So you can roll. Now what?

I know a few people who are really good at rolling sea kayaks, but that is on nice flat water. Do you rollers take it to the ocean to practice for real?How do you know what you can do is serious slop?

Is that a trick question?
Try to roll in the swells, then

Try to roll in the soup, then

Try to roll in the break, then

Try to roll in the clapotis…

Once that works, start on reenter and roll :slight_smile:

Good point
Also, is your nose clip in place, do you have your glasses or sunglasses secure, is your spray skirt on. I don’t practice rolls with a nose clip. I’d look pretty stupid paddling around with a nose clip on.

In the summer I usually paddle sans spray skirt. Too hot with it on. I’m resigned to wet exits in that case. Unless of course, conditions warrant, a spray skirt would be prudent to have on.


(owner of a pretty sloppy roll)

Just a practical question.Back when I
was a pain boater,I learned to do a paddle float re-entry on nice , quiet water. I never tried it in rough conditions , but it didn’t seem like it would do much good in rough water, boat swamped,etc.

A roll is obviously a better method of self-rescue,but we are 200 miles from the ocean,so I’m wondering if a proficient flat water roll translates to the real thing.

your talking about a combat roll

– Last Updated: Jul-18-08 2:51 PM EST –

or, as some people call it, an unplanned roll. The only difference between a planned roll and unplanned roll is in your head---just remember to take your time, get in your set up position and perform the roll--this is easier said than done. Your first impulse in a capsize is to pop the skirt and get out of the boat.---best way to practice it is to do WW or surfing--in otherwords activities where you will likly flip--that's the way to develop it--and despite what people may say, nobody has a perfect roll all the time--although some seem damn close.

Bombproofing the roll 101
Anybody who can roll in calm water can usually roll in rough water. The problem is not doing a set up and rolling in rough water. The problem is that if you capsize you won’t be in your set up position and there’s an excellent chance you won’t be on your good finishing side either… plus the paddle won’t be in the right position.

Here’s a beginning exercise you can do in calm water. Set up as usual except lower yourself in the water very slowly. Push your arms out as you enter the water causing a stall. Now using your torso muscles, pull yourself down and under the boat and around to your finishing side. Position your paddle as best you can, sweep (or whatever style you do) and roll up. Wear a dive mask for starters and later you can abandon that. Practice this and I guarantee you will be light years ahead in preparing for an actual capsize. Going out and doing a few rolls from your set up in rough water is a tremendous false sense of security.

I wrote and article in Atlantic Coastal Kayaking a few years back on a series of exercises in bomb-proofing the roll and I’ll have to get it on line.

I’d like to see that when you get a
chance to circulate it. Lots of good ideas floating around out there and I might be able to put a couple of more arrows in the quiver.


Fair-weather rolling
Extending Jay’s comments a bit…

Once you have the roll, make sure you practice without an elaborate “setup” ritual.

One advantage of white water (and white water practice on flat water), is that it makes the roll a normal/common thing.

It’s a good question
200 miles from the ocean…try 1800. We do have WW rivers and play parks, so that’s one place to practice, or so “they say.”

Another step in the right direction might be practicing on windy days. Even small wind waves have differences in rolling feel, depending which direction you roll up. I don’t mean just wave on the left or right, but in front or back. To me, in back (being pushed forward) felt weirdest.

I learned how to set up the usual way (tuck on the opposite side that I will come up). Later, an instructor advised me to practice by going over on the same side with the paddle sweeping forward from 90 degrees. The idea was to make sure it was in good place to start the sweep to roll up, but it also makes a lot of sense in that if I capsize, I seriously doubt I’ll be setting up in a tuck–it’ll be because I failed a brace or failed TO brace on the same side. I also practice by going over with the paddle in various other positions, and when in motion from having paddled forward or backward. It’s not exactly moving water, but it’s a step away from an artificial, planned setup.

The funny thing was that after I had switched to practicing with the sweep-out instead of tuck, the tuck became slightly intimidating merely from not having done it in so long, and never having done it that way on my “other side”. So…I made myself practice it both ways, both sides, and it really was no big deal. Just a small mental hurdle that I no longer worry about.

By coincidence, yesterday I was rewatching the EJ rolling DVD and was reminded of another exercise to practice: go over with the paddle deep in the water and vertical, then roll up. (Gonna try it this weekend.) In this DVD, he claims that if you can do that, you are ready to learn to hand roll. Now, I don’t know if the hand roll would be useful in a for-real capsize, but it seems that having practiced it might provide more confidence that the body motions are correct. So maybe that’s one of the “next” things to try.

You asked the same question I keep asking myself, and I doubt we’re the only ones. There is so much crap about “pond paddlers” etc. that it’s hard not to wonder if it’s all for nothing. Except that it also happens to be fun, especially in these dog days of summer.

Jay Babina’s comment gives me hope that all of this flatwater roll practice will someday prove useful. I only wish I had someone else who was equally interested in practicing this stuff together.

4 minute mile
"Now, I don’t know if the hand roll would be useful in a for-real capsize, but it seems that having practiced it might provide more confidence that the body motions are correct."

If you can run a 4 minute mile, an 6 minute mile is easy.

Rolling with a paddle is a 6 minute mile. (Hand rolling is a 4 minute mile.)

Then learn to roll a wave ski …

(It’s a tiny bit harder than a seakayak.)

Now what?
Methinks the safest way to work on a real-life roll is to find a whitewater play spot upstream of a flat section. Go in the hole, try to play, get spat out upside-down, roll up, repeat until it’s normal.

In the right spot it’s pretty safe because if you wait a few seconds, you’re back in flatwater. As you get more comfortable you can start coming up immediately in the bumpier stuff. A good play hole/wave will provide nice variation for your capsizes.

It’s not as easy to find a range of conditions in such a short distance on open water.

Encouragement is always appreciated.

Real world rough water rolling …
There are a few things that are different.

Have you ever been really pummeled by a wave and held under? I’m talking a big bad M… F… wave 8 or 10 ft.

Sometimes the initial impact knocks the wind out of you and instead of being able to gasp for air you are under water. Sometimes all you can manage is to hold on to your paddle with one hand. Lot’s of times you lose your paddle.

Sometimes the wave holds your kayak underwater, sometimes it recycles at the front of a foam pile, with the water so areaated you can not find any purchase with paddle for any resistance at all. Fortunately when that happens if you just try to stick your paddle up you will roll, the problem is figuring out which way is up.

Sometimes you get thrown head and shoulders into the bottom or a coral or rock reef and dragged along. Sometimes you get tangled in a dense patch of kelp.

Sometimes you get trapped in the impact zone in shallow water with short period dumpers coming from different angles and rebounding off the beach too… wave after wave thrashing your boat in the shallows. If you are waiting for things to calm down so you can set up, it’s not going to happen.

I personally think it’s a lot easier to roll on flat water than in rough water.

It Translates
I had to do a re-enter and roll in some rough conditions and the only practice I had done was in calm stuff.

Sure wish I had had my nose plugs on. I bet a quart of salt water drained from my sinuses.

I rolled for three hours with only a little water in one ear, so I’ll probably pick up some ear plugs if I’m going to practice.

The ocean and salt water will take more technique to stick it on the first try.

Right now I’m only at about 80%, but also have a lot of experience windsurfing in 30 knot winds on the ocean.

If the surf isn’t too heavy I’ll go to the beach tomorrow and practice surfing, bracing and rolling.

I already have a lot of experience in the surf and know my own limits. I may just find a little side cove with a nice beach.

I Made Up an Exercise
I’ve been going over with my paddle tucked under the forward deck bungies. It forces me to take my time and be calm in less than an ideal set-up. If I ever get knocked over and lose my grip on the paddle I will have had lots of practice rolling up with my spare.


– Last Updated: Jul-18-08 5:54 PM EST –

I’m a self taught roller and for me one of the characteristics of being self taught was that for some time I had a very marginal roll. My roll has improved over the years and as a result of practicing, using a Greenland stick and having an easy to roll boat. I now have a very reliable roll. One incident during my unreliable roll years taught me that there is a quality that distinguishes a swimming pool roll from a genuine oh shit! roll, and that quality is having the presence of mind to pause before you execute your roll and set yourself up to do it right the first time. If it doesn’t work the first time the second effort is likely to be worse than the first.

About 14 years ago I found myself in conditions that were at about the limit of my ability at that time, when a trawler crossed right in front of me; its wake coming from forward and the three foot chop coming from behind combined to support my kayak from both ends sort of like a roll of toilet paper in a toilet paper holder. The trough between the two waves was right under my cockpit at the very moment when a good brace would have been very desirable. It was at this time that I learned about the relative ineffectiveness of the air brace and as I settled into the fully inverted position I reflected on how very advantageous it would be to execute a successful roll within the next few seconds. It also occurred to me that I was very capable of executing a sloppy unsuccessful roll. My conclusion was that I should take two or three seconds to set up properly, think about the sequence of movements to do the roll correctly and to not panic. The result was that the roll worked. My point is that you can hold your breath a whole lot longer than it takes you to execute one successful roll and it is better to invest this time in making one successful attempt rather than using the time to make several unsuccessful attempts.

Now what?
Whats the sense in rolling if you don’t practice? If and when I get in the ocean I always make it a point to roll up as many times as I can against the wind and with the wind, one handed, and as Kudzu mentioned having to retrieve the paddle from wither the back deck or front deck.

One of the things I learned a long time ago was a comment from Sing where you take a second to let the conditions, i.e. wave rolling over you etc to assess which side is best and what will be the easiest. Now in surf which I avoid, my ass is up the fastest way I know how, with hands firmly gripping the paddle to get forward momentum right away and get some sort of control. Not a big fan of creating a trench in the sand with my head.

I need to get to an ocean! having withdrawals.


you can forward stroke… now what?
to me that is a parallel to what you are asking. You use it and practice it all the time in all conditions.

I started on flatwater, then swell, then a loaded sea kayak (super easy), then chop, them surf, then whatever came along.

Once I learned to roll I practiced all the time - in all conditions. I started surfing and for a long time I would let every 4th or 5th wave capsize me so I could roll up. Or, I would just paddle out and let a wave knock me over.

Islander - “The ocean and salt water will take more technique to stick it on the first try.” The difference between flatwater and roughwater is mainly in the head. The technique is to know you can do it and to NOT do anything differently.