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What is an Eskimo Roll, and How to Do One in a Kayak?

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Have you heard the phrase “Eskimo Roll”? Do you know how to do it? The Eskimo Roll is an essential skill for all kayakers, including children, to learn. This is a skill you need to learn for safety, and maneuverability when kayaking on the ocean, a river or even in a pool. Learning how to effectively do this will give you the confidence to face many situations in your kayak.

The Eskimo Roll Definition

Should you find yourself upside down in the water, the Eskimo Roll can get you back to a stable, upright, floating position. This move can be conducted with or without a paddle. Before trying it on the open water, practice this technique in a safe environment, like a pool.

Roll – A Real Life Saver

Getting flipped upside down in your kayak, due to heavy waves or river rapids, can be scary. Being able to upright yourself will improve your chances of survival.

It can’t be stressed enough that this is a survival technique that must be learned by all kayakers. If you are sea kayaking and away from the shore, then the Eskimo Roll is especially important. Yes, kayaking is safe, but you need the basics. Just as you should be wearing a life jacket, you should know how to turn upright.

Warning of the potential risks is not to say that kayaking is dangerous. However, if you haven’t learned the basics, then you could be putting yourself in a bad situation. Whether it’s heavy waves or river rapids that you are facing, you’ll always be safer in the kayak, than out of it. Maintaining control of your yak will allow you to stay calm, navigate and endure the ride. And, it’ll certainly allow you to be more adventurous… enjoy the ride.

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What is an Eskimo Roll ?

An Eskimo roll is a technique where you can roll the kayak or canoe, back into an upright position, if you have found yourself underwater. If  you’re kayaking on a river, or find large waves on the sea, then you may end up with your kayak tipped over, in an upside down position. Which leaves you underwater, holding your breath, and in potential danger of drowning.

With this roll skill, you will use your upper body strength to ‘roll’ the kayak back to an upright position. The more experience you have doing the roll, the easier it will become. Then when you really need to do it, it will be easy for you.

How to do an Eskimo Roll in a Kayak.

The Eskimo roll is a potentially life saving technique. It is essential to learn. If you want to enjoy navigating the seas and rivers of our world, you’ll be more confident in your abilities, if you flip over.

It begins with you being underwater, upside down in your kayak. This can be simulated for the purposes of training in a safe environment. It can also be an actual situation in a river or sea, with the help of others.

You must use your upper body strength and your hips. Work them together in order to turn yourself back to an upright position.

As you turn your kayak back to the upright position, you must balance yourself. Otherwise, you could over do the roll and end up back underwater again.

The Specifics of the Eskimo Roll.

  • Step one: You find yourself underwater, upside down in the kayak while holding your breath.
  • Step two: Pull your body forwards in the kayak. Not only to avoid hitting any rocks or underwater hazards, but also to put yourself in the correct position to eskimo roll back upwards again.
  • Step three: Put your paddle on the side of the kayak and reach upwards out of the water.
  • Step four: Reach your paddle upwards, as far as you can out of the water to ready yourself for the last step.
  • Step five: Flick your body and the kayak against your paddle, and snap back to an upright position. Use your hips to gain the necessary momentum to complete the eskimo roll.

As you return to an upright position, ensure that you maintain your balance on the water. And if needed, use your paddle to stop yourself from rolling back under the water again.

The Eskimo roll can seem a little difficult at first. But, once you have mastered it, you will have the confidence and skills to face most situations on the water. Before you try this out on the open water, it would be a good idea to practice in a safe environment, ideally with an instructor.

Why is it Important to Know How to do an Eskimo Roll in a Kayak?

It is absolutely vital for your health and safety to learn how to proficiently do an Eskimo roll in your kayak. Having the knowledge and skill, you can face the potential dangers of the rivers and seas with confidence. This will also help you remain in your yak, even if you are tipped over!

It may seem like a daunting prospect. But, once you have successfully mastered this maneuver, you will be in position to safely navigate most waters with a new sense of empowerment.

If you want to challenge yourself with white water, you will be ready if you know how to do the rolls correctly and easily. When you are riding the white water of rapids in a river, you will expect to be flipped upside down at some point. In this case, you can go into your tool kit of skills, and call upon your Eskimo roll. Use it to save your life, and continue with the challenge.

How do you Eskimo Roll without a Paddle?

This might seem nearly impossible. However, it is worth training to achieve this. You could find yourself in a position where you have lost your paddle, and are underwater, getting swept down the river!

In this case, you will need to pull your hands out of the water to one side of the kayak, as far as they can go. While keeping your head forward as close to the kayak as possible, you should use your hips and body’s momentum to flip the kayak back around, while slapping the water with your hands to help you.

This is a more difficult maneuver, but with some practice you will start to find it easy!

How to Safely Practice a Roll ?

How to Eskimo roll
Eskimo Rolling- by Derek C. Hutchinson

To effectively and safely practice an Eskimo roll, you can partake in classes. A qualified instructor will guide you through the process. This will normally be done in a swimming pool, or other controlled environment. That way if something goes wrong, you’ll have the help you need.

When you are underwater, and your breath holding time is running out, having a professional instructor on hand can make all the difference!

Roll Summary

The Eskimo roll is so important. It can literally save your life! However, don’t be daunted by the Eskimo Roll. It’s an essential skill. Once you pick it up, you’ll feel much more confident to approach new challenges on the water.




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What is an Eskimo Roll, and How to Do One in a Kayak?

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