Image via Rod McLean

Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of kayaking or consider yourself to have strong kayaking skills, knowing how to roll your kayak may be one of the most important techniques you’ll ever want to know.

We will discuss the importance of learning how to flip a kayak and a few of the essential steps in performing a successful kayak roll.

The Benefits Of Knowing How To Roll Your Kayak

Flipping, rolling, it’s all pretty much the same thing. Most new kayakers often ask, “Are kayaks easy to flip?” The first time you get into a kayak, it might feel like you’ll tip over, but most people don’t. The goal of kayaking is to stay upright and out of the water, so you might be wondering why it’s beneficial to know how to do a kayak roll.


The main reason to learn how to flip your kayak is for your safety. Even if you paddle around on calm water, such as lakes, there’s always the possibility that you could find yourself out of your comfort zone and in a dangerous situation.

Most kayakers that know how to roll do whitewater kayaking or take their kayaks out on the ocean; these types of waters are unpredictable. Rolling or flipping your kayak is not just another “cool skill” to learn, it can is an essential survival skill. While most kayakers hope they never have to roll, at least they know how when the time comes.

You Can Paddle More Places

Learning essential kayak safety skills can also expand your options for kayaking. Until you learn how to flip a kayak, you should stick to the calmest of waters. Once you learn how to roll, you can take your kayak out on waves and rapids. Being able to add a little versatility to your kayaking routine may ultimately make your adventures all the more enjoyable.

Become More Confident

The more skills you learn as a kayaker, the more confident you become. While it’s always recommended that kayakers go out with at least one other person, knowing how to roll your kayak is an essential skill to understand just in case you get separated from your group, and you find yourself in a dangerous situation.

As a more confident and skilled kayaker, you might also be a better kayaking partner and have the ability to stay calm and helpful if a crisis occurs on the water.

Where To Learn A Kayak Roll

As kayaking grows in popularity, people can buy a kayak almost anywhere, and many hit the water right after they purchase their kayaks. Even though kayaking is a relatively easy watersport to learn and is an excellent option for people of all ages, there are a lot of inexperienced kayakers on the water.

Learning how to do a kayak roll

Image via YouTube

Learning even just the basics of kayaking may be your key to survival in a dangerous situation on the water. Taking a kayaking class is one of the best ways to learn necessary safety skills, including how to do a proper roll in your kayak.

Since kayaking is becoming more popular, there may be some kayaking classes available in your area. Check with local outfitters, community education, or even stop at your sporting goods store and see if there are classes available. Even if it means traveling to a nearby city to take a class, it’s worth the skills you learn.

While some kayaking classes take place at an indoor swimming pool, you might learn how to roll outside on a calm body of water.

How To Flip A Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you own a sit-on-top (SOT) kayak, you might be looking for some specific sit-on-top kayaking tips. SOT kayaks are a favorite type of kayak because they are more stable and less likely to tip over while you’re on the water. If you do tip, it’s much easier to get back on the kayak.

It’s important to remember that if you are an experienced swimmer (or kayaker), you should always wear a life vest. In the event that you do tip over and fall into the water, you can use more of your energy getting back on the kayak rather than trying to stay above water.

To get back on your SOT kayak, you need to turn it right side up; this is relatively easy to do since there is no water inside of your kayak. If you need help, ask your kayaking partner for assistance.

You should climb back onto your SOT kayak, much like you would get out of a swimming pool. Start at the back of your kayak and slide your body back to your seat; keep your body low and keep your legs in the water, straddling your kayak. If this doesn’t work, you can try entering from the side of the kayak. This video gives you an excellent visual of what to do if you flip in a SOT kayak.

Learning How To Roll In A Sit-In Kayak

Since sit-in kayaks are more vulnerable to tipping over or being capsized due to waves or strong current, learning to roll can be life-saving if you are in a kayak accident. There are several kayak rolls that you could learn during a kayaking class, but if you can’t learn them all, here are a few common ones to consider.

As you learn each roll, be patient, stay calm, and remember that you will have to practice each roll many times before you “master” it; just do your best. If you’re uncomfortable about going underwater, you may want to focus on breathing underwater and learning to remain calm before you attempt to learn a kayak roll.

While each roll may sound a little overwhelming and maybe even a little impossible, you can get a better visual of a roll by watching videos and don’t forget you’ll learn more from a kayaking instructor.

Sweep Roll

If you learn a roll in your kayaking class, this may be the first (and maybe the only) roll you learn. This roll is ideal for open water as the sweeping motions of your paddle takes up quite a bit of space and your kayak will move a lot, too.

To do the sweep roll (also known as the screw roll), you make a broad sweeping stroke, from the bow to the stern, while upside down. The sweeping stroke should be done on the side of the kayak that you’re rolling up. During the midpoint of your paddle stroke, your body should come to the surface. You will snap your hips and roll to a sitting position.

C To C Roll

This roll, which is sometimes known as a vertical roll, is named for the types of paddle strokes, two arcs, you make in the water. One stroke goes out over your head, and the other goes down in the water to bring you back up.

Some other common rolls include the hand roll or the reverse sweep. If you are interested in learning a specific kayak roll, ask an expert or your kayaking instructor.

What To Do In An Emergency

A kayak roll is designed to help you avoid an accident and get out of a dangerous situation, but what if you’re unable to roll your kayak back up? If possible stay with your kayak, even if it’s overturned and you can’t flip it back over.

Unless you can touch the bottom of the body of water that you’re kayaking on, avoid attempting to swim to the shore. Even strong swimmers can lose their energy and put themselves at greater risk of cardiac arrest, particularly in colder water.

Assuming you are wearing a lifejacket and have an emergency whistle on your vest, blow the whistle and signal for help. Even though capsizing and not having the ability to get back onto your kayak can be a scary experience, it’s important to stay as calm as possible and try not to expend energy if necessary.

Being prepared for an emergency, whether you learn how to flip a kayak or bring essential safety gear, can prevent you from losing your life on the water.

Whether you’re going kayaking with a group of people or on your own (which is not recommended), always let someone know where you plan to go kayaking; this can be valuable information if you need to be rescued or if you go missing.