Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The second thing most people ask me when they discover that I kayak is whether or not I can do 'one of them eskimo roll things'. The first thing of course, is 'aren't you afraid you'll tip over and be stuck in the kayak upside down?'. Silbs had an excellent piece yesterday with a spot on comment by Alex on the nature of teaching rolls and how you need to tailor the roll to the body type and age of the wannabe roller.
When people ask if you need to learn to roll to kayak I tell them not really. 'Roll for show, brace for dough' is a comment I've heard often. Many excellent paddlers that I paddle with do not have a reliable roll yet are confident in their boats and have the secondary skills necessary to deal with most situations. I do feel that a bombproof roll adds another level of confidence to ones paddling and besides that, its just plain fun. Just the feeling of hanging upside down in the water for a few seconds conditions a person to be comfortable in the position and also makes you realize that you have a hell of a long time and plenty of air to think, react, and deal with an emergency situation. It drives my sister absolutely nuts if I don't immediately roll up, a fact that insures I rarely immediately roll up when shes around. In one famous incident, recorded on video tape, my nephew, her beloved No1 son, was attempting to learn to roll. I was facilitating the process and spotting from a paddle boat with her hubby, UncleRick, and a couple of cold Leinenkugels. Scott is a former competitive swimmer and spent so much time in the water that whenever he got sick as a kid, the Old Man would claim it was because he was 'waterlogged'. He missed a couple rolls but got his head up for a breath. He would then collect himself under water and try again. My sister however, never saw his head come up as she was on the wrong side of the kayak, watching from a lawn chair on shore. The video shows UncleRick and I drinking beer on the paddle boat, Scott attempting to roll, and this crazed, wiry, incensed little woman running down the hill yellling, "Help him you assholes!".
Assholes indeed. Which brings us to the rolling instruction image above, taken at the Symposium in Washburn. I will admit that sitting on a paddle boat, drinking beer, may not be the best method for teaching rolling but I wonder about sitting on a park bench and having people thrash around on the ground at your feet. It sure looks a lot more comfortable than standing in the water or sitting in your kayak and it was a hell of a lot more fun to watch for we onlookers. This famous blogger and expedition paddler looks to be completely in his element and its hard to tell whether or not that's a beer between him and the water bottle. Comments from veteran rolling instructors on this revolutionary instruction techniqe are solicited.
All kidding aside, I did get some excellent pointers from Derrick on my almost there stick roll and a few more from MikeM, who I will be seeing in Grand Marais, MI next month at the GLSKS. Whether you decide to learn to roll or not isn't really the crucial thing in sea kayaking. In my opinion it's being comfortable both on and under the water since, after all, kayaking is a water sport. The more comfortable a person is with the water, the more confident and self assured paddler they will become.