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Kayaking Fundamentals: Mastering the Offside Roll

Learning the offside roll—and practicing it—is important for preventing that unwanted swim. In this portion of our Kayaking Fundamentals video series, kayak instructor Ken Whiting goes over the steps for setting up and mastering this necessary safety skill.

The offside roll is simply a roll where you set up on the opposite side that you’re used to rolling from. It’s a great skill to learn, especially if you’re a whitewater boater, or a touring boater who is playing in the surf or around rock gardens. These water conditions and obstacles can interfere with rolling on the side you’re used to.

The offside roll is also very handy if your natural roll fails. If you can recognize that the roll isn’t going to make it, the offside roll can come to the rescue. When you get part way up but sense you’re not going to succeed, you can quickly move to the other side of the boat and use the flipping momentum of the boat as it rocks back to help lever you back up in the roll.

The biggest challenge when learning the offside roll is overcoming your weak side. Everyone has a strong and a weak side. The only way to strengthen that weak side is with practice.

The twist of your paddle can also make the offside roll more difficult. During the offside roll your leading wrist will be in a different position during the setup and catch-phases of the roll, than it is on the other side.

During the setup for your natural roll, your leading arm’s wrist will be cocked inward slightly. On the offside, your wrist will be straight. It also affects your recovery; when you finish the offside roll, your wrist will be cocked back quite aggressively. This is another reason straight paddle shafts are becoming more popular.