How to survive a capsized kayak with a tandem roll

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How to survive a capsized kayak with a tandem roll

If you know that you will be kayaking in rough waters, you may need to learn the very important skill of rolling. This is especially important because if you are not able to perform a wet exit, and you capsize in rough conditions, then you face the risk of drowning.

Rolling a kayak for one person is a difficult task, now imagine having to do it in tandem with someone else, Being able to synchronize moves perfectly to achieve a  perfect roll can mean the difference between life and death and is, therefore, something that should not be taken lightly.

Yet, for those who have mastered the technique, they say that tandem rolling is surprisingly easy. The only difference is that you have to match your movements with your partner. To achieve a good roll, you need to do it in unison and have this pre-planned in case you capsize.

Setting up a roll.

The stronger paddler will take the lead. He will be the one who’ll initiate the roll while the other will follow. You can also have your own codes, for example, tapping on the deck, a silent count, among other pre-agreed codes.

The lead roller has to understand that the success of the role depends on him because the follower will be waiting for their signals to move. Whatever rolling technique you use, make sure you have practiced it over and over again so that you’re able to synchronize your movements well.

Types of roll techniques.

There are many types of roll techniques, the most common being the C-to C that every kayaker must learn.

The basic rolling techniques include reaching for the surface, keeping your head down and achieving a good hip snap using your knees. The hip snap is the most important otherwise you will not be able to roll over the kayak. If you do not synchronize your movements well, for instance, both of you need to raise your heads at the same time, you will not be able to get good roll movement and this can make it difficult for you to get upright.

If during the roll you find that you’re not able to get back up completely, doing a scull will most likely help you get upright. The advantage of having two paddlers is that you have quite a bit of lift and by working together, getting the timing right, and lifting from the same side, you will not go wrong. Just remember, before you do your tandem roll technique, you must both be very confident solo rollers.  This means that you have to take the time to practice on your own as well together with your partner.

If you are sharing a boat with a person who does not have a lot of experience, it is actually possible for you to roll over the kayak on your own quite easily. The person who does not have experience needs to sit tight while hugging the deck to make sure that they do not interfere with the movements you are doing in order to create a perfect roll.

How to learn to roll.

Remember, the only difference between solo and tandem rolling is that in one, you’re doing it on your own, while in the other you are doing it with someone else and so you have to really coordinate your movements and timings. This is why you need to know how to do the roll on your own before you practice with someone else. Let an experienced person teach you the fundamentals and continue to practice until you’re comfortable. To learn how to roll, look for water that is calm and clear for example, a swimming pool which gives you more control of the conditions. The more you learn how to roll, the more you can vary the environments.

Look for a kayak that is not very stable for the learning sessions.   Low volume kayaks are good for this.  Wear goggles or a mask to allow you to see how your paddle is moving through the water, the more confident to become, you can then practice without them.

One of the most important conditions is that you learn how to do a wet exit before you learn how to do a roll. A wet exit allows you to remove yourself from the kayak if you’re not able to get it back upright again.

The basic fundamentals of rolling are;-

 The head is the last to come out of the water. Your hips should be first, shoulder second and the head last. If you try lifting your head out first, it will give the kayak weight forcing it to stay upside down.

The hip snap– the hips will actually give you more success when doing a roll than the paddle can. Your paddle will be more for support than for achieving an actual rolling movement. Your hip snap will give you the leverage that you require to get your boat upright.

Once your head is out of the water, move your body back into the kayak making sure that your hips go fast, shoulders second, and then your head last. You need to practice on your own so that you are able to use your arms to help you get your head out of the water last. You will be surprised at how easy it is to learn a good roll; it actually takes most people less than five tries to get it right.

Sweep and C-to-C rolls.

It is important to realize that rolling is very much an intuitive movement and the techniques just help you to achieve it faster. Learning how to roll is important so that you’re able to get yourself back into the boat as soon as possible. For the sweep roll, tip your kayak over by taking your head forward and leaning towards one side of the boat. Once you’re under, move your head and body as close to the surface and as far away from the kayak as you can.

Press your forearms against the side of the kayak and ensure that the paddle is above the surface of the water. It is important to note that this training technique can there be difficult and may need quite a bit of space to practice, so ensure that you’re in the pool alone so you have ample space.

The C-to C roll is perfect for those who will kayak in river conditions like white water. In the C-to-C roll, the paddle stays at a 90-degree angle and then you apply downward pressure to it. When practicing the roll, let the paddle be at a 90-degree angle to the kayak while keeping the blade close to the surface of the water. Use your forearm as a pivot and apply downward pressure to the blade. When you feel that the paddle is giving you some support, use the hip snap to roll the kayak back into the position.

Once you have the technique right; you can start to practice with your partner. Get your own codes so that you learn how to communicate with each other in case you capsize and agree on the type of technique you will use. Also, talk about how you will react to a situation where the kayak does not go back upright and agree on the best course of action in that case.

Common rolling mistakes.

Many beginners find it a challenge to perfect to do the roll because of some very basic mistakes.

These include having your head and body to know when to start the roll. Your body should be as far away from the kayak as you possibly can so that the hip snap works really well. If you can see the side of your kayak when you start the roll then your body is in the correct position.

 Also, make sure that your kayak is as far away from your body as possible. Keep the paddle at a 90-degree angle to your kayak otherwise you’ll not be able to get a good hip snap when you need to.

Final thoughts

 If you’re a beginner kayak, before you take your kayak out to the water, make sure you have mastered the art of rolling your kayak. This could save your life if you capsize and are not able to do a wet exit. Start by learning how to do a wet exit so that if the roll does not succeed you have that option as well.

Make sure that your partner also has the technique at his fingertips so that if you find yourself in a difficult situation you can both successfully get your kayak back to the upright position. Agree on the language you will use in case of an emergency so that your actions are well synchronized at all times. Even if you will be kayaking in calm waters, you never know when the situation will necessitate the use of a good roll. Continue to practice no matter how good you are at it.

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About Author

Steve has been into sports all his life. As a young boy, he started with swimming; this only propelled him into more water sports. When he tried kayaking, the thrill captivated him and now, it is his favorite sport. As a ranger, Steve is always in the outdoors where he likes it. He became a ranger right after college. He is married and has three kids whom he loves going to expeditions with. When he is not at work or with his family, he loves writing. He is now the lead blogger at Tandem Kayak Report, always writing about his passion.

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