Four things that suck about my rolling

It’s not an excuse, however I have been investing so much time in helping others to roll that my own ability has been suffering. A recent comment on my blog made me realize that I should spend some quality time afloat and work on tuning my rolls. With the exception of perhaps one roll I can still execute them all, however with what style? A hurried, damn it get it done, kind of style, not a graceful elegant one that I try and teach. So I will pick apart the video I posted last week and self-diagnose what is going on.

Torso rotation

I don’t know how many time I have written about the need to be able to rotate your core when rolling, but apparently I have forgotten to stretch recently. If you are interested in my stretching routine you can read about it here . What are the consequences of not rotating sufficiently? The best/worst example that I saw when I watched the video is my hand roll.


In this roll my shoulders are almost vertical, this causes me to sink lower in the water and thus requires me to use massive amounts of arm action to lift myself out of the water and onto the back deck. Until I get my shoulders flat again I will be unable to progress with any advanced layback hand rolls.

Blade angle
In any layback roll using a paddle it is preferable to keep the paddle at the surface. When on the surface the blade will provide far more support to brace once you are up and you are less likely to roll back in again. In examining the Standard Greenland Roll from the video the paddle blade ends up below the center of the video screen. The camera was 6 inches below the water’s surface so it is safe to assume the blade had sunk 6 – 12 inches.


This image shows the blade angle is very flat. When using my Novorca/Kayakways Razor paddle a flat blade creates sufficient lift to maintain the paddle at the surface but with the paddle I was using in this video a flat blade dives and so I need to remember to rotate my wrists very slightly to keep the blade skimming the surface.

Move the kayak first
When you can roll well it is easy to start rolling poorly by forgetting the basics. In my earlier article subtlety not strength I pointed out how little force was needed to complete forward finishing rolls. Despite this knowledge I filmed a demonstration of a poorly executed (forced) reverse sweep roll. The key to knowing it was a bad roll was the absence in movement of the kayak until I executed a pry recovery. The kayak rotation should start as soon as you begin the paddle sweep forward.


In this case the kayak was still fully inverted and my body was perpendicular to the hull. I can get away with this because the pry recovery is very powerful. However in surf with aerated water the lift generated by a pry may be insufficient to right the kayak and my body so it is important to start the kayak rotation early and use the full power of the paddle.

Slow it down
If you watch the video you will see just how quickly I am executing many of the rolls. Speed may be useful in a competition or in some combat situations but, during practice, speed allows you to power through rolls. Instead if you can slow down it forces you to focus on the correct body position and motion and ensures you protect all your joints and muscles rather than risking injury.

So my takeaway for the week, practice, practice and practice some more.

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