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The Problem With Bomb Proof Rolls

The Problem With Bomb Proof Rolls – I think instructors who perpetuate the concept of a “bomb-proof” roll do their students a disservice.

First of all, there really is no such thing as a “bomb-proof” roll. The term alludes to a roll that’s so reliable, and so fine-tuned, that it never fails. That’s misleading and unrealistic. Every experienced instructor knows that given sufficient “conditions”, everyone eventually bails and swims – and in fact, the best paddlers I know have all taken swims at one time or another.

It’s also a potentially dangerous idea to plant in a student’s head because, as many studies have amply demonstrated, people have an unfortunate tendency to overestimate their abilities, and deluding yourself into thinking that your roll is “bomb-proof” can have undesirable consequences – particularly for less experienced paddlers.

Think about it: If you have a “bomb-proof” roll, why would you waste time worrying about the possibility of a swim? Why bother learning or practicing rescues? Why bother dressing for the water temperature? Why practice swimming with your paddle? Why avoid paddling solo in gnarly conditions? For that matter, why would you even wear a PFD?
“It’s no biggie, Dude, ’cause I got a bomb-proof roll!” is the kind of attitude that can get any paddler, no matter how experienced, into “deep trouble”.

As instructors, we should be discouraging our students from thinking this way, because when it comes to safety, a humble and realistic mindset is our friend, and machismo is our enemy. Despite what a lot of hyperbolic writers have written over the years, nobody “conquers” a mountain, or a river, or the sea.

Words: Moulton Avery

What are your thought on this?


  1. Absolute load of rubbish! Have any Qiwi’s read this? Barny Young?
    An instructor instructs someone a coach coaches someone to the best of their ability and I’m not going to take anyone into a grade 5 canyon without a bomb proof roll!

  2. Totally disagree with the idea that having a bombproof roll means you won’t think about safety, be prepared for a swim or neglect to understand the implications of soloing. That would be a failing in a coach.

    The roll is one of the most important whitewater skills and having a “bomber” roll will undoubtedly save you an unpleasant swim at some point.

    Maybe we should just stop coaching forward paddling in case people think they’re too good to learn how to turn…

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