The Roll and The Boat

Here’s what I’m seein’… ya’ll tell me if I’m right or wrong…

I’m seeing professional paddlers say “If you can roll one boat, you can roll any boat.”

When I go to the pool I see people struggle with one boat and easily roll another.

Shouldn’t the professionals say “If you are an ADVANCED paddler, you can roll any ol’ boat.”?

Instructors out there… wouldn’t you start a student off with an easy boat and progress to harder ones? For example…

There, String. Hope I’ve stirred up some shtuff to gab about 'round the fireplace.

The boat and the roll

– Last Updated: Jan-25-06 6:21 PM EST –

All I can tell you is that it's a whole lot easier to roll a C1 than it is to roll an OC1. It sure makes sense to start with the C.
Dunno 'bout them yakky things y'all roll around in. I'm still working on rolling my 'bou.


A 'Bou roll

Thought I’d throw that atcha Tommy. The Bou rolls nicely as long as you don’t layback too far as that can be painful.

Not a “real” instructor but yeah starting off in an easy kayak is the trick. Rolling is mostly about your body and not the boat but some kayaks just don’t fit the body well enough and hinder learning. I’d say the statement were true if I could do all of the rolls I do in an easy kayak in a not so easy kayak - it’s just not that way for me anyway. But I have a pretty small bag of tricks to begin with.

well, as an instructor let me say - - -
i’m very rarely given the opportunity to offer an “easy to roll” boat to a student. for the most part, i have to teach them to roll the boat they bring me. that said, i think you’re right in saying that a ‘good roller’ (not necessarily an advanced paddler by the way*) can roll most any boat while a poor roller will have difficulty rolling a boat he’s not wrapped his body mechanics around so to speak.

  • i know a paddler or two that can roll the hell out of a boat but is intimidated by the wind, currents and waves of rough coastal Newfoundland for example. for some, rolling is a party trick and has little to do with having any advanced skills.

I can’t decide.
I can’t decide what I think is better (I am not an instructor, coach or advanced paddler). For sea kayaks, I have seen a few people learn to roll in what I would consider somewhat easier boats to learn in and then watch as they have no problems rolling other boats. Others seem to have great difficulty moving from boat to boat no matter what they learned in.

I feel I learned to roll in a faily difficult boat (high rear deck and volume), a Swift Bering Sea. However, since I learned (a little over a year ago) I find great fun in trying to roll all other boats I paddle, whether they fit me or not. Since then I have rolled every boat I’ve paddled, and therefore I have no fear of failure. Don’t know if this is a good thing or bad thing. Some boats do seem slightly easier to roll than others, but none have been particularly hard to roll. I keep a litle notebook of boats I’ve paddled and my thoughts about them. Since May 2005, I have test paddled and rolled 19 other sea kayaks from Impex, CD, Wildy, Necky, Valley, NDK, Swift, Hurricane, Perception, Eddyline, Dagger and a SOF Greenland boat. These ranged from 14’ to 19’ in length and 20" to 23.5" wide. I am beginning to believe Eric Jackson who says that the force difference to roll various boats is really insignificant. Maybe the problem is adapting some roll types to certain boats. I know I cannot do a layback roll easily in my Bering Sea, so maybe if that was the only roll I was succesful with I would have a hard time transporting it from boat to boat? Dunno.


Might be an advantage
to start out in an “easy” rolling boat, as success is a great mind game.

I learned the opposite way- rolling in a boat that many consider harder to roll, which gave me the advantage of really being positive about rolling other boats. In any case, work with what you have.

Once the motions and the mind come together, most any SINK can be rolled. More importantly, don’t stop working it! Rolling is not only a good thing to be able to do, it’s fun!

Yes, I believe that if you really HAVE a roll you can roll anything. I know someone who rolled a canoe. I’ve heard of folk rolling Swiftys.

That being said. I find my Romany more forgiving than my Aquanaut - therfore it can be said that I find the Romany ‘easier’ to roll. (The Aquanaut is an easy boat to roll.) The easiest thusfar for me was a friend’s Outer Island.

I have come to believe that positive reinforcement and success are the most productive manners of learning. With that in mind, I tend to think it may be best for a paddler to learn to roll in a boat designed to support such skills.

Some boats are harder to roll.
This has been debated endlessly on Boatertalk. But the real truth is that some boats really are harder to roll, especially for some people. Lets say you have a short torso and short arms and your new boat has high flat sides. You learned to roll in an RPM in the pool. Will you be able to roll your new boat? Probably not. You will need to learn new techniques and unlearn bad habits from the easy to roll RPM. Just because you can sing Yankee Doodle does not mean you can sing an operatic aria. And practicing Yankee Doodle over and over again will not get you to be able to sing the aria. Boats differ a lot in what they demand of the roller. Some of those demands are just adjustments in existing techniques. But others are more serious and more difficult. It is definitely NOT the case that if you can roll one boat you can roll every boat.

well maybe not THAT boat… :slight_smile:

– Last Updated: Jan-26-06 12:25 PM EST –

I would be careful squeezing a beginner in my tippy greenland rolling qajaq unless they had someone in the water to rescue them if they panicked. With that said, I'm in the camp of make it easy at first and then make it hard.

I'll put beginners in RPMs in the pool and teach them an extended paddle roll. That way they are usually rolling within 15 minutes or so. Because rolling is such a head game, I want beginners to "believe" they can roll before I work to refine their technique. Of course, I immediately transition to the standard paddle roll insisting that the extended paddle roll is a backup roll to use while practicing. If someone is serious about dialing in their roll, I'd put them in a whitewater playboat or something "harder" to roll so that they can refine their technique even further.

If you have solid rolling skills, yes if you can roll one boat, you can roll any boat (assuming reasonable fit, outfitting, etc.) Those people who struggle in one boat and roll easily in another boat have shaky technique which will not be dependable in real life conditions as the boat is compensating for their lack of skill/technique. That should not be taken as criticism but rather that's an opportunity for those paddlers to improve their skiills and they should continue challenging themselves with the "hard to roll" kayak until it becomes easy.

I think it depends on what
the students capabilities are, what the instructors capabilities are, and what roll the student is trying to learn.

Are we talking about a middle aged guy/gal who wants to learn to roll in a rec boat, or are we talking about a young guy/gal who wants to learn to roll in a ww boat?

Yes some sea kayaks are harder to roll based on volume than others.

Yes some ww kayaks are harder to roll based on volume and the flat bottom. But relative to some sea kayaks they tend to have other advantages.

I too tend to let the student try to roll in their own boat. I am trying to learn a better technique for teaching the roll. After watching someone pick up the slack on where I’d left off with one student, I think c-c (with a euro) is still the most straight forward roll. And this is a great roll to teach with many many different types of boats.

My success rate is about 1 in 4 over three lessons to get someone to roll, but my statistics are all over the board, by age, sex, and experience, so I really don’t know. I think to blame the boat outright is confusing the issue, because I think it is mainly mechanics. I haven’t seen too much evidence personally where someone tries to roll a HV sea kayak for instance who suddenly switches to a lv greenland kayak and can suddenly roll. I have seen folks who come back in between sessions with better outfitting in the same kayak do much better.

My confused 2 pence.

rolling fun!
I’ve got no opinion. But I was at a party on water…

One of the paddler had a brand new boat that looks very nice AND very different. So, one guy decided to paddle it just to see how it feel. The next thing he did, he decided to roll it because he felt it fit him pretty well. He failed and had to wet exit. That sets the stage…

Within about half an hour, 4 different people had tried it, all of them instructors. Only one succeeded on without wet exiting at least once. But by the end of that hour, 2 out of the 4 managed to roll it. One even on both sides.

It was fun watching the whole impromtous competition. Needless to say, that boat would qualify as “hard to roll”. (the owner, who could roll a few other boats, could not roll it either)

Why this heistancy to post details?
I see it a lot here. What is being protected by not naming the boat? Witholding people’s (maybe even place) names I can understand. Not naming a commercial product? Please. If it’s sold, it’s open to review and comment.

Some disagreement
I have a Dragorossi Fish. I brought it to pool sessions so people could try it out. One of the people there is an instructor trainer. He is young, strong and flexible. He has been paddling WW and sea kayaks for a long time. And he can do almost any kind of roll with style, grace, and excellent form. But when he tried to roll the Fish with a C-to-C he failed. Several times. He could only roll it with a sweep roll. I cannot roll the Fish with a C-to-C either even though I can with an EJ roll. On the Draggorossi board several strong paddlers admitted that they cannot roll the Fish without adding a little something at the end (like a reverse sweep). There are other notorious WW boats out there, like the LL Space Cadet. Corran Addison could not roll it except with an extended paddle roll. It is just not true that being able to roll one boat means you can roll any boat and not being able to roll some particular boat does not mean your roll is shaky.

Agreed Greyak!!
C’mon guys!!! I NEED to know that the reason I had trouble rolling my Arctic Hawk was the BOAT, and of course, NOT ME!! Ha.

Agreed with an earlier post about the Outer Island being the easiest to roll. Mine was so easy i thought my roll was fine till I changed boats!!

Now its a constant niblet of doubt in the back of my mind when I try a new boat…will this one allow my unperfect roll to work?

Do you come to Newfoundland often?
It’s my home. Let us island folk know if you’re going to be around. We’re mostly a friendly bunch and enjoy sharing our province and coastline with paddlers from away.



PS I have a friend and fellow instructor who is fond of saying, “It’s never the boat.” while on course. Meaning anyone should be able to do anything in any boat. However, he’s also been overheard to say, “He’s a pretty good paddler, he’d do good on a better boat.” after the course.

yes but you are able to roll it…
Maybe the C-to-C isn’t optimal for the Fish (although I’d love to try it out), but if you have a strong concept of rolling and you understand what is involved, you should be able to roll most anything. I’ll give you some kayaks are much harder to roll and the LL kayaks come to mind for me as well. I can roll the LL kayaks just fine, but they are some of the hardest kayaks that I’ve encountered when it comes to hand rolling. I’m surprised that Corran had to resort to an extended paddle but I also do not know how strong of a roller he is. Just like a strong roller doesn’t equate to strong paddler, a strong paddler does not necessarily equate to strong roller. I know plenty of paddlers who would put me to shame paddling whitewater or sea kayaking, are certified instructors, etc. and yet their rolling skills still need some work. Don’t get me wrong, I may have just as much trouble in the Fish and I’m sure something like a waveski would throw me for a loop at least at first, but I think a strong roller should be adaptable enough to figure it out assuming the kayak was designed to be rolled. I recently rolled an open whitewater canoe without float bags using a canoe paddle without any trouble even though I had never tried it before. I obviously didn’t use my standard kayak roll but once you know what it takes, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a stretch between various boats. Just my opinion of course.

unless it was a rec boat
I have a hard time believing anyone who can roll couldn’t hop in any production model sea kayak and roll it. Unless the kayak was just soo big that they flopped around like a fish?

Please ABC
Spare us the suspense…what boat?

Don’t know the name

– Last Updated: Jan-26-06 4:43 PM EST –

It's NOT a production boat.

It's one of those home-build "raditional" skin-on-frame boats. I don't know how to spell the name. It's known to be harder to roll (but friendlier for touring).

sounds like a baidarka.