Rolling -- best method of instruction?

Lou/lalleluia’s rolling thread brings up several topics that might be set out into new threads.

One item that might be discussed further is a standard method of instruction. For me the part of the class where the instructor stands beside you and holds your head out of the water seemed like a big waste of time…

here’s what i do
First, teach bow rescue, then transfer to using my hands same side holding onto paddler’s hands or mid-section of the paddle to flip back up. Also, teach capsize and righting boat as in hand of god (opposite site) with paddler intentionally laying back to make it easier. Helping the paddler learn to cooperate in righting the boat also reduces fear that he/she will be stuck under water and thus helps to eliminate wet exits which are a drag when teaching someone how to roll. Didn’t use to do this, but got tired of wrestling the paddler/boat right side up or emptying the boat of water …

Second, teach capsize into setup. Guide hands/paddle/head/shoulders from same side then flip up until paddler can capsize into reliable setup position. Helps to have someone else on opposite side to provide support with righting the boat.

Third, teach sculling for support. From opposite side support boat until no support needed. If have helper, on same side as paddler guide paddle on surface and make sure shoulders don’t go vertical but remain parallel to surface.

Fourth, teach finish onto back deck from sculling for support. Support from opposite side until not necessary.

Fifth, teach capsize into setup into skulling for support–can skip this one if you want.

Sixth, teach capsize into setup to sweep to finish on back deck, e.g. the full Greenland standard roll. At start, support from padder’s side to make sure that setup is proper. Guide paddle by holding tip to keep from paddle from diving along full range of sweep. If shaky, helps to have someone else on opposite side to provide support. If quick study, just support from opposite side with verbal correction if necessary.

Mental sequence is capsize, setup nose to sky, sweep nose to sky, finish looking up sliding onto back deck.

Can do this as standard sweep roll by looking down blade to paddle tip and finishing sitting up more vertically with chin on shoulder. Often better for short waisted stocky paddlers with high back deck.

When possible, I’ll ask someone who has a shaky roll to help with support. Good for them to learn (as I did) how to teach a roll, and much easier on the teacher. Plus, students can then pair up to practice.

Thanks to Jay (great video) and to Turner, Cheri, Becky Molina, Dubside, and the Mudflat Rangers crew.



– Last Updated: Sep-22-07 6:00 AM EST –

From my experience and from what I read on this board it looks like lots of folks who learn to roll get both live instruction and video and/or book instruction.

I got mediocre live instruction and what I think is great video help. Some people got a weak start with the video then took off with live instruction. Regardless it appears that several sources of instruction are better than one. Some of the best tips I received were from right here on PNet.

While I'm here I think the term 'hip snap' is inaccurate and not too helpful for the student. I think 'thigh twist' or 'knee lift' better impart what muscles are being used to twist the boat up. I know we use our obliques to snap up but if I don't include the thighs it's a pitifully weak snap.

success with oldest daughter in 45 min’s
step one was having her watch dubside do the scull for support and EJ’s rolling video

step two was using the little model kayak with the GI Joe paddler and doing the roll steps with him

step three was me doing the demo for her while she stood in the water

step four was me on the opposite side of the boat holding until/while she found the sweet spot in the sculling brace

step five-after she was comfortable flopping over and going into the sculling brace going for the full roll…

She of course had spotted me in the water before and watch me roll many times, surely that helped.

No “Best” way
I’m beginning to hate that word. Best kayak, best paddle, best blah…

Like posted above there are many ways. There are many types of people and learning styles, so what will be super for you may not work for someone else.

Great instructors watch the student, and listen. Their approach is customized intuitively to meet the student.

There are many great video’s books and instructors out there. I say find an instructor who’s taught hundreds, not just a few. I think you’ll find they talk less, and will have you rolling sooner.

Best of luck and have fun.

That’s the BEST
advice I’ve heard on the topic, Salty!!

Videos and then hit the drink.

– Last Updated: Sep-22-07 8:19 AM EST –

Pnetter Puddlejumper and I learned to roll successfully this past springtime with a few vids under our belts, noseplugs, Werner Shuna and Valley Avocet RM, and we just got out there and did it. Took about 45 minutes (1.5 hours, but one person was spotter for the other, so about 45 minutes each).

Great help to have another person there, even though they weren't a roller yet either. We stll knew enough to tell one another, for instance, that the paddle was diving.

We did the paddle float roll first, and doing it is a huge boost of confidence. Then ditched the float.

The very best thing we learned that day--besides the fact that, yeah, "we can do it"--is exactly what Jay Babina and others have stated; new rollers should ditch all that c-to-c instruction featured in every video (except maybe Jay's, which I do not have), and get to a back deck sweep. The most fluid, the prettiest, and the best first roll. After we dicthed the "hip snap" idea, and just concentrated on relaxing underwater, paddle position and laying back totally on that back deck, we were golden.

I will always remember meeting Puddlejumper and just plain figuring it out in the nuclear warmed waters of Clinton Lake, Illinois that late spring afternoon, and roling until the sun was setting in the west.

Thanks PJ.

Not one answer IMO
For a lot of people that start out with anxiety, having an instructor holding someone up is the only way they will be able to acclimate and relax enough to learn a roll. For others, apparently like you, it is a distraction.

I was a hard case, took a couple of years to minimal comfort and a decent percentage and time after that to confidence enough to solve the issue of a bad roll and make a good second try. I have been in pool sessions with a couple of (darned annoying) people who got it in the first session as well as those who were everywhere inbetween those guys and myself. I spent long enough at it to see at least half of the folks who started in a class with me give up. I have also helped out a small bit in pool sessions.

While there are rolls that are easier for newbies to get - the layback roll for example if the boat has a low enough deck, the extended paddle etc - I haven’t seen any single approach to teaching it that works for everyone. High anxiety, which is real, requires a different approach than someone who never is bothered by being under the boat. People with really good kinesthetic awareness and capabilities will require less support - literally - than those who need to be man-handled a bit in the water to pattern the motions.

I think the shift away from a true CtoC has been a good thing and should continue, just so that someone can get that first roll sooner. Use of GP’s is also hugely helpful for women or smaller men because the floatatin they provide is so huge. Some people (like me in hindsight) may even get there faster if they are started with a hand roll in a super-easy boat. But I doubt that there will ever be a fully standardized bag of tricks to learn this.

> I will always remember meeting Puddlejumper and just plain figuring it out in the nuclear warmed waters of Clinton Lake, Illinois that late spring afternoon, and roling until the sun was setting in the west.

I too will always remember the day I “got it” - in Lake Ontario amidst the swimmers and other paddlers, also with the setting sun casting the sky red.

FWIW, the instruction I had was:

  1. Hip snap. Practice it a lot.
  2. Instructor standing in the water to help guide the paddle a few times, less and less each time, and to give feedback on each attempt.

    The first time I did one on my own I was surprised to learn he hadn’t touched the paddle. He taught about 4 or 5 of us to roll that evening.

    Good times :wink:

Student’s Eye View
At my last rolling class, except for me, the students had done nothing but paddled their boats as previous experience: never braced, little or no rescues, certainly never hip snapped or bow rescued before. I was the only one who came close to getting a roll. Afterwards, I overheard the instructor saying that most of the students weren’t ready to take a rolling class yet. I would conclude that the learning of foundational techniques like bracing, bow rescues, sculling, and even a deep draw stroke would help.


This is an increasing trend

– Last Updated: Sep-22-07 8:49 PM EST –

and I am not sure it's a bad thing, because instead of waiting a while and building up a lot of counter-productive anxiety people get by the under-boat-in-the-water part pretty early. In fact WW folks traditonally taught rolling sooner than sea kayakers, and the experience of people who paddle in an environment where a roll is not at all a luxury is probably worth noting.

Lack of paddle feel definately complicates teaching a roll and means a change in approach, but I've seen that issue add no more than one or two sessions to some peoples' progress. A couple of spare sessions that get someone at least comfy being under there - heck it's cheap time for the benefit. It's a lot easier to teach someone to brace well when they don't fear capsizing.

I am not sure if there is one best way here. But the reality is that anyone teaching rolling at this point has to be ready to handle people who want to roll before they can paddle straight.

Second thing I teach
I no longer teach for a living, but do so on request from friends etc. First i yeach about the boat, gettin in and out etc., and all the basic stuff. Then wet exit…then rolling! If they cannot roll they will not learn to kayak well quickly. Get rolling out of the way right off the bat.

sculling for support
this seems to be a popular approach. the main problem i see with this, is that it assumes the paddler already has good sculling skills and therefore good paddle dexterity. the only people i know who have this kind of paddle dexterity have been paddling a long time and have practiced various sculling strokes.

there is no best way or secret me thinks, but spending time swimming with the kayak, and prolonged upside down hanging out, moving from side to side, working the hips, these are what i find to be the foundations.

what part didn’t seem like a big waste of time?

He held your head and not your torso?

misleading terminology
you’re right, “snap” doesn’t convey much meaning. I found that often the person couldn’t twist/lift/snap because they weren’t transfering energy from one side to another wholly. They would be pushing on both feet equally while trying to lift one knee, basically going from a forward tuck to a layback with insufficient rotation of the hull. Once I got them to transfer the twist by crunching on one side then crunching to the other by RELAXING the non-crunch leg the range of motion was much larger and more fluid.

Dive Mask

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 9:44 AM EST –

I'm a big fan of the dive mask for beginners. It takes one level of anexity away and seeing what you're doing and being able to relate to where you are is quite important. I'm actually surprised so many people who teach force students to work blind.

That’s the issue
A roll turns into a one-stroke scull - works great. That’s actually how I got my left side roll, just sculled myself dizzy in pool sessions and suddenly I was coming up in a single sculling stroke. I still use sculling as the primary exercise to get the left side issues resolved, and on the right to renew better awareness of my hips.

But I remember how long it took me to get a solid scull. It takes a lot of boat, body and blade time so wouldn’t work for most newbies w/a Euro paddle. Maybe easier as a start to a rool with a GP?

agree with mask

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:23 AM EST –

for comfort reasons plus where i roll it protects the eyes from irritation due to paticulate matter in the water. i typically use swimmers goggles plus nose plugs--really like the new northwater plugs. Also, sculling isn't so hard to teach if you use a low volume boat or a boat, like the Romany, that likes to sit on a chine. and it is way easier with a gp than a euro paddle. no accident that rolling is a greenland "thing" as the kayaks and paddles are optimized for easy rolling. btw, i don't see myself as a rolling expert or even a teacher--we're all each other's teachers. but, having been through learning to roll, i can help my friends learn the standard roll, and can seek out truly expert rollers to help me master the more difficult rolls. in the end, it is paddling and rolling in conditions that is the fun part, and i can't think of one single technique that has help me become a better paddler than learning to roll. Besides the simple fact of being less likely to wet exit, edging, bracing, blending strokes etc, not to mention rolling to cool off, all follow from being able to roll without worrying about whether i can get up or not. i realize that there will be times that a roll may fail, but mostly i believe that i will be able to stay in the boat, which opens huge windows of paddling experience. on the other hand, i know folks who simply like to poke around in flatwater swamps, paddle high volume boats, go camping, and stay away from surf. far be it from me to look down on them for not rolling. god forbid--most americans get out in nature through their televisions. am glad to see folks out in rec boats from dick's sportong goods--at least they aren't watching tv.

Best method of learning to roll!

– Last Updated: Sep-23-07 11:55 AM EST –

There were some great comments on the forum. However, I would like to emphasize break it down into digestable parts, practice it perfectly, and then put it back together.

Much of learning the body motion (more than just hips) can be done dry. VISIT THE VIDEO LINK BELOW AND FIGURE OUT WHICH TYPE of ROLL you are doing.

There shoud be nothing vague about it. Hip snap for most people is a vague word.....what does more hip snap signify? In our school we really try to make things exact .....using words that describe motions that people can relate to.

The type of roll is not the magic bullet....all of them done properly will work fine. IT IS DOING THE technique RIGHT. So do not think if I change rolls everything will be perfect. ( sometimes someone with a fused spine will need to select a roll that is appropriate for the limited range of motion they may have)

Visit this link to see a visual guide to the FIVE ROLLS MOST commonly used. Here you can indentify which is yours.

Very nice forum and some great comments!
From Chile,

Chris Spelius

Re: Question
Well, the support was probably at the shoulder, but for me to practice a paddle motion while being artificially supported was not something I could relate to an actual roll. Similarly attempts to guide the paddle did not help me because with everything in motion it was impossible to feel what the attempted correction was. My primary problem with learning my first roll (screw/sweep) was that I did not use an initial outward motion of the paddle. Once I started getting the blade out farther away from the boat I had success. Other people dismiss the concept of leverage but for me it works.