The back deck is one of the most popular rolling techniques when kayaking, it is easy to learn if you can already sweep roll and is much faster to complete making it a favourite with whitewater paddlers. In this tutorial I will be assuming that you can already sweep roll comfortably and that you understand the need for appropriate safety when practising – I will focus solely on technique.

First of all let’s look at the starting position. One way to picture this is to imagine the set-up for a sweep roll (rolling off our right blade if we’re right-handed) where you place your paddle parallel to the left-hand side of your boat and lean forwards slightly. Instead of tipping over towards the paddle and doing a standard sweep roll off your right blade, stay in this set-up position and roll your wrists towards you so that your blade’s power face is pointing downwards rather than towards you; if possible have the edge of the paddle furthest away from you slightly higher up than the nearer edge.

Move the slider to see the different set-ups

When I first learnt how to back deck roll I was told to push my right blade out and around. I didn’t succeed the first time but just trying helped me to understand what I needed to do, after all with so many different movements involved both above and below the water, it can be quite difficult to put into words. If you just try the set-up explained previously and go for it, it may very well work for you, or at least make the movement easier to comprehend.

Some things to focus on. Remember to keep the further edge slightly higher up than the nearer edge, the reason for this is that it will allow the blade to skim along the surface of the water – if the further edge is lower than the nearer edge then the paddle will dive and you’ll lose the needed leverage to bring you back up on the other side. Keep your elbows tucked in – if you don’t it’s a great way to injure your shoulder. This will also help with the previous tip, by keeping your elbows tucked in the blade will contact the water sooner providing a surface to push up off during the roll (sometimes resulting in a dry-head back deck roll). Look over your left shoulder for the whole movement, by looking ahead of the rotation the boat will finish under you instead of having to wait for your body to catch up with it. By following this advice and just trying the movement you should be back deck rolling in no time! Good luck.

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