First, learn the hip snap
The hip snap is not much more than making sure your kayak is flat and level before you try to sit up from an off-balance position. You smoothly roll your hips as you bring your kayak back upright so that (a) your kayak goes back flat and level and (b) your body follows the kayak half a second later.
To acquire an instinctive hipsnap takes practice. It's part of every good support stroke. In the low recovery it's over so quickly that it's hard to see, and you can get away without doing it. For a high recovery you need a full hip snap, and kayak rolling is based on the hip snap. It is the kayaker's way of deceiving gravity for the few moments it takes to get a kayak back upright. If the kayaker in the image above wants to get upright again, he must leave his head and upper body underwater until the kayak is almost the right way up.
We have used a dozen images to illustrate this important technique but it is simple, really.
Instructions for the full hip snap
To roll your kayak or do deep support strokes, you need a full hip snap. The best place to learn is a swimming pool, but you can learn at the beach if you have a helper who is willing to spend time standing in waist-deep water. You can even learn at sea if another kayaker is willing to stay close while you use his/her boat as a float. See Where & How To Learn. Probably you will want to wear a diver's mask.
We will assume that you're in a sea kayak, which means you can lean backwards during your hip snap. If you are learning in a very short boat such as a river playboat or surf kayak, leaning backwards will make the back end sink. Try leaning forwards instead of backwards, and keep your forehead as close as you can to the front of your cockpit.
We will also assume that you have a helper standing in waist-deep water, on the left side of your kayak.
1. You are going to use your paddle, but only as a hand-rail so give it to your helper. (S)he holds it with both hands in a firm grip, parallel to your kayak and next to it but at water level. You can't learn properly holding onto something much above water level.
2. While seated in your kayak with your sprayskirt on, brace yourself firmly in position with your knees. Grasp the middle of the paddle shaft and use it to lower yourself into the water. To get completely upside down, you will have to let go with one hand.
3. Hang upside down. While you are underwater, look around to get orientated. Count to ten. Blow a few bubbles.
4. Then lean your body and head sideways as if you were trying to touch the paddle with your head. Try not to disturb your kayak at this stage. It should continue floating upside down. Lean sideways as far as you possibly can, so far that your ribs collide with your hip bone. If this position does not hurt, probably you are not leaning sideways far enough. Your head should be out to the side of the boat, just under the surface. Now you are almost halfway to being upright again, but the water is still supporting the full weight of your body and head.
5. Leave your head exactly where it is, just under the surface. Your helper is still firmly holding the paddle on the surface. Grasp the paddle shaft with both hands, and use your hips to roll the boat until it is floating on its edge. At this stage your head and most of your body are still underwater.
6. So far, Gravity has not noticed you. Now let your body follow the boat.
If you are in a sea kayak, lean all the way back so that your back is pressed against the back of the cockpit. Lean your body and head back as far as you possibly can. Ideally, the back of your head should be touching the back deck. However the shape of your cockpit will probably prevent you lying back that far. The last thing that comes out of the water is the top of your head. Then can you sit upright.
If you did a good hip snap, your helper should have felt hardly any weight on the paddle at all, certainly less than 20 lbs. If you came up head first, s(he) had to support half your body weight and it was hard work for both of you.
When you can do a good hip snap, do it another dozen times to fix it in your mind. Then try it on the other side. Keep practicing, both in the swimming pool and on the sea. On a cold day when you don't want to dunk your head, you can practice your hip snap as part of a "high recovery" support stroke.
The commonest fault for a beginner is coming up head first.
It's natural but it means that a deep support stroke or a kayak roll will probably fail. Instead of coming up all the way, you come up for long enough to get a breath and then you fall back in again.
Your head comes up last, and we would say the last thing that should come out of the water is the top of your head.
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• Support Strokes