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Kayakers learn safety roll technique

Published on 12/4/2013

Kayakers learn safety roll techniques

by Rhonda Schwab, Clinic and Training Chair


The Washington Kayak Club’s annual Eskimo Roll Clinic was held this past October at the Evergreen Pool (in Seattle) with some amazing results. Each two-hour Saturday morning session was built around helping kayakers either begin to learn a kayak safety exit roll or finish achieving their roll. Kayakers aged 20 to 65 attended, with 8 to 14 students in each of four sessions. 


We also had some great club volunteers who happily gave of their time and experience to help others master this important safety skill. Our ratio was an awesome two students per instructor. This allowed each student to get much more time, focused training and tips on their roll technique.  


Our main objective was to work on the basic sweep roll. This is a very efficient way to roll your sea kayak or whitewater boat. It’s the most commonly used because it’s reliable, easy to learn and works in most circumstances. Other participants wanted to work on their C to C kayak roll.  Still others wanted to go even farther and work on the hand roll technique. 


According to, “The Inuit people have been rolling their kayaks for many centuries; for them, the ability to roll was a basic survival technique. A missionary, writing in 1765, described ten methods by which an Inuit righted his craft, including full- and half-paddle rolls, and rolls using the harpoon or just the hands. A significant observation in the account is that once the paddle was positioned, the kayaker applied 'a flick of the hips' to recover.”


Even though roll training ended in October, students are encouraged to attend more open pool sessions to keep practicing, as well as look for a roll instructor. These instructors are very willing to help them hone their skills.


We had a great turn out this year, and I want to say “Thank you” to all the wonderful instructors who took the time to volunteer. Because of them, 90 percent of the students mastered the roll technique after their fourth session! Congratulations everyone!!




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