Of the four steps to the roll: set up, sweep, hip snap, recovery/finish, it is the recovery/finish position that too often gets overlooked by beginner paddlers, and written off as not necessary by experienced paddlers.


The recovery/finish step of the roll centers your body and paddle over the kayak. Following through with the recovery/finish position ensures that you are balanced over the kayak and ready to paddle.


To make sure you are following through with the recovery/finish position, use this checklist each time you execute a roll.  This checklist can also help point out potential flaws that might have occurred during the earlier steps in the roll.


  1. Is your paddle positioned perpendicular to the kayak balanced over the centerline of the boat when you finish your roll?

Think of your finish position as essentially forming a triangle in relation to the front end of the kayak and each of the paddle blades.  Each blade should be the same distance from the bow of the kayak at the end of the roll.  Each blade should also be balanced from side to side over the centerline of the kayak.


Things to look out for:

Is your paddle angled or your body twisted relative to the centerline of the kayak?


Moving your paddle blade so that it ends up angled to either end of the kayak at the finish of the role will set up a less-than balanced position in the boat.  A perpendicular, to the side, paddle (relative to the center line of the boat) sets up the strongest position for momentary resistance during the hip-snap and a strong balanced position for bracing in case you get blind sided by something that tries to flip you again.


Moving the paddle beyond perpendicular to the centerline of the boat can twist your body or get your paddle blade behind your body.


Your body should not be twisted in the boat. Make sure your shoulders/torso are centered perpendicular to the kayak, a position which allows for a strong hip-snap. Keeping square to the boat helps stop your paddle blade perpendicular to the kayak so that it does not angle off center.  If your paddle blade ends up behind your body, it increases exposure to your arm for a combination of extension and external rotation.









Extension and External Rotation:

These are two of the three common positions that can lead to a shoulder dislocation.



  1. Is your paddle blade up out of the water at the end of the roll?


Make sure your paddle is positioned perpendicular to the kayak at the finish of the sweep, before doing the hip snap.  Slide the paddle in across your body to the balanced position talked about in #1.  If you draw an arc that would scribe the path of the paddle blade during a sweep from the bow to the stern of the kayak, the point of greatest resistance for doing the hip snap is when the paddle reaches a perpendicular position.  Hip snapping sooner than perpendicular or sweeping the paddle blade beyond perpendicular can cause the working blade to sink when doing the hip snap. Another cause for the paddle blade to end up under the surface of the water at the end of the roll could come from not getting the paddle blade out of the water next to the boat at the start of the roll.


Things to look out for:

If you roll up and the tip of your working blade is under the surface of the water, you may not be centered over your boat.






If you are off balance, your weight will be hung up over that side of the boat, thus dropping an edge and causing the opposite knee to engage.  Another possibility is that you started your roll with the working blade submerged. Remember your paddle is like a balance pole used by someone walking a tight wire.  If your paddle is not centered over the kayak at the finish of the roll, it will cause everything to be unbalanced.




  1. Is your kayak slightly over-rotated?


If you do a right hand roll, your kayak should be edged slightly to the left at the end of the roll-or vice-a-versa. You will have more butt weight/pressure on the side of the seat opposite the side you just rolled up on.


This is done shifting your weight from one hip to the other while regaining your centered position. To help ensure this shift, make sure to push you head/ear against the shoulder that comes out of the water last.  Don’t just lay it against your shoulder; push it against your shoulder.  This pressure will contract all the muscles on that side of your body, from your head to your butt, which will automatically raise the edge of your kayak ensuring a strong finish.


Things to look out for:

Your weight is still edged toward the side of the boat that the working blade is on (the working blade is the blade that swept out during the roll). Hanging on that edge sets you off balance. In addition, hanging on that edge will engage the wrong knee, which in turn creates a reverse hip snap, and forces the kayak to roll back in the direction it came from.  You need to, consciously send your weight over to the other edge of the kayak by moving your rib cage (belly button) across the boat, away from the working blade and purposely drop the opposite hip.  This is almost impossible to do if you have not followed through with the paddle and centered it as explained in #2


  1. Are the knuckles of your hands rolled back to your chest with your paddle shaft as close to your chest as possible?

Think of this as the “clean and jerk” position” with both hands equal distance to the center line of your body and the paddle shaft as close to your chest as possible. This position is very balanced and strong.  It also ensures that your arms are in front of your body in a position that protects your shoulders.  This is the same position a person is in when doing a pull up.  The bar is held very close to the body, which is the strongest position.


Things to look out for:

Using the same “clean and jerk” analogy, imagine lifting the bar to your chest prior to lifting the weights over your head.  Stand with your back arched and holding the weights balanced from side to side against your chest.  If you did this motion and pushed one hand up away from your chest, what would happen? You would immediately become unbalanced and drop the weights to the side.  If you pushed one hand forward away from your chest, you would lose your strength and balance and the weights would drop forward.


Pushing up–or forward, with either hand at the finish of the kayak roll cause a loss of control, balance and strength.  If you push your hand forward, the working blade will end up behind you, putting the paddle in weak bracing position. This in turn sets the working shoulder up in a very exposed position for both extension, external rotation, leading to potential dislocation.


  1. Is your back arched, your chin up and your ear against your shoulder, eyes looking up at the end of your roll? Whew, a checklist in itself.



It is a domino effect here: the chin up/eyes looking up will automatically help arch your back and keep you square to the boat. Arching your back will then help disengage your abdominal muscles and open up your hip rotators for better flexibility. Head down will keep the wrong knee from engaging.  All this ensures a powerful hip-snap.


Things to look out for:

Look where you want to go! Looking back down into the water is countered productive.


One of the number one rules in kayaking is that you should always be looking where you want to go. Look up!


Leaning forward or back. While leaning forward in essence brings your weight back across to center, it also engages both knees (like when you do a sit-up) which will kill a hip snap.  Number one issue in leaning back is exposure to the face if you miss your roll.  But just as counter-productive is the fact that if you are leaning back, your weight is taken back behind your balance point and now not only are you out of balance, but weighting the back edges of the kayak—making you more off balance!  Arching your back is good–leaning back is bad!


Thinking it all through!


The most balanced position you have in kayaking is with your weight balanced squarely over the boat.  You execute the roll when you have lost your balance and have ended up upside down. The point is to roll the boat back underneath you and regain your balance.  Anywhere in that process a mistake can be made.


The recovery/finish step of the roll is the best place to diagnose a mistake occurring during the roll.  Freezing your position at the end of the roll and using the above check list will help catch a little bad habit before muscle memory kicks in and that once “little” bad habit becomes a well engrained big bad habit.


Your goal is always to do a perfect roll. Does that happen every time? Of course not, but that does not mean that you can’t make a mental note of a bad roll to make sure it does not start happening consistently.  “Losing your roll”, happens because you let bad habits become muscle memory. Following through with the recovery/finish will get you back into the most balanced position you have in a kayak.  Use this check list each time you practice, bad habits will disappear and you will end up with a killer roll.