River Dueling: The Ugly Truth about Combat Rolls

There is an unfortunate consequence when two kayakers are flipped by current while in close proximity to each other.

Due to the surface tension of the water, the kayaks are drawn together and the bow or stern of one boat invariably scoots under or over the bow or stern of the other boat.

Obviously this can cause difficulty when both paddlers are trying to roll up and breathe.

Combat rolling is the term used to describe the duel that ensues between the two kayakers as they are trapped together upside down, both of them trying to be the one who is successful in rolling up and reaching air. Usually the loser in the combat ends up having to remove themselves from their boat underwater and swim up to breathe.

It can be quite a spectacle to observe two skilled combat rollers in the middle of a duel. Their boats frequently shift over and under each other as the two kayakers attempt to reach the surface and oxygen.

Although at first this may sound unruly, there is an understanding between kayakers that this form of combat is not personal. It is just a necessary event that occurs regularly in whitewater kayaking. The loser rarely holds a grudge.

It is considered bad form to poke at your adversary with your paddle underwater, but it is acceptable to brace your paddle on top of the opponent’s boat to push up, and of course hold them down under the water at the same time.

Some believe that grabbing the other person's boat with one hand if you let go of the paddle is acceptable while others believe it to be bad form. It is advisable to establish mutually agreed upon combat roll etiquette with your boating partners before entering a river.


Or maybe combat rolling is simply rolling successfully after being flipped unexpectedly in a rapid.

My first definition is a little more interesting though, don’t you think?


I am learning that being able to combat roll in rapids is only one of many skills a beginning kayaker must develop, but it is definitely the one that concerns new whitewater paddlers the most.
-Dan

Photos and videos of beginning & more advanced Kayak Roll efforts, including Combat Rolls can be found in the following Journal Entries...
PADDLE DAY 11 (BRECKENRIDGE KAYAK ROLL CLINIC)
PADDLE DAY 12 (LOWER BLUE RIVER: Waterfall Roll)
PADDLE DAY 15 (SHOSHONE: Flipped in Wave)
PADDLE DAY 22 (SALIDA: Struggling with Bad Form in Whitewater Park)
PADDLE DAY 24 (SALIDA: Advanced Boater rolling swiftly after Loop Attempt)
PADDLE DAY 31 (SILVERTHORNE LAKE: Beginner & Intermediate Level Rolls) <Good Video

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