Rolling - post shoulder injury

Alright, so it has been maybe a month or so since I royally botched an attempt at a sweep roll and dislocated my shoulder. (I was previously fairly competent with a C to C). Since then, I’ve seen a PT fellow and have been back in both the kayak and / or canoe at least five days a week. My shoulder feels pretty good, but I know I can’t over-extend it again.

So, after a recent trip to the beach and paddling about in some “fair to middlin” types of seas, I’m just itching to be practicing my rolls. At the same time, I’m scared to death to do so. I do not want to risk going through another painful dislocation, but I do want to get the technique right and have a bombproof roll. I don’t know where to start. Lessons would be fine, so long as I had some sort of assurance that the teacher actually understood how to keep the shoulder in check. I’ve even thought about rigging up some kind of brace to keep my elbow in close to my torso for some practice sessions.

Any thoughts? Any advice from those of you who have been there and recovered?


Learn The Greenland
reverse sweep roll from stern to bow, finishing with you hunched over the foredeck. This is a low brace type of roll using abd crunch. No stress on shoulders.


Is it
The one called “Reverse Roll” on the Qajaq USA site - with Harvey Golden? If so, looks like it would be fine for the shoulders but wow, it sure is different than what I’ve been used to. If that is the right one, is he doing it “onside” or “offside” for a right handed paddler? (I know, it would be best to learn it both ways, but I figured I’d start onside.)


It Is

– Last Updated: Jun-21-04 3:55 PM EST –

the reverse roll. I figure this may be easier for you since it's very similar to the C1 type of roll, at least on one side. The thing is that if you are using a GP, it is easier to do from either side since you're not limited to one blade. It's just a matter of sliding (not switching) grip to an extended paddle position.

When you capsize, do it face down with your body out to the side of the boat (use your hands/paddle to break the "plop"). Move your body past 90 degrees and more towards the stern. Your belly is facing the bottom. Say you're capsize to the left, extend the paddle with your right hand gripping the blade end and your left gripping the loom/blade transition area. Your right hand is somewhere between your solar plex and your belly button. Your left hand is somewhere in front of your face. The blade is extended slightly out of the water right next to the stern (on your left side) and your body is arched up with your head/face looking up at the blade. Now sweep the blade from stern to bow (to the right), as you do so think of it as doing an abd crunch. When your blade reaches near the bow, you should up already be up and have your head almost kissing your foredeck where you left knee is. If you not quite there, push straight down one the blade with your left hand (the one that was by the face) and that should give you the extra boost to finish the roll. However, it is really the abd crunch, concentrating on touching your head to your knee as you sweep, that makes this roll work. It's all gradual. No hard hip snap.


I’m not the roller sing is but

– Last Updated: Jun-21-04 3:58 PM EST –

here are comments fron the peanut gallery.

Doing a proper "standard" gleenland roll, (with paddle held very close to chest), should be much better than an imperfect-form euro roll. Drop the c to c for good and learn a sweep roll, unless you are doing whitewater, (even then the value of a c-to-c vs a non-layback sweep is debated).

Also "the kayak roll" dvd from kent ford will have some helpful advice. They'll say, "shed the resistance"

That Is True
A layback sweep roll with the paddle in extended position and held right against the chest should not endangered the shoulder.

The only caveate is that there may now be a mental obstacle because of the previous dislocated shoulder. I would suggest learning the sweep roll if there is an instructor and/or spotter. But, if not, mentally going with a different (low brace type) roll that has no danger to the shoulder may be easier to work with.

Good advice
Thanks Sing and Peter.

No doubt in my mind that proper technique is the key here (regardless of roll type). IF I’d done the sweep properly a month ago I wouldn’t have dislocated my shoulder. Same trouble years ago (other shoulder) in C-1s, OC-1, and (especially) OC-2.

I’m really drawn to the reverse roll - it looks safe. Watching the videos on the Qajaq site, most of the other rolls get you closer to hyper extension. If you do them right you’re fine, but they certainly do get the elbows at least a little further from the torso. The reverse roll, while probably confusing at first, looks good to me cause your elbows stay nice and tight against the torso (so far as I can tell anyway).

So, to learn the roll, and assuming I won’t have any instruction other than the video, would you good folks recommend goggles and nose plugs or not? I always taught folks canoe rolls without the goggles cause I figured it was important to learn it “by feel” rather than sight. At the same time though, I’m probably going to be doing this without any help. Will the goggles impede me later? Along the same lines, any ideas where I can download or view some other examples of this roll? Can’t seem to dig anything up via Google on it.

Thanks again. Keep the ideas coming.

“The reverse roll, while probably confusing at first, looks good to me cause your elbows stay nice and tight against the torso (so far as I can tell anyway).”

The hand positions (right in front of the body) should not move much at all throughout the roll. Your body is doing most of the sweeping. The blade is being swept along with your entire body.

Water doesn’t go into your nose in this roll. But use goggles at first to see what’s going on. Because initial rolling attempts are always disorienting and seeing better helps alleviate that.

I would suggest getting Maliaqiaq’s rolling tape. It’s worth $35. Plus it helps to support John Heath’s wife. The link is on the Qajaq/USA site.



Euro or Greenland is not the issue
The issue is how to roll while protecting the shoulder. The obvious answer is to learn to roll holding the shoulder in it’s safest / strongest position.

When people injure themselves from rolling it’s not because the roll is flawed but because their technique is off. Many rollers try to mask bad form (body position, hip snap, flexibility) with levering off the paddle with the arms. This is the primary cause of shoulder injuries (and broken paddles) attributed to rolling.

My advise would be to get back to basics, dial in that flexibility, body position, hip snap and timing all while keeping the shoulder in a tight, closed and protected position. Once these details are optimized you won’t really need the paddle and so won’t need to worry about which type of roll you decide to do.

There’s nothing wrong with Greenland rolls, but the lay-back roll won’t fix what’s wrong with your form. It will only give you an alternative that, while fine in flat water, is somewhat limiting in moving water and/or tight spaces.

As the shoulder heals try to learn as many rolls as possible both with Greenland and Euro sticks. Each new roll with teach you a little bit more about what rolling really is about and each new skill will bring you closer and closer to the essence of rolling. (Hint: It isn’t about what you are holding in your hand or whether you start/finish fore or aft. Mostly it’s about body position and inertia)

I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the assertion that the “C to C” aka the hip snap is of limited value. People that believe as much really need to read beyond the hype and understandthe physics of what’s going on during a roll. The amazing Cherie Perry certainly understands the value of proper body position and manipulariotion during her “staight jacket” roll.

Regardless of the tool you choose or the camp you decide to favor, enhanced flexibility, body position, form and timing can only improve your ability to roll with stength and convicrtion 10 times out of 10 attempts.

Cheers, good luck and heal quickly!


Jed, is that you,

– Last Updated: Jun-21-04 7:30 PM EST –

Mr. L? Seems like your fine style! :-)

major edit below:
BTW if you are Jed L excuse me, I hate to pick a bone wiht a paddler so much better than I am but the c to c roll is not the same thing as a hip snap. Interesting trick of defining initial terms to make your argement. Nobody does a a sweep roll in a 90 degree configuration without a hip snap. The sweep roll starts rolling the boat earlier so there is less of an explosion used but there is still a strong focus of power below the waist

dislocated shoulder
My right shoulder was dislocated a few times and it made me uncomfortable to push my skills. After the last time it was dislocated an orthopedic surgeon reccomended that I have surgery done to repair the damaged labrum. I got the surgery done (3 years ago) and I am able to push my limits now without it dislocateing again. When I learn rolls on my right side I get some discomfort in my shoulder, but after I developed better form I can do the rolls without any discomfort. I have learned to use my body more and the paddle less. Surgery might not be the right option for you but better body technique will put less stress on your shoulder.

Sorry, I mis-read your comment.
Your right Peter, when I read your post I thought you were implying that the value of a “C-to-C” versus the “Lay-back” was debated for WW use. I thought I was starting to hear the echo’s of the no-hip-snap chant.

In real life all rolls involve some hip rotation or rather spine flexion from one side to the other. If the roller turns to face the flex they can incorporate significant abdominal flex to the same end. All of this contributes to rotational movement of the torso and lower extremities around the center of gravity. If the movement is done quickly some call it a “hip-snap”. If it’s done more slowly some call it “Hip rotation”. When it’s done really slowly or less pronounced some call it a “non-hip-snap” as is used in a lay-back roll. Whatever people call it does not matter. What matters is that rollers learn to maximize the effect in order to generate the greatest amount of torque for the least expended energy.

I spent a lot of time teaching and studying rolling and invariably the people that come to understand this concept learn to roll with remarkable reliability and minimal effort. But it’s a very difficult idea to wrap your mind around because so many people were taught to just push the paddle out 90° and haul down on it with all their might.


Jed (yeah, that one)

Don’t worry…
After dislocating your shoulder once, it’s probably a lot looser and won’t hurt nearly as much the second time;-(

Seriously, I still worry about this decades after having my shoulder operated on and after tearing a rotator cuff in the other one.

You might try learning from the Greenland types and slow the roll way down so you can develop proper form without straining anything. For me that’s easier said than done.

I’ve lost 15 pounds this month
my torso flexibility and rotation has increased so much I cannot even believe it.

Believe Jed, using the torso (and engaging the legs)is the key.

Jed, I was thinking of all the good advice you have given me, (for free, so far) when I wrote non-layback into the first post. What you and Michael C. have taught me does not just pass through the large (vacuous?) space between my ears. I just grab it in passing and practice at the home pond.

That’s a great point… the
Greenland reverse roll can be done Reaaallly slowly, so you can monitor the stress on your shoulders throughout the roll. However, it’s not necessarily an easy roll to visualize or learn on your own, since everything is backwards from a the usual high-brace type rolls (such as screw and Pawlata). The reverse roll is a low-brace roll, so the elbows are tucked against the body, and the motion is sitting up while while feeling like you’re closing a car trunk with your arms, i.e. pushing down with the triceps. If you aren’t very calm and comfortable being upside down while you try it, you might get confused, panic, and make an unfortunate attempt at a different roll to recover.

So be careful–have someone with you in case you dislocate again.


One minor problem
First of all, thanks for all the great advice. Sanjay - yes, you’re right on target. I’ll be sure to have someone around and will take it extremely slow. I’ve been successful teaching myself other rolls in the past. The trick for me is to work through the whole thing in my head before I flip over. When I do go over I stay nice and relaxed. I’ll pull the skirt rather than try a different roll, at least for now.

Now, I’ve discovered one little minor problem with the reverse roll. While we were out on the river this morning, I tried to get into the setup position as shown in the video on the Qajaq USA site. Guess what - I can’t seem to twist my torso around nearly as far as Harvey does in the video. I consider myself to be at least reasonable limber (I can do stretches and such that my wife, who used to dance and is into Yoga can’t reach). I have at least “reasonable” torso rotation when I paddle. Even putting the paddle down and holding the gunwales though, I can’t really get into the position I’m seeing in the video. Is this a big deal? Could I just start the roll laying on the back deck? Seems to me if I lie on the deck, hands near my chest, elbows at my side, I could do the ab crunch, making it a point to “reach” for my opposite knee with my head, push down on the paddle, and roll right up. Am I missing something here?

Thanks again.

Slow sweep
I recently started teaching myself the sweep shown in the Kent Ford “The Kayak Roll” video after having a decent C-to-C for a while. Right now it’s working better for me the slower I go – probably because I focus more on being smooth than being strong. What a novel concept! :wink:

What might help you is the focus on working backwards from a strong, protected finish position with the elbows down and in. Visualizing and practicing that first – as oppsed to the ‘normal’ learning sequence – seems to have worked for me.

One other thing that helped was having a buddy and a mask, which let me go through the motions without worrying about rolling up. The mask makes it comfortable to hang out upside down while you figure things out, and when you’re ready just drop the paddle and thump for a bow rescue. Being able to relax and take your time takes a lot of the stress out of the process.

Forget The "Standard Set-Up"
which is to torgue your body around almost facing the stern and then leaning backwards into the water. The capsize then brings your around underwater to the other side from where you capsized. This is not necessary.

You can lay on the backdeck and capsize on the side you’re going to roll on. Just sneak a bit off to the side of the stern where you are rolling up on. The reason is that, if you’re squared under the stern, you may end with the paddle blade on the other side of the stern. So when you start your sweep, you actually bump your blade into the boat and stopping yourself cold.


I agree totally. It took me
about 3 months to get twisty enough to hit the starting position, but that’s not necessary to learn the roll.