Bob and Karen Online | Bob Foote Online | Karen Knight Online | Who is Bob | Instruction | Tips | Trips | Kayak Building | Contact Us

Tips and Techniques - Roll Up and Stay Up



Common Mistakes in the Open Canoe Roll

After teaching the open canoe roll to literally hundreds of people, I have observed several mistakes that are common to most paddlers. In this technique tip, I am going to make the assumption that you already have a roll. Here are some hints on how to make it better.

The Set Up

The purpose of the set up is to get into the correct body position to initiate the roll. The paddle blade should be on the surface at a 90 degree angle to the keel line. Your back should be arched, your shaft hand touching your forehead, and your face looking down.

The common mistakes of the set up are:

  Failing to keep the leading edge of the blade angled to the surface so that it will not dive.

When sweeping out, going past 90 degrees. When your torso passes 90 degrees, you are calling into play smaller, less efficient muscle groups.

Not having your back arched so that the stomach muscles are stretched (or preloaded).

Not keeping the shaft hand at the forehead. The shaft hand must be kept at the forehead to prevent shoulder injury. When the shaft hand is extended away from the forehead, it puts a great deal of pressure on the shoulders.

Looking up instead of down. The natural tendency is to turn your head up to look at the surface. This simple motion is deadly to the roll. Turning your head rotates the shoulders so that they are no longer parallel to the surface. You end up in a position where the shoulders are perpendicular to the surface. This will shift the emphasis away from your stronger abdominal muscles to weaker lateral muscle groups.

The Roll

Now that we’ve analyzed the set up, here are the common mistakes made in the roll phase:

Pushing down with your hands and arms, pushing down with the hands and arms, pushing down with the hands and arms! Get the point?

The biggest mistake made in this stage of the roll is to push down with the hands and arms instead of pulling up with the on-side knee and pushing down with the off-side knee. Once you are in the set up position, think of floating the paddle with little or no downward pressure. From the belly button on up, you are totally relaxed and just floating. From the belly button down, you apply the power to your legs and they do the roll.

The Recovery

The recovery phase is where many rolls fail. How often has this scenario happened to you? Good set up, rolling, I’m up, up, oh no! splash… More often than you’d care to remember? Then try to avoid these common mistakes:

Attempt to complete the roll with your head located above the on-side gunnel. This leaves you off balance and in a perfect position to tip right back over.

Moving your head from the on-side to the offside gunnel slowly. This is the only part of the roll that needs to be done quickly.

Bringing your head up as it swings across the gunnel. The head needs to be kept low (tickle the hair on your nose as it crosses the gunnel!) when crossing from the on-side to the off-side gunnel.

Trying to bring the paddle all the way across the boat, following your head. Don’t worry about where the paddle is, it’s your head and torso that need to move across the boat to stabilize it.

The roll should be graceful and effortless, not a brute strength muscle move. If your shoulders or arms hurt after rolling, then you are doing something wrong (and should read this tip again!). Want more help with your roll? Check out my video "The Open Canoe Roll" listed on the Products page of this site.

Bob and Karen trust to create and maintain this site
To find out how to help your business succeed contact their Web Designer
© Web Design By Jason