Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

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Cavemud
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Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Cavemud »

Hi all

I haven't been paddling too long, but I have what I like to think is a fairly reliable roĺl.

This weekend, whilst pushing my limits a bit I had two failed rolls. First was after getting wiped out in surf and second was in fast moving water.

At the start of my roll I tend to let the boat 'settle' for a moment and then push the blade slightly above the surface, but on these occasions I just couldn't find the surface, its almost like I was deeper underwater some how. I actually didn't really try to toll, because I know from experience that if my blade hasnt cleared the water its unlikely to work.

Yesterday I stayed fairly patient and hung there trying to get to the surface, I even put a hand around the boat to try and pull myself up further (and one of the group thought I was asking for a bow rescue :-).

So what am I missing? Should I have tried to swap sides? Which in the moment didn't really occur to me.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Owen »

If you were in moving water it could be that you were trying to roll up on the wrong side ie into the wave.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by seawolf856 »

There are loads of reasons for a failed roll but you are very specific about the circumstances and you have also described feeling "deeper underwater" so two probable causes stand out to me:
1) Surf is aerated water and you aren't as buoyant in the soup so there is a real possibility that you actually really were slightly deeper than usual
2) The surf zone is a very dynamic place to be and I have witnessed from the surface when colleagues have capsized while surfing that sometimes the capsize doesn't fully overturn the boat, so depending on which side you are trying to roll up from your torso can be relatively shallow in the water or indeed "deeper underwater".
Our group of paddling buddies has long debated which way is better to roll up from if you capsize in surf - beach side or wave side - and practicing both would be a good idea. Did you try and roll up on just your 'good side' (we all have one) or did you try both sides and still fail. Often if you are surfing into a beach on purpose, the water is so shallow that its hardly worth the effort of rolling anyway, just pull the deck, stand up and start again.
Chris Bolton
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Chris Bolton »

Some boats will naturally sit at an angle rather than upside down, due to the buoyancy of the deck. If you're unlucky this can mean that the surface is perhaps 110º away instead of 90º. Annoyingly, the action of switching your paddle to the other side seems to flip the boat onto the other side, so it's no better. A short sweep from where the paddle is and setting up again usually works.

I also found, after a long time when I'd only rolled a C1 on rivers, in my sea kayak I was forgetting to lean forward sufficiently to get my forward arm to the surface. I now think, consciously, "head on the front deck" before sweeping.
Cavemud
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Cavemud »

Thanks all

So possibly to answers then:

1) switch sides
2) try and get things moving with a short sweep before going again

Sadly, the same set of circumstancs (hopefully) won't arise again quickly, so ill have to have a try in calm water and try and intill the instinct.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Cavemud »

In response to seawolf:

I was going for my good side, but could have swapped if I'd had the presence of mind.

The wipeout in the surf was indeed just a stand up and drag my boat to the shore affair, just a big kick to my ego :-)

The moving water one just required a wet exit and a re-entry roll and I was back in the eddy again for a long pumping session!!!
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Sean_soup »

In fast moving water I think there are times when it isn't possible to roll up on one side, and at those times it might even be ludicrously easy to roll up on the other side.

It's more obvious in a white water environment possibly - sideways on to a standing wave, the water is rushing through underneath your boat. You need to keep an edge to stay upright - drop your upstream hip for a fraction of a second and you're gone.

If you capsize, but you haven't washed out of the feature (yet) the water is still rushing through. It isn't hard to see how it's going to be a lot more difficult (probably impossible) to roll by moving your body upstream than downstream, so you don't have much of a chance of coming up on the upstream side. (In trying to roll up, you're actually looking to move through the condition that capsized you in the first place - the upstream edge of the boat down, water piling up on that side of the deck and pushing it under.

I don't know if this might help to visualise what I'm on about:
Have you ever seen a football stuck in the stopper at the bottom of a weir? It rolls continuously - that's the way the water wants you to roll.
Cavemud wrote:
Mon Feb 20, 2023 9:46 am
2) try and get things moving with a short sweep before going again
If you've just capsized and been washed out of a feature or fallen off a wave and you're a bit discombobulated and can't quite find the surface, or some quirk of buoyancy is keeping you at just the wrong angle to set up for your roll - might work! But one short sweep might not be enough and you may as well set up for another one with a short sweep back the other way - sculling in other words. Just like a sculling draw, but instead of moving the boat sideways while you're upright you'd be sculling your active blade toward the surface.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by robhorton »

Air trapped in your drysuit / cag is another possible cause.

Personally I just switch sides if I can't find the surface for whatever reason. Yes, it's possible to scull to the surface etc but I tend to panic and go for the eject handle if it doesn't work in about half a second ;) If you're being knocked over by a wave, particularly in surf, committing early to the roll rather than trying to brace / fight it can help, but sometime it just feels like you're in the washing machine.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Franky »

Sea waves tend to bigger and steeper than river waves, and in my experience can be quite disorienting to be capsized in - you seem to be tossed around on multiple axes.

Quite often while surfing in my playbost I've capsized in just a foot or two of water and there wasn't room to turn the boat round to the correct side without my head hitting the sand, and I bailed. It didn't look cool, but the consequences of being washed onto a sandy beach are much less unpleasant than those of being washed down a river.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by nickcrowhurst »

I once had exactly the same experience as the OP, Cavemud. I was practising my roll about 100 metres offshore at Port Wrinkle on the South coast of Cornwall. I was in crystal clear sea water on a bright sunny calm day. I flipped over to do a 360 degree roll, and couldn't find the surface on either side. I was running out of air, but eventually I realised that I was groping downwards towards the sand with my paddle and body, on both sides, rather than upwards to the surface. In retrospect it seems extraordinary, but the silver sandy bottom and the reflecting water surface did not look dissimilar. I survived, but I can't remember how. I was hopelessly disorientated. Not a happy experience.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by adventureagent »

Franky wrote:
Mon Feb 20, 2023 11:13 pm
Sea waves tend to bigger and steeper than river waves, and in my experience can be quite disorienting to be capsized in - you seem to be tossed around on multiple axes.

Quite often while surfing in my playbost I've capsized in just a foot or two of water and there wasn't room to turn the boat round to the correct side without my head hitting the sand, and I bailed. It didn't look cool, but the consequences of being washed onto a sandy beach are much less unpleasant than those of being washed down a river.
Weigh (I was younger and lighter) back I had a bomb-proof river roll.Both sides. Getting onto 'flat water' intimidates me more. Funny thing about people - our personal perspective. Our coach always said all you need to do a roll was 18" depth. (? !)

Nick writes about sandy water and seeing. I found sandy water an awful experience for my eyes, once ashore.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Franky »

adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 2:01 pm
Weigh (I was younger and lighter) back I had a bomb-proof river <span class="skimlinks-unlinked">roll.Both</span> sides. Getting onto 'flat water' intimidates me more. Funny thing about people - our personal perspective. Our coach always said all you need to do a roll was 18" depth. (? !)
You're in a different zone on white water. Many of my worst mistakes have been on easy water, when I dropped my guard. A few years ago, I proudly did my first full descent of the Upper Dart without getting my head wet - only to swim on the subsequent run of the Loop, and not on a difficult bit either.
adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 2:01 pm
Our coach always said all you need to do a roll was 18" depth. (? !)
Is that a minimum or maximum? If maximum, well sure - you can punt your blade against the bottom, and no one will be any the wiser :)
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by adventureagent »

Franky wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 2:50 pm
adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 2:01 pm

Is that a minimum or maximum? If maximum, well sure - you can punt your blade against the bottom, and no one will be any the wiser :)
I thinking it's not so much about the paddle, ... eh?
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Franky »

adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:01 pm
I thinking it's not so much about the paddle, ... eh?
Ah, I'm with you. I couldn't manage that without a Jackson Happy Thruster. An 18-inch one of those would keep anybody buoyant and in the game.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Chris Bolton »

adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:01 pm
... eh?
If I didn't already know you're from Canada, I would now!
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by ChrisJK »

Interesting stuff. I've had lots of failed rolls even with assistance
I celebrated my first rolls this week after 4 years of not very committed trying. Three were with that sneaky assistance from the bottom of the pool and the 4th was a proper roll and a shout of YES from me as I pulled through. It'll need more practice but that's with goggles and nose clips.
I will no doubt attract groans but I swapped to using my shorter Greenland paddle with an old club Wavesport T which has a fairly soft profile. The GP is no longer than my Euro paddle but there is less concern for me in setting it up and I do more paddling in a sea boat.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Franky »

ChrisJK wrote:
Fri Mar 24, 2023 10:30 pm
I celebrated my first rolls this week after 4 years of not very committed trying. Three were with that sneaky assistance from the bottom of the pool and the 4th was a proper roll and a shout of YES from me as I pulled through. It'll need more practice but that's with goggles and nose clips.
I can identify with that.

For me, goggles and noseclips were essential in learning to roll. It's all about the muscle memory, not about making things difficult so that you know you're doing it "properly". Once you can do it in ideal conditions in an easy boat, it's not a big step to do it in less optimal conditions in a chunky boat. The key is that the reflex kicks in before you have time to think, "Oh shit, what if I don't roll?"

I remember the joy I experienced on my first swimming pool roll, with goggles, noseclips and in a boat shaped like a log. It felt like magic. My first real-life river roll was even better.

I'm not the world's greatest paddler, but I did spend a year concentrating obsessively on rolling, rather to the detriment of other skills, but honestly, it was worth it - the other stuff came later.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Pedro75 »

I had some issues not finding the surface when practicing my roll and found it was due to the set up position causing drag. No doubt the same could occur when capsizing accidentally as you’re flailing around trying to stop yourself going over (bracing) for a moment or two -
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by ChrisJK »

Thanks Franky and Pedro

I spent more of my time on support strokes mainly due to reticence in getting upside down.This being partly because I found it hard to visualise the actual sequence of actions and basically sat upside down and frustrated a club coach!

We have a few more weeks in the pool. I may stall for a while but hopefully once the water warms a bit I can practice solo in a shallow bay where either a punt off the bottom or an easy wet exit are safe options.
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by adventureagent »

Chris Bolton wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:57 pm
adventureagent wrote:
Thu Mar 23, 2023 8:01 pm
... eh?
If I didn't already know you're from Canada, I would now!
Had to laugh at that, for sure. Thanks.



With the comment about the depth of water required, I think our coach was commenting about the concept of 'hugging the deck' at setup and follow-through. The head sort of being at the same level throughout.

As well, he did not teach the roll early in a paddler's development. His thought was, and I think he was right, that if a racer learned to roll early, they would go to set-up immediately. This, he felt, was not forward progress. His policy was that a paddler raced for three years before learning the roll. The club had more national championships than any other.

Instead, his concentration was on braces, which would save a lot of underwater time and cold exposure.

To this day, I have a snappy brace. You could probably know where I am, in rough water, by the sound of my paddle slapping the surface. I'm the only audible paddler ...
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Re: Failed Roll - Couldn't find the surface

Post by Jonny_W »

I had a problem in ‘finding the surface’. I attributed it to a new buoyancy aid which was more buoyant than my previous one (with which finding the surface was never a problem). The new BA seems to stop me going fully upside down (and this can be exacerbated if there is unexpelled air in my dry suit).

The solutions I have, so far, are :-
- use old BA

- attempt to ‘butt the bottom’ - capsize fast and determined to butt the bottom of the sea floor which hopefully you’ll be deep enough not to). This works for me. It doesn’t really work in an assessment if the assessor wants you to capsize whilst paddling forwards!

- there is a technique (thanks Eila) where having capsized, and not fully over, you ‘pump the paddle’. As in, with paddle loom in your normal grip with 2 hands > raise and lower the paddle 3 times below your head (kinda above your head, but you’re upside down!). This pulls you fully upside down, from whence you can now find the surface to set up. For me, it does work - but my breath is feeling a bit short by then, so glad to finally roll up.

For me, capsizing and waiting patiently for the kayak to settle fully upside down, doesn’t work with the new BA- it’s still too buoyant. I will experiment more with switching sides once upside down (as, in theory, one should be closer to the surface on one side).
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