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Ballast and Rolling

Vopal Video Shoot 1Earlier this week, I was watching Carl Vopal finish up a few shots for a video on how to install the “Paddling Partner” ballast system for kayaks.  He is planning to end this video by demonstrating how the ballast assists in performing braces because the boat has a tendency to want to right itself when the kayak is put on edge.  It occurred to me after watching this demonstration, that ballast which is fixed against the hull in the center of the kayak should also have a positive effect on one’s attempts to roll.

These musings of mine are still in the theoretical state as I have not taken out a kayak with ballast and tried to roll it.  However, it would make sense to me that when the kayak is upside down with a 9.5-lb weight pinned to the inside of the upturned hull, there would be a tendency for that weight to want to fall back down.  This would start the kayak rolling.  Once the boat reaches a position halfway between upside down and right side up, the ballast would definitely want to continue falling down taking the hull with it bringing the kayak to a full right side up position.

Now, all of this supposes that the paddler in the kayak is attempting to roll the kayak using reasonable form and body mechanics.  On it’s own, 9.5 pounds cannot counterbalance the weight of the paddler’s torso sticking out of the cockpit under the kayak.

I know a couple of local kayakers who use Carl’s ballast system in their kayaks.  I need to ask them how they feel it affects their ability to roll a kayak.  If you are using the Paddling Partner or some other similar type of fixed ballast in your kayak, I’d like to hear what your experience has been in rolling the kayak with the ballast affixed.  Then, if it gets a little warmer tomorrow afternoon, I need to take my Sirocco out with the ballast in place and see how it rolls for me.  As I have never actually taken a physics class, I would appreciate it if those with a stronger background in this science would correct any fallacies I may have put forth in the previous paragraphs.



This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Sherri,
    I purchased a Paddling Partner system from Carl this past summer and have used it about 20 times in my Valley Aquanaut. Regarding rolling: with the ballast installed, it takes me longer to roll the boat over to get to the inverted position. I assume this is because there is more inertia and stability to overcome. I’m not saying it requires additional effort to invert — just additional time. Once I am inverted, rolling back up does seem to be a bit easier. As I stated in my testimonial that Carl has posted on his Paddling Partner website, I notice a definite stability improvement for some of the “both hands over the side” maneuvers such as draws, ruddering and sculling. Where I notice the biggest stability improvement is during surfing.

  2. Ken, thanks so much for sharing your experience. It would make sense that it takes a little longer to get to the inverted position when capsizing. The ballast should be attempting to right the kayak against the weight of your torso going under the kayak. The buoyancy of your PFD is also probably assisting the ballast in slowing the kayak. It is good to hear that your subjective experience in rolling seems to corroborate my feeling that rolling should be helped by the addition of fixed ballast (assuming it is fixed to the bottom and center line of the kayak).

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