Rolling Observations

Some of these comments may seem obvious, but here goes.

Should you learn to roll first, or get your bracing/sculling down first.

My reasoning was if I could learn to roll, then I could practice bracing/sculling and if I fell over I could just roll up. Well, that was good in theory, but in reality…not so good.

I took rolling lessons over the winter, and by the end of my second lesson, I had it down pretty good, I did like 10 in a row. I was learning the sweep roll as taught in “The Kayak Roll” video. It’s easy when you are in a nice warm pool and have someone there coaching you and reminding you to setup correctly, proper blade angle, keep your head down etc.

Well, once spring came, and I got out on the ocean, I decided I would try out my roll. 10 tries, 1 sucessful roll, damn that water is cold. I couldn’t understand what happened, I thought I had it down pat.

Well, over the past 4 months, I have attempted my roll every time I go out, and I was lucky if I got 1 out of 3 attempts. So, more recently I have been concentrating more on bracing/sculling. Started with low braces/sculling, then moved to extended paddle high bracing/sculling, and then just last week high braces/capsize recoveries. I did these over and over on BOTH sides. This high brace is basically the finish of a roll, I would fall over so far that my shoulder would actually go into the water, then high brace back up.

Today, I went down to my local pond to specifically practice my roll, well wouldn’t you know, I was rolling like crazy, on both sides even! It was like everything just all of a sudden came together.

For me, the most beneficial excersise was the extended paddle bracing/sculling/rolling. I had this misconception that extended paddle maneuvers were for wimps, but in reality using the extended paddle allows you to get your boat completly over and back up with all that extra support you get from the extended paddle. This builds confidence, and allows you to feel the edge of your boat as well as getting the timing for hip snaps to come back up.

So, in conclusion, It’s very hard to have a reliable roll without good bracing/sculling skills. As a beginner, learning to brace and scull is very daunting task, because you end up spending more time practicing self rescues than bracing (at least I did). For me…the extended paddle was the answer.


Avocet…Quill over White, Black Trim

Sculling brace vs rolling
Glad to hear that you got your roll back.

I think that your bracing and sculling practice helped you get it back. There is a probably good reason that the Inuit teach the sculling brace before teaching a roll.

Paddle on,


Do both
I learn bracing “accidentally”, so to speak. I was whitewater rafting and saw these guys on kayaks playing around the rapids, and rolling right back up when they gone over. And I thought rolling just looks sooo cool! So, without giving much thought to the pratical use of it, I decided I would learn to kayak so I could learn to roll! And believe it or not, I signed up for a roll class right after my “introductory whitewater”. Putting the cart in front of the horses, you may say.

Being pretty flexible, it didn’t take long for me to roll up. So down the rapid we went the next time. Still not that great a paddler, I got thrown about in the rapid. The next thing I knew, my boat was up on its edge… Instead of continuing going over and DOWN, the part of my brain (and body/muscle) that just acquired rolling technique treated it as part of the UP rolling process and took over. An outreached paddle plus a little hip snap and head sink, UP I stayed. “Nice brace!” was my instructor’s comment! “Oh, that’s call a BRACE? I guess I now know how to brace”. ;o) Sculling? Isn’t that the first part of the roll? And edging the boat was, errr, pretty natural. Knowing that I can roll back up, I wasn’t afraid to edge and lean. I actually never have to use the roll much…

Years later, after away from the river for a long time, I got back into a SEAKAYAK instead. First time I tried to roll, it didn’t feel right. So I decide I need to refresh my sculling and bracing to compensate for my lost roll. Well, after a bit of pratice, I just felt cocky and decided to try a roll. I went up on the first try! (And all subsequent tries…)

I mean, let’s see what is a roll. First a scull, followed by a hip snap, finished with a high brace… There’re quite a bit in common between these two techniques doing one well sure help the other.

Lost and found too
I lost and (partially) found my roll again this weekend. I had help. The person helping me suggested I use an extended paddle but I am concerned about all that leverage causing shoulder damage.

i’m the opposite
I actually learned how to roll pretty quickly. However, due to nervousness and just lack of practice, I never had a decent high brace. This past weekend I was practicing rolling and decided to try some high braces. Although my high brace on the left side is pretty weak and it failed several times, rolling up each time I failed helped my confidence a lot. By the end of my practice session, I was doing dozens of partially submerged high braces side to side in a row without a problem. I’m still shaky about my left side high brace, but rolling has given me the opportunity to practice and fine tune this skill for me.

I think that having a good brace/scull before your roll is fantastic but not a needed base skill for rolling. A pool roll is just that a pool roll. The pool provides you many positives that you don’t have in the ocean or cold lakes like warm and clear water, people nearby for help, no wind or waves. In other words the stress level is minimal. However, when you take your roll out to the real world stress will cause the pool roll to fail. You have to take what you have learned in the pool and re-work it in the ocean. One thing that will help transition a pool roll to a ‘real’ roll is keeping your eyes closed in the pool (once you get your roll down). When you get in real conditions you won’t be able to see your paddle.


Different Paths…
to the same place. I learned to roll before really getting bracing and sculling down. But, I was totally focused on the ROLL before anything else.

I think the specific roll technique, extended paddle or not as well as your boat has something to do with it. For example, if I were coaching someone with a low volume boat, I do sculling first. Someone in a high volume/higher back deck, I have coached with a C2C. Ultimately some observation can be made about where the person is by having them try and fail first just to see what they need to work on.

I had your brother rolling with an extended paddle, modified sweep to a C2C in like less than 1/2 an hour. He was in his Castine no less.


extended paddle
In my experience, an extended-paddle layback sweep roll is easy on the shoulders because there’s no distinct snap which might cause you to yank on the paddle. You just maintain constant pressure during the sweep.

I remember that
I remember when you taught him to roll with the extended paddle in the Castine, He had it down pretty good. For me, although I did learn to roll first, my roll did not become reliable and automatic, until I got better bracing/sculling skills. As we continue to work on all of our skills (strokes, bracing, sculling, rolling etc.)they all come together to help each other. In other words, if you get better at bracing/sculling, your roll will improve as a result.