Rolling in strong wind, waves


I was practicing my roll today in a small craft advisory, so 25 knot winds and pretty steep waves (the practice session was on a long, sloping beach, and Lake SUperior has been very warm this year). I was thrilled to have success on the rolls, but it sure was a lot harder than I expected–I really had to think about laying back (greenland paddle, layback roll here), and using my thigh lift.

Is this usual? The first time, I thought maybe I’d rushed the setup, so the second roll, I made myself pause and focus on the setup and keeping my inboard hand close to my chest. But it still needed a lot more energy than I expected from flat water rolling, which seems to take no energy at all. I rolled away from the wind, thinking that would take less energy, but it wasn’t.

(Trying to keep from broaching when doing the surf landings was even more entertaining, but that’s another issue.)

If you were rolling
up on the downwind side you were making it harder to roll. If you roll up into the wind it will help you up and make the rolls easier. Give it try next time.

rolling both with and against the wind. Depending on if there is a seche (weather caused tide) running one way or another. It is usually easier in one of the two directions, but not always wind dependant, you need to try both ways to find out which way is easier on any given day. More happens on Lake Superior than just the wind that affects rolling ease.

Balance bracing works the same. some times it is easier with the waves comming at the bottom and sometimes not…only way I’ve found to tell is test it , differant on differant days

Best Wishes



– Last Updated: Aug-30-06 4:13 PM EST –

if you have good sculling skills (back sculling) try sculling yourself up and holding at the surface (careful not to take a breath if waters breaking over your face).
I have found by doing this I am able to relax and get a sense of what's happening on top, and can time the last bit of popping up around when waves break or strong gusts of wind.

I started trying this after reading in Zimmerlys' qajaq book that this was a "common" recovery technique (afraid I do not remember what part of the arctic, perhpas the king islanders?), and have had good success.

Of course I would not try this in the surf zone.


edited spelling errors

rolling with vs against wind
Hi Roy,

Long time no see. It’s fun out there today, but my attempt to get in through the surf wasn’t pretty.

Maybe I’m confused about rolling with vs. rolling against the wind. Say the wind was coming from my left shoulder–I would set up on the right side and come up on the left side (ie, I’d let the wind blow me over, hoping that it would also help pop me up). Is that the ‘right’ direction usually to let the wind help you?

I was also trying to time the roll to be on the crest of the wave, but under water, it was hard to figure out when I was in a trough and when I was on the crest. Water was kind of everywhere, and lots of it was bubbly and aerated.

At least I didn’t have to wet exit! But I shouldn’t have been too chicken to try the offside roll, I know.

Can You Roll On Both Sides?
if so, don’t worry about. If you can’t make it up one side, just the go to the other side. When you under, it’s hard to figure out which way the wind is blowing. If it’s the waves pushing you, learn to feel the force/direction and use the trailing side to roll up, or wait until the wave lets go and then roll up. If it’s current, wait a couple seconds to equalize with current, and then roll on whichever side you want.


A Lot Differant
You are describing the part of learning a roll that I was not expecting. I was pretty happy with myself when I finally, after a long time, got up from my first roll. I reverted to no roll for about four months and could not figure out why. Then it all came together again and I thought all was well again. Not so, I then started practice in swells, boat wakes, and confused water. The last part was almost like learning how for the third time.

On the other hand I guess I am still learning. I came out of my boat Sunday evening after getting knocked over unexpectedly and missed my roll twice.

I learned the sweep roll and am sticking with it as I like having my paddle in the water providing stability as I come up. This has prevented me from getting tossed again more than once.

Happy Paddling,


Capsizing downwind/downwave is the easier way, since when you come up on the upwind/upwave side, the wind/waves will assist you. In your example, that would be capsizing to the right.

As for timing, you’re typically not going to have a choice in a real situation. Most likely, you’re going to be knocked over by a wave while you’re in the trough or part way up the face. The upside to this is that you’ll capsize downwave and rolling up should be pretty easy.