Switching set up sides

Anybody know any tricks to changing sides after setting up to roll on one side and then deciding you need to switch to the other?

Maybe something easier than dragging the paddle and your body through the water under the boat.

How about over the upside down hull? Between your head and the submerged deck?

“How about over the upside down hull? Between your head and the submerged deck?”

yeah that would work.


Everybody is a cynic. I thought it might be an interesting discussion. Oh well.

think about it
how many ways are you actually able to get to the set up position on one side after setting up on the other?

my body only has one route to follow.

steve (sometimes not an interesting coversationalist)

Over or under
I think you already listed the possibilities. Not including wet-exiting, re-entering, and then rolling up on the desired side.

Hmmm, I suppose you could try to pass the paddle behind your head, under the rear deck. That doesn’t seem any easier, though.

Trying the offside roll
If there is no physical impediment, you could try a sweep roll on the off side. The roll might succeed, and if it doesn’t, your finish position will put you back down ready to set up for the other side. You will also have a bit of momentum going back the other way, which could help.

Pass the paddle over the boat
If it’s not too deep or your arms too short. Less action under the boat since it’s just a shift of your torso rather than arm sweeps as well.

Switching set up sides underwater

– Last Updated: Aug-05-08 4:14 PM EST –

I have yet to post an article on my site which actually covers your question with some drawings.

Your concern is a good one because it often happens. Here's what you do all on land first: first set up on your regular set up side. Then move the paddle up across the kayak in your regular paddling position. Then put it into your off side set-up position. Make it three distinct movements. Set up - paddling position - off-side set up. Do that about 10 times with you eyes closed so it's imbedded in your memory. Then set up, plunge into the water and do the exact same thing underwater. Wear a dive mask so you can watch what you do. If you don't think and do the same movement you did on land, you will do it easily. You will have some water resistance, but just move along continuously and do the practiced movement.

Then you do the same drill on land but in reverse- starting on your off side etc. This is how it's done and learned. After a while you'll be able to maneuver from one side to another without thinking. It's easier with a GP because with a feathered Euro, one blade will be giving resistance while the other is in a slicing position. An unfeathered Euro is not too difficult.

Different method with GP
Instead of going from one setup thru midpoint/stroke position to other setup - with the paddle going through a 180 degree arc - I just and slide paddle forward of me and back as I move my body from one side to the other. Move is pretty similar to stowing/unstowing a GP on the foredeck, and can be done VERY quickly.

This way the paddle stays parallel to the kayak (and tucked under the deck) the whole time. It offers no resistance since you’re just quickly spearing it forward and back as you change hands - and not sweeping it through the water at all (GP may offer very little resistance on edge, but no resistance is still better). Also less likely to catch on anything nearby (including waves and eddies in addition to rocks/branches/whatever).

Really, you can do this with euros too, even feathered - for a very quick way to switch it. You just end up rolling up with paddle upside down/backward (unless you add a side paddle wheel spin maneuver for style points ;).

The roll still works whether power face is up or down (feather be damned - try to ignore it and go by the outer blade’s feel though water), and it’s easier to flip the paddle back around once back on the surface than it is to maneuver it around the long way under water.

Good to practice rolls with paddle blades in all orientations, from both sides, no setup topside, setup and switching sides below, etc…

Me too!

– Last Updated: Aug-06-08 8:49 AM EST –

Lets face it, the GP is just so much easier to maneuver underwater. Since the rolling position is holding the end of the blade, you don't have the other end to deal with. I have done what your suggest too but not always. One of the advantages of practicing the Greenland rolls is not just the roll itself, but when you fail, you are left in a very unorthodox position that you have to recover from and roll up. There's no better underwater practice.

The method I mentioned works well for euro paddlers especially for those who come form the strict death grip on the paddle philosophy and keep their hands in that one position no matter what. When I first learned to roll, I use to push the paddle like a spear from one side or another, then feel my blade to re-orient the feathered paddle and set up and roll up. What a chore! It can be a bit of a panic when you really capsize and you are on the wrong side and can't roll up and have to deal with a feathered paddle.

I think the most important thing paddlers need to learn is that you can use your torso muscles to move your self around underwater and don't have to hang there in the position you capsized in.

If it was a ‘real world’ roll…

– Last Updated: Aug-06-08 11:56 AM EST –

...as in, you really needed to roll now, but on the other side, due to wind/current/rock, etc., I'd wouldn't want to try anything that required changing or losing my grip on the paddle w/ Euro. May be diff. with GP...don't know. No expert here...just my musings. If just practicing, yeah, play around with whatever.

Edit: use the blade to push/pull you over to your other side for setup instead of letting go or changing hand positions. Use it is as to pull you over into setup.

so, what does work?

good stuff guys
This was a very good question and you both provided some great insight (I have to confess I use a euro but my approach is more like the one greyak recommends).

Glad someone took this post seriously.

Slow down

– Last Updated: Aug-06-08 2:26 PM EST –

Fluid drag goes as the square of velocity. Slowing down a little makes it a LOT easier to move underwater.

One useful drill(with a spotter) is to let yourself hang underwater -- arms dangling -- and then arch up towards the surface on one side of the boat. Come down and arch up to the other side. When you run out of air, tap for your spotter.

It's good to work on the body movement without the paddle as a distraction.

I try to make that decision
before ‘setting up’.

If I find myself in that situation I will either -

finish the roll that I ‘set up’ to do. If I come up great, if not I am ‘set up’ on the other side.


I will sweep the paddle like my normal sweep roll - but keep the paddle above the water. Then when I reach the back of the kayak I will transition to a ‘back deck’ roll on the other side. If I miss the ‘back deck’ roll, I am obviously ‘set up’ for a sweep roll on the same side (the opposite side of the initial sweep roll ‘set up’)

No Setup Positions…
after you develop a roll on both sides. After that, if you haven’t, work on a reverse sweep, low or high brace positions on both sides. With these four rolls in place, you have 99% covered in “Oooops” conditions. It’s all mental. When you begin popping up no matter the position you capsized in ww or surf, you know you’re on the right track.

FORGET setups.


todays roll
I practiced some off handed rolls today after returning from a long trip. I thought I would have had an easier time with the off side cork screw sweep roll. After several successful rolls both directions for some reason I couldn’t manage the off arm one again. I was warn out but wanted to develop an efficient roll both ways. Anyway, I had to switch back to my right arm. I liked to keep the shaft gripped so I knew where the feathered blades were. At least I can catch a breath of air each time I fail and finally switch sides when I realize it just isn’t going to happen. No wet exits for me in a long time. Still discourged though. I want to roll both ways even when very tired. I’ll probably lock in on something next practice session. And try some new reverse sweeps as well.

Still had a nice day. There was a little shark playing way up in the creeks. never seen one that far in before.

the more tired I get
the more likely I am to blow the roll–but that’s why I keep practicing because it is more likely these days, now that I dont do heavy white water, that I will be tired when I flip, so it does make sense to practice when you are tired.