Setup for a roll?

I was looking at some videos on YouTube to see people using Greenland paddles in various situations. I’m not sure how good my GP stroke is or if my paddle is the best GP shape and it seemed like a good way to get some info.

I noticed that every time someone rolls for practice or to do a demo in a video, they set up for the roll ahead of time.

As a way of showing a roll without doing much work, this is great. For the purpose of practicing a combat roll, this seems wrong. Should we, as kayakers, practice rolling by getting into various different paddling positions and then just flipping over? I usually sit straight up with my paddle in front of me perpendicular to the boat. I then flip over and move the paddle into the roll positions. I also find that a bracing turn that is “let go” can be a good way to get upside-down for a practice roll.

I think that moving the paddle into position while upside-down is the more appropriate way to practice a roll and suggest it to anyone who might be learning by watching video’s online.

I’ve been trying, with some success, to do an angel roll. I can’t do it without setting up for it but it’s not for survival, just for ‘grins’ and giggles. Too bad a shoulder dislocation a few years ago keeps me from trying this on both sides.



– Last Updated: Aug-31-11 6:09 PM EST –

It's good to practice getting into the set up position after one is inverted. I think a good exercise is to capsize set up on one side, and then switch to the opposite side once inverted.

This is sometimes a necessary skill in whitewater in which current, a hole, or inconveniently placed rocks might make a roll on one side of the boat difficult to impossible, while a roll on the other side is relatively easy.

Another exercise is to capsize and pass the paddle over the hull of the inverted boat from on side and hand to the other, then get into the set up position and use your hands to align the paddle blade by feel. It is not all that uncommon to lose your grip with one hand going over and need to reorient the blade.

The best way to become comfortable rolling in current and foam is to find a nice, safe play spot on a surf wave or a hole that is not a keeper and offers an easy exit. Look for a spot with a friendly runout or pool beneath it and ample opportunity for self rescue or assisted rescue. Surf the spot long enough and you will go over. You will get a feel for jockeying your paddle into position under water against the force of the current, and learn to relax and not rush the setup.

If you just want to roll reliably and, more important, brace successfully do not set up to practice. Eric Jackson makes just this point in his rolling and bracing video. If you want to take part in the ritual known as Greenland rolling do it the way the proponents say.

My Take
Is I always practice my roll as if I were in a real paddling situation. That is to say I paddle, capsize let the boat settle than roll up. I dont see the point in setting up then capsizing. Havent seen a paddler yet have time in real world paddling to set up and then capsize. That said you should learn to roll with the boat stopped, then set-up then go over. As your skill grows, practice in rougher and rougher water, after all this is where you will likely go over.

you’ve gotta start somewhere

– Last Updated: Aug-31-11 2:09 PM EST –

I agree with everyone here so far and particularly pblanc and the Dr. But at some point just before you roll, you will be in what they call the setup position.

My opinion is that learning from the setup is an important beginning step to just landing a roll confidently in calm water. To me it marks an important transition. Once you've memorized the position to be in you know where you have to be to start your roll.

Chances are when you need a roll you won't be in the setup position and may be challenged to get there. So I like the various drills mentioned already, and trying this stuff where there is a current or waves to add to the challenge.

A friendly hole or wave directly upstream from a safe pool or rock-free quickwater is a great practice setup. If you go in and play you’ll be upside-down in “realistic” fashion soon enough…

For sea kayakers, working on edging and braces can lead to unexpected inversions.

Games can also be good. Just playing catch with a heavy sponge can be good wet entertainment in narrow boats. It’s that action/reaction thing…

I carry a greenland storm as a spare. I practice capsizing with it still in the deck rigging and then pulling it out and rolling.

yes, but…
Yes, learning to roll when you are not set up is good. I sometimes practice flipping over, passing the paddle from one hand to the other over the top of my upside down kayak, and then rolling up as a way to be sure I am not set up. I also practice trying to remove a half paddle off of my front deck and rolling with that (with limited success so far), which is what I’d need to do if my paddle was stripped from my hands.

But, I suspect many of the videos you are watching were people practicing for competition rolls, in which case they do set up before (and that likely is part of the scoring). So what they are doing is not wrong, just aimed at a different purpose.

I agree with you. Learn the set up position in and oxygenated environment where you can clearly see the position of your arms and wrists relative to the hull and the orientation of the paddle blade.

Memorize this position, not just how it looks but how it feels. Then later work on getting into this position when underwater.

The interesting part of Greenland
rolling is that the different rolls have different set ups to simulate different, awkward positions that a hunter might be in when exposed to a capsize. Learning these different rolls will allow you to roll up from different capsize positions when needed. Anyone who knows many of the Greenland rolls and surfs will use them.

Example of setup before going over
Here’s a real world example of setting up before going over.

been there…

– Last Updated: Aug-31-11 4:55 PM EST –

When playing in the surf I generally do a good job at edging toward the wave. But at times, especially when trying hard to delay a broach, I catch my shore side edge. While sometimes I'll edge/lean hard toward the wave I will also often intentionally go into a set on the shore side and with amazing ease rollup with the help of the wave. It's actually quite fun! Here's a video practicing in some smaller foam piles

Failed brace
For the past few years I have been practicing my roll by letting a high or low brace fail and then going into my roll. The idea being that I am practicing things in the order that they should happen in the real world as the brace should be your first reaction to Prevent capsize.

Just my 2 cents


you are practicing to fail…
You pointed out that you do it, and explained why. It can be a good tool, just keep in mind that you are indeed practicing failure.

I practice out of position sometimes, and I practice by setting up. Usually if I practice by setting up it is one motion to the setup and capsizing. In the surf, when I feel myself capsizing beyond the point of recovery I immediately start moving to a setup position. Often, I am setup before the boat is completely over. Then I can pause and roll quickly. I often here people say that when you capsize in surf you should ‘wait for the wave to pass you’ the problem is that in big enough surf the wave will hold on to you. Even more problematic is trying to get into a setup position in bigger waves, that is why I try to get there before I fully capsize.

This is a good technique for surf too
It is easier to roll when the paddle sweeps (C’s) into a wave as opposed to sweeping into the trough.

Not really
I am practicing in case of failure because I practice bracing successfully apart from rolling

me too
I’m almost always set up to roll by the time I capsize in surf. I’m often leaning back and/or ruddering so its only a slight move to lean back more and get ready for a reverse sweep roll, which is my go to roll. I don’t often surf the ocean but I do this anyway out of habit.

Answer is Yes
"Should we, as kayakers, practice rolling by getting into various different paddling positions and then just flipping over?" Yes, yes, yes. Also roll at 4 directions to a strong wind (if you don’t have any other kinds of waves to practice in). Paddle hard backwards and then capsize. All kinds of ways to work it.

Another thing to do is set up on one side and switch sides underwater. I still find it difficult to complete it as a pure sweep roll when doing this, even though I always roll up. It usually ends up sort of a deep high brace. I should try it while wearing swim goggles and see if that helps.

Start working on your off-side!
That’s how I “pratice” a “realistic” roll without setup!

You can start on any other roll, off-side, different setup position, etc. I guarantee you your first few attempt won’t succeed. Then you have to roll up using your one “perfect” roll! :wink:

And if it’s not perfect, you know about it soon enough.

Muscle memory is what you want then it will be natural hopefully!