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Which should I learn first, the brace or roll?

Words by @chadelsoon


So, some would say, “If you were to miss that first brace, you would capsize, so learn the roll first”.


Some would also say, “Learn the brace, so that you don’t ever have to roll”.


I think personally, both are right. Begs the question, which came first, chicken or the egg? 😊


Here are my thoughts:


When paddling now, I am a big believer in using the brace than the roll, I mean, as long as I can keep my boat upright, I don’t have to roll. But in order to be effective in bracing, I had to learn to roll first.


Most kayak schools would go through the basics of all essential paddle strokes; forwards, reverse, sweeps, draws, brace, wet exits and self-rescues. Rolls are one of the last things they would teach you, and for a good reason! It’s all about progression, adjusting our bodies to new and different positions and getting that muscle memory in.


I remember when I first started paddling, as I was working on the brace, my instructor would say “slap the water, …keep your head from raising up”. I’d try it, but I couldn’t really see it working. Little did I know, that was part of the plan. The “slapping the water” technique worked, to a certain degree, then it’s capsize practice! So, while I had been practicing the brace, without realizing, when I capsized, …I practiced the ‘self-rescue’ technique! And I got really good at self-rescue, as I was so comfortable and confident with capsizing.


But I knew my brace was far from effective ….until I learned the roll. The problem with my brace was I kept on raising my head, which shifts the weight too soon and causes me to fall back in. The roll taught me to keep my head down and ensure that the last thing that was coming out of the water was my head. And after I could roll, my brace naturally improved …a lot!


So, here’s my two cents, practice the brace, if u capsize, that’s ok! Get back in your kayak and try again. Get to know your body’s limit, get to know your boat’s limit. Get comfortable capsizing. And get comfortable getting back on your kayak. When its time to learn the roll, rest assure that your ‘good-rolling technique’ will help with your bracing.


If you would like a head start in practicing the brace, here is something you can work on at the privacy of your home, during this MCO of ours. The goal is to practice that muscle memory of ours, to keep the head from coming up too soon. A great way to prepare for the real deal when u hit the water!


Practice on a high chair, or a stool. Whether practicing the high or low brace, maintain the ‘paddlers box’ (both elbows pointing down), and do 3 things simultaneously.


  • The brace,

  • Lifting up the butt cheek (of the side you are bracing), and

  • Maintain the head coming up last. That’s the goal, “HEAD LAST”. Think of it like as though you are in a shampoo advertisement, and the last thing that is coming out of the water is your hair.



Finally, here’s a party trick I did a couple of years ago. *take note of the ‘hair advertisement’.


...And I still don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg.


#stayhome #dudukrumah Jom paddle ...later!


The views expressed disclaimer informs the reader that subjects, thoughts, opinions, and even presentation of facts on this article reflect only the author’s views and not the wider views of the any paddling governing body or organization.

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