Monday, July 5, 2010

Rolling, The steps.

I break rolling into four steps, and I give each step descriptive names like the movements of Tai Chi.

Step one, Dragon Bows His Head.

Bow your head as close to the deck of your spray skirt as you can, while putting both hands in the water, with the paddle parallel to the kayak. The further you can reach into the water with the paddle, the better. This is what many call the set up position, and it comes from whitewater, as it's designed to protect your head.

Step two, Dragon Spreads His Wings.

If you set up with your hands in the water on the left side of your kayak, you can then roll your kayak to the left. You are now upside down, and underwater, but you are in the same position as you were before you rolled. If your hands were under water before, they should now be above water. Reach for the sky, and get your hands as high out of the water as you can. You should feel the cool breeze on the backs of your hands. The keel of your kayak is dry, It is time to spread your wings. Your left hand will move as close to the center of your kayak as you can, it should be somewhere above the left cheek of your bottom. Your right hand comes out and away from the side of your kayak, so the paddle is now perpendicular to the keel line of your kayak. In other words, your paddle and kayak now make a 90ยบ angle. Your left hand is resting on the hull of your kayak, your right hand is gently holding the paddle shaft, hopefully just out of the water. Your wings are spread. You are ready to fly.

Step three. Dragon Shakes His Tail.

Hip Snap. If your left hand is on the hull, and your right hand is hopefully just out of the water, you are bending your torso to the left. Snap your hips, and bend your torso to the right. Snapping at the waist, not the feet. Your feet are just along for the ride. Your head must be the last thing out of the water. This is the mistake that most people make. It is completely natural for instinct to make you pull your head out of the water, but it must be last. The boat must be mostly upright, before you raise your head. If you have done your hip snap, with the kayak mostly upright, the paddle should still be parallel to the water - as much as possible - and your head is just about to leave the water, you have shaken your dragon tail.

Step four. Dragon Flies Forward.

The kayak is mostly upright. Your head is in the water. Your paddle should be close to parallel to the surface of the water, Give the gentlest push with the paddle, and straighten your torso. You are now upright in your kayak, ready to do a forward stroke, because everything comes back to the forward stroke, because that is where we are most stable.

This is the C to C roll, called that because of the shape your body makes in the water, A C to the left (Dragon Spreads His Wings) and a C to the right, at the end of the hip snap, with the kayak mostly upright and our head still in the water. I think it is the easiest roll to learn, and is a great foundation for other rolls.

In the video you will see the same roll, on the same side, from multiple views. From the bow, then the paddle shaft. Then from a camera mounted on the bottom of the boat, so you can see what my hands are doing when the kayak is upside down, then the side of the boat for a slightly better view of my hands. And finally from the top deck, on the stern of my kayak. This last view is in slow motion, and something to notice is my head. It comes up last, and deposits a large amount of water on the back deck of my kayak. This is a good indicator or your head coming up last. When you do it, it feels like a sheet of water sliding off your face.

Because I can be a touch hyper-critical of myself, I would like my paddle to be a little more parallel to the water. There is always time to practice.

rolling from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.


  1. Excellent narrative with video to boot.

  2. We like this. But we think the water is very murky.

  3. Brilliant, PO. Providng the separate movements with a clear "visual" descriptive (as in Tai Chi) makes it very accessible to those of us who learn best with the aid of images. Duncan.

  4. glad you all like this. I thought a lot about how to do it. But yes, the water is VERY murky.