Rolling

Rolling your kayak or canoe, where to begin? Well firstly rolling isn’t a way of distinguishing who’s a better paddler and a lot of young paddlers put pressure on themselves that they can’t roll. Rolling is one of many skills in canoeing and whilst it is very useful and important to be able to do as you move onto more challenging water. Surely though getting the basics correct first and ultimately not needing to roll is far more important? That all said this is an article about rolling so here we go. I’m not going to tell you how to roll, instead I have attached three excellent videos below which will teach you far better than I can ever put into words. Instead I’m going to give you some top tips.

Rule One, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but before you start to roll you need to know you are happy getting out of your kayak or canoe. You must be able to capsize calmly, take your time and get out of your craft without rushing and panicking. Then you need to get happy being upside down in the water for a few seconds. I bet if you put your face in the bath you could stay under for 10 second or more easily, so why the mad rush to get out. Once you are happy with all of this it’s onto rolling.

Rule two, don’t panic! Yes we’ve been through this, but now you are learning to roll, what’s the rush? You know you are happy under water for a few seconds, so take your time. Set up your paddle, when you’re happy start your roll and finish it correctly. The second you rush any of the rolling processes you can guarantee it won’t work. Your paddle won’t be on the surface, the angle won’t be correct, it will dive down and not across the water and you’ll bring your head up first. Another reason for taking your time, is as you move onto bigger water, you don’t really want to roll up immediately back into the rough water that flipped you over! Instead take three seconds, count them in your head, set up, once happy off you go. This will do two things, you’ll be correctly set up and you will have drifted out of the rough water and hopefully into something calmer.

Rule Three, So it didn’t work first time, then try again. If you have been able to get a gulp of air, you know you’re good for a few more seconds so give it another go. It’s generally always worth giving a roll a few goes, rolling is far easier than swimming, retrieving and emptying a boat. It is also in many cases safer to be able to stay in your boat, although it might not seem it at the time as your head is bumping along the bottom.

Rule Four, Roll on both sides. So you’ve got a good roll on one side, you’ll have a dominant side. But sometimes you’ll need to be able to roll on the other side. River current or paddle position means being able to roll on both sides is very useful. It is strangely tricky to learn something you can do easily on one side, but not on the other. It will come with practice and with the video tips below well worth persevering with.

Rule Five, Practice! Like any paddle stroke, you need to practice rolling. Learning in a warm pool is one thing, but flipping over in January when you’re not expecting it is another experience altogether! So it is vital to practice regularly and on the river. Get yourself ready for the cold shock! As you feel yourself going over remind yourself of rule 1 & 2, also remember rolling will be much warmer than swimming. If you are practicing, have a friend close by in their boat to T rescue you. Now I’m not saying once you can roll to go and practice in January, but when its warm enough and you are happy, try to do a roll every now and then. When you are happy you can get up every time, start to move into the moving water and gradually build this up until you are rolling in the biggest waves at HPP.

This leads onto nose clips and goggles. I have never used either, but I totally understand that in the beginning in a pool, it is useful to wear them as it helps you see the position of the paddle under water and repeated water up the nose. But you will never be wearing either when training or racing so it is vital you learn without them, once you have got the basics. I personally keep my eyes open underwater too, even in the murkiest of water I can still see my paddle.

Rule Six. Possibly the most important rule. Have fun, don’t give up and don’t get upset that someone else’s got it and you haven’t. You might find you can roll on your first session or it may take weeks. The key is to not give up and keep smiling. If you are struggling get someone to film you and study what you are doing wrong? No hipflick, heads come out first, it’s always pretty obvious. It really doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get it, it will come.


Below are three videos from Glenmore Lodge. They teach you all the stages of rolling and make it very obvious and simple to understand.

Part 1 of 3
Part 2 of 3
Part 3 of 3

I hope you have found this information helpful. Any questions please contact you coach or ask me.

Written by Adrian Croome