Tips on how to flip or roll a kayak on the water

November 3, 2015

Kayaking is a fun sport and a good way to get exercise and see nature, but kayaks can sometimes capsize and turn over. Beginning kayakers should learn at least one way to flip, or roll, a kayak before going out; flipping allows them to turn over without exiting the kayak. There are a number of ways to flip a kayak including the screw roll, the back deck roll and the hand roll.

Tips on how to flip or roll a kayak on the water

1. Screw roll

  • The screw roll is one of the most commonly used kayak rolls and is good for beginners.
  • To execute it, make a long pull with your paddle on the side you intend to flip toward. This should cause your body to crest the surface of the water.
  • The moment that happens, snap your hips in that same direction, which should cause your kayak to come back upright.
  • Screw rolls are useful but can take up a lot of room, so they may be unsuitable for situations in which kayaks are tightly packed together or there are many rocks or other obstacles.
  • Because the sweeping motion made with the oar can move the boat a lot, they may cause the boat to destabilize and flip again, especially on rough waters.

2. Back deck roll

  • The back deck roll causes a kayak to flip very quickly. In fact, properly executed, a savvy paddler can begin to flip a kayak over before it's actually upside-down.
  • To execute a back deck roll, lie back all the way and look over your left shoulder, assuming you are right-handed.
  • Hold your paddle parallel to your kayak on the boat's left side.
  • Allow your boat to capsize if it hasn't already done so.
  • Hold your paddle directly in front of yourself, perpendicular to your body, with your arms straight, imagining that you're creating a rectangle shape. You'll need to maintain this shape throughout.
  • Look to the left and move your paddle in that direction, then snap your hips to flip the kayak.

3. Hand roll

  • Hand rolls are notoriously difficult to accomplish but can be executed even if you've lost your paddle.
  • Once your kayak has capsized, lean to one side, turning both your head and your chest downward. Moving in this manner is substantially different from the pose you assume for other rolls.
  • Push down on the water with your left hand and begin to snap your hips, then push down with your right hand.
  • As you breach the surface of the water, swing your body upright again.
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