Rolling and Water in the Nose

Just curious what most people do…when you roll (both fresh and salt water) do you blow out through your nose under water to prevent it from filling up or do you just allow it to fill up and not worry about it?

Any problems with sinus infections if doing the latter (I have found that I get lots of ear infections which I think is related to rolling and constantly having water in my ears)


my kayaking friends
wear noseplugs.

no noseplug

– Last Updated: May-02-07 9:13 AM EST –

I just adhere to the belief that when I really need to roll it's unlikely I'll be wearing a noseplug. That and they don't stay on and I hate the damn things. Frankly, my eyes are more of an issue (but I also hate goggles).

I just constrict my nasal passages by wrinkling my nose (think of sneering) and exhale slowly through it, once you get it down you can gauge how little exhalation is necessary in order to keep water from entering. I was a swimmer as a kid so it's second nature to me. But it works and one less piece of gear I have to worry about.

When I do get water in my nose or ears I make sure to blow it out thoroughly (or shake it out thorougly in the latter case). I've ended up with stuffy sinuses for a bit but never a sinus infection.

Nose plugs and the real world
Salt water won’t bother your sinuses like fresh will. There’s no sense suffering every time you practice rolls. And the old blowing out method actually forces you to rush things and be a little nervous underwater. Use the nose plugs. You want to learn to be totally comfortable under water.

When you really capsize, the last thing on your mind will be your nose. You will go into automatic mode and do what you’ve been practicing. If you take a nose full of water you will realize it once you’re up. But you’ll be happy.

I use a snorkel mask
for rolling practice.

My yakkin’ buds
usually have their helmetted heads bouncing off boulders, which is why they wear the noseplugs. Seems like the only smooth rolls are at the put-in. Imagine sea-kayaking yields a much smoother roll.

I second Jay’s comments…
I never wear nose plugs when practicing rolling in salt water, but for repeated practice rolls in a pool session or out on freshwater I use them.

Not sure you can live without plugs? Well try a couple of practice rolls in freshwater without them, just so you have the experience. In a pool session last week I forgot to put them on once when doing a demo. Yeah, it irritated my nasal passages, but I came up just fine.

I use nose plugs when practicing in a pool, since it just removes a distraction. The chlorinated water really bugs my nose. When not in a pool, I don’t have a problem. Also, I practice rolling while wearing my hat and sunglasses, since that’s what I’ll be wearing if I flip unexpectedly. Exhaling through the nose works if you are haveing a problem. It doesn’t have to shorten your working time. You don’t have to exhale forcefully, only a very slow, slight exhalation works fine.


– Last Updated: May-02-07 10:39 AM EST –

Pool water bothers me also more than fresh water. Personally the blowing out method doesn't rush anything for me any more than it rushes my swimming pace. It's second nature, a swimming breathing technique.

My daughter, the swimmer
gave me perfect advice and I will forever be grateful. Hum.

history of sinus problems-love the salt
water rushing through my nose…feels great~really…

fresh not so good…


outdoors-no plugs since you neverhave time to put them on anyhow…indoors-yes…

nothing beats leaning over an hour or two after rolling a couple of times in the surf and having water STILL come running out your nose!!!



I usually wear plugs when practicing…or when surfing or paddling sometime when a roll is more likely.

I find that I don’t mind rolling in salt water without the plugs.

Rolling in fresh water kind of sucks when you get water in your nose. With the cold water this winter I quit practicing without the plugs. Now when I practice rolling without them I find that sometimes blowing out works and other times I still get water in the nose so I am considering just trying to make myself get used to it and not even worrying about blowing out (I tend to rush the roll more when blowing out).

I think there is a balance between realistic practice (no plugs) and practice where you can ignore distractions (with plugs).

I roll A LOT so I tend to wear the plugs. I have found though that whenever having to roll unexpectedly when messing around practicing new skills etc. that I don’t worry too much about water in the nose and tend to come up smoothly by executing what I have practiced so many times in the past without the distraction of having water in the nose.

As we all know, fresh water is not pleasant in the nose. I think that perhaps the coldness of the water this winter (generally in the 40s here) might have made it even more unpleasant for me.



Practice vs the Real Thing

– Last Updated: May-02-07 10:56 AM EST –

First - about the ear infections. If you do enough wet work practice and are already prone to infections, it'll be at least a major maintenance issue. Get ear plugs for practice. Doc's Plugs are best. Ii isn't worth loss of hearing to get a nice roll.

As to noses, I echo as above. I cannot tolerate fresh water up my sinuses without instant pain, so always wear nose plugs or snorkel mask to practice. Salt water isn't bad at all. But the times I've gone over in a real surprise capsize, even in fresh water, I've never noticed it. I am told that WW is different, but in normal flat water you might as well wear the full protective stuff so you aren't taking on unecessary health issues.

Nose and Ear care
1) As you spend more time underwater, you will develop the ability to keep the water out of your nose and sinuses without exhaling. This just takes time. I grew up on the swimming and diving team, so I guess I was fortunate to have developed this as a kid.

Ususally, water in the nose and sinuses is not a medical problem. In fact some people with chronic sinusitis problems irrigate their nose and sinuses with CLEAN salt water. Clean fresh water, is usually more uncomfortable as it is hypotonic and in pools is chlorinated. Do be a careful about getting fresh water in your sinuses, especially in warmer climates. RARELY one can aquire amebic meningoencephalitis from fresh water immersion. This is usually rapidly fatal!

2) Ears. Plain, over-the-counter rubbing alcohol is great for getting the water out. Some people mix in a small amount of white vinegar to drop the pH too.

This is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. Please consult with your physician before putting anything in your ears or nose!

Best of luck.

I wear a mask

– Last Updated: May-02-07 11:17 AM EST –

More comfortable to me than nose plugs, and no lake water in the eyes or nose. Second the motion for ear plugs too.

nose plugs
To summarize and 2nd the above:

  1. Low salinity water up your nose - not good. Wear nose plugs
  2. High salinity water up you nose - not so bad. Wear nose plugs if you hate water dripping down your nose afterwards.
  3. Cold water in your ears - not good - swimmer’s/surfer’s ear. Wear ear plugs.
  4. “Fresh” water is most usually anything but. Wear eye protection/close your eyes when rolling.

I practice for the real world.
Granted, with enough practice, your body forgets about the nit-picky stuff like cold water on the eyes or up the nose, but I still practice like I’m “out there”. To practice, I wear what I’m going to wear on the big trips. That includes NOT wearing nose plugs or dive masks. My solution is to use nasal saline spray or the like at the take out. No problems. Oh, and I don’t open my eyes underwater without a dive mask; I roll by feel alone whether I’m “boat-snorkeling” or just rolling.


I don’t open my eyes either
I never do under water w/o a mask, so I don’t do it wearing one unless I consciously decide to take advantage of them to check somethng. That’s pretty rare. No problem with the transition to real water, but it means I get out of pool sessions without redeye. A couple of years ago I worried about the protection creating a problem that’d kill a roll in the real thing - but after the first few capsizes or so in flat water and in surf it became clear that was a moot point. When you gotta roll the question of confidence, or not, completely overwhelms a little water discomfort.

As to ear plugs, I just don’t see any reason not to use them liberally. WW and divers I know do so for the same reason I would - being wet isn’t a good enough reason to lose hearing if good workable plugs are out there. We are doing some moving water practice tonight - the ear plugs will go in under the hood.

Ear plugs
I started wearing Pro Plugs. My ear problems have been diminishing as a result.

I don’t care for wearing ear plugs but these are fairly comfortable and I also find that I get less dizzy from rolling when my ears are not filled with water.

I got the ones with the vent hole…not sure if those or the non-vented ones are better for paddling.


I get dizzy if I get cold water in my ears, well, actually it borders on vertigo. So if I’m paddling in cold water where there’s a significant chance of capsizing, I wear cheap foam earplugs from the hardware store. They work really well.

Same phenomenon applies to real capsizes and ears with me as with noses — in a real capsize, I don’t have a problem with getting dizzy. I just roll, and sort out what happened later. I’m sure that if I capsized three or four times rapidly without earplugs that I’d have an issue, but that hasn’t happened.