How to Roll in a Kayak – A Complete Guide For You

  • By: Joshua Greenwald
  • Date: August 13, 2022
  • Time to read: 12 min.

For a kayaker kayak rolling is a very important skill, it helps the kayakers in many situations. If you don’t know how to roll in a kayak then you are trouble before you expect it. Every kayaker you have in mind would have the skill of rolling in a kayak because without it many of the places would be off limits for you.

The surf, sea, the white water or even the familiar can be dangerous for you, and the need for rolling your kayak can arise, and for that time you need to learn the skill of rolling a kayak. if you are kayaking and your kayak flips at that time you won’t be able to scream and would want to get air, nothing of this will happen if you know how to roll in a kayak.

In this guide, we have explained the complete procedure of rolling a kayak. There is no rocket science in doing so. You just need to stay focused on your goal. So, what are you waiting for? Have a look at these steps and methods and try out to find the best and most suitable one for yourself!

How to Roll in a Kayak?

Rolling in a Kayak is a fun and a great way to exercise, some people usually like to roll their kayak for fun. The kayakers for practice try to roll their kayaks in a swimming pool and as they get expert they try it in the sea.

Rolling a kayak is not a very difficult task and it does not require any unusual strength or any unusual skill, it just requires a little effort. You can follow the following easy steps for rolling in your kayak. Let’s have a look at them:

Step 1: Lean far Forward

The first step is to lean far forward from your waist so that your chest is on your foredeck with the paddle being held parallel to the kayak. This step is important for the sweep roll method.

Step 2: Follow the Forward Blade

The next step is to follow the forward blade where you need to sweep the power face of it. You also need to arc the blade toward the stern with your back arm being the pivot point. Make sure you have kept the blade from sinking as you sweep.

You have to maintain a sculling angle on the blade as well. It means that angling the blade is necessary so that the leading edge is slightly higher than the trailing edge. Thus, it results in creating a lift.

Step 3: Hip Snap the Kayak

When you sweep the forward blade out to 90 degrees, you use your paddle for supporting your body to float close to the water surface. Here you need to keep the hip snap of your kayak upright while keeping your head in the water.

You must be thinking how weird this step is! Let me tell you that the hip snap step is the most important step to perform in a roll and it is a skill that not everyone got. We recommend you initiate the sip snap step by driving your lower knee skyward.

Step 4: Swing your Body Back to Center

The last step to rolling in a kayak states that when you are done with hip snapping your boat upright, you need to swing your body back overtop of the kayak. We can say that it is the key to completing a roll without falling back in the water no matter if it is a small water body or a large one.

It would be best if you keep your head down till your hip snap has rolled the kayak completely upright. It will be helpful in getting your head out of the water as quickly as possible.

Best Place to Learn Roll in a Kayak

If you are looking forward to learning how to roll in a kayak as a beginner then a swimming pool or calm water that has no obstacles in it will be the best place to start with.

Well, I would suggest if you are practicing rolling over in a kayak then you should choose the swimming pool. It is because in a swimming pool you do not need to worry about anything such as the water temperature, water depth, etc. moreover it provides you a safe space to learn.

Other than that, while practicing it would be better if you have someone with you that can help you. The second person can help you if get into any difficulty or can help you to stabilize your kayak.

5 Best Methods to Roll in a Kayak

There are many ways you can roll your kayak depending on the situation you are in. You cannot roll your kayak in any way in any condition because all kayak rolls are not suitable for all conditions. Some of the most common ways how you can roll in a kayak are elaborated below.

1. Sweep Roll

Sweep Roll

The sweep is also known as the screw roll, it is the most commonly used kayak roll. This role is not so complex and does require much skill. Whenever a person starts learning how to roll in a kayak he starts with the sweep roll, it is because it is safe and very easy.

The great thing about this roll is that it does not require much setup and can offer you more support from your kayak paddle. If you are kayaking on flat and open water then the sweep roll will be perfect. And the sweep roll keeps you protected from any accident. But the bad thing about this kayak roll is that it requires more space in the water, so do try it if you don’t have much space in the water.

The sweep roll is explained below in steps so you can understand it clearly.

  1. First, lean far from your waist so much that your chest reaches your foredeck with the kayak paddle held parallel to the boat
  2. Use the power side of your forward blade to sweep to the side, such that your back arm would be at the pivot point. At that point, make a sculling or climbing angle with the blade to save your blade from sinking while you sweep.
  3. While sweeping forward use the paddle as a support to keep your body floating to the water surface.
  4. Then while keeping your head in the water hip snap your kayak upright, in any type of roll it is the most important step. Hip snap means rotating your hip to the right while your head is still in the water
  5. After hip snapping uses the paddle as support and swings your kayak over the top.

But when performing a sweeping role make sure while hip snapping your head remains in the water. It is because if your head is not in the water then you may fall.

2. C To C Roll

C To C Roll

If you are a kayaker and often go to the white water for kayaking then the C to C roll would be best for you. Its name is C to C roll because of the two C-shaped arcs that you will trace with the paddle. This role is not much complex and is easy to perform.

Moreover, it is also not dangerous it is completely safe. To perform the C to C roll the water must be rough and open, it is a fast method and can be executed in narrow spaces. The things which are great about the C to C roll are that it is completed stable and can be executed quickly.

It does not take much even for a beginner to learn because it is very easy to learn, and it is best for narrow spaces. But the bad thing about the C to C roll is that it requires more initial setup, and the paddle’s blade needs to be deeper in the water.

The C to C roll is described in the steps below:

  1. Keep the kayak paddle perpendicular to the kayak
  2. When you are under the water make sure your body is tucked in for flipping
  3. While sweeping make sure your body sweeps out well perpendicular to the boat
  4. Once you have swept the paddle do the hip snap
  5. Pull your elbows down, it helps to finish the roll well
  6. Your movement while rolling will be much more comfortable if you sit up back straight or lean back

3. The Pawlata Roll

The Pawlata Roll

The pawlata roll is the most useful and is related to the screw roll, it is considered the best roll to start with if you are a beginner. The pawlata roll is very easy to learn and can be learned just in a day if you have a good tutor.

Well, first you need to position yourself by sitting upright in a kayak. The back of the kayaker should be slightly curved to the forward and should be twisted on the side where he wants to capsize. When using this method make sure you are fully focused and your hand’s grip on the kayak paddle is good.

Keep your forward hand at the center of the kayak paddle, as the angle of the blade will be controlled by this hand. Then use your other hand to hold the center of the tip of the rear blade.

To start the roll, twist your position and bent to the side of the boat so that your waist is towards the paddle and your chin touches the center of your chest. While going underwater make sure you hold the kayak paddle tightly by locking your arms against the side of the boat, just to save your paddle from carrying away in the water.

When you are underwater and feel that the boat has settled then start sweeping using the kayak paddle. But while sweeping make sure you don’t make any mistakes, the common mistake which people make is that they start pulling the paddle down instead of sweeping.

Then use the hip flick trick to roll your kayak, in the hip flick trick the waist and hips of your body act as the universal points for rolling your kayak. While rolling your kayak make sure that the rotation of your body is in a rolling action of the kayak.

The rotation of your body is very important in the hip flick trick because it is the rotation of the body that helps you to drive the paddle in a wide sculling sweep in the water. Make sure while performing the hip flick technique your head comes out at last, or it can ruin your roll.

4. Back Dell Roll

Back Dell Roll in Kayak

The back roll is also known as the reverse sweep, this method is carried out by leaning your back against the kayak. If you are not a kayak rolling person and can’t spend much time in the water then the back dell roll would be best for you. In this method, you don’t need to put your body in a specific position to secure yourself, and you do not have to spend much time upside down.

The best thing that people like about the back dell roll is that you can roll backward and do not even need to position yourself specifically. And using this method your kayak rolls quickly, which minimizes the time spent upside down. But the bad thing about this method is that it is hard to maintain stability with the kayak.

5. Hand Roll

Hand Roll

The hand roll method is the same as it sounds from its name, it is the role that is performed without a kayak paddle but with only hands. To perform the hand roll you need to make a fin-like shape with your hands. And then with hands push against the water when you are doing a hip snap. The hand roll trick is very cool to see but it is a little hard to perform and execute properly. But many like to learn this trick because it is the only lifesaver trick that can help you if you lose your kayak paddles.

The best thing about the hand roll technique is that it not only rolls your kayak but also boosts your confidence that you can do a roll even without paddles. The setup to perform the hand roll is a very quick setup. But the only bad thing about this roll is that it is hard to perform and requires a lot of practice.

Why You Learn Rolling in a Kayak?

If you are a regular kayaker or not you need to learn how to roll in a kayak, because the need for rolling your kayak can arise anytime. The proper paddling techniques and safety while rolling are some essential skills that need to be mastered by every kayaker.

There is no such water even plain water that keeps you safe from rolling when you are kayaking in any water such as white water, rough water, plain water, etc. at some point you need to roll your kayak.

Another thing you must keep in mind that always keep yourself strapped in while kayaking because if you are not strapped in then while performing a roll you can fall.

How much time does it take to learn rolling a Kayak?

Learning a kayak roll is not an easy task and the time it takes depends on the person who is learning. It is because every person has their physical skills, learning skills, and body awareness level. Some people which are good at these things catch the rolling technique just in one session but the ones who do not have much skill take a very long time to learn.

Generally, a normal person with normal skills requires only two to three 90 minutes sessions with a good instructor to learn how to roll. Just like depends on the person’s skill it also depends on the instructor and how much time a person would take to learn how to roll in a kayak. Well, if you are not regular at practice then it may take weeks or months to do your first unassisted kayak roll.


How easy is it to roll a kayak?

The basics for rolling a kayak are quite easy, you just need to flip your kayak upside down and then hold the kayak paddle for balance and support. And then with the help of the paddle roll yourself back to its correct position.

What is the purpose of rolling a kayak?

Rolling a kayak is very essential, especially for the people who go for some serious whitewater kayaking. When in some problems during kayaking swimming does not work so well as compared to staying in the kayak and rolling it.

Can we roll a kayak without using a spray skirt?

Yes, a kayak can be rolled easily without the help of a spray skirt, but I would not recommend you a kayak roll without a spray skirt because it does not provide you with much stability.

How to roll a kayak without using a kayak paddle?

A kayak can be rolled even without a kayak paddle using the hand roll elaborated in this guide, but this method should only be used in an emergency in case you lose your kayak paddle.

Can we roll a sit-on-top kayak?

A sit-on-a-top kayak can be rolled but it is a little difficult because it is designed for maximum stability in the water.


Most people want to roll in a kayak easily but they don’t feel comfortable underwater, that’s why those type of people needs to practice rolling because the more you practice the more you become an expert.

For any kayaker rolling in a kayak is an essential skill that he should master at any cost if he plans to go kayaking on rough surfaces such as fast-moving water or white water. If you ever find yourself capsized then use the Eskimo roll as it helps you to bring the kayak to a correct position.

Whenever you perform a roll and get stuck underwater unable to perform the technique, never panic you should always stay calm and focus on the technique.

As it is an important skill that everybody practices, make sure you practice it in a safe place such as plain water where there are no obstacles or danger. And when practicing make sure you have someone with you that can help you if you get in any trouble.

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