rolling question?

I just learned my Greenland standard layback roll this winter. I have only rolled 2x in the lake this paddling season. The reason being that i felt more comfortable rolling with a friend that has a good solid roll and also can do the same roll. My problem is that we can’t get together and paddle as often as i wish we could and there for i haven’t tried rolling alone. How safe is it to try rolling alone when you are 1st getting the hang of it? I am solid on wet exits and re-entries. To be honest…it makes me a little nervous.

Why does it make you nervous? This is NOT a smart-ass question.

You can definitely practice alone, but, of course, it is safer with someone else watching over you.

If you have uneasy feelings towards entrapment, not being able to roll, I would encourage you to roll without a skirt. It really helps develop technique. Just remember to slow down - the boat will roll much slower.

Even though Paddle Float is much maligned, it is extremely good tool to polish rolling. Just focus on technique that reduces any tension on joints, do a bunch of reps to build up muscle memory.

Did you wet exit?
What can happen if you are alone practicing your roll?

  1. Success.

  2. Fail roll and wet exit. Climb onto and into boat. Paddle to shore and drain boat. Pump might be an option too.

  3. Fail roll and wet exit. Swim to shore with boat and drain it.

  4. Fail roll and wet exit and freeze to death.

  5. Fail roll, get stuck in boat, drown.

    As long as you are comfortable with a wet exit and the water is not to cold, go ahead and practice alone.

    If 4 and 5 are problems, I would not do a roll even if someone else where around. After all, they might have their own problem and not be able to help.

    Another person is comforting and they could give you CPR if you have a heart attack but I like to base my choices on statistics. Another person is not likely to be needed if other factors are fairly safe. Stay close to shore in warm-enough water with a PFD and a total comfort doing wet exits and have fun.


I really don’t think i need a paddle
float. I don’t really think that is my problem. When i first bought my sea kayak i took a lesson @ the shop i purchased it at, and i was the only one w/ a sea kayak. During the class each and everyone of the recreational kayakers fell out of their kayaks while doing simple paddle strokes. When it came time to do the wet exits.(A 1st for me) the hired instructor didn’t go over the fact the i had to bend @ the waist and slide it off during the wet exit. Looking back on it , I honestly think he thought that all of us had come out of ours boats already and didn’t go over how to get out a sea kayak with me. I didn’t just pop out and immediately started to panic…swallowed a lot of water and scared the sh*#@ out of me. I think he realized that and went over it with me at the rivers edge before wrapping it up. Then i did great. But now i have this little bit of panic sometimes when upside down. I think i can tend to rush things because of it. I just feel better with another pair of eyes. But want to keep up my rolling. I am doing really well with it. Only bombed 1 so far. My rolls are nice and slow and controlled so far. Guess i am just wondering what and how others handle similar situations.

You need to get past the “I might panic” thing before doing it alone. It doesn’t have to be anyone with a roll, just someone that might be able to do an assisted rescue or someone who can drag your butt to shore if you suck in some water.

Maybe get a mask or goggles and nose plugs and just get used to hanging upside down for 30 seconds or so before you try a roll or wet exit. Also work on the assisted rescue stuff with the other person – that will give you confidence that they are right there if you need a little help – and it’s just a good thing to practice anyway.

Do a few bow rescues where you flip over, wait 20 seconds, bang on your hull and then calmly roll up with a hand on their bow. You don’t need to throw yourself up, light pressure is enough to get rolled up and it mimics the motions you need to go through during a roll anyway.

being comfortable upside down
I think many of us can relate to some extent. While I and most may not full on panic we’re often still not fully comfortable and yes that can make you rush. It can help to focus on that for a bit by using a dive mask, flipping and instead of exiting right away look around at the deck of your kayak (including the pull loop on your skirt) and the ground below you (assuming shallow water). Actually taking notice of things helps you slow down and relax. Maybe count to ten then exit. Later repeat but with rolls instead of exiting.

My own experience
I can relate to your bad experience with the instructor. I darned near drowned my first rolling class because the well-meaning WW guys had put me into a skirt and boat combination that was plenty big on the boat, but was still wicked tight on the skirt. No way that thing was going to fall off the coaming without all the right pulls, and the first time I went over unattended I pretty much fell out of position because the boat was too big. That made it unduly difficult to get to the pull loop and get a good pull to remove it… I found out that adrenaline is a wonderful thing when you realize that the instructors are on the other side of the poll with no idea you are having trouble getting out of the boat.

Now of course I know - smaller boat and looser skirt. But yes, that experience left me with a little more anxiety than was needed, for some time.

I don’t know that that anyone but you can answer this. The way I solved practicing alone was to make sure I was somewhere that I was in a pond where I felt as comfortable and anxiety free as possible, and if I started hitting a lot of bad hits and anxiety I called it off for another calmer feeling day. It took a rather long time, but it was worth it in the end. And there is really no way to short circuit that kind of anxiety but to replace it with better memories over repeated practices. They can be short - a good feeling five minutes is worth more than a stressed out half hour.

Great tip…
now i need to find clean water. The river is so murkey…i don’t have a dive mask. Nose plug,yes…no mask though… I think my eyes will be okay with cleaner water.

I don’t say you do
Paddle Float is just a tool that allows paddler to really slow down the roll.

Let’s face it, you are anxious about being disoriented in the water, PF will allow you to do things nice and slow, relax, and enjoy the smoothness or roll.

Practice without skirt first, think of this as the last part of the reenter and roll self rescue. It serves to develop familiarity with being upside down, helps with timing as well.

Good luck

what worked for me

– Last Updated: Jun-16-11 3:23 PM EST –

I agree with the suggestion to leave the spray skirt off.

Secondly I'd say gain confidence in your wet exit. What I mean is to just do wet exits until you're very comfortable doing them, to the point where you can hang upside-down for a few seconds before exiting smoothly and calmly.

Ditto for your brace, if you don't have it already.

Try a re-entry and roll. This really helped me with the feeling of entrapment and a side benefit to learn it. You should be able to try this solo. Once you get good you can practice a r&r including putting your spray skirt back on underwater.

Finally, when you go out with someone else, make a point of capsizing during the trip.

Good news is that you've done it more than once, you're just about there. You just have to work in the repetition and build some confidence enough to practice by yourself.

It’s a safe as you paddling alone
Anybody could capsize paddling alone, right? You have a leg up on a lot of people because you may roll up.

If you have doubts about a wet exit, don’t wear a skirt. In the original post you said exits and re-entries were solid. If honestly true, then go for it.

I think the biggest risk is the potential effect on your roll progression if you do blow a roll. Solo re-entries can be very tiring. A couple of those and you might be too tired to try rolling again that day. Then you end the day on a failing note, perhaps.

When I was a new roller, I tended to have a friend prepared to do a bow rescue. Sometimes they weren’t quick enough for me (probably only in my mind) and we’d do a t-rescue practice in addition to the roll practice. At least I was smart enough never to apply any criticism to the friend, as I didn’t want them to feel scared/uncomfortable in the rescue slot. They were doing me a favor.

I still don’t practice rolls alone when ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen?’ has an answer that is significant. In shore surf, or calm water near enough to shore or a dock, sure.

Bottom Brace
When practicing alone, simply do so in shallow water (about 4 feet), deep enough to allow a safe roll without striking your head on the bottom, but shallow enough to let you push off the bottom with the end of your paddle if you can’t get the roll. Be sure the bottom is firm sand or similar, to avoid getting stuck in mud.

You may want to start by trying such a Bottom Brace before rolling: floating in the shallows, hold your paddle over the side in a vertical position and let it drop all the way down to rest one end on the bottom. Grasping the paddle shaft with both hands, gently ease yourself over into the water, steadying yourself on the paddle, then roll back upright (good practice for perfecting your hip snap in slow motion).

Once you’re comfortable doing this, you can use it as a backup should your roll fail. But only in shallow water, of course!

Otherwise, as mentioned, the paddle float is an excellent rolling aid in deeper water, too.

Good luck!


It’s Safe
Just stay pretty close to shore. I think we’ve all had to overcome some anxiety. Warm water is SO much more conducive to roll practice than cold water.

Thanks for sharing Celia…
I hope to see you in couple weeks. We’ll see were i’m at at that point.


– Last Updated: Jun-16-11 5:33 PM EST –

It takes me a min. or two sometimes to catch on.Great advice. Thanks.

Always work on the rescues…
And wet exits…i think i know about a bazillion. Kidding, but i know lots of different ones. I think everyone is onto something about the hanging upside down thing. I’m going to go thru’ my video collection and search for re-entry and roll one and give it a whirl.

Yep…i feel like i have a plan,
I have a nice sandy spot and the lake is warming up and i’m going to flip upside down and hang out , do the wet exit.Dump the water and do it again…repeat, then go to the rolling. I have a plan. reading everyone’s stories and advice helps a lot. It gives me back up plans and great info… Thanks everyone.

far are You from Walden Pond? Will and Dan and the rest of the “Pond Scum” are always looking for someone new to teach…just a sugestion (road Trip to some excelent instruction) (other wise Turner and Cheri can’t be that far either)(

Best Wishes


Warn Onlookers …
I had some tourists call the lifeguards to come rescue me because they thought I kept tipping over.

2-3 hrs. to Walden Pond and 2+
to Turner and Cheri.I have been learning from Cheri. They are the BOMB!