Rolling Situation

In the thread on losing your roll, lalleluia said:

“I realize that I need the time and the situation to practice this regularly, and I don’t have this right now. I do have time to practice braces and sculls, so I’m working on them instead.”

So that got me thinking: What is everyone’s preferred “situation”/requirements for roll practice?

Realizing how different everyone is personally, how different our local conditions, equipment and skill levels between us, I suspect a range of answers - but maybe there’s some patterns.

Personally I prefer relatively clear shallow water with a sandy bottom. Since I only need to see a few feet, if at all (except when Jim has me thinking Bull Shark in the murky sots!), and don’t need to touch bottom, these preferences seem a bit silly. After all, if I can’t roll I’ll need to practice some other recovery after failed attempts, and prefer to do those where I can’t touch bottom anyway (no cheating). Maybe I’d get more attempts pushing off the bottom - but afraid that will lead to bad habits.

My other preference (so far) is I like someone else on hand - even if not actively helping. Sort of a spotter. Another’s kayak bow nearby seems the best assistance. As I mostly paddle alone (well over 90%), this seriously limits my opportunities to practice.

My gut tells me if I’m going to do this, and then get better at it, I need to drop these preferences (which may be rational safety things - or may be excuses) and just find spots out of boat traffic and just work on it a bit every time I go out. Hasn’t happened yet. When alone, I just paddle.

The ones who say they do a couple rolls at the beginning and again at the end of a paddle seem to have the best system (time use and keeping skills intact/improving) - but they already have a roll (and don’t begin and end their paddles in a shallow narrow muck lined canal)…

I am fortunate.
My wife is also a paddler and can act as a spotter if I need it, and we live on a lake. So we can get pool-like practice any time we both want to, which is 3+ times a week during the Summer. Since we are both instructors we give each other pointers as well. Much of the time I practice things like bow stalls and when I screw it up, which is most of the time, then I get to practice my roll. I am, of course, in a WW boat. I don’t feel like I need to practice as well in my touring boat. When we go on river trips I usually get lots of roll practice as a result of mistakes, playing, and trying harder moves on easier water. During the Winter we are involved in teaching pool classes, which gives us about an hour a week to practice whatever we want.

Practice Situation Changes.

– Last Updated: Jul-20-04 5:48 PM EST –

Beginning rollers will work in a pool, leading to flat water. As a consistent roll is developed, some will roll at the beginning and end of a trip. More confidence and skill kicks in, then you roll in the middle of a trip -- way out from shore. As psychological confidence and physical skills really cement, you pick venues where you know your roll is going to get tested, e.g. surf and white water. Once you believe you have a "bombproof roll", you don't really even practice a roll anymore. What you do is to practice paddling and playing in challenging water and the roll is what you do to recover from playing badly.

For example, I don't roll practice anymore, except to continue working on my hand roll. Rather what I am doing mostly is trying complicated moves in surf or doing play moves in white water. Rolling comes into it when I flup up. I flup up alot. But, in my mind, I am not practicing rolling. Rather I am practicing surf and white water play moves. When I roll in a sea kayak, it is generally to just cool off.


All the time!
It seems in the summer I dont “think” about practicing rolls they just come… Even on flatwater from doing cartwheels stalls and just seeing what I can do in my boat. I dont have conditions I practice in as long as there is water its good. The three first posts by WW paddlers… Hm yea I agree with sing once you know you are coming up everytime you dont really practice… Although I get tons of unintentional practice. And BTW doing stuff like cartwheels and stalls helps a lot with your bracing skills. I have found that as I do more whitewater I dont have to roll nearly as much even when pushing the limits of what I can do because I rarely go ALL the way over. That is the best benifit of roll practice and just “goofing” around in your boat.


P.S. I have yet to have to execute a combat roll in my sea kayak I am dying to take it out into some ruff stuff (I think… :slight_smile:

The situation I would prefer
As I mentioned in the other thread, time is an issue for me, so, I would like to have a half hour or so a week just to practice with enough time to go for a nice paddle as well. So, assuming that I did have enough time, then ideally:

Second, someone to spot me. If I miss a roll (which is most of the time), a self rescue takes too long. Plus, there’s a lot to be said for the mutual encouragement of a person to work with. Another person might actually notice something wrong with my technique.

Failing a person to spot me (or perhaps in addition), then, a pool or dock where I could practice working at the pool’s edge or at the dock.

I would probably get an inflatable paddle float in addition to my foam one, so I can practice rolling with a float and letting the air out gradually.

Definitely warm water.

An expert to consult with if I’m stuck. As I mentioned in an earlier thread, it’s better to correct a bad technique early before it is commited to muscle memory and becomes a bad habit.

That sounds about right. Time is the biggest thing I lack.


For solo roll practice,
You could get a Roll Aid Back-up device. You can inflate it manually by mouth before your practice and attach it to your back deck.

Then if you blow a roll, you could grab it and roll up with it just like a bow rescue.

Then when you’re finished paddling for the day, deflate it, repack it and arm it for its real use.

For me it’s bracing
The bad back and a long talk with the neuro doc decided that one.

That said: I live in an area of downright filthy water. I wouldn’t practice rolling in the inner harbor off Lake Erie much less the Erie Canal or any of the feeder streams.

That leaves a 90 minute (one way) drive down the interstate to the far cleaner water of the finger lakes or mendon ponds or a shorter drive up to lake ontario…which is damn cold all year round.

To a degree, I think the water quality has a large bearing on how many people in a certain area learn rolling…I know the one local club in wny that probably doesn’t have 6 people out of 60 members who even have a clue what a roll is much less how to do one.

When I was learning to roll I would practice on a beach in about 3’ of water so I could push off the bottom if I couldn’t roll up. I found this to be helpful and more efficient than wet exiting. As far as picking up bad habits, I found it very helpful to take a rolling lesson from a good instructor and watch a rolling video regularily to give myself a good visual image to try and copy and to help me critique different parts of my roll as I progressed. I still enjoy learning new rolls and practiceing rolls when ever I can. The more rolls I learn the more confidence I have in different braceing situations.

Just behind FBO…
Is as good as it gets, if you don’t mind a bunch of drunks as an audience. Then again the Margaritas are close at hand and if you break something you can replace it… That’s where we do our rescue practice… :wink: GH

From flat water to a six knot current

– Last Updated: Jul-21-04 4:31 PM EST –

in a play spot. anywhere ther are no rocks close.

If I am working in moderate conditions I like a friend around for back up.

I do not practice my roll in breaking waves; sometimes I get practice I did not intend. In surf I'm out of the boat 50% of the time right now but still working on it.

I was only practising with another kayak
nearby for a bow rescue. I had only needed one or two assists prior to Saturday. Then I used my whole monthly alotment in an hour! I have a local lake nearby that is really nice. I feel good enough about my exits to practise there by myself. Limit my attempts to 2 then exit if I’m not up. I do have to get past Saturday’s misses. I am hoping one of the staff at Atlantic Kayak will give me some feedback next time I’m there. Pretty sure all the comments made were right on. Lifting head, Weak snap, and too much focus on the paddle. Once I get going again in a supervised setting I will be more comfortable rolling on my own.

Preferred situation needs changing
My preferred situation is translucent or clear (HAH! Good luck on this one…) water, gravel or sand or rock bottom (just no muck or algae, please), near shore with a sloped dropoff, not too gradual or shallow. Wind calm to just below whitecaps. No speedboats or jetskis nearby. There is one local place that meets all these preferences.

The no-muck requirement is kind of silly, because I don’t touch bottom with either my paddle or my hands anyway. I just hate muck.

I don’t care about having a spotter anymore, though it’d be nice to practice together with someone else.

I need to up the wind speed, though. Anything that would cause me to capsize is way windier than what I practice in. But since I am about to begin working on my offside roll, I’ll stick with the calmer conditions for a while.

Water temp is not an issue, because a drysuit takes care of that. But it’d be good to practice repeated rolls in “regular” summer paddle clothing to test cold tolerance without the drysuit. Probably will do this next time.

I usually paddle a lap (6 to 8 miles), take a short break, practice sculling and rolling for about an hour to hour and a half, and then paddle some more. Sometimes I start with rolling practice, sometimes end with it, sometimes split it into two sessions mixed with the forward paddling.

unless you have capsized in a raging storm, rolling in a seakayak generally won’t be anywhere near as tough as rolling in some gnarly run with boulders and rocks zipping by or banging into your head, body and boat. The worst place to roll is when getting dragged across a shallow reef. Best thing, if possible, I found, is to stay tuck, hold my breath, take some hits on the helmet and body and wait til the current takes me to a deeper place. Beats possibly snapping a paddle or dislocating a shoulder (the latter I actually saw someone do). Just about anything else is almost a piece of cake.


Water quality
I think it’s more people’s attitudes about water quality than the water itself that determines their willingness to expose themselves to it. There is NO clean water to speak of in the region I live in and everyone is just accustomed to that. We grow up swimming and boating in dirty water so rolling in it is no big deal. In the club I paddle with nearly all the sea kayakers are rollers or working on rolls, or at least practice rescues.

Good Idea, have you tried it?

Yes, clear & no muck
I like that. There’s something about being able to see what’s going on clearly that is really encouraging as a rank beginner to rolling. I imagine if it weren’t so mucky where I paddle. Of course, I’ve got the ocean nearby with a nice sandy beach, but I don’t think I’ll be practicing there.

Oh, and while I’m dreaming of the ideal, I’d like to use a Crossfire to practice in. There’s something about that boat that encourages me to try things I wouldn’t ordinarily do.


2 things strikes me about the response.

  1. Clear water = able to see what goes on: Well, the water in which one needs a roll to recover may not be as clear as we like. In fact, my next goal is to roll with my eyes close. I feel that’s more practical.

  2. When I pratice rolls, I inhale a big gulp of air, put my paddle parallel to the boat and then tip over… I saw most people start the same way as well. But, I realize in “real” situations, I’d probably fall over WITHOUT much air in my lung, paddle in an awkward position… I think it might be more realistic to start by “accident”, such as missing a brace or some other balancing stroke.

My Thinking Is…
1. When you first learn, you use whatever you can to get the motion down – clear water, goggles, noseplug, lucky amulet, whatever. However, as soon as you developed a fairly reliable practice roll, go do it in turblent, murky water sans aids.

2. Breath of air – generally you get a split second to take a breath before going over – even accidentally. But it does pay to practice, rolling when you don’t have optimal air surply. The easiest way to do this is to sprint a certain distance, capsize, roll up. Then sprint back from where you had come, capsize, and roll up. Another one that draws on your air surply is to toss the paddle 5 feet from you, swim yourself and the boat to the paddle, retrieve and roll. Now throw the paddle 10 feet away, then 15. This drill guarantees that you learn to remain calm all the while feeling the air surply diminishing… It’s a good challenge.


Falling over.
“I think it might be more realistic to start by “accident”, such as missing a brace or some other balancing stroke.”

That is good thinking. When learning to roll it is ok to tip over in a set up position. But you should discard that as soon as you can. If you practice rolling by tiping over already set up then you are training yourself to go first to the roll when you start to tip. One way to tip is to hold the paddle up over your head and fall over holding it in the same position. Now you are upside down and the paddle is about as far as it can get from the set up positon.

why don’t I practice?

The water where I paddle (the upper keys and miami keys) is warm, clear for the most part and many spots have sandy bottoms. So why do I hesitate and then not practice any rescue moves or rolls?

I start out the paddle trip intending to do these things. I know the places to do them and the conditions are optimum. And yet I never do it. I paddle right on by and continue my trip.

It is like being under some spell that compels me to keep paddling and listening to the MP3 player and marveling at the sights and sensual rising and falling on the swells. In the end, I just don’t see the urgency. I paddle in a paradise. Rolling is not mandatory for my paddling choices. I have decided not to push myself and not to worry about it. If the time comes when I feel the urge to paddle in more challenging conditions, I WILL learn what I have to. In the meantime, life is good and paddle time is limited. I intend to make the most of the time available.