Rolling a hard VS soft chine

-- Last Updated: Jan-06-06 7:49 PM EST --

After kayaking for several years I am finally registered for rolling classes next week. My two main boats are a Pygmy Artic Tern High (17' hard chine without rudder - hull 1 1/2" deeper than standard) and Wilderness Systems Sealution XL (18' soft chine with rudder). Both have 23" beams. Any comments on relative ease of rolling would be appreciated. I eventually want to roll both but want to start with the easiest for a better chance of initial success. Thanks.

Chine’s not really the issue

– Last Updated: Jan-06-06 8:17 PM EST –

Given your boats - your outfitting will be most important. Tern should roll well, but that extra depth has got to have some impact. Sealution's not exactly LV either. Both should work if you can lock in well and apply torso leg drive to the hulls effectively. As everyone eventualy finds, you've got to "Get the boat over first..."

People will disagree about this, but other factors mater much more than chines. Deadrise, beam, total volume, blah, blah, blah...

In simplest terms, log vs. box. But even that doesn't tell you much because for some rolls a log is good, for others a box has advantages (particularly some Greenland techniques - if it's a low box).

Many hard chine designs are relatively boxy in cross section (which leads to some gross over-generalizations about chines), but not all. Some are deeper and have more of a V. The water does not see the hull the same way we do and may react to some harder chined hulls as if they were rounder overall (particularly those with narrower beams), and respond to more soft chined ones like they were more boxy.

Depends on what sort of roll you're doing, why, and where.

Hopefully that confused everyone.

I’ve had both boats…
Although my Tern is a std. and my Sealution was the std. one also. I might lean toward the Sealution or which ever one fits you the tightest. If you have the std. seat pad in the Tern it might be a bit loose. Do you have thigh braces in the Pygmy?

Arctic Tern
The Tern should roll better, assuming that you fit in its cockpit at least as tight as the Sealution. The Sealution is a very big boat, and the more boat, the more boat there is to roll, which is one of the reasons why Greenland rolling nuts often use such low volume boats. I remember the Sealution XL having a very large cockpit, so, unless its been considerably padded out, that would add to the challenge of rolling. A good fit is a very important element to rolling. If you’re too loose in the cockpit, you can actually fall right out while upside down. If you’re tight , your hips &legs can be used to good effect and , as you will find, rolling is almost all hips & legs.

Hard chine boats
No advice…just some comments

I have a CLC 17 that I’ve never been able to roll. Primarily due to the fact that I’m way to loose in the cockpit. I fall out of it with grace and aplomb. I never bothered to get a tighter fit only because I felt comfortable in it as it is. I can paddle for hours without getting sore or tired. I can roll the Perception Carolina I have but hardly ever paddle it. Always felt like a barge compared to the CLC.

The CLC 17 is built as a high volume boat. And it is. The hull is cavernous compared to the Artisan Millenium I have now. Even though the Artisan is a foot longer.

I’ve only been out in the Artisan twice since I got it. The cockpit is a nice tight fit and I have no doubt that I’ll be able to roll it.

Take a tight fitting boat to your rolling classes.


Old WW boats?
I realize this wasn’t an option, but don’t most people learn to roll on whitewater boats that have pretty low volume, or the old displacement hulls?

If, as you say, you want something easy to start with, find something with very low volume. Maybe even borrow a squirt boat.

On the other hand, I’m sure you could skip this step once you get your mind around it. I actually knew a 14 year old who learned to roll one day, then did a hand roll in a rapid three days later. Everyone learns this skill at their own pace, it seems.

Thanks to all the responders. I have hip padding and knee braces in both boats but have a slightly tighter fit in the Tern. Also, the Tern is 45 pounds VS 65 for the Sealution.

Go with the tighter fit
Don’t fret about hard chines vs. soft chines. It won’t make much difference. You’ll have LOTS of other things to focus on, basic things like getting the hip snap/torso motion right, not yanking head up right away, and so on.

You do not want to have your butt sashaying around much in the seat, or your thighs losing contact with thigh braces.

Speaking as a small person who learned in a deep cockpit with cavernous space, it is far better to learn in a kayak whose outfitting suits you, than in an allegedly “easier to roll” kayak whose outfitting leaves you slipping and slopping. I learned in a voluminous cockpit anyway, but then when I rolled a better-fitting kayak (and another one later on), it shocked me how much easier it was.

Also, even if you are going to learn in a pool, dress on the side of too much warmth rather than the other way around. I found it extremely hard to learn when I had goosebumps. Once I began wearing a drysuit (even in warm weather and water), progress went much faster.

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Get good help
and learn good fundamentals and you will roll everything including huge cockpit rec. boats and doubles. Rolling is an easy skill, much easier than a good forward stroke!

Ditto That

– Last Updated: Jan-07-06 5:44 AM EST –

on the tight ("snug" would be better descriptive) fit. Other factors of the two boats being equal, rolling a hard vs soft chine doesn't make a difference on the difficulty scale. They do have different feels (and may not even be noticed by a newbie roller). The transition then to smoother on a soft chine vs the "hinge" feel of a harder chine boat.


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I Would Guess

– Last Updated: Jan-07-06 7:03 AM EST –

Whichever boat has the lowest volume. Snug fit counts for a lot also.

This boat is damn near a submarine:

Clearer than the Chesapeake
makes sense to me

Not always easy
Rolling can be a bear for some (many) to learn - it was for me and for others I have met. But persistence will win out.

Those videos are great! Thanks for posting that link. Frankly, it is the first time I’ve seen one on the storm roll that was clear enough for me to figure it out. I may be dim, but the verbal descriptions I’ve read haven’t really been as clear as that video about the direction in which the supporting surface of the blade works. I also envy the guy his ability to get the stern hand on his belly during the balance brace - I still have to keep that hand out touching the boat or I tend to collapse.

Then again, unlike that SOF in the video my boat is less tight than my long underwear!

thigh braces
Andy, not sure when you made your Chesapeake but CLC never outfitted their demo/prototype boats with thigh braces even though they were featured at demos for years prior to 2000. The boats that did have a thigh brace only had 3/4" flat minicell and that did not provide any ‘hook’ as ones knees would rotate right out of the upwardly sloping deck when wet. The CHesapeakes are so deep that it requires a thick 3" wedge to provide enough hook for rolling. The Chesapeakes lack of turning response becomes noticable just at the point where good thigh bracing is required,before that angle of leaning the hull responds normally. At the angle of leaning where most “hard-chine” loosen up more with more leaning the Chesapeak firms up in stability and tracking,which is kind of anomalous, it should be easier to turn. With more leaning the ends should pull out of the water more, instead the submerged chines become another straight keel and not a curved one.

It’s something I discovered when trying to figure out why the NorthbayXL weathercocking was so bad.

Ironically the West River 162/164 which were dimensional copies of Pygmys Golden Eye (but not in performance) had LOTS of primary stability but when leaned hard suddenly ‘unhooked’ and turned quickly. It’s something I found out after putting thick thigh braces in the original WR164 which has a slightly larger cockpit than the Chesapeake 17 (believe it or not). The WR162 was actually a good quasi rec/tour kayak, kind of like a Perception Spectrum.

the fit matters, the boat doesn’t
I leaned to roll in a ww.kayak in classes then transfered the learning process to a Necky Swallow. That 24" wide kayak did NOT like to go over or roll up compared to other “sea kayaks”. I learned to hand roll with it. Thereafter continued learning on a Mariner Express. My blocks to learning had NOTHING to do with the kayak as long as the cockpit was outfitted correctly. Because differences can be perceived doesn’t mean the differences matter.

ps. s&g kayak kits,rolling
one of the things about Eric Schades Shearwater Merganser that is attractive from a users standpoint is that the coaming sits on a continuous recess front and back. The recess has the thigh brace keyhole shape and it provides the right dowward sloping angle for thigh bracing. It only takes 3/4" minicell carved out to provide a good hook.

Curious Celia
What made rolling hard for you to learn? I’ve had great luck teaching people who swore to me they couldn’t do it. Seems people new to the sport are often easier to teach, as their heads are clear. I hear what you are saying…just curious as to what part of it was hard, and ultimately what worked? Thanks.

Thanks for the replies
Looks like I’ll take the Artic Tern to the first lesson and the Sealution XL to a later one.


that’s me! :slight_smile:
Hi Celia,

That’s me in the submarine boat and that’s my club website that I maintain. Regarding that balance brace with my hands on my stomach, I do that just to emphasize how much the balance brace is dependant on what the lower body is doing rather than the upper body. I actually can do that in most kayaks including my Valley Skerray which is a really large boat. It does take a bit of flexibility and the tulik really does help quite a bit as it adds flexibility and bouyancy.

As for that storm roll, I find that it’s much easier to do storm rolls if I grab the paddle with the edge on my palm rather than the face. It feels more intuitive for that low brace motion from that position.

On my difficulty learning…
It was all in my head, but that’s the hardest thing to change. Even though I had all the athletic requirements early on, as well as a great sense of body position (thanks to years of swimming being unable to open my eyes under water), I was HUGELY claustrophobic. It only acted up when I had to stay in the boat once upside down… which is one of those kinda important things in rolling. The woman who finally got me up said that she didn’t recall anyone who was as scared as me about staying down there and still ultimately got a roll. She wasn’t a certed teacher, but a long time WW paddler who had helped an awful lot of others thru a roll over time.

I had a near miss with a tight skirt early on as well, but I discovered that I think pretty well when rushed with adrenaline and was able to solve that in a pinch. So I doubt that had much to do with it - if anything that shuld have increased my confidence.

I ended up accepting that it’d take a while and went thru a rather slow process of desensitizing. If you want some reflections on the steps along the way from someone with that kind of head, feel free to email me. It is probably better done offline than taking up space here.