Log Rolling 101

So, you’ve seen log rolling on ESPN. You hunted around and found a log, and want to learn how to roll. Well, the first thing you’ve probably found is that log rolling is not nearly as easy as it looks. There is a lot more to just standing on a log and moving your feet. There is a ton of things happening on the log that people don’t notice. But before we get into anything too advanced, lets start from the beginning.

Equipment
If you are going to learn how to log roll, you are going to need the right equipment to start learning. First off is the obvious : a log. Where do you get a log? Well, finding a used log to start learning to roll on isn’t too bad, and won’t break your pocket book assuming that you have some way of getting it shipped or going to get it in a descent method. To learn more about getting a log, visit our equipment page. For a beginning roller, I would not recommend getting anything smaller than a two log. A one log would obviously be ideal for learning, but would quickly become useless as a beginning roller becomes better. It would be possible to learn on something smaller than a two log, but would take much longer, and would probably lead to the roller becoming frustrated and quitting before they began to have fun doing it.

The next item is shoes. Since most practicing rollers nowadays learn on carpet, you won’t have to buy or make a pair of log rolling spikes. The shoes that most rollers use to practice in are actually quite affordable, running 5-8 dollars a pair. For more information, visit our footwear tutorial. A lot of the terminology I will use can be confusing at times, so you might want to brush up on your lumberjack terminology.

Getting Started
So you have all your equipment in order, and you’ve found a descent place to roll that is fairly sheltered from boats, and large waves. Now what?? Where does one begin? Do you just stand up and roll? Well, first we have to establish some ground rules. Since you are just beginning, you don’t need to know all the unwritten rules for rolling, but you do have to know some. They state that you have to remain on your own end of the log, in between the painted foul lines (red or blue, depending on what log you’re on), and you cannot touch your opponent. Thats all you need to know for now. Also, because I’m pretty sure you will be learning around other rollers, please realize that not everyone learns at the same rate. The younger the roller, the easier and faster they seem to learn. Realize that the learning curve is different for everyone.

You may have noticed that some rollers look over one shoulder when they roll, while others look over another. Rollers look over different shoulders depending on how they began. Most rollers, including myself, roll looking over their left shoulder. There is no right or wrong shoulder to roll over. Whatever shoulder a roller is most comfortable with is the one that they generally roll over. Rollers than learn to roll over their right shoulder generally must learn to be great runners, because they will typically be in a running match, versus a bucking match (for more on these terms, see our terminology page). Usually, the person/child simply steps up on the log, and whatever side they feel like rolling on, they stick with.

Beginning Technique
If you are a beginning roller, this next section is one that should be nearly memorized. If you are just starting, and seem to be having trouble getting the hang of it, chances are good that you are doing something wrong that is described in this paragraph. Reading it over after rolling will help you understand and come to terms with the basics. Learning to roll wrong will not only make bad habits, but will also make it very difficult to win over a perfectionist roller. It only takes one misstep or mistake for an experienced roller to throw another off balance, and into the drink.

Rule #1 about learning to roll : No looking at your feet. I’m going to repeat it just because I know that the first thing a person does when they get on the log is look at their feet. No looking at your feet. Your feet are never going to leave the bottom of your legs, so there is no reason to look straight down at them.

Stepping up on the log, a rollers body stays (mostly) perpendicular. The arm closest the center line always goes back, and the arm on the outside (furthest the center line) goes forward. By sticking your arms out, I mean simply mean putting your arms out to help stabilize your total balance. Don’t stick them straight out, yet don’t leave them at your sides. Find a comfortable medium. The arms should only move a minimal amount when rolling. Moving them around will simply throw you off balance, and serves as a great signal to your opponent that you’re off balance.

Contrary to popular belief, the real balance in log rolling is from the waist down, in your legs. Ever watched a crazy recovery, where the roller seemed to be totally falling backward, yet was suddenly back on the log? That’s because their lower body was still in balance with the log. A rollers knees must always be bent, as well as a rollers lower back. The lower you are, the lower center of gravity you have, and the harder it will be to get off balance. But how low should your knees be bent, or how much should your back be bent? If you are rolling with your lower back bent correctly, it will start to feel warm, gradually burn like a well worked muscle. This is completely normal, and encourages the strengthening of the lower back muscles. Knees should be bent where it is comfortable, yet low, but not too low so as to inhibit the movement of the legs.

Head, and eyes should be focused on the other end of the log at all times. Remember rule #1 of rolling? Never take your eyes off your opponents feet. The same applies for practice. Your eyes should never leave the other end of the log.

So far, I have left out one of the most important “steps” in log rolling. Your feet must remain moving at all times. By moving, I mean picking your feet up, up and down, just high enough for your spikes/shoes/feet to leave the log. I typically tell younger beginning rollers to pretend like they are squashing ants. This helps get down the general rhythm. You may choose to move your feet faster or slower, depending on the variables at hand. Rolling against a very good opponent? Moving your feet fast is always a good technique. Rolling on the one log, wanting to conserve energy? You can move your feet a little slower. Knowledge will come with experience. Why must you constantly move your feet up and down? Like I said in the preface to this section, it only takes a split second for an experienced roller to throw a “sleeping” roller off balance. Stopping your feet for even a second is enough time to end up in the drink. The steps must be small and quick at all times. In rolling, you gradually progress to the next smallest log after exceeding the time limit for each one. As the logs get smaller, so must your steps. The smaller the steps, the faster your feet should be moving. Large steps make your feet slap the water as your run, which in turn creates a large amount of drag on your feet. It also makes you have to pick your feet up, to get back on the log, similar to running stairs.

Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you when it comes to the basics, I’m going to try and give you a bit of advice for beginners. One of the most common questions is, how exactly should it feel when you are out there on the log? Well, at first it is going to feel very awkward, to say the least. It goes against the basic rules of walking, and running. Your arms stay at your side at all times, no matter how fast you go. As you run faster, your steps actually stay the same size, instead of getting larger. Log rolling takes hours upon hours of practice just to be able to stay on the log, feeling somewhat under control. The basic body posture alone can (but not always) take weeks to become comfortable with. Please understand that I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying, or beginning the sport. By no means is that what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to tell everyone that much patience is needed if you are a beginner. It may take days.. or even weeks before you suddenly “get it”. But trust me… when you finally make everything click, and you do everything right, it will be well worth it.

This is the first of a many part series designed to teach anyone and everyone how to log roll. The next tutorial will teach more advanced techniques, once a beginner has become comfortable stepping up and balancing on the log for a descent duration of time.