Whitewater Kayaking Essentials: The Roll, Part 2


As I discussed in my last kayaking essentials post, there are four key components to learning a successful roll: Comfort level, paddle technique, head position, and hip snap.

So why is the roll important? Well, the roll significantly affects your safety, skill
progression (both mentally and physically), and the amount of fun you can have on the water.


Taking responsibility for yourself is an important factor that deserves a whole discussion on its own, but learning how to roll is moving one step closer to that self-responsibility. Swimming or “wet-exiting” is present at all levels of whitewater kayaking. As the saying goes, “we’re all in between swims.”

On another note, staying in our kayaks is a safer option. You want to make swimming your last option because it not only puts you at risk but the team of paddlers your with as well. Push yourself by trying to roll in harder eddy lines and rapids. Get comfortable being upside down in your kayak.

Progression/Fun Factor

Learning the roll is the single most important factor in your progression as a whitewater kayaker. The combat roll (rolling in moving water) is a huge confidence builder, both mentally and physically.

Mentally, it’s hard to have too much fun on a river when you’re worried about rolling over, swimming, and everything else that goes through your head as a beginner. When you start to nail your combat roll, 99% of the time, the river is a completely different place.

On the river with Zoo Town Surfers

Instead of worried and terrified, you start to have fun and turn the river into a dynamic, fast moving playground. You never lose respect for the river; you just mentally learn how to turn fear into fun.

The dangers are still present but your mental confidence allows you to be aware of these dangers while still having fun. (That’s not to say you’re not going to scare yourself sometimes..)

Physically, staying in your kayak allows you to have more fun in your boat than outside of it.

Once you learn how to confidently roll, it will open up a whole new window for playing and having fun. You might see the river in a completely new way! Sometimes just getting to the put-in and take-out can be a challenge!

I would love to hear your thoughts, questions, or stories about learning to roll in a kayak.

PS: Keep your booties clean, because you never know when your gonna have to drink a beer out of them!!! (More on that in my next post…)


Visit Jason Shreder's blog archive  The water might be cold, but Jason’s got tons of awesome kayaking posts to keep you warm in his blog archive.


Jason Shreder plans to keep on shredding in 2012.

Jason Shreder is the owner of local whitewater company Zoo Town Surfers. He loves Missoula, the great community, and all the awesome water that surrounds it. He’s constantly moving and 90% of that movement involves kayaking, rafting, working, and hanging out with his awesomely supportive girlfriend and dogs.