I come to praise the back deck (aka rodeo) roll, not to bury it. Maligned by many whitewater devotees and almost unheard of among the sea kayaking clan, this technique for escaping the oxygen-free paddling position offers benefits worth considering:
- Its primary virtue is that it’s quick. With almost no set-up, you can initiate the moment you realize you’ve passed that point of no return.
- It requires very little depth, so lends itself to rock gardens and surf situations. Your head stays close to the surface and your paddle doesn’t require room for an arc beyond the horizontal plane. Critics will point out that the face is exposed. I believe this is offset by the shallow depth of the head and some protection from the arms and paddle.
- Finally, it requires minimal flexibility, a plus for those of my age (about 117 in human years). While most videos you find depict a lithe body flattened on the foredeck, there are variations where your back never leaves the rear.
This link shows Ken Whiting executing the roll in a sea kayak, albeit finishing in the forward position: