Self Talk for Rolling

Ok, my roll seems to be at a standstill. It’s hit or miss mostly, though a Pawlata (sweep with extended paddle) gets me up most of the time.

I’ve tried lessons to refine my technique, but they seem to provide small steps forward and still result in a hit or miss once I leave the coach. The problem seems to me to be head and timing issues

My self talk has been something like this:




4.Head Down


Successful Rollers, what self talk routine works for you?

Yeah, I’m probably over analyzing, but I’d like to get to a point where I can coach myself to a combat roll.



you’ve got a case of
the occasionally bomb proof roll

Learned About 2 Year Ago
And I still take a second and plant,

**light or two finger hold on the paddle

**chin tucked in near the side of the boat as I rotate

**forehead out of the water last

Seems that I have a mental block, if I don’t think those three things thru I don’t come up.

My tricks

– Last Updated: May-15-07 7:56 AM EST –

This is recent memory because this winter's pool work has been trying to get my left side roll feeling as natural like my right, and the last two weeks I've been working on moving it from the WW boat to the long boat since the water seems to be warming up.

I have a starting limitation - I can't think of a full progression of steps. I am usually too brain-impaired to be able to remember and implement more than one thing at a time. So mostly I've tried to figure out a few individual changes that will trigger better responses thru the full roll. They are, and I employ them variously based on the specifics of what is going wrong:

Loosen the grip on the paddle, to barely be "handling" it
Sweep and reach out further from the boat with the blade
Start further forward and tucked and also reach out further. I am trying to move my roll forward to be a little more flexible and WW-ready.
Relax my shoulders before I start
Tuck the arm away from the side I am coming up on to my torso as much as possible thru the roll
End with the arm away from the side I come up on tucked and torso rotated so I am looking back at the paddle blade (this usually results in the inside arm also ending in a tucked position)
(Try and remember to) Scull halfway up on a side that is screwing up (left), then get the body and paddle sweep set for a good ending to finish it (rather than always crossing to the right)

To get the hips/lower body back to base, I always go back to sculling. I try to come slowly up and slowly go down again. One good exercise is to scull down continuously on one side and scull up on the other side. If I am feeling really on I'll try and set a specific number of strokes for each side.

For most rolls I still think

Face up to the surface,

Face out last.

You’re doing good
If you’re ocassionaly comming up, you’re doing fine and just keep at it.

Just curious, are you doing a head to the side or forward, hip snap type of roll? Or head lay back position? Feathered Paddle or non- feathered?

My experience is that the lay back style is just a lot easier for beginners. Everyone struggles with what you’re going through in the beginning so don’t over analyze and keep practicing it.

My self talk has been something like this:




4.Head Down



If this is your sequence for a C-to-C, I’d suggest not dropping your head before the hipsnap. When my C-to-C gets ugly it’s usually becuse I’m not arching hard towards the surface as I sweep. Think of it as cocking a spring.

For a sweep roll, I find that focussing on watching the blade works well. Watching the blade while sweeping a big arc will help bring your body to the surface, and if you keep watching it it’ll keep your head down as you roll up. The follow-through position in Kent Ford’s “The Kayak Roll” is a great example of this.

I used to do head back,
But after paddling a boat with a higher rear coaming, I went to a head to the side style. It’s still a sweep roll though. Now that I’m in a boat with a lower rear deck, I’m trying to get more layback, but muscle memory is working against me.

I’m using a 45 degree fathered paddle

The KISS method



Have fun down there!
Relax and enjoy the motion and the water. Take your time.

Practice Technique
When practicing I try to have only one item to think about at a time. I do 2-3 rolls concentrating on just that one thought. Then I switch thoughts and do another 2 or 3. My progression is usually

  1. Sweep - Think out and not pull down
  2. Knee drive/hip snap - Think right knee up/left knee down (for onside roll). I have a tendency to keep pressure on the left knee so that is the reason for the “left knee down” thought.
  3. Head last - Think look up at sky then look down at bottom.

    After this I try to do 2-3 rolls instinctively without really focusing on any one part of the roll.

    Important part is not exactly what the thought is, but concentrating on just one part lets you “feel” how you are really doing on that item.

    Sometimes I add a “Setup” thought (hands out of water/not too forward) to the mix. You will find ones that suit you best.

    Jed Lube also gave me a great tip on judging whether my roll was getting better or worse. He said pay attention to how much force you feel on the paddle. The better your technique the less force you feel on the paddle. Now, even when I roll successfully I will do extra practice if there seems to be lots of force on the paddle.

    Best of luck.


Take your time.
Echoing Salty…

The times I’ve blown my roll have usually been from rushing more than anything else. The rolls I feel best about (in the toughest conditions)were successful because I paused and gathered my composure.

I’ve had a few issues
Sometimes I feel uncertain about the paddle angle. I want to experiment with some ideas such as pressing the paddle against the bow or gluing a marker to the shaft. Sometimes I don’t feel air on my hands – so I need to develop the habit of always trying a high brace first in case I’m only halfway over (due to PFD) or maybe a quick air check with both hands. I’d also like to practice a roll which ends in a scull because I suspect that might be very useful in rough water.

I’ve also seen a lot of people teaching rolling with no mention of the initial outward paddle motion which I find critical to success.

Some Folks Here Helped Me
If you’re doing a C to C:

  1. Get your knee / thigh involved in that hip snap.

  2. Bring your face / nose way up toward the surface before you snap up.

    If you’re doing a sweep keep your head way back and look up at the sky as you come up.

sounds like a sweep roll
If you are hitting and missing rolls in a pool or flat water then you are doing something inefficient with your mechanics.

The Pawlata allows people to roll while cutting two corners. The first is resistance on the blade. Pawlata rolls work well with resistance, other sweep rolls do not. Your hip snap can also be slow, lazy, or mis-timed with a Pawlata.

One of the common mistakes with a sweep roll is a climbing angle on the blade. If you set up with the blade flat on the water and do not rotate your wrists then you will have a climbing blade at the finish the roll. You do NOT want a climbing blade! If you have a climbing blade energy is spent on turning the kayak - not rotating the kayak. When doing a sweep roll you want to shed the resistance on the blade. How do you do that? I finish so the hand by my chin is cocked back like I am a waiter carrying a stack of pizzas. My phrase for this is simply ‘Pizza Hand’.

When people feel resistance they want to overcome it by using muscle. The muscles they use tend to be in their arms - and as you know this messes up the roll. A clue for this is lifting the head, which is a symptom, not the reason your roll fails. Instead of thinking ‘head down’ try watching your forward blade all the way through the roll. You might also want to try starting your hip snap almost immediately after you start your sweep. After you setup try this trick - think about completing the roll 1/2 second faster than normal with a bit more ‘pop’.

For self coaching use video analysis. Most digital cameras can record video with enough quality to let you diagnose your own roll.

My phrases are ‘glide’ or ‘float’ since I want to be nice and relaxed and ‘glide’ through the water and ‘float’ on the surface.

If you can post a quick video I can help you troubleshoot your roll and really dial it in.

Try not to use the phrase ‘combat’ roll. Since when has combat been relaxing and easy. When you roll you are working with the water not against it. I save my combat roll for when people are shooting at me and I need to kill the enemy. For everything else I use my gentle and graceful roll.

BTW, I am to rolling what Pam_140 was to Pamlico 140s. Please be patient with me while I tweak out a bit.

For me, keeping the inside hand tucked close to my shoulder made all the difference. And to get that, learning a standard Greenland roll (with a good coach) was just the ticket.

The Kent Ford Kayak Roll video has a good section on troubleshooting your roll.

Slow and Smooth…
Most people try to roll too fast and with too much force. My most frequent advice to students is “slow and smooth”.

I also stress that rolling is a natural movement – too many people mentally think that it is unnatural and difficult. Try lying on the floor and note how you get up. You don’t push yourself up with a rigid body and rigid arms (like many novice’s attempts at rolling). Rather, you use your hips to roll upright and situp, using only a bit of pressure from your arms (a perfect hipsnap!)

Greg Stamer

Climbing blade angle
I always teach beginners to use a climbing blade angle on the sweep for a few reasons. 1. The greatest reasons for beginners to fail with their roll is because of the diving paddle. The climbing angle insures or tries to prevent that. Better to climb because if it dives - no roll.

2. The screw roll is dependant on a climbing angle of the paddle. If you just travel with the blade flat across the surface there is no lift. Some sea kayaks and large people will never have enough enough lift off of a climbing paddle blade sweep to do anyting. But most average people in a WW boat can actually see the boat rotation with the blade on a climbing angle while doing nothing more with their body.

My main reason is no.1. I find that for paddlers using a Euro - especially feathered, keeping the blade on the surface is one of the greatest challenges. Keeping that blade aimed up, just helps with that. Once they start hitting rolls, if they want to pull it flat on the surface, their ability to hip twist the boat starts to take over for their dependance on the paddle.

body motion rolls the boat
not the blade. I climbing blade angle creates resistance. The biggest reason I find beginners have for a failed roll is too much resistance on the blade (from a climbing angle) which causes them to try an muscle the roll.

A slightly diving angle sheds the resistance the roll become effortless, and your body motion rolls the kayak. A climbing blade is not good, a flat is better, and slightly diving is great.

don’t talk
cut out the self talk and just pay attention to what’s happening with your body/boat/blade a la Don Goss’s advice below but w/o the words