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Kayak Rolling Sessions

Kayak Rolling Clinic with Coastal Maine KayakSeasonal Indoor Pool Kayak Rolling Clinics:
Are you interested in learning to roll your sea or whitewater kayak? Do you want to improve your roll or learn another type of kayak roll? Practice makes perfect! Bring your boat to try your hand at the ultimate self-rescue. To participate, you must demonstrate an effective wet exit before you can join the class. We provide the kayaks, safety equipment, and Registered Maine Guides and ACA Instructors. Ages: 14 years or older or have a parent present in class.

Cost is $99.00 per person


Types of rolls

There are two general classifications of rolls – brace rolls and sweep rolls

Brace rolls are those that primarily use bracing actions of the paddle, hand or other device to provide righting momentum for the paddler.

Sweep rolls primarily use sweeping motions with the paddle, hand or other device. An example of a brace roll is the C-to-C, as described below. The Screw roll is an example of a sweep roll.

There are many types of kayak rolls. Some are traditional rolls developed in the Arctic by Inuit, Aleut and Eskimo, while others are modern and have been developed by participants in the sport. The following are a few commonly taught and practiced rolls:

The C-to-C Roll is one of the most common types of rolls taught to newcomers, particularly whitewater paddlers, to the sport of Kayaking. It involves an initial torso rotation along the side of the kayak, so that the paddle moves across the surface of the water to a position at a 90 degree (right) angle to the kayak. The paddle is then pulled across and a hip snap is applied. This simple, efficient roll which gave birth to modern kayaking was invented by Ken Kastorff, current owner of Endless River Adventures in Nantahala, NC. 

Sweep Roll
The kayaker holds the paddle in the normal position and places it alongside the kayak. It is then pushed “down” out of the water and, like the Pawlata roll, swung out perpendicular to the kayak with one blade on top of the inverted kayak and the other out as far as possible. The paddle is less susceptible to interference from turbulence the further it is pushed out of the water. From this position, the outward end is brought “up” and across the boat. The kayaker can lean back to get a faster roll speed (hence the screw name from the arc described by the movement) and to reduce their momentum at the expense of the leverage momentum. A strong hip flick is usually required to complete the roll.

The downsides to this roll are that there is less of a lever created by the paddle which can be a problem especially in turbulent and aerated water. However, as the kayaker’s hands are not moved, there is less chance of losing the paddle, and it is fast so a failed roll can normally be re-attempted without running out of breath.

Hand Roll
This is rolling without the aid of a paddle. For the hand roll, the strength and timing of the hip flick are especially important, because the hands provide much less torque than a paddle blade. A common practice technique is to “swim” sideways to the side of the pool or another boat to pull yourself up while in the kayak. This gets the kayaker used to the motions. A swimming float, large pop bottle, or a diving fin can be used to increase the lifting effect of the hands until the technique is mastered.

An “offside roll” begins with the paddle parallel to the boat on the side of the paddler’s shaft hand. The paddle is flipped over, swung close to perpendicular to the boat,and brought over the boat to the side of the paddler’s T-grip hand. The paddle motion alone provides very little leverage as the paddle can’t move through the water very far. This does not allow for very much force to be applied to the paddle and a hip flick is essential for the offside roll to succeed. It can be used in a C-1 but also can be used by one paddler of a C-2 in order to roll the boat in the same direction as the other paddler, without having to actually switch which side their paddle is on.

Knee straps or ties are normally essential to allow the paddler to twist the canoe with their lower body and so that they can stay in the boat while it is upside down. Similar techniques are used for open canoes.

Back Deck Roll
A back deck roll is most often performed when the boater flips while leaning back. If rolling with the right hand, the right forearm is brought to the forehead, with the paddle blade flat to the water. The left hand is kept at the left hip. Then, the hip snap is performed, and the paddler uses a forward sweeping motion to right the boat. This roll is advantageous because it is very quick, and the ending position is sitting forward with the power hand blade in the water.

Elements of a Sweep Roll


Initial or Setup Position The initial position places the paddle alongside the kayak. The active blade will be angled so as to glide on the surface of the water.

Sweep The sweep of the paddle from the initial to final position provides the needed rotation.

Hip Flick or Hip Snap The hip snap is a critical element in a roll. This action consists of rotating the lower body to one side so that the kayak begins to right itself. Different roll types require different kinds of hip action. Brace rolls tend to require a rapid hip snap while sweep rolls tend to require slower hip rotation. For many kayaks, once the kayak hull is rotated past its secondary stability point, it will tend to assist the paddler in righting themselves.

Ending or Final position Each roll has a desired ending position. In a “layback” roll the torso will be lying on the back deck of the kayak at the end of the roll.

Keeping the Head Low The paddler’s head should remain in the water until the very end of the roll. Raising the head too early is a common reason for rolling failure.

Kayak Rolling clinic with Coastal Maine Kayak