I’ve said this before. When I took a kayak class years ago I was told by both instructors that knowing how to roll a sea kayak isn’t necessary. Their words not mine. Knowing re-entry techniques were far more important. Since then I’ve read an article in Sea Kayakers Magazine about an experienced kayaker with a, he thought, bomb proof roll. He knew nothing about re-entry. That fact almost killed him when he capsized off the coast of Maine and failed at his roll. The first failure tired him so much that each successive try kept getting weaker. People on this forum emphasize practicing the roll over the importance of practicing re-entry.

I know I’ll get slammed for this but beginners shouldn’t be scared away from kayaking because they might not be able to roll a kayak for some reason. Telling them it’s an absolute necessity is doing them a diservice. Learn re-entry first then rolling if you feel you want to master that skill. Most people who kayak rarely capsize unless they’re in whitewater. It happens at sea and on lakes but usually to people who push the limits.

Don’t create false choices.
Learning to roll and learning reentry are not incompatible and you should learn both.

necessary? perhaps not, but - - - -

– Last Updated: Sep-11-05 6:16 PM EST –

is a roll NECESSARY? perhaps not, but suggesting that it's not a good idea to know how to roll is rediculous. as a means of self rescue, it's far better to have a roll, than be forced out of your boat and then have to get back in it and bail it out.

i question the credentials of any "instructors" who would disuade a kayaker from learning to roll in preference to reentry techniques. both are definitely a good thing!

Sure we need to learn wet exit and re-entry. Then

move on to a roll of some type…Equally important

in my opinion is recovery strokes, braceing ect.

I’m finding it more difficult to get a handle on

this aspect of sea kayaking…In nasty sea’s I don’t

want to roll, or wet exit…

If I could only do one, a re-entry or a roll, then the roll takes a back seat.

That said, learning to roll provides entry into a bunch of things that help make paddling more fun and safer. I found that I really was not doing a high brace until after I learned to roll. In effect, a high brace is a partial roll. A wet re-entry and roll is a bunch more practical in anything but pond like conditions. Beyond the practical, it is very nice to be able to do a roll when the air temps rise above ninty and another sip of water just does not do it.

Bottom line is that you should learn both re-entry techniques. Learn as a paddle float self rescue and an assisted rescue such as a T rescue. Then learn a roll and you will likely have a better high brace and the ability to do a wet re-entry and roll.


reading your post in context
I agree that beginning kayakers should not be scared or dissuaded from kayaking unless they have a roll, but they should not be dissuaded from learning one either.

I also agree that re-enter skills are important and that a roll could be learned later if that is a skill that is desired.

My case…self taught roll. But prior to that Scupper Frank took me out to a calm bay and taught me how to do a paddle float entry…I practice it every day not because I will forget how to do it but it now becomes part of my exercise routine to keep upper body strength up by hauling myself over the boat a few times…I also do paddle float re-entries and rolls because I feel that there may be situations where I just may not be able to roll up with just me and the blade and need that extra edge of a float. Then I roll about 20 times or until my shoulders and nose say enough.

I look forward to learning t rescues and hand of god rescues etc. In fact I want to learn everything there is to know about the safety aspects of this sport because I believe that if you are cautious, and have an arsenal of options up your sleeve, you increase your chances of survival greatly.

Just curious as you were quick to point out the two instructors that told people they did not need a roll, who have you heard say that rolling is an absolute necessity? I have never heard anyone say that here and would venture a guess that 80% or more of the people that frequent these forums don’t roll anyway.

Is it a good skill to have? You betcha!

Is it absolutely necessary? for me yes. for you? It’s your life. Make your decisions accordingly.

There are so many types of kayaks out there with sit on tops and rec boats leading the pack in sales, that it would probably be safe to say that these boats are not necessarily known for their rolling capabilities. Not to say it can’t be done, but it would be more beneficial to beginners and casual kayakers to know how to re-enter their boat if they capsize, either by scrambling back up in a sit on top and if solo with a rec boat, a paddle float re-entry, …and a good roll couldn’t hurt at all either.


getting of his soapbox now…


My point may have been missed.
There are lots of paddling skills to be learned. Why do you think you have to learn first this one and then that one? Whatever happened to parallel processing? Learn re-entry. At the same time learn bracing and rolling. Practice your forward stroke. Practice and learn whatever. There is no law that says you must learn only one thing at a time.

…the chicks think it’s cool when you practice by the beach where they can see you.

As in almost everything related to
kayaking it also depends a great deal on what kind of paddling you do. If you only paddle on the neighborhood pond on a sunny summer day when the wind is 10 knots or less, you would probably paddle long and never learn to roll your boat. If you want to paddle big water, long distances, in conditions in a long and skinny boat, you should learn to roll your boat. It’s all on the continuum of paddling and it’s all good.

Bologna foot!

– Last Updated: Sep-11-05 9:23 PM EST –

"Learn re-entry first then rolling if you feel you want to master that skill."

MANY re-entry techiques are useless in very rough water and EVERYONE who paddles in those conditions should at least try to learn a roll. The very first self-rescue technique I learned was a roll, the second, wet re-entry and roll. So whether I am in or out of the boat, I can get back in it and right it. Saying that one technique is "better" or should be learned first is BS.

But then, consider the source.

Furthermore: One attempt at a roll is not going to tire someone out. If the guy was already too weak to initiate second and third attempts to roll, then he was already in trouble due to fatigue/hunger for OTHER reasons and probably was too weak to do ANY type of self rescue.

Fact Check
Who were these instructors, where and when did you have the lessons?

Paddle float / reenter & roll
> Learn a paddle float self rescue and an assisted rescue such as a T rescue. Then learn a roll

Which paddle float rescue? If you mean, reentry and roll with a paddle float, then I agree.

Otherwise, I’d insert some kind of reliable reetry and roll before a standard, non-exit roll. actually, it shouldn’t take vary long to master such a reentry, nowhere near as long as a non-exit roll. So you can work on both simultaneously.

Bottom line, reentry and roll is widely considered the exited self-resuce of last resort. I’m not sure I’d put paddle-float-pontoon-climb-back-in in that class, though it has its uses.


Can you do it?
A re-entry and roll with paddle float is probably the easiest, most reliable way to get back in and upright. You still have to pump out your boat while avoiding capsizing again. Rolling will get you back up with no pumping and in position to keep from capsizing again. In rough conditions, doing a standard paddle float re-entry is very hard to do. Even if you get up and in you are still facing the conditions that capsized you in the first place but this time with a boat full of water. Anybody who thinks re-entry in difficult situations is easier and preferable to rolling hasn’t been there.

Serious errors in logic
"… an experienced kayaker with a, he thought, bomb proof roll. He knew nothing about re-entry."

There is no such thing as an “experienced” kayaker that knows “nothing” about re-entry. Just not possible. Pure BS.

“The first failure tired him so much that each successive try kept getting weaker.”

A roll requires by FAR the least effort of any recovery technique. A small fraction. He may have been fatigued already (which probably explains the capsize AND exit), but it certainly was not from a single roll attempt.

“People on this forum emphasize practicing the roll over the importance of practicing re-entry.”

What people? Again, pure BS. Your read about the roll more because more ask about it. More are concerned/intimidated/confused. Having some basic recovery skill is a given - and is not talked about as specifically or in as much detail.

I for one can’t separate the two. I dodn’t see these things as anything but basic skills that are ALL part of sea kayaking. I learned the paddle float rescue first - as that was the easiest. Part of a natural progression. While I was learning to roll I had to wet exit MANY times. Each and every one of these exits became another opportunity to practice other rescue methods. Got to get back in the kayak somehow, right? Or did your instructors somehow do that for you to?

So why not learn to roll? I’ve never seen a decent reason not to beyond a very small number of paddlers with physical limitations (but if they prevent rolling odds are your other rescues aren’t going to work to well real world either).

The roll is the fastest - my a huge margin.

The roll requires the least effort.

The roll keeps you in the kayak.

The roll keeps water out of your kayak.

The roll is a brace. If you can’t roll but can brace - I have to wonder if you can really even brace.

The roll greatly improves your kayak handling. Leaning, edging - all get better.

The roll greatly reduces the likelihood you’ll capsize in the first pace. This alone is well worth the time it takes to learn.

The roll helps you get better at other rescues while you learn it.

No other recovery technique offers so much. If you don’t want to roll - don’t paddle sea kayaks. They are specifically made to roll. The roll is a basic PART of sea kayaking, not some special trick. It is not advanced, or the be all end all of skills. It is a gateway skill that opens the door to a wider paddling experience.

Learn it. You’ll never regret it. You’ll begin to see benefits from even the first attempts.

Thanks for that spot Greyak. Yeah - the only people I know who haven’t practiced re-entry, roll or not, are not experienced sea kayakers. There are people who have spent a significant amount of time, in some cases years, paddling on lakes and ponds without ever learning and practicing any basic re-entry skills. I’ve encountered them. But I haven’t heard any of these folks call themselves “experienced sea kayakers”.

Trolling away…

Did I miss that article?
I really do not remember that article on Seakayaker, which issue?

It is really hard for me to imagine learning how to roll without “having” to perform a re-entry. Every failed roll leads to a re-entry. Was I the only one who failed so many rolls while I was learning?

I Suspect Fear Plays a Role Here

– Last Updated: Sep-12-05 9:18 AM EST –

As the self proclaimed most experienced pnetter at wrestling with the primal monkey brain's aversion to rescue activities such as the roll, here is what I do. Since I cannot roll, I limit my paddling to the following:

- I stay close enough to shore to swim as a last ditch effort. Along the same lines, at low tide, I will go further from shore, just before the speed boat lane, and let the wakes throw me around, do some deep high braces, knowing full well that if I tip over (unlikely, as I'm pretty good at bottom bracing), I can just stand up and get back in. At least I get to make believe that I'm a real sea kayaker.

- I dont' paddle in cold water and I'm careful about dressing for immersion. I figure, I need my limbs to be functional if swimming is my last ditch rescue option.

- I don't go out when there is a forecast of thunderstorms or winds at or above 20mph.

- I do take exception to near shore paddling when in a large group with experienced people who can do an assisted rescue.

- I work on getting overcoming the fears associated with rolling in hopes that someday I can do more.

Lou (the Monkey Brain)

cough troll
enough already you sadistic weirdo…

Classic beginner post
Beginer who don’t know much but think they know a lot.

Beginner who never try certain skill (this case, rolling) and were told it’s hard to learn. Therefore, trying to justify NOT to learn it for fear of failure. (rolling is pretty easy to learn)

Beginer who had been mis-informed (“rolling is hard AND unneccessary”, “roll can fail”), or simply mis-understood what they read/told (“I will pratice re-entry a bit more because the last time my roll failed I ended up using a padle-float re-entry”)

Greyak is right, there’s no such thing as an “experience sea kayaker who doesn’t know re-entry”. By definition, those who don’t know re-entry can’t be that “experienced”! And as he pointed out, there’s no way to NOT know how to re-enter when learning to roll.