Self taught roll

I really want to learn to roll.

There aren’t any classes coming up soon (in my area).

Years ago I tried to roll my C-2 whitewater canoe.

Man I tried so hard.

Solo from the back cockpit, with my legs (knees bent) strapped to the hull.

Couldn’t make it happen.

I have a rockered 16.75’ sea kayak.

I live on a lake and have a pier, to practice hip snaps.

Can I teach myself to roll?

You know with out destroying my shoulders

depend a lot on you

– Last Updated: Jun-23-11 4:18 PM EST –

some people do have a natural knack in that they are both relaxed upside down in water and have a good sense of body position. Such a person can watch a good video and pick it up pretty fast. Sigh... I was not such a person.

"The Kayak Roll" video by Kent Ford seemed like a good video.

A big key is to break the learning into steps because most folks can't easily remember to do the five or whatever key things and do so smoothly the first time and. By committing some aspect to muscle memory before moving on you free your brain to focus on fewer details at each step. Anything that lets you work on just hip snaps without worrying about the paddle can help as a start -- I used a mental image of pulling the boat back under me rather than getting me above the boat.

Having someone video you can help in self learning. Be sure to talk to the camera to describe how each roll felt so you can relate that later to what you see of yourself.

Do everything slow -- at times even way exaggerate slow to be sure. Rolling is not a power move and fooling yourself in to thinking it is will result in a poor roll at best.

If you can get hold of a Greenland paddle you may find that helps at first even if you don't intend to use one long term. It's less sensitive to bad blade angle freeing you of one extra item to get right at first.

Take lots of rest breaks because fatigue and dizziness will make you sloppy then you actually _learn_ to be sloppy.

Good luck!

I don’t see why not. Getting instruction is preferred :slight_smile:

My paddling friend learned on his own, he is still alive, shoulders look fine

Workflow - get a couple of rolling videos, preferably “sweep”/“back deck sweep” instruction, not C2C. Greenland kayaking based approach is typically lowest impact.

Watch them - take care to notice elbow placement during the movement

Practice hip roll, video and watch

Get yourself the much hated paddle float, put it on your paddle, go through motions, video and watch. Key at this point - no pressure on shoulder joints.

Once you get bored, take your paddle float, try without it.


I’m real comfortable in the water.

Life guard training 3x

Water Safety instructor training 3X

Can swim crawl (freestyle) nonstop one hour plus.

Regardless I’ll tap your suggestions.

Thank you!!!

Self Taught Roll here …
I took some rolling classes and rolled in class but found it hard to reproduce int he real world. The Kayak Roll Video actually killed my roll.

I got Eric Jackson’s Rolling and Bracing video and was rolling by myself in about 20 minutes. His method is very simple and teaches braces and the roll as an extension of the brace -will make you a better paddler no matter what.

1 drawback to self taught is…
if you learn bad habits they can be miserable to un-do. Then you will have a big set back. This happened to a friend and i learned from her mistakes and decided to get started right. I didn’t want to waste time with bad habits.

Just Remember This
It ain’t a hip snap. Right the boat with your thigh/knee. Wish someone had told me from the start.

good point on elbows

– Last Updated: Jun-23-11 5:19 PM EST –

I really think that failure to keep the non-sweep elbow close to your body is the number one problem I've seen in others and myself. Rushing the roll or being nervous (like I get now rolling near rocks) promotes this.

A learning aid is a small ball (maybe on a string) held under upper arm such that if you let your arm go away from your body it will fall out (which you don't want).

A video review helps a lot with this. btw, when others review your roll it's not uncommon for them to point out that your head came up too soon. While true, this is often not the _real_ problem. Often something like the non-sweep arm being away from the body causes the paddle to dive then out of desperation you do anything including bring the head up. So a review should focus mostly on the first flaw that cascaded to a failed roll.


– Last Updated: Jun-23-11 6:21 PM EST –

classes...Rutabagies has them all the time
there is a symposium in Door county on the weekend of the 8 th of July.

the kicker isn't if you can learn on your own...probably can

it's what you learn

Better to get a little instruction if possible. If You were closer, I would volunteer to teach you.

it's not hard to roll...only hard to teach it and hard to learn (mind transfer would help)...the rolling part is very very easy. Like yoga in a boat without gravity...water fingers hold you up, if you let them:)

Best Wishes

The Kayak Roll vs Simplifying the Roll

– Last Updated: Jun-23-11 7:45 PM EST –

If you are looking for a video to learn from here's my 2 cents.

I have both 'The Kayak Roll' and 'Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson.' For ME it is no contest 'Simplifying the Roll' is the one I would recommend, I wish I had never gone to a class teaching a sweep or C-to-C roll, (again for ME) the concept of anything 'snapping' is ridiculous. The smooth Greenland style rolls seem much more intuitive and more reliable to me.

Here's Helen's website. (Not affiliated, yadda yadda, I have taken her excellent classes and own the video.)
Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson

I used Hutchinson’s Eskimo Rolling
book. He teaches an easy way to do a Pawlata (extended paddle) roll. You can practice the roll exclusively on land and execute a roll the first time you try in the boat. (If I can do it anyone can…)Some folks scoff at the Pawlata roll, but it gives you a lot of confidence for practicing other rolls if you know for sure you can easily get back up if you blow a roll.

Self taught roll
Just saw this on the site:

A traditional kayaker came upon another traditional kayaker practicing his rolls.

As the first kayaker approached he noticed the second kayaker continuously flipping over and then wet exiting.

After watching this fellow bomb his roll several times he inquired “are you having some trouble with your roll?”

To this the second kayaker replied “actually no, but thanks. I almost have it perfected.”

This was somewhat bewildering to the first kayaker since he hadn’t seen this fellow succeed. Instead, it always ended up the same: a wet exit.

So he said “I don’t get it. You keep wet exiting. I mean – you keep bombing your roll. How can you call that perfect?”

“I’m sorry for any confusion” replied the second kayaker.

“This is a roll I discovered watching Fox News the other day.”

“It’s called the Palin roll because you quit half way through it."

“It’s pretty easy really; you just have to start out with a fair but unbalanced brace for it to work.”

"And boy let me tell you about all the attention I’ve been getting.”

If you are hurting your shoulders
you are doing something quite wrong, or at least not using well, the rest of your body. Perhaps look at some of the videos recommended then refine the question?

No problem
I taught myself to roll and it was really pretty easy. First time out was with a friend and I had her roll me back up while I worked on getting the form down. From then on I’d got out by myself for an hour or two at a time and practice. After a couple sessions I felt pretty good about it.

Biggest tip - Keep your head down!

All your instincts say to raise your head up and get a breath of air but that’s a sure fire way to kill a roll. Your head needs to be the last thing out of the water. Every time I blow a roll that’s the reason.

Oh yeah, when I learned I used a canoe paddle the first couple sessions. Much easier not having to worry about the second blade and the top hand gives you great control over paddle angle.


Another Friendly Tip…
consider getting a Greenland paddle. When you’re upside down it’s easier to maneuver than a Euro paddle. Because the Euro is curved you have to move it in a series of arcs… or slowly force it to where you want it.

Self Teaching
Yes, you can do this (to a certain degree) on one’s own. I did my first roll by practicing in a friend’s (unheated) pool one winter. It took longer than it would had I taken a class and was really hard to figure out what worked and why.

I finally broke down and took a rolling class and figure out what bad habits I picked up and unlearned them (also in a sea kayak, by the way).

Videos can help some (there are many on the web, but I find it is not easy to see what to do if you don’t already know what to look for), and so can reading (of these, Dowd’s book worked best for me).

For me, some concepts only became clear after I had already done them and had the big ‘Oh’ moment after and thought, “that’s what they were trying to say.”

Key for me was to change “Hip snap” to, “get the kayak under the butt.” For me, that’s how it feels. I push the boat down with my hips and arch my body to the side. This puts the boat directly under my butt. You can reproduce this critical motion on the dock you have, so that should be easy enough (and by the way, this is the most critical part of the roll - from here, even if I make some mistakes, I can brute force myself through them by using more force on my sweep (not an approved method, but it works). If I am trying to start without the boat under my butt, no amount of paddle work makes a roll possible.

Once the boat is underneath you, you can feel the boat try to float to the surface beneath you and from there, things have to happen a little more quickly. A little paddle sweep, keeping the head down, and shifting the upper body over the back deck as you pull eliminates the need to hold the weight of the torso on the blade of the paddle (ie. lie down on the back deck).

In truth, the moves for executing a roll aren’t difficult, but you have to do them upside down, under water (often in fairly cold water). All this is pretty disorienting (and yes, like you, I am very comfortable in the water). Note also that in a real capsize, you will not be set up properly to start the roll, so you may have to make adjustments with the paddle while underwater, adding to that general discomfort.

Good luck


old paddle
My suggestion…find an old paddle that you can use to push yourself up from the ground. Doesn’t help the roll and it is hard on the paddle, but it allows you to keep practicing without wet exiting and without having someone else to assist in righting you. I struggled to self-learn for a year or so but when I figured this out I was able to keep experimenting until I got it right.

Yeah Man

– Last Updated: Jun-24-11 11:19 AM EST –

Good to hear someone else disagrees with the term 'hip snap'. Once I got that concept out of my head my roll took off. I keep trying to think of a better term for it. What would I tell someone just learning to roll? Thigh lift? Knee lift? In my head I'm twisting the boat up with my thighs. Boat twist? Come on baby, let's do the twist.

Set up
Do the twist

I use
the term “Salsa Hip”…it’s more like a Rumba hip some times…but a slow Sultry Salsa does the image for many:)

Best Wishes