Why Learn How to Roll?

Always read threads with folks saying they do not need to roll. At one time I was in that group. Over the last few months I decided it was time to learn. Well I have now been successful. I want to share the benefits of rolling: 1) Has made me more confident in me paddling. I welcome the ruff stuff I use to try and avoid. 2) Greatly impoved boat control by better edging and bracing. 3) Just make’s my paddling more fun !!! So if you are thinking that you don’t need to learn to roll give it a try! It will make your paddling much more rewarding and more fun.

How long did it take you? Did you find someone who knew how and was willing to teach you? I really want to learn but don’t know anyone close by who could teach me. All my paddling partners don’t roll and don’t really want to know how.

A modest suggestion
Get a hold of Eric Jackson’s video — Rolling and Bracing — go to a shallow spot or pool and teach yourself. This was more effective than classes or other videos for learning a useful reliable roll.

I learned on my own, but check around
and I’ll bet you can find a good instructor in your area. Having someone to help you up after failed attempts is worth it also.

Where do you live?
If in NW Washington I’ll teach you for free.

The answer is obvious…Who likes doing paddle float re-entries? Many people do great trips without having a roll, but it sure enhances your overall experience of kayaking.

Do you have pool sessions in your area?
That’s where you’ll find a lot of the roll enthusiasts. Whether you find someone willing and able to teach you is probably hit and miss, but you will find them over time. The videos are a great supplement, too.

It took me 8 weeks to really get the Eskimo roll, one session per week, pools, lake, ocean. Studied the vids, got pointers and spotting from people at the pool, one official lesson from Don Beale at week 4, then really got it a few sessions after that just working on it myself.

I’m getting more and more optimistic about people’s ability to roll. Salty, frankly, is an inspiration in that regard. I used to think you were too optimistic, Salty. But the last few weeks have been pretty amazing. I worked directly with a guy, Jack, standing in the pool, for about an hour, one session. Then just 15 minutes the next session. Then just watching from my boat between my own roll practice, and giving him advice every now and then. Beginning of the third session he was rolling. Similarly worked with Dennis H who posts here occasionally just 15 minutes a couple sessions, then him and Jack teamed up last night, and now Dennis is rolling. A new guy, Collin, showed up at the pool last night too. I was already standing in the water working with Dennis for that first 15 min, so spent 15 with Collin, too. Collin had a lot of misconceptions, but was alert and fit and comfortable in the water. By the end of the night he was rolling. What a night! Everyone went away a roller. And here’s the thing. I’m not a very experienced teacher, and down right not good at it in some regards. I’m good at self assessment, and I know, I’m not that good of a teacher in some regards. Imagine what someone who’s good at it can do.

OK, one sobering counterpoint. I worked with a lady a couple months back, just a few tips. Very very shaky roll. Told me she had been working on it for a year, though only practiced about once per month, and had about 7 lessons from a few different professional instructors. She just emailed me though sharing info on another pro lesson she had recently that really helped her a lot. I appreciated that. I learned something from that conversation that I used with Collin last night, actually. I also used Salty’s suggestion of putting a target out in the water as a challenge for the learner to hit it with their paddle, to get them sweeping correctly.

Nuff rambling, but I’m kind of high on the realization that everyone in our regular paddling group rolls now. It feels like we’ve become a rolling Borg unit. Come to a pool when a few of us are there and you will be assimilated.

Salty, not that I want a lesson from you (well, maybe a few tips on hand rolls), but some day if I ever got a chance to teach with you, I would highly value that.

Paul S.

Appreciate the comments
Years ago I could fire off hand rolls like nothin. Recently tried a few and it was shaky, though I pulled it off. Lesson there is that focus changes. You end up with an intuitive combat roll and get on with life. You get focused on paddling and in my case surf kayaking etc., and you don’t practice all the trick rolls. I have renewed inspiration to do do. Have a Greenland stick and have been messin a bit with that. I sure like those guys / women who do all those weird rolls. Have some figured and am hopeless with others! Fun stuff.

Rolling I know can be made very easy. The longer I’ve taught it, the less talking I do, and the faster the students learn. I no longer teach or guide for a living, just help friends out. Seems most athletic folk can be rolling easily within a half hour without ever hearing a label such as C to C, etc.

People trying to learn to roll tend to rationalize their lack of progress by believing that their “not athletic enough”, “too heavy”, “wrong kayak”, etc.

I know this, because they are the things that I thought were holding me back. Once learned, you will eventually find that it’s all technique, not muscle that will bring you up.

Suggestions: Most instructors teach the “C to, C” roll, which in my opinion, is the hardest one to learn. The reason they teach it is because it puts the helmeted head in a good position to fend off rocks in a white water capsize. I’m a sea kayaker, and am not worried about hiting a rock in fast water.

I would start with the Greenland style “layback rolls” which don’t require the extreme leaning forward, and the head dink. I have recenty found that one of the easiest to learn is the “sculling roll”. First learn to do a good sculling brace. Once you have that, it’s relatively easy to scull up from the inverted position.

I tend to agree with that
When I say athletic, I mean, reasonably fit and confident. People who are phobic or very overweight are tough. There’s some argument about whether the C to C really doeas protect the head more…think it through. A fast roll up from wherever you are positioned is gonna be better than positioning, then rolling. Also, some of the newer WW play boats are tough to get up along side of, and the roll has changed. EJ’s stuff addresses that. But like a lot of things, there’s endless debate. One bomber combat roll is better than 30 flat water rolls.

ditto the offer if you’re ever in MN.

I’ve had some blimpy instructors…
who could roll just fine. Convinced me that it’s technique and muscle memory (something that has eluded me).

This season, I think I’ll try the “do it yourself” approach a bit more. If I still don’t get it, I’m going to buy me some “one on one” time with a local instructor.


pool sessions are great
if you find an informal one you can watch and/or learn at your own pace and most of the ones I’ve encountered are pretty reasonable. Almost everyone I met who had a roll was more than willing to help. Great way to meet other area paddlers also.

I had a diving paddle
It was driving me crazy. I knew what to do (EJ’s) but couldn’t do it. The blade would dive every time. So I did something people tell you never to do: I practiced with a paddle float on. Did it over and over again. Now watching, now tucked. The reason was simple: I just wanted to develop a sense of muscle memory–where the paddle ought to be. I took off the paddle float and–next thing you know–went straight up! (Your results may vary.)

Yeah but…
with a Romany in your fleet you really didn’t have an excuse not to learn to roll.

Seriously, congrats. It is a great lot of fun, even on the days at first that seem to be going badly.

For Yooper - if you can’t drive a distance to take a two day clinic to get started, the vids are the next best bet. I’d also suggest getting a GP to start. That tends to remove the diving blade issue, so you can get the body mostly sorted out before adding a Euro blade. I had a huge, very long issue with a diving blade, and found that is the area that seems to most need a person spotting you to get corrected.

But the best success may lie in getting the hip snap and basic body work down on the side of a pool, hanging off a log or whatever - I got pretty good at scavaging floating logs that had good grip points - then going soemwhere at distance for a two day clinic to get help putting it together. Just try and get les and less weight on your hands. When it is almost non-existent, you are ready to add the rest.

Two suggestions…
I self taught myself and after a few weeks of struggling with a normal grip roll I switched to an extended grip and came up the first time. The extra leverage from the extended paddle lets you cheat through not having a great hip flick. Then when you have a solid extended paddle roll you can work on a normal grip roll and your hip flick with the knowledge that you can revert to your fallback w/o having to wet exit.

Also using a mask helps the confusion of being underwater, and allow you to observe your technique.

I had my girlfriend rolling in an hour with these suggestions.

In 20 years
I have yet to get in a pool or teach in a pool. Not knocking pools, but unless nature’s pool is frozen, why go to a pool??? How did the Aleuts, Greenlanders, Inuit get by? I wonder if pools become a crutch? Sorta funny really when ya step back…

I could see getting into a pool during the winter here in the upper peninsula of Michigan just to practice and keep sharp.

Pools and winter

– Last Updated: May-04-07 10:03 AM EST –

Really, the only way to retain a skill level where things freeze. Yeah, it is physically possible to put on the ice cap, the hood, the goggles, the heavy duty gloves and three layers of stuff under the dry suit to go out and try to practice in some creek stretch that is open (hence usually moving a bit as well) and spend the same amount of time working skills in 36 degree water.
But that's more commitment to discomfort than I can see if there are nice warm pools around. Maybe for the 20 year olds.

reasons to do it in a swimming pool
nice clean, warm water! :slight_smile:

(vs. the murky, stinky, green stagnant water of my local lake)

I can answer to that!
"but unless nature’s pool is frozen, why go to a pool??? "

#1: Yes, nature’s pool DOES freeze where many of us live. When you can’t go out to paddle, we got all that spare time, which would be best spend going to the pool. (that is, unless you ski, like me ;-] )

#2: The pool is also a perfectly “natural” congregation point of good rollers, shaky rollers and yet-to-be rollers, which you may or may not find in “nature’s pool”.