I've got a dirty little secret I need to get off my chest. No, it's not the confession that my tent has only been on an island for one night this year, or the fact that I actually spent an entire day on Superior with a Euro paddle. It's my forward finishing rolls. My chest scull and forward sweep seemedto have disappeared. A lot of people out there like to point fingers and I will keep the tradition alive by fingering RonO and GalwayGuy as two of the main causes of the missing rolls. With GG out in Minot, ND on a Mission from God and RonO happily wrenching on bear watching aircraft in Homer, AK, my group of rolling compadres has dwindled to zero. Sure, there are folks who want to roll for a bit but they actually want to paddle and, worse than that, actually spend the better part of the evening paddling! With Ron and GG, a good night was launching, paddling 35 yards from shore, and rolling off and on for an hour or so. We would then adjourn to the closest establishment to discuss and dissect said rolls over esoteric pints of fine ale. I have not discussed my problem with either of them and kind of suspect that they may be suffering from the same problem. I don't recall any decent body of water near Minot and I most certainly recall from last years trip, that the water in the Homer area is a bit brisk for extended rolling. With the 'normal' avenues of critique and roll refinement hundred and thousands of miles away, It was apparent that Plan B and C needed to be put into place.
Plan B was pretty simple. Since I was coaching up at the Great Lakes Symposium I would just stroll down to the rolling beach during some spare time and let the guy that showed me the secrets of the chest scull in the first place, FivePieceRoy, diagnose the problem. The only things wrong with that plan were, a) due to the grueling, indentured servant-like scheduling of the cruel Bill Thompson and maniacal Kelly Blades, I didn't have any spare time and b) neither did FivePieceRoy. He had groupies lined up every minute that he was in the water down at the rolling beach. So rather than refining and diagnosing my roll I was forced to consume pints of Cabin Fever Bitter at the Dunes Saloon and taste fine Irish and Scotch whiskeys from the back of JB's van. I will admit though, that all angst about rolling was pushed into the mental closet by these convivial activities. I knew the vacation week in the Grand Island area wouldn't offer any rolling tips either. The BadHatter is concerned with having one good roll and one only so he can come up without wet exiting if he should find himself upside down unexpectedly. He feels that anything other than a standard sweep is for trained seals and why bother worrying about some contorted forward sweep BS when you have a solid standard roll?
It would appear that Plan C would need to be executed. Plan C was by far the most solid of my schemes and one that was damn near foolproof. I had signed up for ChrisG at Boreal Shores' annual Lake Superior fun with Turner and Cheri from KayakWays. I knew in the back of my mind that this was my ace in the hole, up the sleeve, on the bottom of the deck or whatever. We spent the morning working on various Greenland stroke techniques and remembering things that were in the back of my head but needed to be dragged to the forefront again. Turner's comment that, "I come out here to the midwest and you guys all have this low angle stroke; what's that all about anyway?" struck home once again. He also handed me a new Razor paddle that he'd made for me and actually finished on the way to Bayfield in Parry Sound, ON. I'm certain that Turner really wanted to visit the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame museum but diligently finished my stick instead. Thanks man!
Now for the reconstruction of my chest scull and forward finishing rolls. I'd like to say that observation, refinement, and hard practice for a couple hours got me back in the groove. Actually, it took Cheri Perry about 12 seconds of watching one lame assed roll to inform me, "Olson, you're not dropping your head, you aren't staying flat on the water, and you're lifting your shoulder before you slide up on the front deck". I thought to myself, 'I can't be that screwed up, am I?', but of course I was. Keeping those three elements in mind, I hit the first roll painfully and then things smoothed out and got back to normal after a few reps. I am officially back in my forward finishing groove. A good roll is like hitting a baseball or a good golf swing. Bad contact sends vibrations up your arms and the ball kind of dribbles off your bat or club. Contact in the sweet spot makes you feel like you never even hit the ball as you watch it soar off into the distance. Good rolling technique is the same way, practically zero effort or strain and you're up. When we Neanderthal males encounter difficulty we automatically revert to upper body strength and muscling our way through the problem, an exceedingly stupid way to deal with it.
I guess there are a couple of lessons to be gleaned from this tale of rolling woe. The first is that instructors need to continue their own instruction. Constant learning and refinement is a good idea no matter when endeavor you are involved in. The second is to not wait so long before dealing with a problem, kind of like our propensity to wait too long before visiting the doctor. I know, I know, it's a guy thing. Lastly, good solid instruction is always worth it. Always. Maybe next year I'll drag the BadHatter up to Bayfield for this event. Cheri actually got him rolling for the first time at the last Traditional Gathering held in Akeley, MN many years back. I also need to take advantage of the rolling resources here in town. Christopher Crowhurst has a session or two or twelve and had been kind enough to invite me more than once, but my mental state by the time I get down to Spring Lake on the faaar side of town, usually during rush hour, is so foul and toxic that it takes me 45 minutes to get my head back on straight. Thoughts of harpooning the 24 year old bleached blonde woman, talking on her cell phone as she tailgates me down I-35W in her fluorescent Ford Focus, take a while to leave my brain. Thoughts of living full time in a county that still does not have one single stop light on the other hand, rarely leave my brain. No stoplights since Wednesday evening. Three day trip with the Boy Scouts was completed, assisted by the MayorOfTurtleRiver then a 5 day Outer Island adventure with the usual suspects for the annual Fall trip. In between Labor Day fun with the VOR, Matt, and TheMayor, including some music at the Big Top Chautauqua. I may even practice a forward finishing roll or two along the way.