Rolling-Getting twisted

OK. You get knocked over by a big wave, you’re upside down. You try to set up for your roll, but you’re twisted out of position in the boat. You can’t properly set up for the roll.

Does anybody have a technique for repositioning yourself in order to roll?

I have tried wrapping my arms around the hull and trying to straighten out while upside down, but I can’t seem to be able to pull myself back into position.

Any ideas?


– Last Updated: May-23-06 12:39 PM EST –

Have had similiar experiences that caused wet exits. This is precisely the reason why I practice as many different rolls as possible. I may not have my paddle in the crook of my arm or any of the other set up positions when I go over, but I sure am getting better at realizing exactly where I am in relation to the boat and how to get up on either side.
Practice offside, onside, forward and back capsizes and recoveries. All of this will allow you to instinctively understand where you are in relation to the boat and help you to keep panic down while you get up.


Side matter?
Are you fighting the direction of the water flow to get twisted into position on a particular side, or is it that you could get up on either side but things are just too confounded to work in any way?

having paddled both white water and surf
I have rarely not been able to set up unless I was pinned by a solid object, such as a rock or the sandy bottom.

I suspect your problem might be one of three things.

  1. Flexibility
  2. Calm
  3. Experience

    2-3 might be the same.

    I don’t know what sort of shape you’re in physically, but I do know that being fat and inflexible will cause problems when trying to do something that requires a loose torso and total separation between upper and lower body. So if you can work on loosening up your torso, it will make rolling in surf and white water easier and more fluid.

    If you are tense and not calm, you won’t have the presence of mind to loosen up, go with the flow, and then wait until the water has calmed down around to try and set up. This is a big component of surf, you can’t roll up while you’re getting tumbled quite as easily as you can once the wave has passed over you. So you have to be calm and wait it out.

    If you don’t have the in surf experience to wait it out, and a few swims to remind you of how much easier it is to stay in the kayak you will swim rather than wait. catch 22.

Get Comfortable With Two Variations
some sort of sweep/layback and then back this up with a reverse sweep roll, be it backdeck (low brace) or Styr (high brace).

In surf, these (provided you have can hit these on both sides) will cover just about every possible position you find yourself in. It’s a matter of being calm. You can wait it out (let the power pass) or feel the power and use that to bring you up. The latter is good if you flipped without much of a breath. The “problem” (maybe) is that you will come back likely on the wave and have to be ready to resume control of the ride. The other thing with this is, if you are actively surfing, you may not want to go all the way in and then have to battle your way back out through the break zone. Most surfers will ride the green face and pop over the top before getting caught in the closeout. This to avoid going all the way in and having to come all the way back out.


Better outfitting?
Perhaps better feedback from your legs, knees, feet would help you orient to the boat. Thigh hooks, padded bulkhead instead of footpegs.

another alternative is to just use thi braces and learn to roll without footpegs.

If your knees are our of the cockpit got to get them in under the hooks.

could roll if
Can roll up on one side only. If I was locked in, no problem.

I’m just talking about being in a seakayak and getting dumped and getting knocked out of position a little bit.

Not surfing, but in the surf zone.

I need to get back into a “locked in” position.

I have padded my boat out and have adequate thigh bracing.

I’m assuming kayak surfers wear a seat belt to avoid this situation.

Just looking for short cut
I guess the bottom line is that I just need to learn more variations of the roll.

It still seems pretty tough to do any type of roll if you’re not locked in to the boat.

Better outfitting
Your knees should have good contact with the boat.

Many WW boaters are really, really locked in their boat. But I know many seakayakers don’t. The key is to maintain good knee contact with the boat and actively lift your knee during the hip-flick stage.

learning both sides and a
couple of variations is the shortcut.


Is it the rudder?
That’s causing you to not be “locked in”? One thing I always disliked about paddling with sliding rudder pedals was that using the rudder tends to mess with your leg and body positioning.

No rudder.

"locked in"
Sounds like you may want to play around more. Good to be able to roll up when everything isn’t just so.

I hurt my shoulder this weekend and took that as an opportunity to work off some of my remaining “offside”. Normally when messing about and trying stuff, and something doesn’t work, I’ll default to a standard roll coming up on the right. Sunday I just switched to default left. Which side I come up on matters less and less. How I capsize/setup hardly matters at all. Goal being to have no set way and maximum options.

Call it what you want “Setup” like most, or “Home Base” like EJ, you should be able to get there as easily as you can curl into the not too dissimilar fetal position - and not have to be perfectly in that position to execute a roll.

As I try more kayaks perfect fit/position also matters less and less. Good outfitting that keeps you connected can be key, but like capsizes and setup it need not be one set way or 100% to work.

I think most surf kayaks with lap belts have them to keep you from getting sucked out of the boat if your skirt pops, not to keep you locked into an exact position. Wave skis and some SOTs like my Tsunami have lap belts only. These keep you attached, but hardly locked in like a WW or heavily padded out sea kayak. No thigh/knee bracing at all. They are still rollable. After rolling the SOT with lap belt - I find I can roll the SOF with even a slack lower body flopping pretty loose in the cockpit.

Some Greenland maneuvers are helped by being able to slide froward/aft or twist in the seat a bit. Greenland SOF boats generally “fit” the paddler, and there’s not far to go - but there is a range.

Personally, I like solid contact I can engage instantly (from thigh braces, or better still a masik) - but I don’t like being wedged in the way I see some paddlers outfit their cockpits. My touring boat and SOF are both outfitted to reflect this, with room to work lower body while paddling. They still roll easily, and I can be shifted around a bit with little effect. I’m not talking much room to slop around though, just a little. These are not huge cockpit boats.

How far out of position are you getting?
While you’re inverted, can’t you just take one hand and grab the coaming and scoot yourself wherever you want to be in the cockpit - then tuck back up into setup and roll?

I’m on the skeg side myself
but if a rudder is a must, fixed position footpegs with toe or swivel actuators are best.

Really No Shortcuts…
you can only go at the rate you can by putting in the time. The more you play the surf (or white water), the more experience you get, the more calm you feel, the more you will begin to feel the nuances of the hydraulics at play, and how to tap, or not tap, into it.

The surf zone is an incredible “teacher” for rough water handling. I encourage folks to seek it out not only for skills development but confidence building as well as a intimate knowledge of one’s limitations.


That’s what I’m talking about
That is what I’m looking for. A way to shift my position a little bit while inverted.

Can YOU shift position by just grabbing the coaming and moving around a little? I can’t seem to do that. As I mentioned in my original post, I have tried grabbing the boat by the sides and even wrapping my arms around the hull.

I am calm (I think). Maybe I just need to try to concentrate more on using the coaming for leverage.

I’ll just have to work on it more.

I’m just talking about finding a way to straighten out and settle in a bit.

I’m sure this is an issue that others have dealt with in one way or another.

In flat water I can capsize without set up and go to set up position with no problem and roll up.

What worked for me

– Last Updated: May-23-06 5:24 PM EST –

Eric Jackson's video has a section on improving the roll by slicing your paddle to the surface or skulling your paddle to the surface, and then as he says "Head Down and Hips." Unless you are really flopping around inside the boat so your knees are on the skirt, if you can engage the knee and thigh againt the boat coming or anything you can roll the boat over. Practice in the pool not setting up but just getting the paddle in a reasonable position and firing off the roll. When the boat finally goes all the way over I try to minimize turbulence and take stock of where I am, how close the bottom is ect. and then act, if you can hang onto the bottom of the boat ect and still not get into position with the roll, you might need outfitting in the boat or learn a different rolling method.

More clarification
It’s just a matter of once you are out of position in the boat, for whatever reason, how do you readjust while inverted.

"Can YOU shift position by just grabbing the coaming and moving around a little? I can’t seem to do that."

Sure. If I am really out of position (e.g. a breaking wave tried to pull me out of the cockpit, etc), then while holding the paddle in the center of the paddle shaft with one hand, I’ll bring both hands to the side of the cockpit coaming. From this position you should be able to “reset” your position in the kayak no matter how badly you are “falling out” or shifted in the cockpit (note that this is the same position that you should use when you wet-exit). If you have to constantly fight to keep control of your bracing points in your kayak then I’d suspect that your outfitting needs plenty of work.

Greg Stamer