kayak roll
Credit: Kayak

What kayakers should keep in mind when learning this self-rescue technique

Contributed by Dan Seaman

Learning this self-rescue technique can allow a paddler to turn a flipped boat upright (usually a kayak, but also a canoe) without ever getting out of it. There are lots of different rolls, and for beginners, what type of roll you use is a matter of comfort. For a more experienced paddler, the situation dictates the sort of roll you use. These situations may vary according to where and how you hold your paddle, which direction you roll the boat, and whether your torso ends up on the front deck of the boat or the back deck. Below, you'll find some basic principles that are important for any type of roll:

It's all in the hips: Beginners will want to force their way up using upper-body strength. That will work sometimes, and always leave you tired. An experienced paddler will rely on the hip flick. In a properly executed roll, the upper body is used for some resistance, and the hips power the rotation of the boat. You should be able to roll without a paddle at all.

Keep your head down: Naturally, you'll want to get your head above the water as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, bringing your head up first will change the centre of rotation and make the roll more difficult to execute, and so your head should be the last thing to leave the water.

Practice, practice, practice: A solid roll will increase your confidence and pleasure in paddling challenging water, but it's not a natural maneuver. Practice is the only thing that will allow it to become a matter of muscle memory. Eventually, you'll be able to execute the move without even thinking about it.

Swing both ways: Once you've learned to roll on one side, learn on the other. On some occasions, you may not be able to roll on your preferred side (such as if your boat has been pushed against a rock), and you'll need a backup option.
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