I am a beginner kayaker who would really like to learn to roll. The only thing is that I really don’t have anyone in my area that can teach me. Do you have any suggestions on teaching myself to roll. Thanks for your Help.


Some Suggestions

– Last Updated: Aug-08-04 7:54 PM EST –

If you can see if you can borrow a whitewater boat that is easy to roll if you don't have one. Buy the video "The Kayak Roll by Kent Ford", find yourself a swimming pool and a face mask. Practice wet exiting and hanging upside down until you are very comfortable, then practice the hip snap for rolling up from the side, using your hands resting gently on the side of the pool for initial support. Do that many, many, many times until you don't lift your head until the boat is under you. Practice tipping over slowly sculling your way down to the water. Have a friend in the pool with you to help you. You probably might want to try an extended paddle roll first or use a paddle float on your paddle until you get the hang of it. If that does not succede try posting on getting together and going paddling here or on to find some paddlers in your area. You would be surprised I'll bet there are some folks close to you that would help.

"The Kayak Roll"
My brother taught himself to roll by watching “The Kayak Roll” DVD over and over and over. He would even leave it playing while he slept.

South Coast Kayaks
is over in LA, they are a good group of folks, ACA/BCu sorts. Don’t know what part of MS you are in, but give them a call.

Learning to Roll
In addition to the other suggestions here:

  1. Use an extended paddle to begin with.

  2. Use a paddle float on an extended paddle. As you become comfortable rolling up on this, practice with less and less air. Eventually do it with no air. Finally, you should be able to roll up without the paddle float.

  3. Keep in mind that there are two different “styles” of basic roll, a sweep roll and a C2C, and some folks learn one style more quickly than the other. I had a hard time learning to roll at first because a sweep comes much more naturally to me, yet I was trying a C2C.

  4. Greenland paddle makes learning to roll very easy.

  5. If your kayak permits a layback (laying on the back deck at the end of the sweep), rolling is so much easier.

  6. I needed all the help I could get learning to roll (I’m a slow learner when it comes to body awareness), so I used a combination of the above to get me rolling: face mask, greendland paddle with a paddle float tied on, sweep roll, extended position, with a layback. Once I was rolling consistently, I began to do away with the mask and paddle float. I can roll from normal paddling position and without a layback, but find that for sea kayaking, I love my GP, and the sweep roll with a layback is a nearly “bombproof” way to get up as I learn other rolls, sculls, and braces.


A couple of resources
I learned to roll using the method in David Seidman’s book, “The Essential Sea Kayaker”. Another good option is Jay Babina’s video, “First Roll”. Both of these are progressive methods. Seidman’s method works best with an assistant, but they don’t necessarily have to know how to roll. Jay’s method is actually geared toward learning on your own.

Get Eric Jackson’s Video instead
The videos previously mentioned are OK but don’t hold a candle to Jackson’s “Rolling and Bracing”. You will also find it easier to self teach and you won’t have to screw around with extended paddle rolls or paddle floats. Good luck!

Alternative methods
I don’t consider Extended paddles and paddle floats as being things that you just screw around with. I consider them important need to know methods of capsize recovery. All kayakers should have many methods of recovery in their bag of tricks. Lets say you blow out a shoulder while kayaking, it may be that your only method of recovery is extended paddle or paddle float re-entry. I also believe that working with an extended paddle, and paddle floats can help with learning to roll. At least it did for me.

uh ???
“The Kayak Roll” does not teach extended paddle or using a paddle float either … have you seen the method they teach? I think this video gets pretty high marks from instructors but I could be wrong since I am certainly a rolling ignoramous.

I know the method well.
First learning the extended paddle roll and using a paddle float for learning were suggested by a previous poster.

You misunderstand me.
Learning the extended paddle roll and using a paddle float are unnecessary for learning to roll if you use Jackson’s method. Obviously there is nothing wrong with learning a variety of rolls, including the extended paddle roll. But we are talking here of learning a first roll and being successful without unnecessary effort.

how about sea kayaks?
Does EJ’s method work equally well for sea kayaks? I know he is a phenomenal whitewater kayaker but from a technique perspective the “Kayak Roll” video seems to work well in both instances. I’d be interested in EJ’s video to work on my technique even though I already can roll. (I have the Kayak Roll DVD already and really found it beneficial)

Works as well or better than a sweep.
A sweep roll is a fine roll and the “Kayak Roll” DVD is very good for learning it. But my experience is that EJ’s roll works more reliably and is easier to learn for many if not most people. I can roll my sea kayak with a regular old C-to-C so that is probably not a good example. EJ’s roll does require a fast hip snap and there are some who find that hard to do. For such people the sweep roll is probably preferable.

What method is EJ’s roll?
And does he teach the back deck roll? I haven’t seen any real instruction on that so far, and could use a few tips. And is the whitewater back deck roll another name for the sea kayak reverse sweep roll?

EJ’s roll
It is like combining the C-to-C with a layback roll. I call it the elliptical roll. You set up as you would in a sweep or C-to-C, move your paddle to 90 degrees as you would in a C-to-C, throw your head and body down into the water at about 45 degrees toward the stern while you do a hip snap, move your body back over the stern while keeping your head down, and then quickly move forward to normal paddling posture. Once you can do that you then practice without the setup – what he calls the intuitive roll. I can now roll my Booster 55 without a setup and the paddle down in the water at about 30 degrees. Braces are done exactly the same as the roll.

A back deck roll and a reverse sweep are the same roll. If you find yourself upside down with your body toward the stern EJ would say to just scull your paddle toward the surface and do a hip snap rather than set up and sweep forward.

you can do it
not to add to the excellent list of suggestions above but to say that yes you can teach yourself…we drove 60 miles to a motel with an indoor pool (winter time of course), waited until all were asleep and then slipped out boats into the pool area.

We used Derek Hutchinsons description of the put-across-roll and slowly worked it out until it worked.

One thing to think about, we started with the put-across- and then moved backwards in the progression to the setup position and built our rolls essentiall in reverse…maybe take it one step further and learn to scull first. When you think about it, if you can scull then a roll is immaterial.

Back Deck Roll
here’s a link to description and video clip:

White water back deck roll is a low brace roll. This is akin to the Greenland reverse sweep, except the latter uses and extended paddle. The back deck is not done with extended paddle. You don’t have to because the paddle is much shorter and the boat plops over quicker and out of the way of the inboard blade. Most seakayakers with a reverse sweep roll, using a Euro paddle, will do a Steyr (high brace) roll. The Steyr is a reverse sweep to 90 degrees and than a C2C.

Self taught is possible, especially for those with good body awareness. It’s much quicker to learn under a eyes of an instructor. If you don’t have an instructor, go for it on your own with the help of books, online resources and videos. It’s doable. I learned rolling, including most of the variations on my own.


What is your area?
Bliss, if you write your area; maybe someone could suggest help?

2 more cents
What you’ve heard so far is excellent, but let me add a bit from another paddler with low body awareness. My second instructor had me put a paddle float on my paddle, hold the paddle in normal combat position, capsize to the float side, then hip-snap up using the buoyancy of the float to help me. Strong hip snap and head dink were key to making it smooth, and he wouldn’t let me move on until I could do it as smooth as silk. I would do a couple dozen every time I went out – ultimately did hundreds. Basically, he had me perfect the last 90 degrees of the roll first. Once I had that, I was able to learn the rest fairly easily. I never used the paddle float in actual rolling practice. Believe me, if I can roll, you can roll.

Good tips. Thanks.
I got interested in the back deck roll after I saw a video in which Ken Whiting did it on flat water without getting his head wet. I’m not aspiring to that level; just another way to get upright.