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The Kayaker's Pledge: Improving Your Kayak Roll

I love teaching all aspects of kayaking, but I love helping paddlers improve their roll the most. Over the last few years, I’ve incorporated the term "kayaking pledge" into my teaching. If you’re struggling with your roll or helping another paddler improve their roll, I would encourage studying the etiquette of the kayaker pledge.

Each arm has a job and a region it must stay in during the roll. The non-rolling-side hand usually gives paddlers the most trouble. For example, if you are rolling right, your left hand can really mess up your roll if it doesn’t stay in its region. If you see a person punching across their body, out toward their bow, or over their head, they could benefit from learning the pledge, which helps keep your back hand where it belongs.

The Kayaker's Pledge: Improving Your Kayak Roll

The kayaker pledge can be incorporated into any type of roll. In the picture above, my back hand (left) will bend at the elbow and come right next to my shoulder, forming the pose I call the "pledge." (Once, a weight lifter turned paddler said, "The back hand performs a clean and jerk motion.")

The Kayaker's Pledge: Improving Your Kayak Roll

This summer, while waiting for our day-trip to start, we practiced the kayaker pledge on dry land. All of our boats and paddles were loaded in the van, so I grabbed this well-used paddle to demonstrate. I stress that the back of your hand should rub on your PFD as you roll up.

The Kayaker's Pledge: Improving Your Kayak Roll

Next, I like to practice the etiquette upright in the boat but all geared up. If you have more of a kinesthetic learner, you can give them a rock, flip flop, or sponge to put in their armpit. When they begin their roll upside down, remind them not to lose the object in their armpit. Below, the left hand does the pledge. For some learners who are more logical/mathematical it helps to think of the pledge hand as the fulcrum upon which the lever (paddle) pivots, or from which the paddle sweeps out.

The Kayaker's Pledge: Improving Your Kayak Roll

After each roll, I instruct the student to look at their finish position, adjust their body position to have perfect etiquette, and give their muscle memory a chance to remember the correct finish position.