Which way do you re-enter and roll?

I did my first re-enter and roll today, at the prompting of a fellow local paddler who teaches NOLS classes.

No, I do not know whether he has alphabet soup credentials, and I don’t care, because he is a good teacher :wink:

Anyway, the method he showed me was different from the one I’ve seen in text and photos, in which the paddler re-enters the kayak sideways. Instead, he told me to wet exit, get back under the upside-down kayak, and “stand” (float in deep water right-side up thanks to PFD) facing the rear of the coaming with head inside cockpit. Plant hands on left and right sides of coaming (and hang onto paddle with one hand). Because the inverted cockpit actually has plenty of air space, then take a deep breath or few (I was so happy that there was air under there that I exclaimed, “This is COOL!”). Next, hold breath, tuck legs up while still holding coaming on left and right sides, and do a backward somersault, pushing head down. Keep legs together and straighten them as they enter the cockpit. End up sitting in the upside-down kayak. Set up to roll, and roll up.

Amazingly, I rolled up quickly and easily, with the spray skirt still off, and the paddle blades reversed. I knew I had the blades flat because of the oval shaft, but I didn’t think to check anything else. Didn’t matter.

I have not tried the sideways method, but is there any reason why that is the one so commonly photographed and described? Maybe because it can be photographed well?

Fully inverted
I’ve heard of both ways. I thing the side entry is more common as it is less inverted and less submerged for those may not be as OK upsidedown and flipping atround, and who may be doing paddle float assited version.

Since you have all that air in there, and can catch your breath (could do this beside the kayak too - but being out of wind/spray could be handy) and take your time without the boat trying to push you under as some boats do with a sideways entry, maybe next time try getting your skirt on before rolling up too?

Seems you could end up with a lot less water to deal with (upsidedown boats can have pretty empty cockpits, and a small lift can clear what’s there before you get in)…

Something to play with, even as a breath holding exercise if nothing else (depending on skirt!).

Sideways Vs Straight Up
sideways let in more water into the cockpit, requiring more pumping. Straight up lets in less water. Both will, however, required pumping of some sort because it’ll be unstable. Sideways work better for those who can’t hold their breath long.

If you can hold your breath fairly long, tuck the paddle into the front deck lines. Get in from straight underneath, get the skirt back on, grab the paddle and roll up. The less you rock the boat sideways when reentering, the less water in the cockpit. When you come up, you good to go.

Volume/size of a boat makes a difference. I can go straight up with the Montauk but can’t do it with SOF. My bouyancy overwhelms the low volume SOF. As soon as I try to re-enter the SOF, I float up to one side or the other. I take on alot of water, enough that the rear coaming is barely above waterline if at all. Frankly, with my SOF, it is roll or die if I am by myself. Without assistance, none of the reentry and roll or self assisted rescues allow me to come up without substantial water in the cockpit. In rought seas the reentered boat will likely always turn into a submarine with the “hatch” open.


is the easiest to teach, for me. The upside down somersault is a bit confusing.

I have not documented any extra water entering either way. both require the same scoop w/o a skirt.

Pumping is not a necessity. learning to paddle a boat with some water ballast is. sometimes it just don’t happen (time/energy to pump)


The side re-entry…
…is a big advantage in cold water, since your head is only submerged for a couple of seconds or so. You do end up pumping out more water, but that just helps to warm you up after your swim. :wink:

Sea sock
Sing, maybe a sea sock would be a good thing to use on those solo SOF paddles.

I need to try the somersault R&R with my S&G, because the modified thigh braces may make re-entry a bit more difficult. It is pickier about wet exits–nothing horrible, just something for me to remember.

Demonstrating the backward somersault
I was not understanding the description of the backward somersault until my teacher put his kayak right by shore, in shallow water, and demonstrated the entire sequence while sideways in the water. Then the “AHA” bulb came on. Some of us need more visual instruction, I guess.

The way I learned that I really like:

Float on the side of the boat that you will roll up on (for me on the right 'til I get the other side.) So for this discription - come up on the right means that the left side of the boat is beside you to start,

before you roll it over.

Face the rear of the boat with your paddle parallel to the hull held in your left hand along with the coaming. Reach your right hand under to grip the far (right) side of the coaming. By facing the rear you get your hands where you want them without getting tied up in knots.

The hard to describe but easy to do part: pull your feet up and place them on the seat of the boat a little before or more or less at the same time you duck your head under water. Pivot around and you will find yourself upside down facing the front of the boat with your hands lined up and you can just pull the boat straight on until you are seated with your feet on the pegs.

Get both hands on the paddle and roll up. Works slick assuming you get the roll-up part.

I can’t see hanging out with my head submerged loosing heat until I get my sprayskirt on as being very practical. My goal is to get my body out of the water quick. Others obviously feel differently.

All Depends…
“Practically” is determined by the situation at hand. I rather have my head in ice cold water for a little longer and come up rather dry. I am usually alone and don’t have anyone to help stablize me. Of course, I am hooded and smeared with silicone grease when I am out in the winter, for the very reason that it buys a lot more time and precludes cold water shock (well tested in many winter surf sessions).

Best thing is try different versions while the water is warm. You may favor one but it doesn’t hurt to try the different versions.


I’ll have to try that way once.

I wonder that too. May have to get one made up. I have no much room for error so I try to be pretty conservative when I wander far from shore alone.


No hanging out underwater
Read my post again. I was under the kayak with my body right-side-up, head up and completely in the air space of the inverted cockpit. Plenty of air, and protected from wind and spray.

The only time my head was upside-down and underwater was when somersaulting into the kayak and setting up for the roll. Which is no longer a time than it would be if you did R&R any other way.

Putting the spray skirt on underwater is an option but not necessary. I rolled up with it off and the cockpit containing water.

sounds like a great method!
I typically reenter and roll from the sideways position, but I will definitely need to try your method next time as that seems like a great alternative.

I was taught the somersault way
Of course, I never got it right because I need to be able to roll first (duh!). From the point of view of a novice who is wrestling with my monkey brain’s aversion to these activities, the somersault requires me to re-orient myself for the roll setup, and to date, that just does not happen.

I really look forward to the day when I can because I really think the ability to catch a physical and mental breath of air is great. Right now the monkey brain would rather that I hung out under the cockpit until I got washed ashore.

But I’m sure you don’t have that problem.


Seconds vs. minutes?
Maybe a few seconds more with head wet while getting skirt on* is worth it to avoid sitting for several minutes** with half your body immersed in a flooded cockpit while you slowly pump out? What’s going to contribute more toward hypothermia overall?

  • some skirts go on a lot faster/easier than others.

    ** longer if pumping isn’t immediately possible in situation where conditions flipped you and you’re now even less stable.

I really prefer the
reverse somersault method. Of course, its what I’ve practiced the most by far. Being directly under the boat seems to give me an increased feel of balance. The only problem I have occasionally is similar to that which Sing mentioned. If I miss my first attempt I find myself in a sideways position due to the volumne of the T-165, the bouyancy of my swim vest, all combined with my skinny bod!

I think its (reverse somersault), an easier re-entry in rougher waters, at least for me. I have an easier time rolling up from an inverted position than the sideways position when I’ve got surface chop going.

I can certainly see the advantage of a side re-entry under some conditions, e.g., cold water, etc., but I’d have to practice it more before I could honestly say it was a part of my rescue repertoire.

Pleasant waters.


Never thought of that…
Never thought of doing it the way described. I have practised the sideways method. I could see though that in high winds/waves the sideways method could be difficult. I think that the reverse flip method described here could be a good backup method if this is ever the case


Might be better in wind
Head under cockpit = less spray in face. My kayaks are more stable upside-down than sideways, too. No worries about having it come down on me while re-entering, because it’s supposed to be down and already is.

The reverse somersault really is a snap if somebody demos it to you so you can see what’s required. Hardest part is pushing head down against PFD’s flotation; after that’s achieved, body almost magically pops into the seat of the cockpit (assuming your legs fit easily into it).

I meant
Didn’t mean your head under the cockpit hanging out. Just that I’m inefficicent enough getting my sprayskirt on rightside up that I don’t want to mess with it upside down. I’d try it for fun though.

I think your method and mine are nearly the same. I just hang out to the side while you hang out under and the feet on the seat thing just divides the flip up and help me get lined up.

Rough stuff concerns
I’d worry about wrapping a boat around my head in rougher conditions. Not that anything approaches a bombproof roll in seas of a higher state. But still, if you do have to come out and get back in, I’d have to wonder how good an idea it would be to try and place your head inside a boat that’s being tossed around a bit. It floats lighter on the water than you, moves at a different rate through wind and wave, and breaks over waves differently than a partially submerged human. Seems like a volatile environment for your noggin.

In my mind I keep picturing a breaker rolling over a dude with his head in his cockpit, rolling the boat but not the paddler, and jarring the poor fellows neck with disastrous consequences.