Directional rolling is at the heart of our kayak instruction program. Part of learning directional rolling is learning to roll on both sides (since we cannot train the river to let us tip over to just one preferred side!!).
There is always concern that starting to learn the lefty/righty/off-side/other-side roll will mess up all that hard work on learning the righty/on-side/first-side roll. We have found that to not be true based on a couple of thoughts:
1. Learning the first side wasn’t just about learning muscle memory, but learning what the hip snap/sweep/head dink/finish concepts are all about. You have to start from scratch. Often the first roll learned carries a lot of baggage picked up during the initial learning period. Moving on to the other side, there is not the concept baggage–you already know the steps; it is just a matter of learning the muscle memory.
2. Due to the learning process, the second side learned is often the better roll (note: better is different than familiar/more used).
3. The most common reason the “otherside” does not work is just from lack of use, not lack of ability.

During instruction, we often use learning the “other side” as a way to fix issues with the first roll. Learning the “other side” is a distraction from a nagging issue with the on-side roll. Learning that other side helps reinforce the stages of the roll–which makes it easier to transfer from one side to the other.

We are kayak instructors, not scientists, so our theories are all based on experiential application. But scientists are now spending more time looking at the same concept – called contextual interference in the learning of motor skills. Sounds much more scientific than our term “switching” and “learning both sides!”