The hand roll is a simple yet highly effective way to turn a capsized kayak back over without the use of a paddle. Far too many beginners only learn the traditional side roll which requires a paddle. Although this type of roll is perfectly fine, you could find yourself in trouble when your paddle gets knocked down into the river. This is why it’s important to learn a backup roll, such as the handroll, that doesn’t require the use of a paddle.
The idea behind a hand roll is to thrust your body back to the surface using your hands. In a traditional side roll, you typically face your body towards the surface before twisting your hips. With the hand roll, however, you will need to position your body diagonally with your hands extended and facing towards the bottom of the water. As you can expect, this can be somewhat of a frightening position, especially for beginners, but it’s necessary to maximize your momentum and the force of your roll. With your hands extended, perform a double pump to thrust your body back towards the surface.
When it’s done correctly, your body kayak will flip back over so you are no longer underwater. The trick behind the hand roll lies in the position of your hands. You will naturally feel like raising your hands up to the surface, but in order to perform a successful roll, you must keep your hands facing diagonally towards the bottom of the water. The large, open space between your hands and the surface will provide the necessary area to forcefully thrust your kayak right-side up.
This is an excellent video I came across while browsing through YouTube the other day. It reveals the step-by-step process of hand rolling in a sea kayak. Understanding the process is a bit easier when you are able to see it first hand, so check this video out if you are having trouble performing a hand roll. Of course, the video is filmed in a pool rather than the ocean, but this is actually a good way to practice your hand rolls. Before setting out on a whitewater kayaking adventure, spend a day or two at the pool where you can safely practice your hand rolls. If you are unable to roll your kayak back over, you’ll have people around to help you out.
Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.