learning to roll


Now that you have the time, but not the water - its a great time to learn to roll in your Backyard. Learning to roll on land, is harder than in the water, but will help you to master the positions you need to get your body in to, to successfully roll in the water.

I prefer to teach a standard C-to-C roll because it promotes good rolling technique from the very beginning and it helps to develop paddle dexterity. It also appears to be the most accurate for rolling up in whitewater, with the highest success percentage.

It is easiest to think of this roll in 3 distinct steps:-

1/ The set-up position

2/ the sweep out or second position

3/ the flick up or hip snap

This way the student only needs to focus on three distinct tasks or movements, and this may make the process easier in the long run. I have explained the positions below, and all can be done on land. Just remember that down the track, the waterline will run along the edge of the boat.



1/ The set-up position

The set-up position is by far the easiest to accomplish. You simply need to remember to lean as far forward in the kayak as you can, with your head towards the deck. Push your paddle up beside the kayak with your dominant arm to the front. The paddle should be as high as you can push it, so when in the water it is at the surface or above the surface of the water. your back hand will be positioned near to or behind your hip.

2/ the sweep out, or the second position is achieved by simply moving your dominant hand our to the side at a 90 degree angle from the previous position, or from the boat. This is the same motion as the first half of a sweep, except that the paddle blade should stay at the same angle, which is on the surface of the water.

This movement requires that the body rotates slightly, ending with a curve in the spine towards the surface, or the back hand, which is still positioned in the same placement. Now push the back hand slightly higher, and if possible around the kayak, so that you are effectively hugging the kayak in your armpit. You will be in a C position with your spine, now at 90 degree angle to the boat. Push the dominant hand ( the sweep hand) up towards the heavens ( the surface of the water). Keep the arm either along the line of your ear/ head or slightly in front of this.

3/ The next step is to initiate your hip flick, or hip snap. To right the boat we need to roll it from the capsized position to a righted position, this should be done with a combination of our hips and knees. The flick or snap part of this comes from the movement where you drop or force the hop and knee on the side you are wrapped around away from you.

Practice this movement sitting on the ground and lifting one side of your bottom off the ground. Usually you will lean your head the opposite way to balance. If you let your head fall back to the opposite side, and also force the hip in the air, towards the ground, you can generate some force. this is the force that allows you to right the boat.  If you use the same movement but with a greater distance, you will be able to move the kayak from on top of your body, to underneath your body ( often referred to as body over the boat).

At the same time, you can pull down on the paddle blade in your dominant hand. This is the blade that is out the side. As with a high brace, it will afford some more purchase on the surface ( land or water) and allow you extra "oomph" to right the boat, and initiate the hip flick. Points to remember are: You will need to make sure that the dominant paddle blade is sitting flat on the surface of the water; as you hip flick, and therefore roll up or right the kayak, you will need to drop your head towards the dominant hand/ blade. This means it will stay in the water or on the ground until last. If you lift this, this kayak will not right. You Should end up in an upright position, with your spine curving in the opposite direction to position 2. Hence, the C-C.

Learning to roll is not intuitive. It takes lots of practice, and certainly can be harder in the water as you can get disoriented. However, practicing on land, can help you get this movements in place, so that when we can practice in the water, you will already be ahead of the game.