Rolling a boat

Question about rolling.

I have been lead to believe that in order to roll, one must basically pull the boat under you. That if you were on your right side that you would straighten your left leg and pull up your right leg up against the thigh brace in order to pull the boat under you. With your left leg acting as a pivot point or at least, not actively pulling the boat back on top of you. The point being that you don’t push the boat off you, but instead pull it under you.

Because your only using one leg to do the heavy lifting and due to the fact that the other leg acts as a pivot point, it makes sense that the narrower and lighter the boat, the easier it is to roll. Now what if I used a pad or continued the thigh brace in the shape of a “C” so that it would also make contact with the bottom of my thigh so that I could push the boat with my left leg with the same force as pulling the right leg. Now my left leg would no longer act a pivot point but as a driveing force. The pivot point would now be closer to the center of the boat, making it feel like I’m rolling a narrower boat and because I am using both of my legs, one to drive with and one to pull with, I should increase my effective power to roll the boat over.

Does this make any sense?

Actually your analysis makes sense.
I assume you are not talking about WW boats but the WW boats made by Dragorossi do make use of the principle you describe. They have inner thigh braces attached to the center of the seat. It is quite amazing how much control that gives you over rotation of the boat and edging. If you want to see what they do go to . Unfortunately I don’t know of any touring boats with this kind of outfitting.

Rub Your Belly, Tap Your Head…

– Last Updated: May-10-06 7:59 PM EST –

a lot of folks have a hard time doing this. Focusing on driving up with one knee while pushing down with the back of the thigh of the other leg may be even harder. When you try to engage both sides of the body, there could also be more tendency to stiffen up the whole body which would work against a roll. The trick of rolling is to relax and utilize only the parts of the body that are needed. Relaxing the inboard side and focusing on driving up with the outboard hip and knee already takes a lot of practice for most to master.

Just my .02.


I’ll agree with the Doctor
But keep the focus on pulling the boat beneath you . . normally the opposite leg is inactive and limp during a roll. Pushing with the opposite leg is just different enough that it might limit your hip-snap and throw off other things.

There is little to reinvent with regard to rolling. Study the Greenland styles, learn the differences between Greenland and Euro style and between Sea & WW styles and you’ll have all of your answers and a whole lot more.

Ultimately too much discussion about rolling can be counterproductive. The movement and focus is not easily relayed with words alone. Each roller has a differnt understanding / perception and each will describe the action / focus differently. But each person can only describe their understanding based on their boat and their body. Little of that will apply to you and sorting out the good advise from the bad may well slow your learning curve.

To answer your other question, narrow and low volume boats are easier to roll. Try flooding your forward and aft compartments sometime and you’ll be rolling like a pin in no time. Best I think to work with one very good instructor until the two of you sort things out. Good luck!

Degree Of Force
Most of the people who helped with my roll, most of the written material I read in an attempt to assist my learning curve, and the videos that I watched during my learning process all talked about the fact that a roll is 90 percent mental and 10 percent work. Well, I guess I never connected with that part until after I rolled. Rolling the boat does not take a great deal of effort in terms of the force that you apply. It takes a series of coordinated efforts. Relaxing one leg and hip while appling force with the other provides plenty of force.

I don’t have .02 so that is my pennies worth,


One Problem
The physical mechanics

You have strong muscle groups that let you drive the rolling knee, your muscles to push down with the other leg are quite weak, and almost extended at their range of motion and not positioned to give you mechanical advantage.

No “heavy lifting” required NM

I know some folks here like to use the “driving knee” term to help simplify understanding of the action taking place, but the traditional term is hip-snap. Since your hips pivot at the spine, the pivot point of the rolling boat IS the center. You already are using both legs in the process, but the “non-driving leg” is using your “driving ass-cheek” to push on the other side of the seat. The boat does not pivot on one leg or the other, but at the center.

Like rolling out of bed…
In my rolling classes, when someone starts to get too technical or confused, I have them lie on the ground, on one side, and simply ask them to note how they get up to a sitting position. Go ahead and give it a try it now. Note that rather than pushing yourself up with stiff arms and stiff upper body (which emulates how many people try to roll at first), you simply rotate your hips under you, maybe using a very small amount of support (purchase) from your arms. Rolling a kayak is very similar. It IS a natural movement. The only thing that isn’t natural for some people is suppressing the urge to get your head out of the water immediately. This urge passes with training and with growing ease in and under the water.

As far as legs go, my mental key is to simply relax the offside leg and engage the onside leg (the onside leg is your right leg if you come up on the right side and vice-versa). With time (and for a roll such as a standard Greenland roll) your “hipsnap” can eventually feel like a slow, graceful unfolding of your entire body where the movement flows seamlessly together.

Greg Stamer

Hi, thanks for the replies. The reason for the question is that I would like to continue my instruction, but the boat I have is a 26-inch old town Nantucket. Which I use for fishing and general playing around. The same attributes, which make this a good fishing boat, tend to limit me in learning new skills. Because of its size I was hoping to gain additional mechanical advantage to help roll it. As a Jujitsu Instructor I’m always searching for better ways to increase my mechanical advantage. I weight 170 pounds and many of my students tend to be between 250 and 300 pounds and they tend to be very hard to throw unless you take advantage of every bit of leverage.

You are right I should find a good instructor, unfortunately they do not exist here. Down here in south Texas the sit on top kayak is king and the instructors here will show you only the basic’s such as how to sit on a sit on top without falling off. As a matter of fact I bought the Nantucket sight unseen because there are no sit-ins sold around here except the odd pungo ET. So I am forced to try and figure this out for myself.

As a poor teacher I can only afford one boat at the time. Perhaps someone could recommend a boat model that is fairly low volume boat (to much wind here) with enough initial stability to fish out of, but still challenging enough to develop my skills with. Preferably with a smallish cockpit. I find small cockpits easier to fish from, somewhere in the 16-17 foot range. Oh I paddle open bays and like to play in the surf.

I am 5’11’’, 170 lbs, 34’‘, inseam with a size 9 shoe.

Thanks Michael

I’ll Second That …
Jed sed:

Ultimately too much discussion about rolling can be counterproductive. The movement and focus is not easily relayed with words alone.

After a pretty full season of decreasingly feeble attempts, and lots of reading over the winter, I finally managed to nail my first few shaky rolls last weekend. After all those hours spent spluttering underwater while hanging from a paddle float, my first successful rolls were actually kinda anti-climatic, but I’m now looking forward to making it pretty and bombproof.

When I told my brother and paddling partner, who got his roll last year, he said: “I wonder if someday we’ll laugh about how hard this has been. Kinda like learning to ride our bikes in kindergarten.”

Can you imagine how much harder it would have been for all of us to learn to ride our bikes if we’d first read three books, perused several websites, purchased a DVD or two, and spent countless hours engaged in internet chatter?

I think the simplest things in life are often the hardest to explain or comprehend, but we do tend to over-intellectualize kayak rolling.