Rolling: LV vs. HV

Does the volume of a kayak make any significant difference in the roll? Sure, there are adjustments that must be made boat-to-boat, but is one going to be easier to roll than the other (for a good physics or anatomical reason)? One definitely feels easier than the other for me, but I’m wondering if it’s the size of the boat or the fit that is making the difference. I’m new at this so am looking for a seasoned opinion.

Easier in LV
Lower volume definitely makes a difference.

I believe the reason would be because with a LV kayak you have less volume to pull under yourself as you finish the roll. An HV kayak wants to stay at the surface and resists being pulled back into the water more.

Another way to look at it is the height that you need to pull yourself up out of the water. The submerged volume of either a LV or HV kayak is probably roughly the same under your weight, but you’ll sit lower to the water in a LV, so you save some distance that you need to rise to finish the roll.

Also, most LV kayaks are narrower. Narrower means less resistance throughout the roll. A wider HV kayak forces more of your body (hips and legs) to be above the water’s surface at the 90 degree part of the roll. Keeping your mass lower throughout the roll helps.

Chine shape probably also plays a part in how smoothly a roll happens as well. Hard, boxy chines will make it harder to kick over the halfway point of the roll, but will stabilize you more once you complete the roll. Really round chines will want to continue the momentum on the roll and sometimes you have to brace on the other side to avoid capsizing in the opposite direction.

All that said, a good fitting kayak of any size will be easier to roll than one that you are flopping around in. You need to be able to translate the motion of your body directly to the kayak, and that won’t happen if the fit is too loose.

Anyway, that’s just my take on things.

Less volume easier. Rounder easier

– Last Updated: Aug-28-16 8:29 AM EST –

The only hitch on the volume thing is that I still encounter new paddlers who have been told by WW folks that all sea kayaks are harder to roll than any WW kayak. Not so. A 16' ft plus NDK Romany is easier to roll than the old play boats that were a box on a pancake for example, though once you put in enough of a snap to get those boats to a certain point they would flop over.

One of the things that Jackson did with his play boat designs was to improve how easy they were to roll over the designs they followed. But he has been so dominant for so long that people forget that.

Of course fit is crucial, it is hard to start a boat rolling if the initial part of your energy is going to be involved just in physically getting to the contact points. The fit part can create a conundrum when you are talking about a kind of roll that is more dependent on a good hip snap though. The latter argues for a low deck, but current forward stroke technique argues for a high enough deck to be able to raise the knees alternatively for pedaling. So my easiest boat to roll is frankly not the one that gives me the best room for pedaling action. Greenland rolls, while the boat is very tight, tend to be more dependent on a whole body motion than anything like the initiating motion that starts an old C-to-C or the more typical C-to-sweep that people get taught these days.

Rounder is easier than less round too. The easiest rolling boat in the fleet is the Nordkapp LV. It rolls so easily that it'll tolerate sloppy fit and still window shade. On the flip side, it goes the other way just as enthusiastically.

Bouyant force
is another factor. A larger volume boat has more air or more water and will want to float in whatever orientation it currently resides. In order to roll the boat, you must push all that bouyancy downward and get your butt over it so it can lift you back to the surface. For this reason, it may be possible to roll a low volume boat without a good hip snap IF you have good paddle technique. A larger volume boat (probably) will not allow you to be so sloppy.

That said, hull design is a large factor, as Celia points out. Some hulls have additional width above the waterline, and hard/soft chines can affect rolls as well.

Still, there are times where a larger volume boat is what you wish (long multi-day trips, for example) since you’ll need to store lots of gear. Even a laden boat, regardless of volume, can be rolled and some roll better when loaded with gear.

If your technique is good, however, you probably will not greatly notice the benefits of rolling a low volume boat since you will always generate more power than is necessary to roll.


some boats are easier to boat than
others- first I’d look at fit- not only the hips but also the height and how well the knees are engaged. I have a lot more trouble rolling boats with more volume- I suspect a lot of that is fit. In general, boats with deep cockpits (higher sides) give me trouble. I find I have a harder time setting up since getting the flexibility to reach around the boat is difficult for me.

Perhaps many of the Jackson boats were redesigned with rolling in mind- but the original hero wasn’t one of them. With the volume loaded in the bow you had to have good flexibility to even get set up. The set up position in these boats has shifted back to the side rather than tucked forward.

My roll is pretty sketchy and I’m thinking about downsizing my boat- I become instantly better at rolling when in a smaller boat. I currently boat a large shiva but can roll much better in a medium. Trouble is I like boating big boats- more forgiving in ww and lately I’ve spent my money on trips rather than boats and gear. So that will have to wait.

The original Hero(s)

– Last Updated: Aug-29-16 7:21 AM EST –

IMO they really overloaded the capacity in the original Heros, but then again they were designed to be protective of less skilled paddlers as well as being a fast creeker for someone who could push them. They did the first very well, evidenced by a steady stream of barcalounger paddlers who managed to get to the bottom of a local class 2 section without capsizing. But my recall, may be wrong, is that they were also doing well in races.

My husband and I took demo'd one of each size of the the first Heros (there were two) the first summer they were out. They were more doable than spiffy rollers. Both of us felt that any of our sea kayaks came up quicker than the Heros did. We tried asking the young WW guy about how they compared to some of the other boats in that respect - we were just looking at the idea of messing with some easy WW. But he was so busy getting his jaw closed about long boaters rolling that we could not get a good answer.

I think the next year they fixed it a bit by expanding the Hero line into three sizes. But ultimately they became an old idea and Jackson went into the Fun series, which was the stapleriver/play boat of a lot of WW schools for a long time because they had a great blend of supporting maneuvers but were still very friendly to rolling. There were kin to that series, I think one was Star?, but I know less about where that all is now.

Interesting old is often new again. Going to another manufacturer Pyrahnna, the I series was a redesign of the old Innazones to solve the catchy stern. Though I can't say that ever bothered me in my Innazone. My lousy paddling was a much bigger factor than the stern catching. And look at an "old school" WW boats like the RPM (oops, more the Animus) and the Green Boat... you can see the lineage.

Thanks all
This is the kind of explanation I was looking for.

I’ve one high volume boat that cannot be rolled even when pushing off the bottom with your paddle. It’s inshore only, and I use the surf ski remount technique for a recovery. My LV boat seems to automatically roll.

I wrote a blog post about some of the factors that make a kayak easier to roll here:

Flagged the spam here and in another thread.

@pikabike said:
Flagged the spam here and in another thread.

Ditto - think I did six bot flags this morning. Whoever moderates this site must be preoccupied elsewhere.

Any kayak can be rolled but the kayaks that sit super low in the water are always easier. Look at a Tahe marine greenlander. its sits so low in the water without a skirt water flows into the ocean cockpit by just a slight lean. Those type of kayak roll super easy. I can hand roll those with ease. Look on youtube for world champion greenland rollers, They all are in super low volume kayaks that are almost under water just sitting there.

@dc9mm said:
Any kayak can be rolled but the kayaks that sit super low in the water are always easier. Look at a Tahe marine greenlander. its sits so low in the water without a skirt water flows into the ocean cockpit by just a slight lean. Those type of kayak roll super easy. I can hand roll those with ease. Look on youtube for world champion greenland rollers, They all are in super low volume kayaks that are almost under water just sitting there.

Friend has one and it takes in water all the time paddling it’s so low even with the skirt.

“I’m wondering if it’s the size of the boat or the fit that is making the difference”

Probably neither. In my experience, in a situation where someone is really asking this question, they have tuned in mechanics for a shaky roll in a particular kayak. But the overall roll mechanics aren’t quite there to jump in any kayak and just roll it. Once some of that is tuned in, they realize that their roll is better in whatever kayak.

If you’re working out hand rolls among different kayaks, you’re probably not asking that question.

I think volume distribution makes the biggest difference in the feel of the roll in different kayaks. A good example would be my Tiderace Xtreme. It has a lot of rocker, and a lot of volume in the ends. When I’m upside down, the volume supporting my lighter, submerged with a lifejacket weight, is being supported more by volume in the ends, with the rocker of the kayak causing the cockpit area to be held more above the surface than when right side up. So something like a weeble, the kayak is more inclined to flip over and have the heaviest weight sink to the lowest point in the water. But it’s really not a particularly low volume kayak.

So it’s more of an “all things being equal, which is easier, lower or higher volume”, and as someone mentioned above, if you have a strong roll, it’s largely academic. I’m lucky enough to have held onto something of a collection of sea kayaks, and outside of the weeble, it’s pretty difficult for me to pinpoint which one is actually easier. All I can say is that although adjustments may be subtle, I know I’m always making subtle adjustments based upon volume distribution/stability profiles. The way I make adjustments is that I roll, and if it feels anything but strong and solid, I roll a bunch more times until it does.

Smaller volume is easier for me, but hull and deck shape influence ease of rolling, too.
Roll them if you got them…
what you don’t see in the video:
Fit + I have my bilgepump under the “coaming” for knee brace
Bilge Pump + needs to be pumped after a couple rolls
Water is >8 feet … someone thought I pushed off the bottom on this roll. You try pushing off the bottom
in a Folbot. You will be “poling” and inverted tub of water.