Rolling - 360 or 180?

Just curious what others are doing and why. I taught myself to roll this summer and found it much easier to do a 180 degree roll (come up on the same side I went down on) than to do a complete 360. The 360 was very disorienting at first unless I got all tucked up into my setup position ahead of time. Even now that I’ve practiced it I still struggle a bit with the timing and I have to be setup before I go over.

The few times I’ve capsized on accident I find myself leaning opposite the direction of the capsize as I try to avoid it. If I’m going to do a 180 roll this already puts my body in close to the setup position (correct side of the boat). If I want to do a 360 in this situation it means that along with getting the paddle into the correct position I need to move the upper half of my body to the other side of the boat (sounds easier than it is to a beginner).

To me the 180 seems more practical. In the real world I don’t see myself setting up before I go over and if I have to setup underwater I’d think all my momentum from tipping would be lost, and isn’t the momentum the big benefit of the 360?

I rarely hear anyone mention a 180 degree roll, am I missing something? A 360 certainly is sexier and feels way cooler.


in general both, but…
obviously for real world you may flip either way and may not have time (or mental clarity) to setup before flipping so eventually you want to practice either way with no setup.

That said I think what you call the 360 way is often common and useful in surf. If you braced into the wave well you likely won’t need to roll, but if you lean for a second away from the wave then a quick setup as you flip (away from wave) will make you extra ready to quickly roll up with the wave as help.

180 = Half Roll NM

whatever works
IMO, they’re both rolls, and one side is just as good as the other.

I agree with what you’re saying about trying to roll with your body on the wrong side of the boat. I sometimes have trouble getting a roll because I feel like my setup can’t get to the surface. If your body is floating to one side, and your setup is trying to reach the other way, you won’t get your paddle out of the water for a good roll. This weekend I asked an instructor about this when I saw him capsize, float to the opposite side that he was set up on, somehow flick himself over to float on the correct side and then roll up. I asked him what he did under there to switch sides.

He made a vague wiggling motion and said “you just paddle over to the side you want to set up on”. Sounded so simple completely unhelpful, but the next time it happened to me, I just took two little underwater strokes, (like swimming with your paddle, if you’ve tried that) and what do you know - worked like a charm! :slight_smile:

Set Up is …
just one hand in front of the other. It’s best to practice falling this way and that. Come up offside and on. When you’re being trashed in the surf there’s no predicting how you’ll go over.

momentum myth
Generally there is no momentum gained or lost when you capsize in one direction or another that will help you roll.

The mechanics of successfully rolling what you are calling a 180 and a 360 roll are exactly the same.

If you take the time to orient yourself while underwater then it won’t matter how you capsized. In other words, you should be able to successfully setup for a roll for any position. By practicing orienting yourself underwater your will find it less and less disorienting when you accidentally capsize.

Mostly an instinct thing for me… related more than anything to where I could get the paddle and my body (before impact) once I realised that a dunking was coming. Helps, though, to have more than one rolling technique for each side: means you’re almost always falling close to a convenient starting position.

Of course, when it really, REALLY matters (say just above a big drop) you’ll do yourself a big favour if your instinct is linked to an awareness of where the rocks are, which way you want to spin the bows as you surface and what you want to do next.

I went through a couple of years paddling with a close friend whose rolls (back then) were generally followed critical second or so thinking “excellent”, a further moment working out where he was and then a mad panic as he drifted into further problems.

For a while I just screamed “paddle” at him each time he surfaced. He gradually got the idea that coming up and doing SOMETHING (generally paddling in pretty much any direction) was better than coming up and doing nothing… and in time he seemed to gain that greater spatial awareness to be more selective over which side he chose and what he did with the paddle as he came upright.

When you learn to NOT lean away
from a capsize you will need your roll less. Leaning INTO a capsize is how you perform a ‘high brace’. It’s VERY counter-intuitive and requires a lot of practice but is an amazing feeling when you use it for the first time.

Leaning AWAY from a capsize just facilitates putting your boat past it’s healing moment, where a capsize is inevitable.

Keep practicing your roll, 180-360-270…and when you are comfortable rolling from any position, try a 90. That would be a high brace.

Forget about standard 360
Setting up on one side and doing a 360 to roll up on the other side is just for stylistic rolling (like Greenland competitions). Practice rolling by capsizing in a realistic way. Put your paddle in a variety of positions (not a set up position), capsize both left and right, let your boat settle, then set up and roll. Even better, roll without setting up. That is training for what is going to really happen to you.

general rules
If you go from underwater to above water, it’s a roll - the number of degrees don’t matter. If you roll before you actually go under water it’s a high brace.

Generally, roll on the fastest, most convenient side - usually the same side you capsize on unless your paddle ends up in a weird position. If it doesn’t work, try the other side. If you really have your act together in the surf, wind, or waves you may be able to figure out if the other side is better,first.

I believe in setting up when you are learning.

Set up above water - come up on the same side.

Set up above water - come up on the other side - yes 360 degrees is disorienting at first so don’t move a muscle until your boat is completely settled upside down in the water then check your setup mentally and roll.

Setup, capsize, do a false sweep without rolling, sweep forward into the setup and then roll.

Capsize, setup, roll.

Capsize, setup, switch sides, roll.

Capsize, switch sides, roll.

Capsize, roll without setting up.

Capsize, try to roll without setting up, mess up, then setup and roll.

Paddle whitewater, capsize lots and roll lots.

A lot of it is just about body awareness and that takes different amounts of time for different people.

Well, it’s good to know I haven’t been teaching myself all wrong by not doing a full 360 roll. Will have to work on the high brace technique sometime, sounds like a tough thing to convince the mind to do but I can see how it would work.

We got a nice warmup here the last week, I’ll have to get out and practice rolling some more. I’ve been spending most of my practice tipping in awkward (realistic for me) positions so that I have to get everything into position when underwater and it seems to be helping. The other day I leaned a little too far in a turn with my Thunderbolt and it was my first opportunity to unexpectedly roll. I was very pleased to come up on my first try, on the left side even.

Thanks for the advice,


Go look up rotational moment
of inertia

is best. long as it’s deep enough.

if you flip it’s cuz your brace didn’t work on THAT side. go to the other side…it’s easiest to get there by going 360.

there IS momentum.


A reall roll is only 180!
To go from upside down to right side up is 180. Period.

The so called 360 would be “cheater’s roll” if it NEEDS the momentum from the capsize to roll up. Unless, of course, the same roll can be done WITHOUT the momentum, then it’d still be a actual roll.

“To me the 180 seems more practical. In the real world I don’t see myself setting up before I go over and if I have to setup underwater I’d think all my momentum from tipping would be lost, and isn’t the momentum the big benefit of the 360?”

Ultimately, it’s not about which side you go down. It’s about where your paddle is. Whichever side it’s on is the most convinient side to setup. That would dictate which side you’ll be doing your rolls. Whether that’s the same or opposite side of your capsize is irrelavent.

“I rarely hear anyone mention a 180 degree roll, am I missing something? A 360 certainly is sexier and feels way cooler.”

You must be talking about greenland rolls then. In Euro rolls, “sexy” is not in the dictionary. :wink:

No Momentum
In the conditions I was in recently I intentionally delayed my attempt to roll up. We were paddling in a very shallow inlet. Think surfing with no beach. I stayed upside down until the water calmed. Don’t think I could have come up immediately.

when in conditions or the surf the direction of the waves can make a big difference on which side I decide to come up, 180 or 360.

Momentum matters more and more as the mass/density near the boat’s axis increases. Said another way, 360 is in fact easier with a loaded/flooded boat, 180 vs. 360 matters less or none at all in an empty boat, 360 can be real work if you don’t burp your drysuit or are wearing a tuilik because you just don’t go under!

180, 360, 90,…hey 270! Wrap your head around that one for a sec! Who cares as long you’re having fun and the end result is you sucking air? If you can do a 180, you’re doing a high brace at its most extreme reach. To do what most people call a high brace, practice starting your roll progressively sooner. I acually learned a high brace roll in the reverse, learning to recover above water using that “knuckles up” planing sweep and progressively recovering deeper and deeper. If you’re in deep water, practice a back-slap on the water; it’ll stop you dead at the surface where you can high brace out of it.

The benifit to a full 360 is usually being able to use whatever force that tossed you over, to help bring you back up rather than fighting against it to come back the way you came.


you don’t
paddle in surf or whitewater do ya? sounds like lotsa practice in a pool.


yup, isn’t the momentum the big benefit
of the 360?

That waas a question in the original post. If momentum were a big benefit then ‘throwing’ yourself into the capsize would make rolling easier.

By itself rotational moment of inertia would be a big factor in rolling. However, there are lots of other factors involved - drag, friction (water), resistance (water), support (water), flexibility (paddler), technique (paddler), etc, etc. My point was that any benefit gained by capsizing and continuing in a ‘360’ fashion for a roll is quickly neutralized by lots of other factors.

Also, keep in mind the nature of rolling a kayak. The paddler and boat are not a rigid system that rotate around a single point. Rather, there are 2 individual components that are linked together.

The exception of rotational momentum would be surfing or being ‘wind-shaded’ in a whole. However, the great forces are the water on acting on the kayak and paddler, NOT the momentum of the kayak/paddler that was initiated by the capsize.

I strongly disagree
Let me state up front, I don’t roll for competition, so that’s not a consideration. However, I found that once I learned to roll, it became almost automatic to set up instantly if I knew I was going over, so it’s not just a show trick. Yes, there are many occasions where that won’t be possible, but in those cases, you can usually flop on your back, then brace back up.

I do agree that you need to practice in a variety of situations so you can become comfortable with several techniques for recovering from a capsize. Most of those do not involve rolling.

BTW, the basic Greenlandic rolls are not just for show, either. They were developed to cope with various situations a kayaker might encounter when out hunting and they were vital survival skills. Granted, the more advanced rolls in competition are mainly for show.