The last few weeks I have been working with a guest that wanted to learn how to roll their kayak. It is always interesting to learn why someone wants to learn this skill. I have also been reading Pam Forsyth’s blog posts about her journy of learning to roll: Rolling as religion, Both sides of the story, . And these things got me thinking on my own evolution as a kayaker into a paddling coach.
Some people roll for attention, others roll for necessity, and a number of paddlers know how to lessen the need of rolling. I roll for the body awareness, stretching, and abdominal strengthening that can occur when the maneuvers are done correctly. It can be like yoga with a boat attached to you. However, Sean thinks that the below cartoon is why I roll. See, he does not know how to roll…
…without a paddle float…LOL
I never thought I needed a roll until one day the motion of the ocean taught me humility. I had been paddling for two years…I came out of my kayak in four foot breaking swells between Mullet Key and Egmont Key, Florida. I was shocked because I had paddled in more challenging waters. But this time I went over, came out of my boat, and could not get back into it without the assistance of Sean. I doubted myself, and I was a little fearful of paddling again…
After that I put my energy into perfecting emergency reentries in rough water, and learning how to roll. It took me a long time to learn to roll. I just could not get the rhythm down and it was painful. Then after several rolling instructors, I met a paddling coach that told me a secret to rolling. It was that rolling should not be painful; furthermore, rolling was not important. A successful roll was a sign of an unsuccessful brace. Hence, a brace was the key to having fun on the water. For braces truly let you naturally move without thinking.
I practiced my brace in rough and confused waters near friends that could assist me with a bow, stern, or put-across rescue. I practiced sculling for support with a modern euro blade paddle. Then I discovered Greenland Qajaq traditional kayak techniques and learned how to perform side sculling and chest sculling with a Greenland paddle.
After all of those hours of practice playing on the edge between clouds and sea grass I discovered that I had not had an unplanned capsize for over a year. But I had also developed water on the brain. I fell in love with the allure of Greenland kayaking because it rejects modern technology to embrace the technology of history. I also think I could have been a seal in a past life… so I started to learn how to roll with a Greenland paddle.
I can perform, as well as teach, twelve capsize maneuvers. But I have realized that the perfect roll always looses against the perfect brace in real life applications. Rolling improves balance, timing, and bracing. And a perfect roll in eye shot of a non kayaker can scare off or entice them into trying out this lifestyle.
Nevertheless, playing between air and water does put things into an interesting perspective, and I always have fun when a guest learns how to lessen the chances of an unplanned capsize.