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The Inuit people have been rolling their kayaks for many centuries; for them, the ability to roll was a basic survival technique. A missionary, writing in 1765, described ten methods by which an Inuit righted his craft, including full- and half-paddle rolls, and rolls using the harpoon or just the hands. A significant observation in the account is that once the paddle was positioned, the kayaker applied 'a flick of the hips' to recover.
The first non-Inuit known to have learned to roll was the Austrian, Edi Pawlata, who taught himself in 1927 after reading accounts by the explorers Nansen and Jophansen. An English explorer, Gino Watkins, learned directly from the Inuit in 1930, but unfortunately he disappeared on a trip to the Arctic soon afterwards. These early European rolls involved levering the body upright from the water with little or no hip flick.
It was not until about 1965 that the hip-flick was re-discovered, and it was this, together with the revolution in boat design and construction caused by the advent of rigid plastic boats, that led to rolling becoming a valid technique for paddlers.