How to Do an Eskimo Roll

Three Parts:Learning Eskimo Roll TechniquePracticing Your Eskimo RollGetting Comfortable in the Water

In kayaking, an Eskimo roll is the term for a complete rollover under the water. You can practice your roll for fun. Knowing how to roll keeps you safe in the event you capsize while paddling.[1] Performed properly, Eskimo rolls are simple and safe. These rolls have many variations in execution that you can try out as you become more advanced.

Part 1
Learning Eskimo Roll Technique

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    Position your paddle parallel to your boat.[2] You want the paddle to be along the left side, or port, of your boat.
    • As you go throughout the process of learning your Eskimo roll technique, make sure that you maintain a firm grip on your paddle.
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    Twist your torso to the right, and retract your right arm.[3] You will bring your paddle in an arch across your kayak deck in front of you. You want to lead your paddle into the water on the right, or starboard, side of your boat.
    • After you form this arch, you want to follow through with your paddle in the water all the way back to the stern, along the starboard side of your boat.
    • A higher arch with the paddle will give you more power in your Eskimo roll.
    • However, form takes practice. You’ll want to have maximum power without compromising your ability to pull the paddle against the resistance of the water. This is a personal balance, and it will depend on your upper body strength.
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    Practice your technique above water before you attempt to roll.[4] Going through the motions with your paddle will help you to develop your muscle memory before you actually attempt your roll under water.
    • Make sure that you have a friend or instructor near by to watch and provide feedback on your technique. You don’t want to form any bad technical habits.
    • A large part of the success of an Eskimo roll lies in the fluidity of your motions. You want to be able to go through the motions of s roll without stopping to think about each position or step.
    • Practice for a few hours over the course of a few days before you attempt to roll under water.

Part 2
Practicing Your Eskimo Roll

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    Capsize your kayak.[5] As you are practicing your roll, you want to know how to flip yourself over. The first time you do this, you’re going to exit the kayak rather than roll. To make yourself comfortable, ease into flipping over completely.
    • Have your friend bring the bow of their boat next to your cockpit, perpendicular to your boat.
    • Reach out one hand to rest on their bow.
    • Slowly lean toward your friend, and tip your boat into the water about 45 degrees. Then, return to an upright position by pushing down on their bow.
    • Repeat this a few times. Each time, slightly increase how far you lean into the water.
    • Do this until you can lean far enough to flip yourself over completely.
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    Exit your capsized kayak.[6] After you flip your kayak over completely, you want to make a controlled exit. This will give you a safety net as you begin to practice your rolls. You’ll know you are never trapped underwater, as you can always perform a boat exit.
    • Practice with the spray skirt on your kayak. You will need a spray skirt when you roll.
    • Make sure that your spray skirt’s handle is within your reach, and that you are in a snug seated position in your kayak.
    • After you capsize your kayak, take a second or two to orient your self, and remain as calm as possible.
    • Grab your spray skirt by the handle, and pull it off.
    • Place the paddle between your hands, firmly grip the edge of the cockpit, and push yourself out to either side of your kayak. Keep your head as close to the surface as you can.
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    Practice your exits.[7] Even though this isn’t your complete roll, practicing wet exits can help you to feel comfortable upside down in the water.
    • Each time you perform your exit, try to stay under water for a little longer.
    • You want to have as much control over your breath as you can.
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    Keep a friend by your side for emergency surfacing. Because you are new to Eskimo rolls, you may not be able to flip yourself back over completely on your first few tries.[8]
    • Remember, if you need help at any point, bang your hands against the side of your boat, or stick your hand up out of the water.
    • Make sure your friend is on high alert.
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    Capsize your boat, and perform the motions of your roll under water. Once you capsize, your arm technique and paddle arch motion will be exactly the same as it was when you practiced on the surface of the water. It will simply be inverted.
    • If you can’t pull yourself up on the first try, you complete the motion twice to practice under water, depending on how long you can hold your breath.
    • Don’t be alarmed if you surface for a second and are pulled back underwater. You will need to exert a large amount of force to right yourself complete, and this takes trial and error.
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    Repeat the action. The only way to learn to do an Eskimo is to continue to practice. Don’t become discouraged and quit if you can’t get it right away. Eventually, the action will become natural and fluid.
    • Experiment with different amounts of force and the height of your paddle.
    • Don’t try to roll in a setting such as the ocean or a river until you are extremely comfortable with the action and have completed it many times.

Part 3
Getting Comfortable in the Water

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    Start in a controlled, still-water setting.[9] As you learn to roll, you want to begin in a setting that is predictable and safe, like a lake or a large pool.
    • White water or ocean water can be too rough and unpredictable for those learning to do an Eskimo roll for the first time.
    • If you are in a lake, avoid areas with submerged limbs or shallow areas with large rocks. You don’t want to hit your head as you roll.
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    Choose a spot familiar to you. When you are learning new techniques, it’s best to kayak in places that you’ve been before. If you choose to kayak on a lake, try to pick a place where you know the landscape and are comfortable.
    • You want to choose a familiar space so you are aware of all possible variables and dangers as you begin your Eskimo roll.
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    Kayak with another person. Anytime you’re out on the water, you want to make sure you have a friend there for safety, especially when you are learning new techniques.
    • If you can, recruit someone to help you who has kayaking experience and knows how to roll. They can watch your technique and give you personalized tips on improving as you begin.
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    Dress for the water temperature.[10] Because you are planning on capsizing to learn how to roll, you want to make sure you have appropriate gear for the weather.
    • In addition to air temperature, check the water temperature, as the water is often much colder than the air.
    • If you have access to one, wear a wetsuit.[11]
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    Condition your body and breath.[12] Your physical fitness and mental calm will likely determine your success in completing your Eskimo roll.
    • Practice holding your breath in increments, increasing the length of time you hold it.
    • Do upper body exercises like push-ups and pull-ups to increase your arm power.
    • For overall kayaking improvement, do core exercises like planking and crunches for better body control.


  • Don't try this without a spray skirt, since too much water will flood your boat, disrupting the maneuver and making your boat heavier and less buoyant.


  • Always use proper safety equipment, including but not limited to, a life-jacket/PFD, wet/dry suit, whistle, and first aid kit.
  • Practice in relatively warm water to allow your muscles to perform well.
  • Don’t attempt these maneuvers alone.

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Categories: Canoes, Kayaks, and Rowboats