Secrets Of The Back Deck Roll (Video)

Learn proper technique and you'll soon forget the ole sweep

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Popularized in playboating as a way to avoid washing out of a hole, the back deck roll isn’t just for the rodeo circuit these days. Some within the sport even argue that once you’ve learned proper technique, it will quickly become your go-to tactic anytime you need to right your kayak. Jackson Kayak paddler Boyd Ruppelt shares why and shows us how to perfect our back deck roll in this video from Send School.

Secrets Of The Back Deck Roll

“I back deck roll almost every single time. I use it everywhere. As a creeker, I prefer it. The back deck roll, despite convention, is not actually more dangerous as long as you keep your shoulders in the box and you use proper technique,” Ruppelt shares in defense of the roll historically thought to be a riskier maneuver than the traditional C-to-C and sweep rolls.

“You’ll find the back deck roll is safer because it’s faster. It’s less exposed. You actually take up less vertical space when you’re underwater.”

Ruppelt goes on to illustrate the difference in body position between a conventional roll and the back deck. Showing the upright body position in the first and the more body parallel with the boat in the second.

So why, then, is the back deck roll, not the roll we learn from the beginning?

Ruppelt believes it is because the sweep and C-to-C rolls are easier to teach and break down into steps, while the back deck is more of one fluid motion.

Underwater view of a back deck kayak roll.
Feature Image: Send School / YouTube

How To Back Deck Roll

When trying to learn the back deck, Ruppelt first acknowledges it helps to already have the fundamentals of a roll; this way, you understand the hip snap, staying within the box, and a sense of the end goal.

If you use a right-hand control paddle, your right blade is generally your onside roll. If this is the case, the easiest way to complete your first back deck roll is to flip to your left and travel all the way around the boat, using the momentum as a continuous, fluid motion. For those who use your left blade to roll as your onside, it will be just the opposite, and you will flip to the right.

Ruppelt goes on to show how to hold the paddle horizontally, keeping the elbows down and tilting the wrists up to allow the power face of the blade to glide through the water.

To begin the roll, Ruppelt says to look over your left shoulder and begin to bring the right paddle blade all the way around until you hit air. When you fell the air, start to hip-snap.

“If you can imagine just watching your right blade go all the way around to the other side along the surface, and then hip snap when it feels natural, you’ll pop right up.”

Like all paddling skills, this maneuver is perhaps easier said than done. But with signs of winter outside, it’s about that time of year for plenty of practice at the local pool session.


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