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Chicago Whitewater Association

Rolling Videos


Which Roll?

C to C roll

Pro's: Easy to learn, face is protected
Con's: Longer set up, not as bombproof as a sweep, puts a lot of stress on your joints, requires extra flexibility

Sweep roll

Con's: harder to learn
Pro's: bomproof... less set up time... little stress on your joints... your face is protected

Back Deck Roll

More of a sea kayak roll than a whitewater kayak roll, the main reason being is that it exposes your face to the bottom of the river.

Learning to Roll

student learning to rollLearning to roll can be frustrating, particularly when you are just getting started. Here are some tips, suggestions and even some videos to get you a great hip snap, dropped head, and a smooth roll up.

  • Take a class. CWA has pool sessions in the fall and winter months, this is a great time to learn basic skills and practice your roll in a controlled environment with a plethora of instructors and aids more than willing to help you. There are some open pool sessions where you can also go and practice on your own, and most likely ask a random stranger for some advice which most will be more than happy to provide for a few minutes. there are a few other Pool classes out there where you could possibly learn your roll as well - COD for instance.
  • Take a workshop with a Paddle Outfitter. Bear Paw and Geneva Kayak offer kayaking outtings, some of which may work on the roll. check into these other offerings for classes during the summer. most of these take place outdoors and provide a great natural learning experience.
  • Practice with friends at a safe location - calm river with very little current or a pond or lake.
  • Watch a rolling video. There are more than a few rolling videos out there but one of our favorites is Grace Under Pressure, its a bit old school and cheesy but does a great job. A newer video that is highly reccomended is Eric Jackson's rolling and bracing video.
  • Bribe someone to work with you personally, i'm sure there are a few club members that would be willing to help

Tips on rolling:

  1. Expect to swim and get wet when you are first learning. we all swim, even the best paddlers.
  2. Tuck immediately, this gets you in the correct setup position and keeps your head and body safe from any obstructions. If you hit something be patient and try to roll when you feel you are in a safe position to do so. Note: it also helps if you keep your mouth closed (teeth and tongue are a bit more protected)
  3. Wait 2-3 seconds in your tuck to get out of the water feature that flipped you, this usually allows you to achieve the same speed as the current and will make it easier for you to roll.
  4. If you are in a wavetrain try to roll at the bottom of the wave
  5. Keep your head down until you are fully upright. a majority of all failed rolls tend to be caused by heads lifting too soon or trying to get that initial breath (which means your head is the first thing up). Some good ideas: watch the paddle blade, watch your watch - this keeps your head in the right general direction.
  6. Practice, practice, practice. the most typical issues with rolling: head coming up, no hip snap, paddle diving. ideas on fixing those: keep a mantra - "head, hips, head hips". Try doing a double hip snap, pushing down with the one side while lifting on the other - this can be a great way to strengthen your hip snap and get that SNAP you may need to get up. Practice doing big braces (Bronco Billy is excellent for this), this will help with your hip snap and make it more instinctual and stronger overall. Paddle diving can be a hard one to fix - but for a sweep roll try to watch the paddle float along the top of the water instead of yanking on it. One thing that works for a few of us is when setting up push your front blade wrist over a little extra, this can sometimes make it stay on top of the water a bit longer and reduce the diving. Another thing you can try is at the end of a sweep pull your wrist back a little extra, this can also keep the blade on top of the water and keep it "floating" on top instead of cutting into the water and possibly diving.
  7. Ask someone for help, they may see something that you can work on or provide helpful advice on what works for them.
  8. Pick a roll and stick with it. These days most people are doign a sweep or some variation, but if a C-C works for you then stick to it!
  9. Comfort, most of our paddling is cold weather paddling so make sure you have the proper gear on- this will make rolling in cold water a bit more bearable, if not a bit more cumbersome. You'll be glad you had the gear on particularly if you swim!

NOTE: if you do swim, stay calm, get some air and try to hold on to all your gear. We've all been there, but the more calm you are the easier it will be to help you. And by all means do NOT tip over your rescuer and please KICK YOUR LEGS to help us get you and your gear to the side of the river quickly and efficiently.

Chicago Whitewater Association is a 501(c) non-profit organization. Chicago, Illinois

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