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The Eskimo Roll - How To Roll a Kayak Safely

Aug 17, 2007
This is the best way how to roll a kayak. The kayak roll or "eskimo roll" is the most consistent way to right a capsized kayak. This exercise will also help you learn balance and control. If you don't have a pool at your disposal to practice in, try a river or lake where the water is somewhat still.

First things first:

You'll need to have an experienced friend or a certified instructor to help you with this exercise.

Without your paddle, have the other person gently roll you and the kayak over into the water 180 degrees until you're completed submerged. You should then be guided upright 180 degrees so you can become accustomed to the full range of motion. This will also help you become more comfortable with the idea of being briefly underwater.

Now, we'll get to the most important motion in the roll - the hip snap.

Using your partner, lean your right arm on his/her shoulder as you lean your kayak to the side. As you slowly approach the water, tighten your abdominal muscles and try to press your left ear to your left shoulder, thus raising your head just above the water while you and your kayak are practically on its side.

Something to keep in mind is that while this motion seems to lead with the head, your torso will do the work. The hip snap is the key.

How To Roll a Kayak - Let your hips lead.

Assuming that you are now leaning to the right, being supported by your partner, quickly snap your hips to the left to bring your body upright.

How you do this will be to abruptly press your right knee upward while simultaneously press down with your left butt cheek. Use the muscles in your midsection to drive this motion.

You will want to lift your head so you can breathe better but you need to try to resist this instinct. Leading with your head will make the motion harder than it needs to be.

Repeat this action as many times as you can, progressively using your partner's support less and less. You want to get to point where you can complete the roll by yourself from a state where you are upside down underwater.

Once you perfect the kayak roll and the hip snap, you'll naturally find you have way more balance and confidence than you had before. Fear of being underwater is very natural so don't worry if this all takes awhile to get.
About the Author
Kayak Advice offers lessons for the beginning paddler as well as a buyer's guide and kayak vacation planner for the kayaking enthusiast.
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