Rolling for the less limber

Question for those who teach rolling a lot - do you notice that it takes longer for someone to learn to roll as they get older, just as a broad brush pattern, and if so what kind of time frames do you notice?

I am asking because it is pool session season here, so I am reminded that some folks with white/grey hair start out rolling attempts with expectations based on what they see happening with those much more limber and younger than themselves.

I learned to roll at 63 and have been rolling every month since, sometimes in water temp 34F.

I am prejudiced but I think anyone can learn to do a layback roll, it just depends on how good your teacher is. I have taught several seniors to roll.

I learned to roll
in my early 50’s and I’m 61 now and improving slightly each year. The standard layback roll doesn’t require much flexibility or brute strength at all but I have trouble with forward finishing rolls because I can’t get my face onto the front deck as much as some folks although I’ve seen videos of Dubside doing forward rolls and he doesn’t seem to come any closer to the deck than I do. I’ll never achieve his skill level but I think it’s more about determination than anything. Rolling is easy if you want to learn bad enough and don’t let the stereotype of being too " old" influence you.

Yourself Celia,myself,Okole and Dubside are all middle aged and through determination have achieved some level of skill that is probably at least slightly above average for the sea kayaking community. I’m sure there are many more examples .



– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 6:19 PM EST –

on how good the instructor is and how well they follow instructions. I've seen many young paddlers try to muscle rolling and not listen to the instructor.

IMO...Younger paddlers tend to fight the roll, seem embarassed when it doesn't happpen and make more excuses instead of focusing on the task.

...but I've also seen many try to teach paddlers how to roll who have no clue how to teach. Just because one can roll doesn't qualify them as a teacher.

I agree
There are techniques that do not require a lot of flex. Rolling is about 95% mental/technique and doesn’t require much athleticism and almost no strength.

IMO, the two mistakes made in instruction are too much information and trying to fit the student to technique, instead of the other way around. Giving a student twelve moves or things to think about at once is too much information. Only a few are critical success factors.

As far as technique, I frequently hear students told they must get their paddle out of the water prior to the sweep. I was at a roll practice last night and I doubt if 70% of the rollers were getting their lead blades out of the water. Of course, about 70% of us are over 50. :slight_smile: If that, or something else is critical to the technique and you can’t do that, switch techniques.

Of the five factors critical to successful rolling, the first five are “keep your head down.”

The limber lost?
And what do we mean by “age” here? Fifty? Sixty?

People lose proprioceptors as they age, and this might begin to affect people over 50. They will not have as good a sense of body position when upside down in the kayak. But if they can be helped to isolate some of the key motions, they should still be able to succeed.

Why don’t you say it …in layman words

– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 6:31 PM EST –

I'm not impressed.

Proprioceptor is not a common word that is in the average person's vocabulary which you must know.

I'm not sure if the disorientation of being upside down in the water is that age related but I won't debate it.

Yes . . . but

A good friend in the know (Tom B.)encouraged me to take a Greenland class because “we get stiffer and less limber” as we get older. Even if you’er a euro paddler like me, working with a good greenlander (like Cheri & Turner) will smooth out those sticky spots. They have a way of making those creaking bones go away . . .

I started rolling lessons
in earnest when I was 73 and now, I have the standard Greenland roll reliably on both sides. I am not particularly flexible but I had good teachers, Sheri and Turner. Have started working on some forward finishing rolls now.


Good Question
Celia, Good question and one that I think gets overlooked sometimes.

I am glad you brought this up. I have been struggling with this for a while. My friend, an excellant roller and teacher PaddleLupe has worked with me a few times and has gotten me to roll using the sweep, but we are together so infrequent that I have not been able to be consistant.

I always come back to my lack of flexibility. I have a short torso and hunching over to get my upper body as close to the surface as possible is really hard. I understand that the back deck roll is easier, but I am only worried about having a roll for whitewater and therefore the back deck roll is kind of a last ditch effort and frowned upon in whitewater.

So, I guess, losing a little more weight (lost 37 lbs last year) and concentrating on the flexability is the only thing I can do.


Whatever gets you up
Get EJs rolling and bracing video, a layback roll done EJ style means you are not exposed any more than fighting to get way forward and get your paddle on the water. EJs roll is much faster than a long drawn out sweep roll. Your face and head are shielded by your arm and paddle.

Rolling for the less limber
I’ve taken G-style rolling lessons from Cheri Perry and Alison Sigethy. Both are strong advocates for YOGA for improved flexability; especially as we get older

Flexibilty is an Issue, not age
I learned to roll at age 56 and continue to improve as I get more flexible and get older. I am a Greenland style paddler, which I am certain has great advantages over those trying to roll wide boats with Euro-paddles.

Well said wavespinner

Nice people!

Maybe it’s loss of mental flexibility!
I’m only partly kidding. And yes, I’m no spring chicken myself. Even so, I’ve noticed that group outings at this stage of life tend to include a lot of crotchetiness, arguing about little things because so-and-so does not want to compromise one iota, and neither does also-and-also. Set in their ways.

When I was in my 20s, we didn’t argue nearly as much. We Just Did It.

Having rigid preconceptions does not help learning–paddling or otherwise.

Ditto… well stated…nm

Interesting - forward part
(As to age, I meant whatever point it happens that someone starts to lose a bunch of flexibility and overall body awareness. That’s pretty individual - granted the current 50-60 yr old group of paddlers seems particularly determined to stave that point off.)

Responses mention something that hadn’t occurred to me, issues leaning forward or towards the surface once capsized. A couple of folks above have mentioned this, and now that I think about it I’ve heard this complaint in classes around here.

I am thinking that a problem in getting up near the deck of the boat could really complicate getting the paddle up near the surface of the water. If the cause is stiffness, a lower decked boat may not be of much help.

And Yoga is everywhere…

Not to start any thing, but I learned to roll when I was a bit younger than you, although not by much, using Werner WW paddles and in a Inazone220. While I’m considered to be quite flexible, it took me a while to translate that same skill into my much narrower FG boat and using a Lendal or Werner Kallista paddle.

You’ll roll when your head is ready, no matter what color the hair on that same head is.

no real correlation…
Rolling takes as much muscle and flexibility as rolling over in bed. If you can do that, rolling isn’t a problem.

While youth has some advantage (ability to learn and practice longer without fatiguing), the real key is how willing a person is to listen to instruction and how apt that person is with isolating their hip and leg muscles.

I’ve worked with a large age range of paddlers and the vast majority of them are middle aged or older. I haven’t seen a huge difference in the time it takes for people to learn to roll. Those who don’t have a lot of bad habits to unlearn and are receptive to coaching roll in 15 minutes. Others take a couple more sessions but very few individuals need much more than that.

Best of luck Celia on whatever you’re working on these days.