How to Roll a Kayak with 2 Simple Techniques?

Kayaking is a fun experience until you get to see the scary part of it. And what could be scarier than a flipped kayak while you are new to kayaking.

Therefore, today I will be discussing that how to re-enter and roll kayak? Or how to get back in a kayak after its flipped over?

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So, How to Roll a Kayak?

So let’s talk about the Kayak roll first as you may experience it! What I would recommend you should have a physical teacher who could teach you to roll.

Having said that, you may also read out this guide and practice as it is possible to learn with the help of this guide that how to roll a kayak? Or a paddler would say Eskimo roll along with a helper.

A helper does not necessarily need to be an experienced kayaker, but he should at least be familiar with a process of rolling a kayak. With Sit on top kayak, it is pretty easy to roll as you will fall off the kayak and can get back in.

Ideal Water Condition

If you are just starting out with kayaking or rolling then you should start in easy water conditions. The ideal water conditions would be;

  • Calm
  • Waist deep
  • Clear
  • Warm


A swimming pool is perfect to have all these condition and it is safe to practice as well. If you can’t find a swimming pool then you can go to any water that can fulfill the above conditions.

As you get improved in rolling, you should start practicing in bit difficult conditions. Increase the difficulties slowly and steadily. Always remember that “Practice makes the man perfect“.

Tips before getting Started

1) Use a “tippy” or non-stable Kayak: Always use a tippy or non stable kayak. The more stable a kayak is, the harder it is to roll. Therefore, always try to find low volume kayak that is bit tippy or non-stable. I would recommend you to opt Low-volume whitewater boats or sea kayaks but aren’t essential.

2) Wear a mask or googles: It is important to wear a mask or googles when you are learning to roll. Having googles or mask on, you will able to see how paddle is moving and would help you to perform all necessary actions perfectly.

3) Know how to wet exit: It is a must have skill. If you are not comfortable with wet exit then you should get that before practicing to roll. Knowing, how to wet exit is a prerequisite for rolling a kayak.

Basic Principles of Rolling

There are two core rolling techniques that every person should know before rolling.

Head comes out of the water last: As you are rolling back into your kayak, aims for hips to be first, shoulders to be second, and your head to be last. If you try to lift your head early then it would put pressure on the kayak to stay upside down.

Hip Snap: It may be sound weird, but successfully rolling your kayak depends more on your hips than paddle. While rolling, paddle acts as a support while you use your hips to snap the kayak underneath you.

Hip Snap Practice

Before starting to roll your kayak with your paddle, it is suggested to use hips and try to roll a kayak right side up and bring your body out of the water.

In the practice, ask your helper to take the place of the paddle by holding your hands and giving you a support while you roll the kayak.

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Hip Snap Kayak

How to Do it?

Here are the exact steps to perform the hip snap drill;

  • Ask your helper to stand in a waist deep water along your side and have him hold your hands.
  • With the help of your helper, flip the kayak so that your head is in the water and make sure your face is not fully submerged.
  • Try to roll the kayak with the help of your hips so it can be right side up and take your body out of the water.
  • Repeat until you get comfortable with it!


Points to Remember:

These are the points you need to take care while performing this drill. You need to make sure that your head comes out last. Ones the boat is right side up then you need to start moving your body back into seat and it should be in the following manner;

  1. Hips first
  2. Shoulder second
  3. Head last

You need to look your hands to make sure that your head comes out last then it would naturally help you to take your head out last.

Video Tutorial:

Rolling Techniques – Sweep & C to C Rolls

There are two most common rolls for beginners. one is Sweep roll and other is C to C roll. And I will be teaching you both of these techniques today.

It is important to note that these rolling techniques are just for learning purpose and does not reflect that how you are going to roll in real conditions. Since after enough practice rolling becomes more intuitive than a conscious effort.

Also make sure that your helper stand nearby while you practice the roll.

Prepare for the Roll!

So let’s prepare for the roll…

Remember that both Sweep roll and C to C starts from the same position. Whereas in real world, you need to move your paddle and body at the right position after you are under the water.

Since you are beginner, then it is easier for you to roll as your body and paddle are already in the right position.

What you have to do is to go from the normal upright position to upside down in the water with your body and paddle.


Note: If you are right handed, you’re going to start with the paddle on your left side. If you are left handed, you’ll start on your right.

Note: If you are right handed, you’re going to start with the paddle on your left side. If you are left handed, you’ll start on your right.

How to Actually do it?

  • Firstly, you need to hold the paddle parallel to the kayak, it should be flat against the surface of the water. You also need to make sure that power face of the paddle blade is pointing up.
  • Now you need to tip your kayak over by tucking your head forward and leaning your body toward the paddle.
  • Ones your kayak is completely flipped, you need to move your head and body towards the surface of the water and far out of the kayak.
  • Forearms should be pressed against side of the kayak and paddle should be above the surface of the water.


How to Sweep Roll Or Screw Roll?

This is the most basic roll that people are taught while learning to roll a kayak. It is perfect for open or flat water. Although it requires a lot of space to perform the roll so it might not be good option to perform in narrow space.

It requires less setup and paddle offers support for longer period of time. However, it is little harder to learn than C to C and requires a lot of space to perform.


  • Swing the front blade of your paddle in an arch away from your kayak.
  • Watch the blade as it moves through the water while your head is still in the water.
  • Apply increasing downward pressure on the paddle as it move closer to 90 degrees. Ones it reaches the 90 degree and you feel the support then you need to use your hip to snap the kayak back underneath your body.
  • Roll your body out of the water along with back deck of the kayak.


How to C to C Roll?

C to C Roll is preferred by the whitewater kayakers as it is more reliable in rough conditions. Unlike Sweep roll, C to C roll needs a paddle to be in 90 degree first and then apply the downward pressure.

  • It is much easier to learn than sweep roll and also more consistent. It requires more setup than sweep roll.
  • Steps:
  • Swing the paddle along the surface and position it roughly to the 90 degrees.
  • Keep the blade as close to the surface of the water as possible.
  • Watch the paddle as it moves through the surface.
  • Press your left forearm up against the side of the kayak to act as a pivot point.
  • Apply the downward pressure and keep adding pressure until you feel the support. Ones you feel the support then use your hip to snap the kayak back underneath your body.
  • Roll your body out of the water along with back deck of the kayak.


Video Tutorial:

Paddle TV and Ken Whiting have created an excellent tutorial video on Sweep and C to C roll.

Common Beginners Mistakes while Rolling

Keeping your body and head too low in the water when starting to roll: You need to aim to be able to see the side of your kayak while rolling.

Applying downward pressure too early: When your paddle is at 90 degrees that’s where you get most of the support and if you apply the pressure too early then you may not get a good support to perform hip snap.

Head coming up of the water: I have been repeating it throughout the article that your head should come out last while rolling. Still there are people who try to bring their head up first which is the biggest common mistake.

Other Kayak Rolling Techniques:

There are some other kayak rolling techniques to follow which are little different from our mentions. You will be amazed to know that participants of Greenland Kayaking Championships are required to perform 35 different rolling techniques, which means there are 35 different styles of rolling that can be learned.

Advanced Rolls

These are the advanced rolling techniques that you must know as you never know when you get to use them. So it is better to stay prepared and informed.

  • Reverse Sweep Roll or Reverse Screw Roll: It is used when paddler is pushed and leaning backward underwater rather than leaning forward as in forward sweep or C to C.
  • Hand Roll: It is used when the kayaker has lost his paddle so he need to use his hands to roll.


Old or Obsolete Rolls

These are the old school rolls which used to be popular and common. You may learn those as well in case you want to tackle rolling from all the possible angles and situations.

  • Storm roll
  • Steyr roll
  • Pawlata roll



While starting up with your paddling experience, it is very much important for you to learn about the rolling skill. Rolling a kayak is going to be a life saving skill for you in many situations so do spend enough time on it.

So this was my basic rolling a kayak guide for you, but you need to understand that you are not going to roll in flat still water conditions. This guide is only to build your intuition. Try worsen your conditions and practice in more rough situations.

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