Rolling Problems???????


Recently I have developed some issues with my roll. I taught myself to roll last summer and never had any problems. I use a C to C roll and got to the point where it was effortless. Recently I have been practicing my roll about 10 or 12 times every time I paddle (about 3 times per week in my sea kayak).

Last week though I went out in my WW boat on a local river. I went to practice my roll and it failed. It then failed several more times. I was pretty disappointed and confused.

I went out another 2 times since then in my sea kayak. My roll did not fail, but I found it not to be as effortless and it did nearly fail a few times. My confidence is a bit shaky now too.

Yesterday I noticed a few things while practicing. It seems that I am not developing as much power and that I am putting a lot of strain on my shoulder upon executing my C to C. I also find that my paddle seems to be “diving” When I do get up and find my paddle to be deep in the water. I don’t recall this generally being the case and think this is indicative of a problem.

I am not sure what I am doing wrong. A couple of things come to mind—I think I might be lifting my head. I also think that perhaps I am not getting the paddle perpedicular on top of the water and causing it to slice a little bit. Finally, perhaps I am not providing enough hip snap.

I am not sure though. What are your thoughts???



From formula to feel
This is normal. Learning takes time. We begin with a fomula, the set up, keep the paddle this way, etc.

Now you need to focus on the sensations in your hands so you know the paddle is flat or slightly up, to much up screws up the timing, too flat is dives at the finish of the C to C.

Experiment with timing of how fast you sweep out before punching the paddle. Otherwise the amount of boat roll varies each time messing with timing.

Hip/knee rotation varies if you don’t relax the non rolling leg and don’t focus on pulling the boat UNDER you. Focus on under rather than just rotating.

Make sure your position with the paddle is the safest, arms bent and the paddle not too extended out and away from you. This is also the strongest position (for braces too). Make sure the elbow does not get behind your torso, don’t want a strain or dislocation.

Keep focus on the sensations and use a mask some of the time to SEE if what you feel is what you want.

thanks for the response
One question though—I don’t understand what you mean by if the paddle is flat or slightly up? Also, you mention that the paddle with dive if it is too flat. Can you explain? This seems the opposite of what I would expect. It would seem that if the paddle is flat on the surface of the water, it would not dive.



try an experiment
try an experiment, hold your paddle shaft with thumb and one finger lightly, start the paddle moving backwards on surface of water slightly up, then watch as with no tension on shaft it continues to plane nicely.

Now try it again when completely flat, it will tend to dive all by itself. Euor paddles with the most curvature and thin edges dive very very easily. This is different for greenland paddles.

Moving from ideas to sensations is the key, watch with your mask. What happens until you have the sensations is that the paddle starts flat or up but as you focus on the other parts of the roll

You will get TENSE in the hands and this changes the angle of the paddle and starts it diving. When you stay relaxed in the hands this disappears.

Takes time and feel!

I Would Guess…
an evolving hip snap problem. Sometimes, after initial success, you start to devolve by not relying as much on hip snap but on paddle. You say the paddle dives on the end and your shoulders are feeling the strain. Likely, you relying too much on the paddle and pulling down on it alot.

Go to the edge of the pool, or hang on to someone’s bow and practice hip snapping (and head dinking). Really feel yourself driving that knee up and keeping your head down. Should feel like you’re driving your knee to your head.


I got my first roll quite a long time ago. Also my second thru severelth (I forget how many). Then it went bye bye for a loong time, I lost confidence that I could solve my problem, got even more tense than I was before, which had been at the bleeding edge of too tense already…

And guess what? The paddle started diving steeply every dratted time I tried and I got worse at initiating the hip snap as the entirely of the problem became more frustrating and distracting.

Don’t know if this’ll work for you, but maybe. Like you my first roll is a C to C (hope to add another kind this season), so it may. I broke it down into a discontinuous motion - something no one ever advised, by going out to the 90 degree position and stopping, looking at the paddle blade, then looking down at the bottom (some of this happened in a pool), then starting my thigh up to go for the roll. Even in slo mo you’ll find you are near the surface of the water as in the continuous motion, if you do this wearing a PFD. I suppose it’s a backwards version of sculling up, but the nice part is that it takes the tension off the paddle (and your shoulders) so it is less likely to dive. It also really gets you back to home on the hip snap because you start it from a still position.

By the way, on the blade angle - the nature of the motion unless you are double jointed is that, unless the blade starts the motion a little beyond being flat, it’ll end any sweeping action with a slightly diving face. Hence the advice from old whitewater hands to cock your wrist to counter this.

Also - don’t have time to go back and check, but a touring or sea kayak can often take a smidge longer hip motion to roll because you have to get by the secondary stability as well as primary. If you are getting distracted by your focus on corecting the paddle, that could be fatal.

Seriously - relax. I bet if you just go out in a more meditative state you won’t be able to remember what was going wrong.

Practice with a purpose
Do you have any kind of structured instructions that are helping you develope proper technique? There are some excellent videos that will help you work on specific areas of your roll when you practice. Every time I practice my rolls I am always working on specific parts of the roll to keep it working properly. We can give you many suggestions but I would suggest getting a video or instructor to help you keep developing in a direction.

Roll clinic

be of good cheer. If you taught yourself to roll you have all the stuff to perfect it. Couple of suggestions. Get a buddy to observe your roll. You may be trying to lift you head up which will impair any roll. Sea kayaks in general are easier to roll than most whitewater boats. So the boat is telling you what you already know. There is something wrong with your technique. Many people focus too much on the paddle and not enough on body position and hip snap. It should take very little push on the paddle to complete a roll(hence hands rolls). I don’t like the C-C since I think it puts you in an awkward vunerable position and takes too long to set up. If you have a place to practice you could try a classic sweep roll. This starts with the active blade on the front deck and you sweep as your brace. As the psddle gets near the center of your cockpit you then hip snap. After a fashion you start hip shaping sooner and as long as you keep your head down and the blade angle so the paddle doesn’t dive you’ll come up effortlessly. You can cheat a bit by finishing with your body over the back deck. Finally you can try a Styre roll. This is used more by sea kayakers as whitewater boaters us a variant(rodeo roll). The Strye is set up (practice only), by winding the paddle up as for a sweep roll. YOu then carry the paddle over your head to the back deck. At the same time you lean back so your head is on the back deck. This is awkward as hell out of water. You’ll be facing the sky with your active arm across your face,paddle blade near your ear. If you then flip you will be facing towards the bottom of what ever water, and your body is lined up with the boat. Now simply push the blade away from your ear and pull down. I know its clear as mud, but if you try it you’ll find you come up easily. There is no hip snap and you don’t move your head. The paddle set up is also easily indexed and hard to screw up. Toodles,Frogge.

Use a digital camera
Get a friend to film you with a movie clip on a digital camera. You can review it frame by frame. It will show you all your bad form habits. Then you may be able to eliminate possible problem areas. It will certaining show if you are lifting your head.

Good luck!


I went out today and practiced some more. I still have not missed a roll with my sea kayak, but just have not been having it be as snappy as it should be, and had problems with shoulder strain and paddle diving.

The same problems continued today initially. Although I did not have anyone to confirm for me, but I don’t think that lifting my head was a problme, and neither was my hip snap.

I think I finally figured it out towards the end of my session. I think that I was not getting the paddle flat enough on the surface of the water and was causing it to slice down. I just recently started using a crank shaft paddle and maybe that has something to do with it.

I practiced a bit on the surface of the water and found that I would get the paddle flat by cocking my wrist back. I was not doing this before. After trying it, my roll got some more snap to it again.

I will continue to practice. I don’t really know why I suddenly lost my form. That is strange to me. I think thought that I will try to learn the sweep roll. After this happening I have lost my faith in the reliability of my C to C and have found that it has the potential to cause injury as well if not executed properly.


New Equipment Will Definitely
require a period of adjustment. Glad you figured out the problem.

Learning another another roll is always good, after nailing down a previous one.

C2C is all about hip snap and minimal paddle. WW boaters largely hand roll with a C2C motion (minus the paddle). The paddle is not as important as the motion.


Cocking wrist back?
There’s an injury in that if there’s a lot of pressure on it - hence the advice to cock it way forward. That lifts the leading edge of the blade so that, as it is swept back, it resists the tendency to start going into a diving angle. And you could be looking at more risk of injury with a sweep roll, because there’s a lot more time where you may be putting some pressure on the paddle blade.

I don’t know about working with a crank paddle, but a change in paddle can really impact things. And being a gurl I have the bulk of my weight in my hips rather than shoulders, which means that the result of my trying to muscle up is more likely to be a failed roll than an overly muscular nasty one.

Just an inexpert comment - it sounds like Sing’s comment was very much on the target. When you were first getting up so easily you were probably concentrating on a really aggressive hip snap, one that had enough inertia to finish the roll on that alone. As you got more comfortable and sure of your roll, the sense of urgency about the strength of the snap relaxes.

What you may be experiencing now is something that’s been there all along, but you didn’t notice because the inertia carried you through. That is that you stop driving that thigh up a little too early, so have to rely more on your paddle to finish getting up. And now you are noticing problems in your paddle angle because you are putting more reliance on it.

Injury from practicing bad roll – yes!
Your concern about injury if doing rolls wrong is absolutely correct. I got a roaring case of tendonitis in my wrist from just that.

So, if the roll continues to feel forced, don’t keep practicing it. Go to a qualified instructor (emphasis on qualified), pro or amatuer, and get a diagnosis. Not only could you injure yourself (with RSI), but you will burn in bad habits.

In the absence of such a visual diagnosis, consider the possibility that your head is part of the problem.

You may not be lifting the head, but in my experience, even insufficient dropping (or dinking, as Sing calls it) of the head can degrade the hip snap and cause the kinds of problems you are experiencing. Sing’s analysis – depending too much on the paddle – could be right on. Dropping the head and holding it down is, IMHO, often the key to a good hip snap. It’s a matter of musculo-skeletal dynamics, and has nothing to do with the weight or buoyancy of the head.

Of course, your analysis of the new paddle may be one (or even the) factor.


Different bent shaft paddles balance differently. My AT3, when I simply float it in the water, remains completely flat. My Riot bent shaft tips to leading edge down. That can be enough to lead to a diving paddle if you do not commpensate. So do a float test. Second, it is quite likely you are over rotating in the sweep portion of the C-to-C. That will reduce the power in your hip snap and strain your shoulder and wrist. Make sure the paddle is always in front of your face in the safety box. Start the hip snap just before you get to 90 degrees with the paddle.

Learn other rolling techniques
Personally, I think the C-C is a pretty lousy roll to have as your only one. It’s very dependent on timing and it’s easy to mess up. If you use the wrong technique, it can be very strenuous. I would suggest learning rolls that incorporate a sweep in the technique, such as the screw roll. It’s just as fast as a C-C, but less timing critical and less strenuous if you mess it up.

One way to learn the sweep rolls is to start out with an extended paddle, then gradually decrease the amount of extension until you can do with no extension at all. Since you have the basics of the C-C, you may not even need to do this.