Skip to main content

Learning Center

Whether you’re a brand new paddler or already part of the boating community, we hope these resources will help you deepen your connection to the great sport of whitewater paddling. We’ve assembled information on how to find a paddling club, some of our favorite online and in-print paddling resources, how to decide what course to take next, and discounts that are available to you as a student of Zoar Outdoor.

Ways to Continue Paddling

Our instruction staff would be happy to help you figure out the best way for you to continue paddling and here are just a few ways to do that.
River Runs
River Runs are the best way to advance to the next level simply by paddling. The old adage of “practice makes perfect” really fits here. Try taking a river run clinic or find some paddling buddies who want some river time. If you have taken a Novice class, try taking a river run clinic before jumping into Class II. You need to practice the first set of skills before jumping to the next set. Zoar Outdoor offers one-day River Runs that give you an opportunity to play the river using your new skills, or to discover a new river with an experienced, competent guide. The day is less formally structured with free-flowing instruction and it’s a great chance to get in the boat and meet other paddlers at your skill level.
Rolling Clinics

Rolling Clinics are an excellent way to take your paddling to the next level. If you have gotten some paddling experience, and are now looking for the next tool to take your paddling further, the Eskimo roll is an excellent skill to acquire. While rolling can make you ready for bigger, more intense whitewater, it does not make you a more advanced paddler all by itself. Rolling is a skill; it is not the essence of kayaking.

Zoar offers rolling clinics throughout the year, and even in the winter months in a heated swimming pool. In the summer months we offer two types of roll clinics, basic and fine tuning. Basic rolling is for our first time rollers or those looking to fully master the roll in flat water or calm currents. Fine tuning your roll is for those who have accomplished their flat water rolls but need some help and tricks converting it to river situations. Acquiring a bombproof roll makes learning more advanced skills easier, and adds confidence to your paddling. However, we recommend that you gain considerable experience swimming yourself and your gear through rapids correctly before taking a rolling clinic.

How to Progress

Take the next level course, take a longer course or even repeat the course.

Zoar Outdoor offers many levels of courses and length of courses to address different needs or learning styles. There is always something to learn at each level and many students benefit from taking a longer class at the same level and then challenging themselves at the higher level. If you don’t feel ready to move onto the next level, there is always something more to learn by repeating a class.

Design a Custom Clinic
Design a Custom Clinic that fits you. If you feel you need more structure than a river run or paddling with a club, you have the option to either design your own clinic or repeat a clinic. You can always learn something new and it could give you the confidence to move on. If you are the sort of person who likes to learn at your own pace and appreciate personalized one-on-one instruction, or want the flexibility of a lesson tailored just for you and your family or friends, custom clinics are for you. In a custom clinic you set the goals for your clinic and pick the pace of your lesson. You go as quickly or as slowly as you want. With Custom clinics you schedule your instruction for when it’s most convenient for you.
River Rescue Courses
River Rescue Courses are offered throughout the year. When paddling whitewater, paddlers need to learn not only how to navigate the water, but also how to cope with situations when something goes wrong. Consider this a lifeguard course specific for moving water. Zoar offers one and two day Basic River Rescue Workshops as well as an Advanced River Rescue workshop. Hopefully you will never need these skills but Murphy dictates that if you don’t have it you will need it. So learn how to be in the right spot at the right time with the right gear.
Paddling School Reunion
Paddling School Reunion is a great weekend in the fall to join other Zoar Outdoor students in a cost-effective weekend of mini-clinics and socializing.
Paddling Events, Festivals & Competitions
Paddling events, festivals and competitions are a fun way to stay involved with the paddling community. Zoar Outdoor sponsors many area events including several community based fun races. DemoFest is a great way to try out the many models of kayaks and canoes and get FREE mini-clinics from Team Z, Pro Paddlers and Zoar Outdoor Instructors.
Get Out & Try a Boat!
We want you to keep paddling so we are offering you 2 free rentals after taking a 2-day or longer paddling course. After you have used your free rentals you then can rent boats from our demo boat fleet for $40 per day if available. Be sure to call ahead to put your name on the waiting list for rentals. Our clinics have first priority, and then it is first come, first served.
Become a Fan of our Facebook page!
Search Facebook for Zoar Outdoor Instruction Programs and check out the latest news from the school, connect with others and post photos. Also, don’t forget to check out other facebook pages including Zoar Outdoor, The Outfitters Shop at Zoar Outdoor and Deerfield Valley Canopy Tours.
Join a Paddling Club
The best way to keep paddling is to connect with other paddlers! One way to do it is join a paddling club in your area. Paddling clubs offer a social network and a range of trips to fit almost any paddler. Take the time to get to know the character of the club to find one that fits you. To find a listing of area paddling clubs check out our Zoar Outdoor Instruction Programs Facebook page under “Resources”.
Information on the NET or in Print
  • American Whitewater Journal – bimonthly – 914-586-2355, Website: Not only will you be supporting a great organization, but you’ll be receiving excellent information and stories in the world of whitewater. Check gauges, events and ways to donate to the top river conservation group.
  • American Canoe, The largest and oldest paddling organization in the USA.
  • BoaterTalk a national paddling chat board,
  • Canoe and Kayak Magazine – monthly – 800-829-3340, Informative, popular magazine surveying all aspects of boating, slightly geared to the tamer side of the sport.
  • E-Instruction on various websites including
  • Northeast Paddlers Message Board. Best Regional website for area boaters,
  • Rapid Media, World’s Best Paddlesport Media Company,
  • World is a great blog site to see what is going on in your neighborhood and around the world.

What Equipment do I Need?

Decide what type of rivers you like to paddle and that will lead you to which type of boat you will need. If you want to run rivers to enjoy the scenery and play in the eddies then get a river runner. If you want to learn freestyle kayaking then get a playboat. For running waterfalls you may want to consider a creek boat but also a little more practice time too. By all means take into consideration the views of other boaters but in the end you are the only one to decide which is most comfortable and suits you well. For a new boat expect to pay in the range of $800-$1125, but do not forget second hand boats as well. A good price range for a used boat depending on age and condition is $300-700. Look for a boat with no major dents or whitening of the plastic.
Try them on. Not every helmet will fit your head well so try a few different styles. The helmet should sit over your brow and provide adequate coverage, and with the straps properly adjusted should be snug and not roll back. This should be one piece of equipment that you buy new so that you know its history. Price range $40-$140.
Your first personal flotation device should be comfortable and not restrict movement while still providing adequate flotation. Whitewater kayak P.F.D’s are cut higher so they can work with a sprayskirt. Price range $80-$135.
The sprayskirt is sized for your waist and the cockpit rim. It should fit the boat well without proving impossible to put on. Make sure that you can remove it easily and that the tunnel fits your waist comfortably snug. Price range $100-160.
Pick this based on your height, strength and intended use. If you are tall, strong, or going to use it for river running, get a longer paddle with larger blades. If you are shorter, less strong or playing more, then use a shorter paddle with smaller blades. Price range $170-$380.
Float Bags
These are essential and make it easier to rescue your boat when you swim, by providing buoyancy in rough water. They also give your boat some structural integrity if it pins to an object. Price range $30/each – $60/set.
If your feet are mangled you won’t be boating, scouting or helping your buddies. Get yourself a good pair of draining booties and wear them in your boat. Inside the boat, your feet will be protected. Outside the boat, you’ll be able to move faster over rocks.
You will need to dress according to the weather and water temperature. For summer and warm water you may only need a rash guard but as the weather gets colder start layering and adding dry-tops and/or wet suits. Just remember to dress for the worst, be it a swim or a rescue and consider this in how you layer.
Cool Stickers
A must for us river junkies. Great for boats, paddles and helmets.
Books & Videos

There are so many good books and videos on paddling technique and river guides that it is hard to list them here. Check out our Outfitter’s shop website for full details at

River Etiquette & Smarts


As more people learn to paddle whitewater, the rivers are becoming more congested. To lessen traffic problems on the river and ensure that everyone has a good time, you can practice good river etiquette.

Be considerate of all other river users and land owners. There are many different recreational users on our rivers. It is important to be considerate of all these users, including anglers, tubers and other paddlers.

Remember that the boat traveling downstream has the right of way. If you are in an eddy or on a wave, and someone is paddling downstream then you should give way to them. Whenever leaving an eddy think of it as stepping off the sidewalk. Look both ways! That said if someone is surfing, just being upstream does not give you the right to take the wave from them.

Observe the tonnage law: If it is bigger and less maneuverable than you it may be prudent to get out of its way.

Be aware that a line of paddlers may form near a really cool play spot. If you want to play, you must wait in line too. If the eddy is full, try the next one. On the other hand, if paddlers are trying to get into the eddy you are in, it may be time to move on.
Try to stay clear of instructional groups. Remember what it was like to be a beginner and give other folks the same consideration you would have wanted.

Use your “River Sense” to Avoid Trouble

You are paddling on a dynamic medium and risk is part and parcel with the activity. Here are some ideas and guidelines to follow to keep your day a little less scary.

  • Know what you’re getting yourself into: read guide books, website descriptions and talk to experienced boaters about the rivers you’re thinking of running.
  • Be aware of the differences between rivers. Two rivers that both are rated at a similar class level can be very different. Common types of rivers are high volume rivers, low volume rivers and creeks. Each type of river has different characteristics which change one’s paddling style.
  • The best rescue is the one that never happens. Avoid situations that will needlessly put you at added risk, such as swollen rivers, rapids or rivers way above your skill level, and groups that are paddling carelessly.
  • Use your head and listen to your instincts. If you feel strange about a situation there may well be a good reason; take this opportunity to re-evaluate the situation and change your approach.
  • Don’t tempt the river gods. Do not run rivers that are above your skill level. Just because you heard some novice survived does not mean you will be so lucky. Use good judgment.
  • It is better to wish you had run a rapid than wish you had not! The rapid will be there long after you are gone. Come back later on another day and see how you feel.
  • If you don’t feel like running a particular drop or rapid because you are experiencing fear, listen to your fear.
    • Good Fear – Makes you think, gives you clarity of thought and vision, and gives you the energy and courage to portage that nasty rapid, or the extra adrenaline burst and concentration needed to successfully run that nasty rapid.
    • Bad Fear – Causes panic, irrational behavior, and the possibility of doing something you shouldn’t, like run that nasty rapid above your skill level. A person experiencing Bad Fear may suffer from tunnel vision, extreme quietness, or excessive babbling and an inability to paddle effectively.
  • Always wear appropriate equipment for your sport. Climbing or bicycle helmets are not appropriate for whitewater.
  • Dress for the water and not for the air. If you swim or have to perform a rescue and are not dressed accordingly, you will put yourself and your paddling partners at great risk by introducing another victim to the situation.
  • Do not paddle alone! It’s more fun to paddle in a group and you can look out for each other. Don’t be afraid to join a group, but do not be alarmed if they quiz you about your ability and which rivers you have paddled. You should do the same to them and anyone who wants to join your group, too.
  • Learn the basic river signals.
  • Swimming is part of the game; don’t be discouraged if you swim. Learn from the lesson the river just taught you.
  • On urban rivers, be aware of low head dams and industrial debris. On natural rivers, keep an eye out for fallen trees and horizon lines.
  • Set safety regularly at drops or rapids that are bigger or more difficult.
  • Receive some safety training, like a river rescue course or Wilderness First Aid. This is especially important if you’re going to be paddling rivers out of cell phone range or far from a road (more than half an hour at any given point on the trip)
  • Everyone should carry at least basic first aid and rescue equipment and know how to use it. Practice at least monthly with a throw bag and don’t blow the whistle unless you really mean it.
  • Never forget you are the most important person during a rescue. Make good decisions; don’t have your actions complicate the situation.
  • For more information, read the American Whitewater safety code
Paddling Technique Tips
Here are a few reminders to help you reflect on what you have learned.
Paddling Fundamentals
  • Maintain an upright posture so you can rotate around the axis of your spine. Remember that good posture promotes more power and better hull control.
  • Separate your upper and lower body. Each half needs to move independently but co-operatively so you can switch weight from one hip (knee) to the other. Being able to separate your body movements will allow you to use your boat edge to maneuver efficiently and effectively.
  • To stay in balance, keep your head over the centerline of the boat. Keep your hips loose; allow the boat to move underneath you. “Loose hips save flips.”
  • Rotate your torso to “face your work” and work in the “paddler’s box”. This will let you use the large muscle groups and protect your shoulders. Keep you hands in front of your shoulder line on every stroke and you will keep your shoulders intact.
  • Maintain an active and engaged paddle blade. If you seek resistance on the paddle you will get power but if you shed the resistance you get recovery.
  • Warm up before stretching.
  • Stretch both the upper and lower body.
  • Hold stretches for at least 30 seconds & don’t bounce.
  • Always spend enough time stretching to prevent injuries.
Wet Exit
  • Remember to relax. The calmer you are the easier it is to get out of the boat.
  • When you flip, the first thing to do is tuck forward to protect your face and head. If you lean back, you can’t reach your grab loop from your back deck, and you’d be in an exposed position.
  • Pull the grab loop to remove the sprayskirt, if you have one.
  • Push yourself out of the boat while staying tucked forward.
Self Rescue (Swimming in Current)
  • Never stand up in moving current that is deeper than your knee to avoid foot entrapment.
  • Be aggressive in your own rescue.
  • Swim on your back looking downstream with your feet at the surface. If you need to be more aggressive with your self-rescue, roll over on your stomach, orient your body in a ferry position and swim aggressively head first to shore.
  • When swimming with equipment, hold gear in one hand down stream and use a vigorous sidestroke with your free hand to pull yourself to shore.
  • Try to self rescue you and your gear, however if your gear is taking you somewhere you don’t want to be, let go of it. You are priceless; your gear can be replaced.
  • Swim aggressively to the best, not necessarily the closest shore.
Edge Your Boat in Balance
  • Separate your upper and lower body movements and curve your spine to keep your head balanced and centered above the boat.
  • To edge the boat, pull up on one knee and drop the opposite butt cheek.
  • If you pull up on both knees or “clench your butt cheeks” it is more difficult to edge and separate your upper and lower body.
  • Stay relaxed and breathe.
  • 99% of the time, if your boat flips over, it’s because you were leaning it in the opposite direction it was turning.
Sweep Stroke and Stern Draw – Initiates or Prevents the Turn
  • Rotate your torso and look into the turn.
  • Plant the paddle blade at your bow for the forward sweep or near the stern for the reverse sweep, move the boat around the paddle
  • Let your torso unwind as you move the paddle in an arcing motion out and away from your boat
  • The length of the sweep depends on how much you need and what type boat you are in (longer boat=longer sweep)
  • Keep your hands (and the paddle shaft angle) low throughout the sweep and keep you arm just slightly bent.
  • The stern draw is the last part of the forward sweep, plant the paddle 45 degree from the stern, creating a “v” with the stern and the paddle. Draw the boat to the paddle using your torso muscles.
Forward Stroke for Speed
  • Speed = Stability, “When in doubt, paddle it out.”
  • Sit up straight: don’t bob or lean back or forward unnecessarily.
  • Wind-up your torso to plant your paddle as far to the front of the boat as possible, seek resistance to power the paddle to your hip and shed resistance to recover the paddle. The blade of the paddle should travel along the boat to help maintain a vertical paddle shaft.
  • Use torso rotation for power the stroke. Twist at the spine and push top shoulder and arm forward as you rotate and pull the opposite as you unwind.
  • If you increase your cadence you can increase your speed. “Don’t pull harder, pull smarter.”
  • Be aggressive but smooth, you shouldn’t splash the water.
  • If you are turning add a corrective sweep to put your boat back on line.
  • With a Cross Forward for canoe you will need to tilt at the waist to be able to plant as far forward and then sit-up. Practice a slice forward for underwater recovery
Draw to the Hip, Sculling Draw or Pry (Canoe)

This is used to move to or away from the paddle.

  • “Face your work.” Rotate your torso to the side you are paddling on.
  • Maintain a vertical paddle shaft and keep your top hand at forehead height.
  • Find the best spot along the boat (bow, hip, stern) to perform the stroke to get the results you want.
  • For the sculling draw, move the blade in a figure eight motion with pressure on the power face to move to the paddle side or pressure the non-power face to move away from the paddle side.
  • For the draw to hip, move the boat toward the paddle or away from the paddle (pry).
  • Edge the boat as needed.
Brace - Used to Prevent a Flip
  • The paddle only gives you temporary support to allow you to right the boat underneath you with the lower body.
  • Keep your arms within the “paddler’s box” to prevent shoulder injury.
  • Hold your paddle shaft horizontally, perpendicular to the centerline of the boat.
  • The high brace uses the power face and the low brace uses the non-power face. Use the paddle to tap the water and trigger the hip snap. Remember the paddle does not do the work your lower body does.
  • Keep your head down until your boat is upright.
Controlling a Turn with a Draw (Gliding, Bow, Cross - Bow or Duffek)
  • Rotate your torso in the direction of the turn. Look where you want to go!
  • Paddle placement (bow, hip, stern) and blade angle (open, closed) will determine the size and type of turn.
  • This is a static stroke; you are not moving the blade to change the boat angle but controlling the arch of your turn.
  • The draw is not an isolated movement. You will need to combine it with forward speed and edge control.
Eddy Turn and Peel out – Entering and Exiting Eddies
  • Speed is needed to drive across the eddy line before you start turning. Eddy lines are unstable zones so spend as little time on them as possible.
  • Position your boat and set the appropriate Angle for efficient maneuvering. Position your boat to enter and exit the eddy as high as possible which will give you the maximum turning potential and high fun factor. The specific angle of entry will vary depending on the flow and the size of the arching turn but it is roughly 30 to 60 degrees to the current. Enter the eddy by paddling downstream with an angle driving across the eddy line; keep paddling all the way up into the eddy. Exit the eddy by paddling upstream with an angle driving across the eddy line into the current.
  • Use your Vision to look where you want to go and you will go there!!
  • Edge (Carve, Tilt, Lean) your BOAT into the turn. No matter what you call it you need to be consistent and continue the edge throughout the turn. Flips usually occur when you drop your edge too soon.
  • Connecting turns by carving a “S” shape with your boat. You will need to smoothly do a turning stroke to change the boat’s direction, switch edges, and then look into your new turn. Don’t forget to keep paddling.
Ferry - Move Laterally Across the Current
  • Speed is needed to drive across the eddy line before you start your ferry. Eddy lines are unstable zones so spend as little time on them as possible. Be ready to do a corrective stroke as the bow crosses the eddy line since it wants to turn.
  • Position your boat and set an appropriate Angle for efficient maneuvering. Position your boat to exit the eddy as high as possible. Maintain and adjust the boat angle to use the rivers power to move laterally across the current. Stronger current more conservative angle and slower current more open.
  • Vision. Look where you want to go and you will go there!!
  • Edge (Carve, Tilt, Lean) your BOAT in the direction you are ferrying. No matter what you call it you need to be consistent and continue the edge as long as your boat is ferrying.
  • Switch edges. You will need to switch edges once you cross into an eddy or if you change direction. Think of this like a small eddy turn or s-turn. If you don’t you could trip over the eddy line… OOPS
Thoughts on River Running
  • Plan your next set of moves on the river before you leave the eddy line. If you’re not set up properly you are most likely just wasting energy fighting the river.
  • Relax and slow down to feel what the water is doing. Let the water do the work – don’t fight or force it.
  • Practice catching eddies and ferrying backwards to increase your stern awareness – in a hole, you are facing backwards as much as you are facing forwards.
  • When tandem canoeing, make sure you are communicating and paddling in unison with your paddling partner. Do not assume they can read your mind.
  • To better understand how to work with the water, practice connecting manuevers using as few efficient strokes as possible .
  • Whatever you do, act like you meant to do it. Have all excuses prepared ahead of time.
Intermediate & Playboating Technique Tips
Front Surfing and Back Surfing
  • Paddle on to the wave by ferrying (easiest), dropping in from above (more difficult) or climbing on from behind (most difficult). Keep your eye on the target.
  • Position your boat parallel to the current.
  • Maintain your position on the wave by using efficient rudders (front) or bow rudders/draws (back), carving back and forth and weight distribution bow to stern.
  • Smile and have fun!
Side Surfing
  • Lean/Edge your boat downstream, and relax! Keep an eye on the hole.
  • Balance so the weight is off the paddle and you can surf without it.
  • Only paddle on the downstream side and use forward and back strokes to move around.
  • Paddle across the eddy-line as if you were peeling out
  • Edge upstream gently and as your seat crosses the eddy-line, twist your torso downstream and look at your stern.
  • Stern pry up and out from the stern on the downstream side, keeping the blade deep in the water until you level off the kayak by pulling up on your upstream leg and leaning your upper body over your downstream leg
  • Re-wind up your torso and keep your head turned back to the stern to continue spinning.
  • If it is going well continue spinning by slicing the paddle back to a bow draw on the same side while the boat is on end.
  • Whether you are in a hole or on flat water gain speed straight ahead. Then kick you heels down to bury the bow and keep your weight forward
  • Once the bow catches keep the boat straight with an active blade. If you are on flat water keep paddling; in a hole just keep pushing your heels down and stand up.
  • On flat water, try to stall the kayak with you blades; or in a hole, huck your body forward as it pops out and throw a loop.
Bow Stalls
  • Follow all directions for Enders on flat water or learn to double- pump.
  • Once the bow is underwater, keep you body neutral and place both blades in the water.
  • Keep the paddle out in front of you, away from the boat and maintain equal pressure on both blades.
  • If the boat starts to flatten out stand up and if it falls over the bars lean forward.
  • Use slight pressure on either blade to control side to side slicing.
Flat Spins on a Wave
  • Position yourself at the top of the wave so that you can gain speed down the face.
  • Once you start to accelerate down the wave face, plant you blade at the stern and swing your bow down stream.
  • Once the boat is turned 180 initiate a backstroke on the opposite side to maintain your surf, plant a blade at the bow and swing you stern downstream to complete the spin.
  • Keep you eyes upstream and the boat as flat as possible just using minor edge transitions to avoid carving off the wave.
  • For retentive moves, keep your eyes on the hole and your paddle in the green water underneath the foam pile.
360s in a Hole (Counter-Clockwise)
  • Start sitting on the foam pile.
  • Slide into a side surf – raise upstream leg.
  • Lead with your head – look where you want your boat to go.
  • Spin your bow out of the hole (and your stern in) with a back sweep on your downstream side – use the current at the edge of the hole to help you spin.
  • Change your lean as you are parallel with the current – when you slide back into the hole sideways, you’ll be raising your upstream leg.
  • Only paddle on the downstream side of your boat – keep your upstream leg up – keep eyes and torso in front of the spin.
  • Continue until dizzy.
  • For retentive moves, keep your eyes on the hole and your paddle in the green water underneath the foam pile.
Rolling Technique Tip
Relax! Twist to the side and tuck forward around the boat at least 45 degrees from center toward the paddle. Reach both hands around the boat and up to the surface as much as possible. Forearms should be against the side of the boat. Front paddle blade should be neutral to prevent diving and excessive pressure during the sweep.
Sweep Stroke and Stern Draw – Initiates or Prevents the Turn
  • Sweep blade and torso away from boat on the surface of the water. Make sure the working blade is neutral (flat)
  • Do not pull down on the paddle.
  • Keep your body curled up toward the surface. Don’t let it drop out of the tuck as you start to sweep.
  • Move your torso with your sweep, not just your arms.
Hip Snap
  • Flip the boat upright by contracting your side muscles and pulling up with your knee and hip.
  • Hip snap quickly, switching pressure on the knees (pulling up with one, pushing down with the other).
  • Head starts as the high point, ends as the low point. Your body is a slinky!
  • Pull up with your leg, NOT down with your arm.
  • Your head should be the last thing out of the water, with your ear on your shoulder until the boat is completely upright.
  • Minimal use of force from upper body.
  • The boat should roll up first, and then the body should follow in an arching motion.
  • Finish with your torso centered and balanced over the boat.
  • The head should be the last thing out of the water!
  • Keep arms and hands low to protect the shoulder.
  • Relax!
  • Use technique over force; if it is easy you are doing it correctly.
  • Take your time setting up; starting well is integral to rolling.
  • Right your boat with your hips, not the paddle.
  • Keep your head down until the boat is fully righted.
  • Don’t punch your top hand forward; keep it close to your side.
  • If the first roll doesn’t succeed try, try again!
Ways to Practice
  • Use the front of a friend’s boat, the side of the pool, or a kick board to practice that all-important hip snap; this is crucial to rolling.
  • Have a spotter so you can do a bow rescue as opposed to doing wet exits every time you try one.
  • Try paddling forwards, flipping and rolling to mimic rolling in current
  • If you’re rolling consistently, try flipping over, passing your paddle over the bottom of your boat, re-orient your paddle and blades, and then roll!
Once You've Got One Side
  • You can try rolling on your “off” side, the set up is the same and so are all the motions they are just on your opposite side. This can be a bit confusing!
  • If you can roll consistently on both your “on” and “off” side you can move on to hand rolls!
Combat Rolling
  • Rolling in current has the same body mechanics as rolling in flatwater, however, this can be very disorienting.
  • When practicing, pick a relatively safe spot to do the rolls. Find a rapid that doesn’t have a lot of rocks and, preferably has a pool of calm or slow moving water at the bottom.
  • Have a safety plan. What happens when you miss rolls while practicing? Are you doing wet exits or T-rescues? Which way will you swim?
  • Start by practicing tipping over in the set-up position. This allows you to remain relatively oriented while underwater
  • Once upside down, take a few seconds to relax. A common mistake is to rush the roll in current. Which will lead you to make mistakes you typically would not.
  • Make sure your kayak is flat on the surface of the water before you start. Students commonly start trying to roll their boat up before the boat is entirely upside down.
  • When you miss a roll in current, go back to the eddy and do a few successful rolls in the eddy. This process will allow your body to remember the correct feelings associated with a well-executed roll
Hand Rolling
  • Not only is this a good party trick to show your friends and family but it is also good to know if you ever need it on the river!
  • Place both hands next to each other on the boat near your hip.
  • When you flip over reach both hands above the water (much like you do with your paddle in a paddle roll.) This arches your body into position for the hip snap.
  • Begin your hip snap just like your paddle roll, coming down with you hands in a sweeping motion across your body. i.e.: your hands take place of your paddle blade!
  • Hip snap quickly, switching pressure on the knees (pulling up with one, pushing down with the other).
  • As you begin to come up “slide” your hands towards you across the surface of the water not down towards the bottom. Your hip snap rights the boat, not your hands sweeping through the water.
  • It is very important that your head is the last thing out of the water!
Back Deck Roll
  • The Back Deck Roll is possibly the fastest and most useful roll for big water and playboating and is often the easiest to set-up into after a fast or unexpected capsize. However, a lot of people fear the back deck roll on lower volume rivers and creeks as it leaves your face and chest exposed, and granted this is a risk but it is also very fast.
  • To learn this most effectively it is good to learn in a pool or river where visibility is not an issue so you can watch what your paddle and body are doing.
  • Start by sitting upright with your paddle resting on your kayak at 90 degrees.
  • Sweep your left blade across the surface towards the stern, keeping the paddle horizontal with the water (both hands over left side of boat.)
  • Follow the left blade with your head and flip the kayak on top of you. You should now be lying on the back deck with the paddle perpendicular to the boat and just in front of your face. Do not go over your head.
  • Continue leading with your head and continue sweeping your paddle around to the left.
  • When your right blade passes the stern initiate your hip flick and continue sweeping the right blade to the front of the boat along the surface.
  • If all went well and you got a good hip flick you should now be upright in the same position you started in, ready to throw that next end.