Rolling with Kokatat GMER

I usually wear a drytop when kayaking, but I bought a drysuit for the really cold days, and for use in the ocean. I noticed when practicing combat rolls in flatwater that there is a noticeable drag that seems to tug the body away from the roll due to the large crease created by the front zipper, that is if I roll up on the right side. Nothing I can’t deal with, but it definitely slows my initial movement under the water. Note I am kayaking an anas acuta, i.e. this is not a river boat, but I assume that the same thing would occur, even worse if you rolled in an eddy. Anyone ever notice this with the Kokatat suit?

Buoyancy not drag
My guess is that the slow down is added buoyancy from the single body of trapped air in the drysuit compared to the dry top. Are you burping the drysuit prior to paddling? That’ll help. The immerse yourself at the launch routine works best.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Rolling is always more challenging with winter gear due to buoyancy issues. Even my O’Neill neoprene hood significantly makes it harder to get enough momentum to get upside down. I find that it is much easier, however, to come back up with a brace on the same side on which I go over. In that case buoyancy can work to my advantage.

Make sure your ears are protected. Cold water on the eardrum causes dizziness and can even cause ear damage if experienced too often. It is good to practice rolling in cold water, however.

What’s the rush anyway?
The feel of rolling with a full drysuit is much different for sure. It can actually help in some ways by slowing you down and forcing better technique. You’re extended underwater time may make you a little anxious but if you tuck and wait you will come up. The good news is, once you reach the surface again you can actually just float buy laying on your back with shoulders flat to the water. Embrace the water and have fun with it!

Many years back I went to roll and I ended up floating on the surface on my entree side. A bit panicky, I forced myself under the boat and around to the finish side and rolled up. You have to learn to use your hips more in puling yourself around under the water and can’t rely on gravity to do it. It can be a rude awakening the first time it happens.

ehhhh,no diff from the suit for me
Same same for me, my rolls are not all equal on both sides but I can’t attribute any differences to the zipper. For whatever reason the reverse sweep is stronger on the left, while all the other rolls are usually better on the right,(usually). I do practice quite a bit more than most folks,(wet suit, w/wo drytop, drysuit, w/wo extra layers), and haven’t noticed much difference other than making minor adjustments. Could be you’re not tucking the same on both sides that is the cause of the “drag”. For me, I notice a significant difference of resistance with one of my skirts.

All the best,

never noticed
I roll with one all the time and have done hundreds of rolls in one literally and never noticed any difference. Only thing I can think of is that you may have a suit full of air and may need to burp it

Thanks all
for the responses. I believe in retrospect that it is more likely air in the suit as Marshal and Jay have said. And yes, I agree that small impediments help to improve composure. I am unfortunately a little too small for the size medium suit, and too big for the size small, so that the zipper casing seems cumbersome at the right shoulder, and that is where I perceived the drag, only at the point where I begin to go to set up from being upside down. It does not happen if I flop over on my back, nor if initiate the roll in the tucked position.

While upside down
and especially in & around obstacles in surge it’s important to not get stuck. Recently found myself upside down & not able to come all the way up on one side due to an obstacle. It had been a long day & as will happen a lot of air had crept into my suit causing me to stall & not just pop up on the opposing side. I crunched and waited, and waited, and waited & then realised if I couldn’t get myself & boat shifted i’d be swimming soon. Pulling my non-sweep blade in towards me, I used a sculling motion with my sweep blade & easily got to my set-up for a successful recovery. This is something I will practice from now on. While I’m sure it’s something I’ve seen somewhere before, I can’t remember where & haven’t heard it discussed; but it is a worthwhile skill IMO.

All the best,

Yes, that is what I experienced

– Last Updated: Dec-31-12 1:48 PM EST –

although of your three "waiting, and waiting, and waiting" I only experienced the first. And yes, I was thinking about the sort of situation that you experienced, i.e. what is not much of a problem in practice in flatwater will be magnified in surf after a long day when fatigued. I will try to do as you describe, i.e.skulling to get to set up, next time out. In the past, with a drytop, I could always initiate movement by gyrating my upper body a bit, but with the drysuit, there is a palpable resistance that I had to wait out, just as you describe. It must be the air in the suit that causes it, although I did not notice or feel that there was any air in the suit.

Is something catching?
A PFD strap or buckle “hitching” against even a minor wrinkle might cause the sensation.

No clothes catching in my case…
…current had my boat held against an obstacle, the boat didn’t want to roll up onto the obstacle and, (I think), gave some resistance to switching sides underwater; however I believe I had some air trapped that was resisting me dipping under the boat to set-up on the other side without the momentum of a continuous roll.


I’m fairly convinced
that I am dragging air, so to speak, and that if I had a way to see it, I would see a slight bulge of air in the back of the suit behind the shoulders when I am completely upside down. Once I get closer to the surface, i.e. in more of a tuck position, the drag goes away, which probably means that the air pocket dissipates in the process of the tuck. Maybe Kokatat could install a handy bleeder valve on top of the suit for occasions like this :)? Actually, next time I practice rolls in this suit, I’ll use the zipper to bleed air from time to time to see if that changes anything.

just to be clear,
the problem you’re having is not with the roll but getting from the off-side to your set-up from a dead stop, as in you tucked to set up but your center is still floating to the off-side? Is this accurate?


Just to clarify
I experience the drag after, not before, I am completely upside down, at the point when I initiate the movement to get to the set up from the upside down position. Momentum has nothing to do with it in this case, nor am I hanging up upon immersion (I get upside down as fast as I would in a drytop). It is as if there were very light weights on my shoulder, which I assume now to be caused by the air in the suit, since it is at the shoulder that the suit has the most room. It goes away only after I initiate movement to tuck, after a slight lag in time. Just something to think about, i.e. the difference between a drytop and drysuit, especially for those of us in the south who might not have the need to use a drysuit very often. Another possibility is that the suit is slightly too large for me.

You don’t need a valve
As Marshall suggested earlier, just thoroughly burp the suit at the put in.

Find an area where you can stand in water about waist deep, then squat down in the water so that the suit if fully immersed except for the top of the neck gasket. The water pressure will force the air to the top of the suit. Just pull the neck gasket away from your skin enough to allow the air to escape. You may need to stand and squat back down a few times to completely burp the suit.

If you do this the suit will cling to your body in such a way that it looks as if it was subjected to a vacuum.