Took a rolling lesson....

… and failed. Maybe it was due to the instructor having to deal with 3 other ppl at the same time and not having anough time… maybe it was me not understanding what to do and trying to think too much about it all… i dont know. But now I will go out and practice on my own and see what I can come up with.

I had no problems getting up while the paddle float was on but I did feel that I was pushing off too much. As soon as I took that off I saw the blade was diving. I had good setup, good hip flick, but when I was pulling the paddle it always dove.

Instructor told me to stay more compact, but to keep my hands above water. What I saw myself doing (or I think thats what I was doing) was lifting my hands too much out of the water (as per instructors advice) and thats why the paddle kept on diving. I will try to pracice some more this weekend in a lake and keep all that stuff in mind. To be honest there was 4 of us and none really could do it by the end of the session so I ahve no idea what was wrong with that class.

I am a tall guy 6’4" and 200lbs. My boat is 24" high volume boat.

What did you guys do when you learned to roll and what were your major “wrong” things you had to get rid of to do it properly??

hang in there tomek
Took me three sessions.

IME what almost always goes wrong is bringing your head up too soon. There are a few simple tricks to counter this:

  1. Bite on your PFD strap on the side you are rolling up from. Hold the bite until you are up.

  2. Focus on something in the water when you’re rolling up, and keep your eyes fixed on it until you are up.

    Your body should “unwind” or striaghten up from the hips upward, so that your head is out of the water last. You can exaggerate this motion and still get up comfortably.

    Another suggestion is doing a sweep roll or even a layback. For me this let me focus on the paddle blade as I swept it past me, which kept my head low and also facilitated my hips rolling (I think “hip flick” is a misnomer but that’s just me).

    Mind you, I’m not an instructor but this is my $0.02 based on personal experience. Talk to your instructor about these ideas.

    Good luck and stick with it. You’ll be glad you did!

Sometimes it takes time…
While there are a lot of people who get a roll in their first lesson, there are also many of us who took much longer.

It is hard learning a roll without someone spotting. The additional person can not only provide an Eskimo rescue so you don’t have to wet exit, but can observe and give feedback.

Head coming up before the boat is righted kills more rolls than most anything else.

If you are going to be trying to teach yourself, I would advise getting Jay Babina’s "First Roll’ DVD.

Diving Blade
Held me up forever - my hip snap had time to get pretty good during that though.

Three suggestions, if you are learning a sweep or C2C -

Stick a big paddle float or similar on the end of your hand to roll. It’ll give you good feedback on how much work you need to do on your hip snap because it’s less to manage.

Notice if your hand is relaxed - diving blades often mean too tight a hand grip.

Stop the paddle a smidge forward of a right angle to the boat then go for a real hard hip snap. You want to get most of the way up if possible with that so that thre is not a ton of weight suddenly dropping down on the paddle.

another thing…
…is a back deck recovery like is taught in Eric Jackson’s Rolling and Bracing. (not to be confused

with a back deck roll.)

But a big problem is switching rolling styles!

sometimes you just have to pick a style: C2C, sweep,

back deck recovery and stick with it.

Work on your flexibility.

and keep your head down.

You’ll get it.
I had the problem with the paddle diving, too. I was using a GP. Took me 4 sessions on my own, 1 lesson, then 3 more sessions to really get the roll. Videos helped a lot for me. Suggestions here helped too. Jay’s First Roll, EJ’s Rolling and Bracing, The Kayak Roll (Ford), are all good.

Sounds like your working on a sweep roll. Couple things that helped me.

  1. Make sure the leading edge of your paddle is angled up a little bit to give your paddle lift. Don’t angle it so much that it plows through the water, just a little bit so that it slides nice on the water.

  2. Don’t think about rolling up until your paddle blade is out to the side of your boat at about 90 degrees. That first 90 degrees is all about getting a good sweep and starting to bring your body toward the surface.

    Just work on the sweep for awhile.

    Controversial maybe, but IMO it helps to have a 60 dollar tough plastic blade paddle, or GP, that you can push of the bottom with to spot yourself. You can work on keeping your head down and hip snap while righting yourself while pushing off the bottom, too. Gives you the freedom to practice alone without coming out of your boat every time.


what kind of stretch excercise…
you guys recomend I do to help with flexibility? I also have to stop puting too much “muscle” into the roll and do it more slowly and concetrate on technique… practice will make this perfect and i will not stop trying to learn… it has now become a mission for me hehe :slight_smile:

I do realize that the proper paddling technique, bracing etc will get me further then rolling… but man pissed me off when I could not do it :slight_smile:

“a” rolling lesson
first lesson-didn’t get any of it, failure

second lesson-didn’t get any of it, failure,this is discouraging.

third lesson-instructor noticed my left hand grip was stiff and prevented correct blade angle. Came half way up and fell. Maybe it’s possible.

fourth lesson-got some of it,but never really came up.

fifth lesson-came up, once, light bulb goes off. “this is possible”. So it took me five lessons before it felt like a success.

sixth lesson-came up, three times out of a dozen attempts.

after that spent the winter going to pool practice for a few months

What I learned was that it takes me about six attempts to see it’s doable and about twelve times to get into the middle of a learning curve.

And then repeat in progressively more realistic environment. It took close to 1/2yr to develop a roll on one side with about 15 pool sessions although it wasn’t at all reliable in surprise situations.

It took rolling outside the pool a few dozen more times in real life circumstances to have it become a skill.

Later on I used paddle floats to teach but sometimes I think that’s a diversion and not a teaching aid.

Things that make a roll dificult: insufficient range of motion in torso, missed timing, too much focus on arms/hands/blade. Sitting up while upside down causing the blade to dive and not sweeping the blade/torso. Lifting head as it hits the air (MAJOR BOOBOO), sometimes folks mix up laying back with lifting their head and they’d be better off having a better hip snap than laying back.

There’s a lot of evolutionary bias to pay attention to information coming through ones hands,gripping paddle,symmetric tightening of torso,there isn’t much capacity or reason to get information from torso movement so when you get it right there isn’t a lot of feedback other than “looky here, I’m up!”. It feels more like “the less you do the better it works”.

There are those gifted ones who get it in the first lesson. They make everyone feel bad. Even the instructor. My daughter learned in 15minutes when she was 11.

yes!,relaxed hands
a big difference was making the leading hand relaxed and leading from the back of my wrist and not a gripped hand. With a relaxed hand you can feel the blade angle. A gripped hand becomes dumb.

I didn’t “get” bracing until I learned to roll.

Stretching, sit on floor, bend forward twisting to the left and plant hands on left side, twist right and plant hands. Breathe in a relaxed manner throughout the stretching.

Standing up, imaginary paddle in hands,bend forward twisting left, paddle on left side, lift left knee to chest HARD. As you put left foot down torso twists/turns to the right head swings down to right right knee to chest HARD.

It’s not a perfect exercise but it corresponded for me the effort required while underwater to hold the set-up position and finish the hip snap without focusing on hand/arms.

It’s the assymetry of the torso move that’s hard to learn. Not because of dificulty but because it’s not a move that seems essential to breathing and survival. When you’re upside down and have something in your hands you want to PULL up to the air. And make the blade dive. When your head hits air you want to reach with your head to breathe. And fall back down. Most hard efforts in your muscle memory that involve holding poles/handles/barbells/hammers are hard gripping and torso stiffening. Here you’ve got a shovel handle, barbell, ladder step, suitcase handle in your hands disquised as a paddle shaft and when push comes to shove you use the reflexes in your muscle memory. You’ve probably got a lot more of that carrying a suitcase or holding a hammer than being upside down in a kayak.

You might also check what your legs are doing, if you’re pushing symmetrically on both footpegs instead of pressing sequentially on knee/thigh braces then you’re limiting potential torso movement. A common thing is to push with both feet while coming up resulting in sitting up/laying back instead of a hip snap.

Diving Paddle
In addition to all the previous good info a couple of things you could try.

The following is assuming you are rolling up on the right ie your sweep is done with the right hand blade in the water.

You said that when “pulling” the paddle without the paddle float it dove. If when doing the sweep you “pull” on the paddle there is a tendency to bend the right elbow which immediately puts the blade under water. I like to think of “pushing” the blade away from the kayak as a sweep and make sure I keep the right elbow as straight as possible. It will need to bend some in the final recover portion after your head comes up. Probably bends more in C2C roll than in the sweep/layback roll.

You can get a feel for this (although not exactly the same) by practicing a sweep right side up and doing a sweep stroke on the right side of the kayak without letting your right elbow bend at all. Do a few sweeps bending the elbow and then a few with elbow straight to start to feel the difference.

Another cause of diving paddle could be setting up with your hands too far forward. The more forward the hands start the more downward angle the paddle starts with. The rear hand should be up on top of the hull well behind the seat so that the left forearm (left elbow is bent at this time) is close to vertical rather than angling forward. If you are not flexible it may be hard to get in proper position before turning over. After turning over, try moving both hands toward the stern as much as you can and still keep the left hand on top of the hull. This may even make it easier to get your hands clear of the hull.

I was a very slow rolling learner even with a greenland paddle. Just keep working on it. Best of luck.


ditto “pulling paddle”
“but when I was pulling the paddle it always dove.”

and it ALWAYS will. Which is why there is the suggestion to have a relaxed hand. If you have a relaxed hand you’re less likely to pull,as you would lifting a suitcase, barbells, etc. The idea is to use the paddle to locate your torso near the surface as you rotate the kayak upright underneath your torso.

Your torso and kayak weigh a LOT, your paddle weighs very little. Think about it,if you pull your paddle which will move more,the couple pounds of paddle or the 250lbs of kayak and body?

The focus is on getting your hips to move the kayak underneath your torso,pulling the paddle moves the paddle.

Try another class / different instructor
the fact that 4 people never learned to roll is not uncommon when it’s the strong hip flick (C to C) roll being taught. Try to find someone who will teach a lay back style of rolling. It’s way easier and then you can diversify to a C to C or screw roll style if you want.

You made the most improtant step, you’re desire to learn - you will.

Try a different instructor …
0/4 is not very good.

The people who taught me to roll promise you will do an unassisted roll the first night or your next class is free.

I suggest Eric Jackson’s rolling and bracing video.

The C-C roll is a difficult
roll to learn because so many things have to happen quickly and on time. The thing that helped me the most when I was learning the C-C was to get the paddle up to the water surface at the set up and relax my hand so that the paddle wouldn’t dive. My instructors kept telling me to grip the paddle firmly but I found out for myself that if I hold the paddle loosely it will find it’s own balancing point for the most support. Once I figured this out I went from 5% to 100% on my rolls. Try it with some braces and see how the paddle flattens out by itself to give you the most support. Once you start doing this you get a feel for how the paddle works.

Different insturctor, ignore some advice
I agree with those who say you should get a different instructor/class. Regardless of the competence of the instructor, a ratio of 4 students to one instructor is too large for teaching rolling. When my group has a rolling class there is one certified instructor + one assistant per student. We have never had a class where everyone failed to roll.

The advice to ignore is “keep your head down”. It is not that you need to raise your head but rather that raising your head is almost always a symptom, not a cause. Unless you change what is causing you to raise your head you will not be able to roll. For example, with a C2C roll, people often fail to move completely to the other C (body and head wrapped around the side of the kayak as much as flexibility allows). Stopping short of the complete movement leads directly to raising the head. It is useless to say to such a person “keep your head down”. Following that advice alone will still result in a failed roll.

Have a look at the following short videos, especially the first one, to see what kind of flexibility and body movement is involved in each kind of roll.

Note in particular the movement from the setup position to the first C.

Good luck and keep at it!

major “wrong” things
#1 - Thinking through the roll vs feeling your way through the roll.

Brain does not roll, body does. Feel what’s going on and play with it. Leave the thinking for visualization before - and critique after - and not when inverted. Stick to no more than one or two things in the head while it’s wet.

Focus on the kayak. You are trying to roll the KAYAK over - and then let it pull you up as it slides under you. This last part should pretty much take care of itself - IF you focus on the kayak and getting it over while you stay along side. Shorter version: Kayak first.

If instead you are focusing on getting yourself up - and your attention is on you climbing up and over the kayak - and on using the paddle to do so - you will have a longer path than necessary.

or sometimes…
…picking up your head, or getting upright too early, is a symptom of unfamiliarity, a result of feeling the roll is all but done. “Ignoring” a symptom isn’t great advice. In our class I watched three people gain a roll once the instructor told them why they should keep their head down and explained the body mechanics.

That’s what I said.
I certainly didn’t say to ignore symptoms. I did say to analyze why the symptom occurs.

I started off learning a sweep but sorta do a weird hybrid sweep/C to C. but whatever works.

if you don’t have noseplugs or a snorkle type mask i would get one. helps keep you relaxed without worrying about your nose filling with water.

diving paddle happend to me because i didn’t have a good enough setup position. make sure you are cocking your wrists and making sure you starting angle is right.

when starting your sweep try picturing yourself keeping you leading blade flat on a big chunk of ice. you are then going to move that ice from the front of your boat to the back of your boat. as soon as you start moving it you want to do you hip snap. by keeping your eyes on the paddle blade you will keep your head down in the proper position.

that is what worked for me. make sure your setup is good even i you have someone making sure your paddle is cleared and at the proper angle before you start