Rolls. Nose Plugs, and Success

I hope that others will find this information useful or at least mildly interesting (not the part about my height and weight:).

I’m 43 YO, weigh 210 lbs, am 6’1" tall, and own a Necky Zoar Sport; a 14’ boat. I’ve had the boat for many years but only started paddling regularly this summer.

A few months ago, I was given a skirt for this boat. I took my 12 YO daughter to Sand harbor (I live at Lake Tahoe) and told her that if I start banging on the bottom of the boat, to come lift my head out of the water. My first wet exit with a skirt had the tiniest chance of going wrong. It turned out to be no big deal although that clean mountain water sure burned my sinuses. Ouch.

I started practicing braces and even tilting the boat past 90 degrees while in the shallows with my paddle or hand on the bottom.

I bought a nose plug.

And now for the interesting part. Last week, I tried to roll and made it. My paddle touched the bottom so I backed further off shore but then couldn’t do it again. I thought it was a fluke. Last night, after paddling for three miles to Thunderbird Lodge and back in the swells and chop, I got back to the protected part of the harbor and make sure that I won’t touch the bottom with the paddle. I did about 7 rolls on the right and 3 or 4 on the left. Wow.

What I think might be useful for other people to know is:

  • I visualized rolling in my head many times over the last month or two.

  • I practiced edging and leaning the boat while in the shallows to understand how it felt.

  • I practiced bracing with the intent to see how far I could go and get back up. Many times, I did a wet exit and didn’t attempt a roll after inverting. I tried various body positions when bracing and leaning to better understand how that affected my balance and the boat stability.

  • I used a nose plug. Sorry. I could not manage a single roll without it. I have this tendency to exhale through my nose when hitting the water and even though I can get inverted the first time and hold my breath, any failed roll where I take a breath results in my exhaling too much when going back under.

    So if there is anyone reading this who is not sure about rolling and is waiting to take a lesson; just work hard and go for it. It might work out and there is no reason not to seriously try it at least a few times before getting help. And get a nose plug if needed. I may not be a “real” kayaker yet because of the nose plug (that’s a joke) but I’m much closer to rolling after and accidental flipping than I was before.

    I also recommend taking lessons. I will eventually get some instructions because I know that there are things that you can only learn from someone else. I found this out after skiing at an advanced level for years then taking an advanced lesson. I think my technique improved by 300% that day on the slopes. I’m sure that my crappy first-time roll will improve just as much when I get around to getting some instruction.

    Oh, and kayakers on the internet seem to be, for the most part, friendly and helpful compared to people at some other sports related sites. I’m happy to finally have something interesting to post.


Nose plugs are common

– Last Updated: Aug-20-08 11:20 AM EST –

Many kayakers use nose plugs. While you will want to be able to roll reliably without it, plugs are very reasonable for starting out with.

(Yeh, goggles too! (see below).)

Goggles as well
Major detriment when learning rolling is anxiety/loss of orientation under water, not being able to see what is going on and having the water rush up your nose makes it worse.

Nose plugs now very common WW
accessory. I use some that are easy to put on when I’m entering rapids where rolling is more likely. Otherwise they hang on a short Nylon string from the left side of my helmet.

watch the paddle
You mentioned that you practice half rolling in shallows by using you hand or paddle on the bottom - watch the paddle. Brace or rolling with your paddle on the bottom is a common way to damage a paddle (I broke one in the surf this way).

One trick to practice this is to use the bow of someone elses’ kayak. Grab hold, roll yourself upside down, then pull yourself back up.

Do try at some point to do the roll without the nose plug. If you want the roll to be more than a party trick, you need to be ale to do one when you actually need to it (which will likely be a time when you don’t have the nose plugs on).

Paddle Damage
Possible paddle damage is a good point to raise.

I made my own GP and also was over a bottom of pure clean sand so my damage was not an issue. Having a paddle that I could simply shorten by 1/2 inch makes me a little casual about hitting things with it.


Good note…
I forwarded your note to my paddle buddies and suggested that we do a practice session over the Labor Day weekend.

They each have folders and haven’t done any types of rescues or help get someone back in the kayak. I want them to do scoops, t-rescues and maybe ratswims. With the folders, they should also be able to climb back in unassisted too and I’ll put them in my Impex for the rest - starting with the wet exit.

I also want to take my first attempt at rolling. I’ll probably purchase an inexpenive mask for the rolling and a nose clip for the rest. We’ll make a morning of it and then grill lunch afterwards.

Should be a blast!

Rolling Practice and a Mask
I needed the nose plug but I never felt disoriented or uncomfortable beyond the burning sensation in my nose. A mask would not have helped me and I did all of the moves with my eyes closed.

I don’t get much of a chance to paddle with others so I’ve never had someone around to do a bow rescue or any other rescue operations besides self-rescue.

Good luck with the rolls.


Thank Dave…
We’ll “see” what happens.

first rolls are like first loves

they feel the best

What paddle you use is also important
Being new to rolling, I’ve had a very limited success with my relatively short WW paddle (under 2 meters) with my WW boat or my Tempest 170.

Then last week I tried for a first time a roll with my mid-sized wing paddle - I did it on the first try and then repeated pretty much without issue many more times. This was with someone else’s boat - 17’x20.5" P&H that I tought just rolled too easy -:wink:

Over the weekend I tried it in the Tempest 170 and again - works very easy. The wing has such a lift that my roll that looks like a cross b/w a short sweep and c-to-c roll is so easy it feels I’m cheating: I can do it even in bad form!

However, when my roll does fail (when trying different things that turn out do not work for instance) and I have to wet exit, then a re-entry and a quick roll back works very well. But need to pump a lot of water out after that, unfortunately, so it’s easier at that point to just paddle to shore after the roll and empty the boat, then go back for more practice…

Of course, with a buddy nearby and a bow rescue you save a lot of time, but the exit and re-entry is still a good practice for me, so I still enjoy doing it a few times each session.

RE:What paddle you use is also important
The GP that I made is a bit long. I also made it wide at the tip since I have a wide hand span. I can see how just a little less paddle would make me fail every time since I’m just barely completing the roll now.

I know what the other guy (posted earlier) meant about first loves. Getting that first roll was amazing.


Don’t feel bad about the noseclips
Beats having a sinus infection (more likely, repeated sinus infections) for months. I know at least two paddlers who battled this, and yes it can keep you off the water if it gets bad.

I always practice using noseclips or even dive mask, but the times I’ve forgotten the clips I still rolled up anyway. For some reason, without consciously doing so, after the first “burn” incident I instinctively began gently blowing out through the nostrils. It minimizes the water intrusion.

It took me a long time to learn to roll. Now, a few years later it still feels very neat. Combat rolls feel triumphant.

In fresh water I often practice with a dive mask. I have noseclips attached to my pfd and use them when not using a mask in fresh water or cold salt water.

I have a pair of nose clips tethered to my helmet and use them in ww and surfing. Though other than notably cold salt water is usually not bothersome.

Accidently capsizing without noseclips has not notably impaired my ability to roll.

When I first tried to roll a kayak it was a joke. All the experienced paddlers made it look easy after all. I wanted to get whitewater confidence so I paid a guy in the local club $50 to teach me how to roll. I learned on a local lake and got a pretty tight roll with 2-3 months of practice. I got my first combat roll on the St. Francis river the following spring. The second was playing at “Surfing Rapid” on the Nantahala. :wink:

noseplugging rolls
I am a newbie in the newest sense. I have to use noseplugs if I want to go under the water swimming. I did not think kyakers used them I thought about kayaking earlier but I did not want to have to wear my noseplugs during kayakingthought that it would make breathing harder when it came time to exert energy. Nice to know I aint alone on the nose plug thing

Another vote for liberal use of noseplug

– Last Updated: Aug-21-08 4:23 PM EST –

I use full-face goggles and nose plugs and ear plugs, the good ones, constantly when practicing rolls etc. I started getting the edge of otitis a couple of years ago and in went the ear plugs, and I have a vicious headache instantly if I get fresh water up my nose. It usually takes a couple of tylenol after the paddle to fully knock the headache out. I also put on nose plugs before running a set of rapids.

I long since stopped worrying about whether any of this would limit my ability to roll in the real thing. It doesn't, as I have found out the times that I went over in conditions I was used to without the stuff. There have been a few...

The only place that the water up my nose can still so distracting it blows my focus on a roll is in surf, and even there I am not sure it's that as much as my tending to still be knocked out of position in a capsize so I have to pull myself off the back deck of the boat. But even that is something I am pretty close to getting by, just have to get a chance to get out into some good sandy bottom stuff again and do some intentional capsizing. The last time I was in surf was coming off of very little paddling time this spring, so my mojo didn't show up until near the end of the time.

Some well-drilled body memory will take care of a lot of issues under the water.

bracing was the key

typically only if
you know you’re going to be upsidedown