing out in front of you. This rotation means the blade isn’t slicing across the surface of the water, it is oriented to take a forward stroke. Attempted rolls don’t end well like this.

Since you’re rolling most of the time, you have the luxury of going out and focusing on nothing but keeping your elbow against your side and performing that gradual curl with your non-sweeping hand. Done perfectly, you will feel no resistance against the sweeping blade slicing through along the surface, and the roll will feel surprisingly effortless. It’s a fairly common issue. You’ll likely know almost immediately if this has been an issue for you.

Ignore what isn’t essential
The most important thing is that the blade orientation and sweeping direction have to be coordinated. That is, the front edge of the paddle blade has to be raised with respect the direction of travel. It does not matter if the paddle blade is on or near the surface of the water. It also works if the blade starts well under the water so long as the direction of travel is sort of parallel to the surface of the water or slanted up. People who roll by sculling are actually doing a series of deep water sweep rolls.

Do you feel the blade diving?
If a diving paddle is what you mean by “the sweep direction is wrong”, you can stop the sweep and do it again by setting up again, giving a more climbing angle on the blade.

The opposite, if the blade is too verticle, it end up spinning the boat rather than generating lift for you. If you feel the blade has a lot of resistance, stop and re-start from the setup position again. this time, you know which way to modify the blade angle.

Basically, you don’t have to continue on a roll just because you started sweeping. If you feel you were not sweeping correctly, do it again. Just make sure you go all the way back to setup, and make sure the setup is correct.

what paddle type?
Ever try using a Greenland paddle???,if not ,you`ll be amazed,those Inuits knew a thing about paddles,might feel a bit odd at first,but the amount of lift you get sweeping it is huge,btw,I use it with my QCC700,rolls it right up,proper technique helps too

I see this quite a lot
I teach rolling a fair amount in pools during the winter. Every year I have had a few students do this on occasion, usually after they have learned to roll, but not always. Get a friend to stand in the water next to you and have them gently pull the paddle to start it in the correct direction. Just have them start the motion then let go. Do this over and over until your muscle memory kicks in and you consistently get it right.

I’ll Second the Greenland Paddle

– Last Updated: Aug-12-12 5:28 AM EST –

The thing is naturally indexed. You always know the angle. And try this: Sweep back, then sweep FORWARD and come up. Someone posted some very old footage of an Inuit paddling and rolling and that's exactly what he did.

Get to setup right and it fixes this
If you come up and start with your body facing right hand right side forward for a right side roll (or left hand left side forward for left side roll) and and make sure to feel that wrist up against the side of the boat as an initial step to orient yourself, it is physically impossible to sweep in the wrong direction. The boat will be in the way.

Actually …
this sweep in the wrong direction happens quite frequently and even with a good setup. I’ve seen pre-teens to pre-retirees do it. You just sweep a little below the surface and go across the front deck underwater. I’m sure it has to do with being disoriented under water and timing the boat rotation with the sweep.

Another way to help fix this is to practice sweeps in the air with eyes closed to develop muscle memory as per EJ’s Rolling and Bracing video.

Even if…
they start with a good contact to the boat so that they can feel the wrist clear the water?

You’ve done a lot more of this work obviously than me, but I am a little confounded about someone getting mucked up if they have had a first good tactile contact. I was figuring this was a bigger problem for people who are too stiff to get well up by the boat to start with, which leaves you with very little orientation.

That said, I might have a stronger reaction to tactile clues than most because I tend to not open my eyes under water. Do people who are accustomed to seeing the boat try to sweep the wrong way, or does this happen after they have moved their upper body and head more away from the boat?

I believe this occurs with those that …
close their eyes, but I am not certain. This happened to an ~10-12 year old as well as two others that you know that I can clearly remember. I actually take notes after each rolling class, so I could check the frequency if I was more motivated! It has occurred after they have rolled successfully a few times, which initially surprised me. I guess I’m not too surprised any more with whatever happens given the power of disorientation!

I will guess this happens most frequently when students are really focused on the sweep and they tend to forget everything else, like boat rotation.

Hmm then
I had gotten the impression that in at least one of the situations you ran into, the orientation to the boat never seemed to have caught in the first place, or core strength to get up by the boat was a problem. Or all of the above.


Not uncommon
I’ve seen this fairly often as well. It’s counterintuitive to push the back of your front hand away from the boat - everyone wants to pull that hand towards the bottom of the pool.

I address it by having them set up, then I tap the back of their hand to remind them which direction to start in.


A Valid Point
was made by CapeFear:

“A common problem is punching out with your non-sweeping hand. So try paying attention to this hand in order to control your sweeping blade orientation.”

That “punching out” with the non-sweeping hand can tend to lever the paddle blade into the water & into diving. Try holding an imaginary ping pong ball in your non-sweeping armpit to avoid punching and potential paddle dive.

C to C first
Try to get good with the C to C first. This roll breaks things down into a few simple steps. Once you get the steps and the indicators down for each you will have a roll. Taught correctly you should be able to roll almost every time within about 15 minutes.

Then you can work towards a sweep which simply combines two steps of the C to C into a more fluid motion.

I don’t consider myself to be a great instructor but I have never had a person fail to roll within 15 minutes after their first try.

Don’t get too caught up into the paddle. In fact, I teach most of the roll before a paddle is ever brought into the lesson. The paddle should not be your focus in my opinion.