How to Roll a Kayak [Video]

In this video, kayaking expert, Ken Whiting, explains the two most common methods to roll a kayak.

learn how to roll a kayak

There are two basic methods: the C-to-C roll and the Sweep roll.

These are “learning rolls.” With experience you’ll develop you’re own “instinctual roll” that’ll feel right for you.

The end goal is the same: To get your paddle in a position to catch enough water, pull your head and shoulders back up and get you upright in your kayak again.

3 Steps in Rolling a Kayak

  • Set-up
  • Catch
  • Recovery

Let’s break down each step:

The Set-up

The side you set up on is determined by your control hand. If you’re right handed, you’ll set up on the left side of your kayak, so your control (right) hand is toward the front. For lefties it’s the opposite.

  • Place your paddle alongside your kayak with the front blade flat to the water’s surface and the power face up (as in the screen shot below, except you’ll be upside down in the water!).
  • Tuck your head and body forward and turn your upper body towards your paddle.

learn how to roll a kayak

The Catch

This is the most awkward part of the roll, and also where the C-to-C and Sweep rolls start to differ. Your goal is to grab water with your paddle blade for support so you can hip-snap your kayak upright.

  • It’s important to keep a power position as you bring your paddle out to 90º to keep your shoulders safe. To do that, rotate your upper body with your paddle to keep your hands in front of you.
  • When you pull down with your paddle, you’ll feel it catch the water. That’s when you hip-snap your body and pull the kayak upright.
  • With the Sweep roll, you start applying the downward pressure into the water as you sweep the paddle out to 90º.

learn how to roll a kayak

The Recovery

The Recovery is how your body ends up in its final position back on top of your kayak. Here are a few pointers:

  • Set-up well, use a strong hip-snap, and keep your power position strong for a straight-forward recovery.
  • Most people like to swing their body backward a bit as they’re rolling up to lower their center of gravity. Some prefer to come up on the front of their kayak. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just a matter of what’s most reliable for you.
  • A common mistake is bringing your head up too soon, which could cause you to fall over again. Your head should be the last part of your body out of the water.
  • A great way to be sure you keep your head down is to watch your paddle blade all the way through the water.

learn how to roll a kayak

As you can see, this skill of rolling your kayak takes technique, strength and lots of practice! Being in good physical condition will help you master this much more easily.

Watch the video to see how these techniques work together. Then get out there and practice! If you can, take some lessons from a local kayak expert.

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