Sometimes when I go paddling, I think to myself why this activity is so intimidating to land lovers. I suppose the answer exists within the fear of rolling.
Paddling is like learning to walk. A person starts to move slowly and then they learn to protect themselves from falling by sticking their hands out. When a kayaker feels like they are about to flip they hold onto their paddle and use a brace technique to slap the water. The brace keeps a paddler from rolling upside down and it is a move that people on the water use more frequently than a roll.
It is a fact that a kayak roll is the fastest type of self-rescue when playing on a whitewater river or in the surf when a kayak brace fails. It requires little upper body strength to develop a safe capsize recovery by using the hips to upright the kayak. Nevertheless, most people paddle in flowing seas, protected bays, inlet waters, or on rivers. And in these environments an unplanned capsize rare.
The learning of how to brace a kayak is the key to overcoming the intimidation of rolling. If a kayaker knows how to brace, they will rarely have to roll.
If you get a chance to talk to a person from where kayaking originated from most will agree that rolling is a sign that they screwed up. Arctic water immersion will kill you. Then there are the paddlers who have the skills to run white water rivers. They do not want to have their head come in contact with a strainer, hole, feature, or rock. Spending the evening in an emergency room with a concussion or smashed face is not a good way to end a day on a river. It is the brace combined with a hip snap that keeps kayakers playing between degrees of wetness without the worry of full immersion.
Then there is the flip side…Rodeo, Freestyle, and Greenland Competitions. This stuff is cool and has its place in the sport of kayaking. Those who have the skill to compete can be a great resource to learn from on how to read the water, how to brace, and be safer on the water because of the time they have spent in it.
It just comes down to the fundamentals. A person is always safer if they do not flip. And an unplanned successful roll is a sign that a brace failed.
To learn more about how to brace look into taking the following classes from an ACA (American Canoe Association) or BCU Certified Kayak Instructor.
ACA Essentials of Kayak Touring, Coastal Kayak Basic Strokes & Rescues, Greenland Traditional Skills Endorsement
BCU Three Star
Another reason not to roll…