-- Last Updated: Mar-16-10 1:27 PM EST --
How about stirring a discussion on what makes a kayak easy to roll? In my limited practical observation, there are many factors, but one of the more important seems to be the relative position of the center of gravity of the paddler's body during the righting stages of a roll combined with the righting moment a kayak can generate.
"Dooh!", you say, the lower you are and the more help you get from the kayak, the easier you roll. Sure, but how does this translate to kayak features?
The play/river WW kayak I have allows me to "cheat". The boat 26-27" wide with flat bottom and square sides so it is very stable (upside or down). It was causing me trouble rolling at first as it was so stable when upside down and I could not time my roll well. However, after some practice I think it is has become easier to toll than my other kayaks! When doing certain rolls, the stern and/or the side submerge when on edge a lot more than my sea kayaks do. I probably also sit a lower overall in that short boat. In effect my center of gravity during the last phase of the roll is considerably lower compard to my higher volume sea kayak. Also, once past a certain point in righting-up, the stability of the kayak kicks-in and felps considerably in bringing me up. That allows me to do an almost effortless roll if done right, e.g. smoothly, no splashing and even using just a half paddle held with two loose fingers.
I can also do an almost effortless roll in my short sea kayak (especially with a GP to slow things down and give some more lift). That's because the kayak not only allows me to get pretty flat laying back on my rear deck but it also sits relatively low in the water when on its side or half-up (not a low volume boat but not terribly big for me either). Still, that kayak is harder for me to roll compared to the WW kayak in bumpy conditions since it tries to keep both ends above water much more than the WW does. While I find that kayak easy to roll in flat water, sea waves, or surf, I have more trouble rolling it quickly in WW rapids where my WW boat is easier.
My third kayak also allows me to lay fairly low on the rear deck, but the kayak is higher volume and sits higher on the water overall. My center of gravity is higher at all points (paddling or rolling). So, even though I can still lay almost flat on the deck, my center of gravity is high and that makes the roll require more effort than in either of the other two kayaks above. This kayak is also quite narrow and round, so it does not have much of a righting moment like the other two kayaks have once past a certain point - it does not impede my initial righting with excessive stability but also does not "help" with righting me up like the other two do.
C2C or forward finishing rolls are also harder for me in the higher volume kayak, I think due to the same factors above.
So, in effect, it seems that kayaks with ...
- lots of rocker (place the paddler low when up), and/or
- low volume (place the paddler low when sideways), and/or
- that sink down during a roll (place the paddler low when sideways), and
- are not too "tippy" (have strong righting moment)
... manage to place the paddler low in the water during the righting stages of a roll and create a bigger righting moment. They are thus easier to roll.
The shape of the hull (e.g. wide or narrow or flat or round) seems to be secondary about how easy a kayak is to roll compared to the above considerations.
A kayak that has good stability (but not excessive as to hinder initial righting) may be easier to roll than a really tippy narrow boat since the more stable kayak "assists" the paddler in righting him once past the edge where stability begins to increase.
I'm pretty tall at 6'4" and therefore find rolling a little harder than someone a foot shorter -;)
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Posted by: cd1 on Mar-16-10 1:50 PM (EST)
Posted by: suiram on Mar-16-10 1:54 PM (EST)
Posted by: jcbikeski on Mar-16-10 2:06 PM (EST)
I haven't compared a lot of boats, but it seems narrow and low volume (especially rear deck) help. I'm not sure I'd agree that a tippy boat is harder to roll though maybe harder to keep up once you come up (ooops, went too far and over I go again). The tippier of my two yaks is easier though it also is narrower and lower volume.
One thing..... Designers will seldom|
Posted by: ezwater on Mar-16-10 3:00 PM (EST)
market a ww kayak that is "hard" to roll. My '82 Noah Magma has a flattish bottom but poor initial stability. It is at its most stable when upside down. I'm sure Vladimir Vanha was not thinking mass market and rollability when he marketed it. But it was my first kayak, I learned to roll in it, and I could roll it in battle conditions. In the other kayaks I have owned, failure to roll was entirely due to my technique breaking down, not to anything about the boat.
No clear answer|
Posted by: sternman on Mar-16-10 3:14 PM (EST)
Lot's of things determine how easy a kayak can be rolled. Hull shape and volume can really make a difference.I think beam has the least effect unless you're talking really wide lke 24" plus. Both my kayaks are 21" wide, fairly stable and roll quite easily. One has hard chines and is slightly higher behind the cockpit so takes just a wee bit more muscle. I can't comment on short vs long but again, it's probably more about volume, hull shape and where it's placed than length. The paddlers size and skill level obviously plays a big part. Some of us including myself have a bit more upper body mass to deal with.
Easy to roll|
Posted by: old_user on Mar-16-10 3:49 PM (EST)
Did You Mention Rear Deck Height?|
Posted by: Kudzu on Mar-16-10 4:09 PM (EST)
I once borrowed a boat with a very high rear deck. No layback possible. Yuck.
It is not the boat|
Posted by: Dr_Disco on Mar-16-10 4:12 PM (EST)
Different boats require different techniques, but once you know what that is the boat becomes easy to roll. For example, WW boats with high flat sides typically require that you delay maximum energy output until later in the roll (rather than the immediate burst that most people employ). Jackson WW kayaks roll very easily with a layback hip snap (the roll EJ teaches) but do not respond as well to a traditional C2C, especially a forward finishing one. The Dragorossi Fish is a bear to roll with a traditional C2C but responds well to forward finishing. Learning your boat is probably more important than making a list of characteristics that make a boat "hard to roll".
Posted by: fadedred on Mar-16-10 6:31 PM (EST)
Agree...body, boat, blade.....that is the order of importance for a roll....
It seems your hitting some important|
Posted by: dong on Mar-16-10 5:47 PM (EST)
points. Some rolls like the c-c are a hit or miss type roll that requires good timing and aggressive technique. I feel that a roll that can be performed with minimal strength is the most dependable. Kayaks that can be balanced braced suit this type of roll best. Hull design, seat height, coaming shape and size are very important. A kayak that balance braces will have very good secondary stability which will help your bracing and keep you upright. Most manufacturers don't seem to care about these features. Every kayak can be rolled with different technique but why not make a kayak roll very easily. The only manufactured kayak that I have paddled that meets these specs is the Outer Island by Jay Babino. Being a competent roller allowed Jay to make the proper design features.
Posted by: old_user on Mar-16-10 6:08 PM (EST)
"Most manufacturers don't seem to care about these features."
I don't mean to offend anyone|
Posted by: dong on Mar-16-10 7:13 PM (EST)
plus it would be ignorant of myself not to take into consideration the many differences in paddlers. I have heard many good things about the Tempest kayak but have never had the opportunity to paddle one so my previous comments are not intended toward that kayak.
Posted by: old_user on Mar-16-10 9:16 PM (EST)
I took your post to mean that most kayaks are not well designed to roll because the vast majority of kayaks made and sold are recreational boats.They are the moneymakers for many kayak makers. Seakayaks as a general genre are but a small fractional niche of the market.
Posted by: fadedred on Mar-16-10 6:44 PM (EST)
Having a fit...|
Posted by: rosborn45 on Mar-16-10 7:44 PM (EST)
To me fit is critical - by that I mean contact at the foot braces, thigh braces, and back. If I am too loose in a boat I flop around in it and the boat does not move when I move. Too tight, and I lose my range of motion. There aren't many boats I can't roll if I have good contact and I can bend forward and sideways. The most surprising roll I ever did was in a perception prism sot with thigh straps. Another surprise was rolling a sea kayak that did not have thigh braces. I guess it was round enough it just rolled like a log, so indeed, boat shape is also a factor.
easier ones for me -|
Posted by: NateHanson on Mar-16-10 8:02 PM (EST)
My experience is that boats with boxier profiles seem to finish easier. The tempest 165 and avocet, for example, are slightly more forgiving than a pintail, even though the dimensions and volume are quite similar for all. The pintail has a more rounded profile between the side and bottom, and doesn't have a flat bottom like the other two.
Posted by: sternman on Mar-17-10 9:42 AM (EST)
Although it's likely to be very contravercial I still think to the individual, hull shape has some affect. I find some kayaks get kind of stuck on the way around. My Outer Island with soft chines feels smooth and predictable. This will of course vary depending on user. I have friends that prefer hard chines. There's no right or wrong it's just what works for you. This subject also needs to be defined depending on the type of rolling you do. I practice Greenland style with an occasional screw roll thrown in. The screw roll works great for kayaks that have higher freeboard.
Posted by: Kudzu on Mar-16-10 8:19 PM (EST)
I dunno about your idea about hull shape. In roll classes some years back everyone scrambled for the Pirhouettes. They were hot dog shaped hulls. No one wanted the pancake shapes.
Posted by: JayBabina on Mar-17-10 11:14 AM (EST)
This summer I was playing with some white water boats and the newer flat bottom types were a bit stubborn to roll. I found that a lot of WW paddlers were using a lay back style and coming up on the back corner which made it easy. But the old bullet shaped hulls come around very easy. Most sea kayaks, once you have a decent roll come around pretty easy and ironically, the big round tanks come around very easy. Not talking about the super low and narrow rolling boats.
Mixing up whitewater and sea kayaks|
Posted by: dogmatycus on Mar-16-10 8:58 PM (EST)
is going to draw out comments from paddlers of both disciplines. Hopefully, you will also get paddlers who regularly do both, regardless of whether a specific sea kayak should be paddled in whitewater. Since no one has said it, in moving water getting set with the current usually makes a roll easier than fighting it out on your preferred side, on whichever way you capsized.
Posted by: DJC on Mar-16-10 9:02 PM (EST)
I use both a P&H Capella 160 and a Prijon Capri Tour for rolling. They're both completely different boats, but one is easy to roll as the other. The Capri has a much higher rear deck, but still easy to roll. The more difficult boats to roll are the ones that don't fit as well. The bigger difference for me is the type of roll. I started with the C2C, thinking the 3-count movement would be easy. I switched to a standard sweep roll and it's much easier and almost effortless. That's my take on it anyway.
For what it's worth...|
Posted by: Celia on Mar-17-10 8:35 AM (EST)
The last time I tried suggesting that some boats were easier to at least learn to roll in, a couple on this board got pretty cantankerous about it and indicated I didn't know my arse from a hole in the ground. Good luck!
Posted by: sing on Mar-17-10 12:08 PM (EST)
Posted by: fadedred on Mar-17-10 1:12 PM (EST)
Part of the sport|
Posted by: sternman on Mar-17-10 9:04 PM (EST)
Among my fellow paddlers kayaks are often chosen for several reasons. First, we enjoy touring but also we love to roll. It's just an extension of our enjoyment. There are some that do compete but for many it's simply for fun. I know there are those with the "you don't need to roll" mindset. That's fine if you choose not to. Rolling to some is like an art form. It adds another dimention to paddling. Why not leave it at that? If someone wants a kayak that's easy to roll then that's their choice.
Posted by: fadedred on Mar-17-10 9:47 PM (EST)
agree...afterall...that is..... buying a kayak for it's intended purpose...like Sing said
Think of the Children|
Posted by: BobW on Mar-25-10 10:36 AM (EST)
While different hulls feel different during the roll (think Primary & Secondary stability) I find that my position in the boat greatly effects the ease of roll more than the hull shape.