rolling a "day touring" kayak

-- Last Updated: Jun-14-08 10:46 PM EST --

I'm a newbie. I've had my first kayak, a Necky Manitou 14 Select, for 2 weeks. I've had it out 12 of the 14 days I've owned it. I live on a Maryland lake that has a channel into the mouth of the Patuxent River where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. I can get into the bay by paddling from my back yard and thus will normally be in pretty deep water. I have been trying to teach myself to eskimo roll. Have watched all the videos, read all the articles and practiced, practiced, practiced. No luck. I plan on taking a lesson or two soon (Dave at our local Patuxent Adventures provides them for FREE!). Manitou is 14'4", 24", hard chine, flat top deck. I'm 5'9, 208. Should this thing roll, or is it my short fat inexperienced self that is the prob ?

Forget it, the boats not made for it

Take Lessons
I have a Prijon Calabria which is similar dimensions, even slightly beamier at 14’-5" X 25" wide. I learned to roll using my kayak this winter in indoor pool sessions. I have never paddled a Manitou, but my inexperienced opinion is that the boat will roll. It is the paddler that needs to be taught. The advice I received on this board when I asked a very similar question to yours is that outfitting (a secure fit in the boat) and technique are most important. For developing good technique I think hands on instruction from experienced instructors will save you a lot of experimentation and they will be able to diagnose and help you correct any bad habits. It worked for me, no reason it shouldn’t work for you. Good luck! Steve

Good for you
Sounds like you’ve got the bug. There’s no reason you can learn to roll that kayak, but it would help to work on outfitting and also to get good instruction. Rolling with a Greenland paddle is far easier, and its also more fun and not as hard on the body. May want to consider giving the skinny stick a try. Best introductory rolling video is the one by Jay Babina followed by EJ’s Rolling and Bracing and the Kayak Roll I belive by Kent Ford. Have fun and see you on the water. John

Manitou 14
is a very nice boat. Great getting started platform and is fairly easy to roll.

People learn things in many ways. Some teach themselves how to roll just by reading, others pick it up by watching videos or live demonstrations, but most people will learn much faster with a good instructor that can pinpoint the problem areas and show the student the necessary adjustments.

If you can’t find an instructor have someone video your attempts and then you can self analyse your roll frame by frame and compare it with the roll shown in video you are trying to emulate.


Should roll fine
I’ve yet to try out the 14’s we have at the shop, but they should roll fine. The high seat back will not help, especially with learning the roll. Put the back down as far as it will go and see if you can loosen it, so it lays back against the coaming. If you can lay back on the rear deck, you’ll have a big leg up on the thing. I’d even see if you can remove the seat back and install a back band.

Do some Yoga, loose some weight, work on your flexibility, get with a good instructor. Keep working - it will come. I’ll second the Greenland paddle - that’s what worked for me.


Doesn’t look like consensus below agrees

Greenland paddle

– Last Updated: Jun-14-08 11:13 PM EST –

As for outfitting, my Manitou has thigh braces and when I'm underwater I try to concentrate and make sure I am in contact with them. My fit in the kayak could be tighter but I think it is adequate (but remember, I'm a newbie).

My real question I have after reading your reply though is ... I have read up on Greenland paddles ... what is it about them that makes it easier to roll ?

I appreciate the advice
but shoot, I coulda done without the “lose some weight” help :slight_smile:

I taught myself to roll, in a kayak that
(based on subsequent experience) turned out to be rather hard to roll. This was because the boat (an old and rare Noah) was/is more stable sitting upside down than at any other angle! (Like your Necky, it has a very flat rear deck.) Now, I already knew how to roll a whitewater c-1, but that’s so different a skill that it almost doesn’t help. The one thing that helped me was that I had outfitted the boat VERY carefully so that my feet, thighs, hips, and back were nicely supported in every way. This meant that every ounce of hip snap got that reluctant hull turning. I think that careful outfitting has a great deal to do with learning to roll, although after you are experienced, you may be able to climb into and roll some badly outfitted boats.

I learned the C to C roll in the Noah, though later when I learned the slash roll, that turned out to be much more effective for that boat. I’m similar to you in weight, but very tall. Even so, I found it harder to reach up and around the Noah’s hull to set up for the C to C than it has been with later kayaks. With a slash roll, flexibility and reaching around the boat are somewhat less of a consideration.

My roll methods are based on whitewater paddles. If you were working with a Greenland paddle, I guess you might have to use a somewhat different method.


– Last Updated: Jun-15-08 5:30 AM EST –

I think learning to roll with a leaner, easier to roll, boat would be a confidence builder. Lots of folks get their first roll in an old Perception Pirouette because of its hull shape and low volume design. The Greenland paddle manuevers underwater much better than the Euro IMO. The GP also is very easy to use extended and extended is the way to get your first roll.

I second what everone has said about lessons. But if you get a chance, watch Dubside’s rolling DVD. In it he shows that it’s not the kayak. Manitou 14? No problem. Well … okay, maybe tougher than something else. But the Dubside ethic: go with what you’ve got. It’s rollable. For DVD’s, I found EJ’s Bracing and Rolling DVD to be the most helpful. The main thing with your kayak: you’ve got to have good contact at the thighs; at a certain point you’ve got to flip the boat from upside down to rightside up using your thighs and hips. At that moment, you’re going to want to have a good positive grip on the boat with the inside of your thighs. If you don’t have it, you’ll have to go to work with foam and create it–thigh hooks.

Now some controversial advice: While you’re training, learning the roll, use a paddle float. I taught myself too. While a paddle float will screw with your timing (the PF drags through the water and slows everything down; your paddle blade will zip through the water much faster once you take the “training wheels” off), it will promote good muscle memory and let you feel and know where the paddle SHOULD be. (My problem originally was the paddle darting down.) Sweep and practice with the paddle float. Then try it without. Another advantage is that when you graduate to trying it without, you can keep the paddle float on the offside and fall back on it for a “plan B” if your original plans go south. Just an idea.

Remember: the boat comes up first, your head comes out last. Take care of the boat and it will take care of you.

Good luck! And let us know when you hit your first roll!!! (It may take some time; it took me a year from beginning to end and I still can have a bad day/off day now.)

GP rolling
Mostly, it’s their bouyancy, and the fact that they’re neutral when you sweep them, meaning they have no “off side”. Both faces are power faces, so you can’t have the paddle improperly oriented, and it’s harder to dive the paddle.

They also spread out their bouyancy and lift over a longer area, giving them a more solid feel when you sweep. Of course, once you get good enough at rolling, you don’t even need a paddle in many boats, but that’s another topic.

Lose the seat back
and install a backband to replace it. More comfy (IMO), and less of an “Anti-roll device” than a high seatback that keeps you from being able to lay back.

When I was first leaning to roll in my old Necky Narpa, removing the seat back and installing a backband made a huge difference. I went from struggling to having a reliable roll within a week. YMMV, of course.

And make sure you have a good snug fit in your thigh braces. Helps a ton, too.

scout, sweep roll.

– Last Updated: Jun-15-08 8:20 AM EST –

Scout, the boat you have is not the best roller. Find a fellow paddler with a Greenland style boat to use for the afternoon: it will help your effort.

Try the layback or sweep roll, not the C2C roll. A long leisurely layback sweep (like the Dubside video, as mentioned by Bohemia) is, in my opinion, the best initial roll. When I watched EJ in his whitewater boat bracing and rolling, I did not really learn about the sweep roll.

You can use a Euro paddle, but use the paddle float during the rolls (I agree with Bohemia), and also extend the paddle. Get plenty of paddle out there by holding closer to one end and letting the other end extend way out there. You may even be able to learn a roll in your rec boat is you use paddle float and extend the paddle (Pawlatta roll, sometimes called).

Here's a guy extending paddle (but I am not saying you need to hold the blade, just extend). Notice that he too does a sweep roll. Add a paddle float to this and you have tremendous force to come upright.

Be sure to keep the inside blade edge (closests to you and the boat) tilted up by 30-35 degrees upon setup (before you start to roll)--that's a minor point but a serious imediment to rolling otherwise as I learned when I self taught under the eye of other non-roller at the time, Puddlejumper. He and I flub dubbed around and began to see that, with paddle face flat on the water, then we essentially were pulling ourselves down as we started the rotation underwater.

Everyone struggles when learning to roll. Everyone:

G'luck and remember, always have fun with it:

More free advice

– Last Updated: Jun-15-08 8:42 AM EST –

All good advice, except the paddle float. I've seen way to many paddlers develop bad habits (leaning on the paddle, prying, stalling the sweep) because of the paddle float.

The three bits I'd recommend that you pay attention to with your kayak are (1) contact--if you aren't solid in the kayak you can foam out the thigh braces with minicell or put a big chunk of minicell across your thighs--and (2) beginning with the extended paddle. The latter is why I recommended Jay's video. If you go extended to start, no need to worry about the paddle float--you'll have plenty of leverage/lift. (3) Lastly, the easiest roll to learn is the standard Greenland layback roll. However, with your higher back deck and protruding backband and your body habitus, this will require some adjusting. You may want to swap out the backband--personally I like a minicell block or a Snapdragon whitewater (smaller form factor) backband. Also, you can scootch forward to increase the distance to the rear coming and let your butt rise off of the seat to decrease the angle between your back and the real coming so you can slide more easily on to the back deck at roll finish.

As for the GP, the best paddlers are not equipment dependent. The rest of us make use of technological advantages. The GP is the same right to left and front and back, so there's no worry about paddle orientation. They float, so it is easy to let the paddle rest on the surfact, e.g. the setup for the start of the sweep is straightforward. They are easy to use extended--actually designed for it. The blade configuration is like an airfoil so it is harder to stall and easier to generate lift during the sweep. Let me count the ways--lots of newbies who have a hard time rolling a Euro paddle learn easily when given a GP.

Also, the advice about finding someone with a kayak that is easy to roll is very good advice. Once you get a sense of how it feels, it'll be easier to roll your own kayak. In our group, the mudflat rangers, we have a lot of fun with skills development--ha, ha, I actually teach rolling, which is funny because I'm not all that good a roller--but you'll benefit a lot from friends who have better skills.

Lastly, Roy Martin has a very nice video that's currently up on PNet about the steps in learning/teaching the layback roll. He's shows what I do when I teach. First, learn the high brace finish resting in the water and sliding onto the back deck (that's why I recommended EJ's video). Second, learn to skull for support, finishing on the back deck--way easier with a GP. Third, learn to capsize into the setup position and initiate the sweep into sculling for support. Lastly, put it all together and you've rolled your kayak.

Have fun,


not a particularly hard boat to roll
As Dubside says, don’t blame the kayak.

You’ll get there


Forget the above post you can roll it!NM

Body type

– Last Updated: Jun-15-08 3:31 PM EST –

You should be able to roll that boat, but realize that your build means that you'll probably use different technique than someone with more reach and flexibility. It shouldn't be a problem for an instructor who's comfortable with a range of styles.

The sweep technique shown in Kent Ford's "The Kayak Roll" is one good option for folks with limited flexibility.

Here's one version of an extended-paddle roll:
This is how my wife started rolling, and it was a huge confidence booster for her.

Agree about starting with a boat
designed, in part, for quick rolling. As for the extended paddle roll, I wish I knew it, because in special circumstances (such as injury) it might be a lifesaver. But with proper preparation, the boat is GOING to come up the first time with the C-to-C. That’s how it was for me. The slash roll can be a little trickier, and I honestly don’t know if I could have gone from zero to a slash roll in one try. It came later, quite easily, once I had established a general level of confidence with the c to c.