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Rolling is a huge landmark in kayaking progression, but for a lot of folks, it can oftentimes feel like there are roadblocks every step of the way. The winter time is a great time to practice rolling in a local pool. Whether you’ve lost your roll, or are learning to roll for the first time, try to implement some of these tips to see an improvement in your roll technique.

1.) Outfit your kayak properly
If you own your own kayak, then the boat ought to be a perfect fit to your body. Having your kayak be an extension of your body is the key to efficient rolling. If you’re unsure about how to outfit your boat, consider some of Jackson Kayak’s outfitting solutions like the Sweet Cheeks, Happy Feet, or my personal favorite, the Happy Seat. I find that the Happy Seat gives me the best boat control as it helps push my legs up into my thigh braces and doesn’t leave me flopping around in my boat. I also never have to worry about my knees popping out. If airbags aren’t your speed, you might want to think about gluing some foam inside your boat to get that glove-like fit. Ask around on forums and talk to more experienced boaters in your community for more detailed instruction on adding foam to your boat.

2.) Relax
A lot of folks who are trying to get their rolls have a lot of tension in their body and they don’t even realize it. Take some time when you’re underwater to raise your body awareness. Are you tensing up anywhere? A lot of folks will translate tension to their arms which will cause them to pull too much on the paddle and make rolling more difficult.

3.) Take video
Smartphones are an invaluable tool for improving roll technique. Have a kayaking buddy film you so that you can watch yourself back. You can slow it down, compare it to videos of others, and self-diagnose your rolling troubles even without a more experienced paddler or instructor present. It’s also great for tracking your progress and sharing with friends when you nail your first roll.

4.) Mind your feet
A really common mistake is for people to be pushing on their feet when they roll up. Some might swear they’re doing a hip-snap when in reality they’re pushing on their feet. This results in a lot of misdirected energy and will make rolling seem harder than it needs to be. Take the time to focus some bodily awareness towards what your feet are doing.

5.) Keep your head down!
Chances are if you’re learning to roll, someone has shouted at you to keep your head down when you’re rolling up. But why? It’s not just the fact that your head weighs almost ten pounds, it’s also about what lifting your head up to the sky does to the rest of your body. When you allow your head to come up before the rest of your body and your boat, you’re instinctually pulling up on the wrong knee (high knee), rather than your rolling knee (knee doing all the work). This immediately pulls you back underwater, and is what is known as “carping”. Overcoming your body’s natural desire to get air as soon as possible will help you relax and keep your head looking down into the water until the last moment.

6.) Be stylish with some goggles
Being underwater is a disorienting and sometimes scary place to be hanging out upside down. Wearing some goggles can help to alleviate some of that, as well as help you see what you’re doing. Don’t worry about what other people think! Rolling is totally your time to progress in your own way and goggles are a valid part of the learning process.

7.) Get a second opinion
A huge part of my journey learning how to roll was getting lots of different people’s opinions and tips. It may sound crazy, but the way one person says something might just make it click for you! Don’t be afraid to ask other paddling friends to look at your roll and give some tips because they might just spot something different than everyone else has.

8.) Take a knee out
One problem that a lot of people struggle with is pulling up their opposite knee as they’re rolling, which I mentioned before. One helpful tip is to take out whichever knee is not your rolling knee so that you aren’t tempted to pull on it as your rolling up. It can also help you isolate the specific muscle groups that you ought to be using to power the most efficient roll possible.

9.) Do it often
Your muscles have memory! Practice your roll as much as you can wherever you can and you’re more likely to retain all those good habits. Nothing beats good old fashioned hard work and dedication towards mastering the roll to really solidify those.


10.) Get comfy underwater
Your comfort level underwater has a tremendous effect on pretty much everything else you do when you’re rolling. If you can overcome the mental hurdles of being upside down in the water, then a lot of other things will follow suit. Some exercises you can do are things like holding your breath while your watching TV to increase breath holding time, counting underwater before starting your roll, etc. Anything that you can do to eliminate the initial panic you might experience from flipping over will help you to roll in almost any scenario.

11.) Get your paddle to the surface
A huge part of setting up for success is successfully setting up! Make sure that before you do anything with your paddle underwater, you’re in the best setup you can possibly be. That means getting your paddle on the surface of the water so that’s it’s in the best possible position to help you right the boat.

12.) Have fun!
It’s extremely cliché to say, but learning to roll should be fun! If you find yourself getting too frustrated, just know that’s only going to hurt your chances of getting the roll down. Remember to enjoy the learning process and celebrate the small victories.

I hope that these tips help some of you out there who may be having trouble with your rolls or are just starting out rolling for the first time. Hopefully I’ll see you on the river, rolling all the way!
Katelyn Green