Learning Your First Roll

What to expect at your first roll session

 

 Get the fit of your boat checked by an instructor

 

If using a boat supplied by Canoe Kentucky (winter roll sessions), make sure you get a boat and spray skirt that are sized for your height and weight.  Have the Canoe Kentucky rep. adjust the fit. 

Whether using your own boat, a borrowed boat, or a Canoe Kentucky boat, get an instructor to check the fit of your foot brace, thigh braces, hip pads, and back band - you may need to remind them.  Get the instructor to show and watch you put your spray skirt on your boat.

 
 
 

 Get comfortable on the water and paddling right side up

 

If this is the first time you've been in a kayak, get used to paddling it around.  You can take your sprayskirt off your boat if you feel safer doing so.

 

 

 With an instructor, learn the hip snap 

 

When upside down in a kayak, instinctively, most people do more of a push-up type move to pull themselves up out of the water - head coming up first.  To get the kayak roll, you must now learn to override this instinct and do the opposite.  The head must come out of the water last!  The instructor will show you how to do this for the type of roll you are learning, and will guide you along as you practice this.  This is a learned behavior, and, for most people, you are trying to override a powerful instinct.  It takes most people awhile to get it.  You might get this easily on the side of the pool, but most people totally revert back once they get a paddle in their hands.  This is considered the most important part of the roll.

The instructor may get you to do this move without a paddle on the side of the pool.  The instructor may also have you hold onto their hands, or a floatation device of some kind away from the side of the pool as you practice your hip snap.  On the side of the pool, you can get into the habit of using a lot of force with a bad hip snap and keep rolling up.  With their hands, they can get a better idea of how much force you are using, and with a floatation device, you will sink it if you apply too much force so you can get immediate feedback.

 
 

 Work with the instructor to review the roll sequence, and experience it under controlled conditions with a paddle

Your instructor will start out very hands-on; putting you in the start up position, flipping you over, guiding your paddle, and starting you on the roll...you need to do the hip snap at the appropriate time.  The instructor will repeat this many times.  You are trying to learn a fairly complex sequence of moves that involves a lot of body parts, and the timing between each.

 

He or she may get you to practice your hip snap on the side of the pool for a time, then go back to working with you on the roll.  As you start to get the movements, the instructor may start getting less hands-on, but will still be there to get you upright if you don't roll all the way up.  Just drop your paddle in the water and tap on the side of your boat when you want to come up.

 
 

 Learn the wet exit

  Sometime during your first roll session, your instructor will show you how to do the wet exit - this is the name for the manuever used to get out of your boat while upside down.
 

 What to expect your next few roll sessions

 Practice

Practice your hip snap on the side of the pool.

Continue working with your instructor to learn the roll.

Repeat until you and your instructor think you are ready to roll on your own.

 


 

 Learn to get and give a bow rescue

With your instructor, and another boater in the pool, learn how to get a bow rescue.  The technique is pretty much the same as if you were doing a hip snap from the upside down position on the side of the pool - you are just using another boater's bow instead of the pool edge.

Learn how to give a bow rescue.

 
 
 
 

 Practice, practice, practice

 
Practice on your own or with a partner who is working on their roll.  Get the instructors help again if you need it.  If the first roll attempt fails, get set up and try another one.  Call for a bow rescue if you miss the second attempt, and only then a wet exit if you don't get a bow rescue soon enough.  
 
 
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