A word about rolling

One of the most common requests we get from our students is “can you help make my roll bombproof” or some other similar wording for what we like to call “a smooth, reliable, and effortless roll”.   I will attempt to start a bit of advice here on the roll and continue to expand on it further in future entries.  No promises as to when the future entries will take place though.

First, get away from the idea that you need a specific roll. C-C, Back Deck, onside/offside, Greenland, Butterfly, Sweep Roll, etc.   Its all too much jargon, it can serve as usual starting point, but we tend to get hung up on terminology. Instead what we should be addressing is the “quality of the roll” .

I just got through with about 3 weeks of instructor courses and we talked a lot about rolling and the teaching of the roll.  To start with, ask yourself 5 questions about your roll.

  1. Is your roll smooth and effortless?
  2. Does it hurt you or put strain on your?
  3. Does it start with your body near the surface and ending near the surface?
  4. Does your roll rely on large muscle groups to function and does it tend to bring the boat around first and the body/head out second?
  5. Does it finish in a strong paddling position?

If you can check yes on most of those, especially 1 & 2, then you are on right track.  If not, read on.



Here is a slightly different spin on the same topic I wrote some years back.

Rolling can be a tricky thing.  Many people have thoughts on it and various perspectives.  It is often hard to know what is the best approach or the best roll.  What I and many other instructors have come to think is that there is not one best way to roll (probably while thinking our own way is the best one :).  If a variety of friends, fellow boaters, or instructors are giving you advice, you may be confused and overwhelmed by the different versions and prescriptions.  When seeking out a source for rolling advice I would look at the following things.

Look at your would be instructors roll first.  If it it appears smooth, graceful, and effortless then check consider lending an ear.  Next can they break down what they are doing and relate it back to you in way that makes sense?  Can they adapt their approach to your situation?  If yes, then continue to contemplate what they have to say. Finally, can they analyze what it is you are doing and present you with a potential remedy? If the answer is yes to these, I would begin to listen to what the yahoo has to say on rolling.  There are a wide variety of folks who may fit this criteria who you boat with regularly or recognize from a video or have had a lesson from in the past or present.  

The following statements I find important to remember when it comes time to discuss or teach a roll.  These are what I consider universal ideas that apply to most all rolls.

  • A good kayak roll is smooth and feels effortless. If it puts strain on you, it needs more work. 
  • Most all rolls start and end with the body/head at the surface of the water.  This is most evident in the c-c roll or EJ rolls, but is also true of the sweep and rodeo rolls.
  • The boat comes up first or at the same time as the body.  
  • A good roll is driven from and relies on torso and/or hip movement. 
Keep these in mind when you are working on or trying to improve your roll.  Here is a bit of a video I recently put together on rolling.  Be patient with me as this is my first time putting one of these together.  You can slow it down with the pause feature to look read the tips or more closely analyze a movement.  Happy rolling!

Here are a few of my favorite links from the inter webs on the roll.

This link is a great start and Chris’s presentation I think is pretty spot on and non-dogmatic.   He’s not selling you on anything, except a speedo.

Sort of Slow Jam with Jimmy Fallon meets good rolling ideas and a solid video presentation,   So hip!  Love a good pun.

A bit wordy and technical, but he’s so nice, Hey!    I like Ken’s presentation on the back deck or rodeo roll the best. I don’t believe in climbing angle for the sweep roll 🙂

More back deck rolling and good ideas, everything is cooler with sunglasses.




Then there is this fellow.  It makes me want to shoot myself. Yes, it is for real. You can always get yourself and Hi n Dry after learning from this video.

In short, stick that paddle out there a bit and do something to rotate your boat a bit!  One day I swear I will do my own video, this one needs some editing.  🙂

Keep Paddling and Roll – On.   We offer rolling sessions and private lessons, use our calendar to see the schedule.  Our weekly practice nights are on Wednesday evenings !