How to Eskimo Roll your Kayak

February 16, 2010

Eskimo rolling whitewater kayaks is probably the single most important skill for any kayaker. Sooner or later you WILL find yourself upside down in the water, and you must be comfortable with this, as well as knowing how to successfully roll your boat. The most important thing is stay calm and relaxed throughout the roll. Taking a class or working with an instructor in shallow and flat water is the best and safest way to learn the Eskimo roll.
The first thing you want to check is that your kayak fits you correctly. You will not be able to execute the Eskimo roll unless your knees are pressed against the underside. Wear a helmet, life jacket, and nose plugs when learning the Eskimo roll. There are a number of designs and models of whitewater kayaks; make sure you are practicing in a boat you will actually be using in rapids.
The first step in setting up a roll is tucking your head close to the front of your kayak. Move your paddle to the side (keeping it out of the water), and twist your torso over the side of the boat, using your left knee to push the boat into the water.
Position your paddle so it’s on the water surface parallel to the right side of the kayak. Loosen your grip and hold your paddle gently between your hands, stay relaxed at all times and maintain steady breathing patterns before you immerse yourself under water.
Engage your rolling knee (or right knee) and push this knee up against the inside of the boat. You will then make a wide, sweep through the water with your paddle away from the kayak, avoiding resistance while your knee is engaged inside the boat. Make sure you keep your head tucked into your shoulder or your sweeping arm. This will help increase power.
Keep your head tucked as you come up to the water surface. Lifting your head too soon will cause you to roll back under or place unnecessary strain (and pain!) on your shoulders. When you complete your roll and are facing forward again, quickly take a stroke to center your body in the boat. Now take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back, you just completed your first Eskimo roll!

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February 16, 2010

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