How to Roll a Sea Kayak

VideoNovember 30, 2018

Learning to roll a sea kayak is an important safety skill. It prevents swims and adds confidence to your boating experience. This three-part video series from veteran kayak instructor Ken Whiting shows you how to roll a sea kayak while by breaking it down into three parts: the setup, the catch and the recovery.

The Setup

The c-to-c and sweep rolls start out from the same position. When you’re upside down, setting up for the roll the paddle needs to be next to the kayak, front blade at the water surface, with the power face down. Your head and body are out and tuck as far forward as possible.

Which side you setup on is determined by your control handle, the one that stays fixed on the paddle. If you’re right-handed, you’ll want to setup on the left side of the kayak. This is the most awkward part of the roll.

The Catch

This is the part of the roll where you grab the water with your paddle for support, so you can hip snap the kayak upright. This is also where the c-to-c and sweep rolls start to work differently.

For the c-to-c roll you swing the paddle out 90-degrees with your control-hand arm, keeping the blade as close to the surface as possible. The other forearm rests on the bottom of the boat, acting as a pivot. Watching your blade through this movement lets you maintain your power position, keeping your shoulders safe.

The catch for the sweep roll is similar, the difference is that you’ll apply downward pressure as you swing the blade out 90 degrees, in a climbing angle with the leading edge of the blade higher.

The Recovery

The recovery refers to how your body ends up in its final position on top of your kayak. If you set up well, use a solid hip snap and maintain your power position throughout, the recovery will be relatively straight-forward.

One of the most common problems in the recovery phase is the early lifting of the head. Your head should be the last part of your body to return to its position over the top of the kayak. One to the best ways to ensure your head stays down is to watch your active blade over the whole roll.

Finish your roll with your wrist cocked back slightly. That way when you bring your body forward you can scull and brace your way there. With practice, you can even use this sculling motion to complete a weak or incomplete roll.