Dear Paddlers,

I an relatively new to Kayaking and have asked the obvious question that most new paddlers want to know, “what is the best way to learn how to Roll?”

What advice could you give to me. I live in the UK and am approaching 2star standard.

We Can Talk

– Last Updated: Aug-16-06 4:45 PM EST –

I have just learned to reliably, comfortably roll. What worked for me was this:

1) Get Eric Jackson's DVD "EJs Rolling and Bracing" and do what he says. EXCEPT... every time he says the words 'hip snap', you substitute the words 'quick knee lift'. Pull up with the knee on the side you're coming up on.

2) Keep your head near your elbow as your arm sweeps the paddle away from your boat. Some people describe this as sweeping with your torso instead of your arms.

That's it.

thanks Kudzu,

Out of curiosity, have you bought a kayak yet, if so which one?

I am looking to get into WW and the occasional Surfing.

I Paddle a Sea Kayak
I don’t know squat about whitewater. I’ve done some surfing in my long boat in some bays/sounds. I loved it.

What about a BCU coach?
If you are looking at the BCU stuff you are probably in some contact with the BCU via a website or whatever. The DVD mentioned is fantastic and you should get it. But many find that it often takes a person standing there looking at what you are doing and providing partial support to accelerate getting the body memory.

Any reason you wouldn’t have access to a coach or classes within reach?

If Nothing Else…
some kayak buddies who can roll or want to learn. It’s great to grab a bow when you blow a roll rather than have to wet exit. An observer can help a lot.

“Your paddle dove.”

“You raised your head.”

“You didn’t sweep out far enough.”

Roll DVD

What Kudzu said. Get EJ’s Rolling and Bracing. I spent the money on lessons in which not a single student learned to roll. Bought the video and learned in ten minutes.

I also used the EJ’s
Rolling and Bracing DVD. If you follow it strictly, you need a swimming pool, but how many people have access to a swimming pool that they can use a kayak in?

I modified his pool steps by practicing in shallow water. There is a depth of water that is deep enough to flip a boat all the way over to roll in, but also shallow enough so you can push against the ground.

If you do that at the start, you will gain the confidence necessary so that full rolling isn’t as intimindating, and you can practice the hip snap and other body motions and commit them to muscle memory before moving to deep water.

It helps a lot if you’re learning by yourself.

I took a class and watched the video
but haven’t got the roll yet, but don’t point the blame at anything but a lack of time. I am nearly there. Keep in mind that poor technique can result in a really severe shoulder injury, which might be pointed out (probably is) in the video they are talking about, and WAS pointed out in the one we have. I came VERY close several times in my class, and then the pool closed. WINTER, so there wasn’t any other opportunity. I wouldn’t try learning ALONE, which could be dangerous.


Some info
Not a lot of whitewater paddlers on this board.

Also not a lot of paddlers from the UK.

You would be the first whitewater/surf kayaker paddler from the UK posting here if you keep it up. Boatertalk/surfzone has lots of paddlers that check in from the UK. When I visited the UK perception whitewater boats seemed to be pretty popular, there are other good brands available in the UK, you want a boat with lots of bow rocker, little tail rocker and a planing bottom for surfing. “Pyranha” kayaks are made in the UK, I’m not much into whitewater but the Pyranha Inazone boats seem pretty good as starter boats and they surf well too check with your locals about what they use.

Mega surf kayaks from the UK are some of the best made. Currently you can buy plastic models (Maverick etc.) that are relatively less expensive than the composite boats.

I too suggest EJs rolling and bracing video. Be advised that the roll EJ teaches is not going to be very popular with the BCU types. Find yourself a club doing whitewater/surf and they will help you get that roll down in no time.

I haven’t seen the EJ dvd (although I think he is a great ambassador for the sport). Just curious what roll he teaches that the BCU wouldn’t like and why wouldn’t they?



– Last Updated: Aug-17-06 5:46 AM EST –

He preaches leaning way back. I've read that some whitewater people think that technique puts your face at risk. EJ looked like he had all his teeth. His nose isn't crooked.

The wife and I paddle
P&H Quest Sea Kayaks, and love them, they are 18’ 'glass Kayaks made in England, and are beautiful boats and are supposed to be very easy to roll.

As I said, I came very close in my class, and the DVD we used is called simply:

The Kayak Roll and was recommended by Sea Kayaker magazine and Paddler Magazine. Good Luck.


Coach and companion
The right coach can make all the difference - it did for me. Also working with another paddler is invaluable. As noted, having someone who can note what went wrong - in addition to being a bow you can come up on so you don’t have to wet exit.

My favorite video for learning to roll is Jay Babina’s “First Roll.”

what he said
Both Jay and EJ finish sliding from the high brace position (back square to and fully in water, sliding on to backdeck layback style). The difference is that Jay uses an extended paddle and EJ standard paddle position. Dubside also has a very good Greenland rolling video: . Probably the best thing anyone do with respect to learning to roll is to go with a GP.

Amen to the GP
I dunno. layback or forward or c to c…all of it works as long as you know where you are in the water. Having a full understanding and “feel” for where you are allows you to modify what you want to do when you need to.

I guess I see rolling as a survival tool. I enjoy going through the motions of greenland maneuvering and am really looking forward to Delmarva. but I have to admit, I just want to get up safely and quickly. This is why it is important to watch elbows, shoulders and put most if not all of your emphasis on your legs and core muscles to get yourself up.

If you can feel exactly where you are in the water instead of succumbing to a prescribed set of moves like “ok I am 2/3, 1/3, half way into the roll it is time to hip snap and extend the paddle this far” you will get a lot smoother, will slow down and enjoy yourself more, and you will be at peace with the water and yourself. Does that make sense? No panic, no rush, just a smooth motion during practice which does translate into automatic thoughtless rolls in waves and conditions.

A gp is really helpful initially and to do some different rolls easier. But you can do everything with a euro paddle as long as again you are aware of where the blade is in the water and how much you use your core muscle groups.

Just my two cents…and probably not worth that


No Greenland for Surf/Whitewater
I’m sure there are folks that do it, but for someone starting out in whitewater and surfing a greenland paddle does not make any sense. He did say his focus was whitewater and ocaissional surf.

Why a GP? Suppose I don’t want to use a GP in the surf or river, am I missing out on something? If your roll is really good with a GP, but only good with a “Euro” paddle, how good is your roll? By the way, not directed at you, but what is a “BCU Type” and why wouldn’t they like EJ? What’s not to like about a guy who takes his kids down the Zambezi? Can you imagine his back to school report: “The first day of my summer vacation, I woke up, then went down river, to boof a class 5 hole. Then we hung out on a ledge and surfed all day.”

Augustus Dogmaticus


ok let me jump in and agree with Jsmarch
when he says that probably the best way to learn is with a GP. I don’t think there is any question or argument from anyone that rolling with a gp is easier. And if it develops good muscle memory and proper “comfort levels” while rolling these traits woudl translate very well and very quickly to any kind of paddle, including your hand.

No one suggested you should use a gp for whitewater…you use the best tools for the situation at hand.


missed whitewater
Hi, I missed the reference to whitewater, and would of course use (as I do) a WW paddle for WW play. However, I use my GP in surf and, while I can roll with my Euro paddle (AT Exception), I am more confident particularly on my offside with the GP. With respect to surf skills, I don’t think that I’m at much if any disadvantage surfing a long boat (I usually surf a Pintail) in 2-5 foot waves with my GP. Paddling skill dwarfs paddle type IMHO. I know that this reflects my skill level (for example, my layback rolls are more solid than my storm roll) but, hey, the important thing is to get up if dumped, be safe, and have fun. For most of us recreational paddlers, that definition of success is much more easily met with a GP than a feathered Euro paddle. Perhaps if I paddled a lot in Penwyn Myr (sp?) and was towing in 30 knott winds (as Nigel Dennis points out) I’d be better off with a Euro paddle, but though I’d like to paddle there some day, mostly I paddle along the NC coast and inland on lakes. And for this, my roll progression has been much quicker and more friendly with a GP (Superior Carbon 86") so much so that I can now roll most anything (rolled a high volume Merlin XT the other day). We have a bunch of paddlers of various skill levels in our group and without exception those that use a GP have an easier time learning to roll and, more importantly, developing a combat roll. Personally, given all the other advantages of a GP, for most paddlers and especially most begining paddlers who are not interested in racing, a GP has it all over a Euro paddle. Just my 2 cents. John