K.I.S.S. stands for Keep It Simple Seakayaker! If you are interested in rolling I hope the following information will be helpful. Why roll? It builds confidence and is the ultimate in self rescue. Do you need to roll in sea kayaking? Not as long as you paddle with others, practice assisted rescues and are an expert in the next best self rescue, the paddle float re-entry. And don’t forget to bring your oxybenzone free sunscreen so you can enjoy the fun safely under the sun!
Rolling is a skill that just needs practice, so stack the odds in your favor with the following ideas. Look over some books on rolling just to get the basic idea. Then watch some of your paddling friends’ roll. OK, let’s Keep It Simple Seakayaker! The very first step in the rolling process is to get to work on your hip snap. A lot of people come to roll practice and not only think they’ll get a roll immediately, but they have no concept of a good hip snap. If the hip snap stumps you, just think of relaxing one knee and driving the other knee up to rotate your boat! So before you get in line and work one on one in learning the roll sequence, grab yourself a side of the pool and get to work. The hip snap is so important and follows us kayakers everywhere. It’s also part of the Eskimo and Eskimo x rescue and bracing. Once you’ve become friendly with the side of the pool, now grab a bow of a helpers boat. As you execute your snap the helpers bow should remain stable and above the water. You should not see the helpers bow go under. If that’s happening, you are muscling with your arms and not driving with your knees. Part of your practice with the hip snap is to also to include a head dink. That allows your head to come up last. It’s as simple as this: start to rotate the boat with the hip snap, now bring your body across, and at last here comes your head (often refereed to as the same weight as a bowling ball). Now your helper can stand in the pool and allow your hands to overlap on top of theirs as you flip over and try to right the boat with a hip snap/head dink combo. A good helper will tell you if you are ready to move forward or its back to the side of the pool. Even if the latter is the case, you are only improving your form in Eskimo rescues and bracing.
Now your helper knows you can right the boat with a solid hip snap/head dink combo. Yeah… you finally get to have your paddle. Most often sea kayakers will learn a sweep or modified sweep roll. Sweep rolls allow us to begin rotating the boat the moment we leave the set up position. A high brace roll, commonly called the C to C, requires a lot of flexibility in the set up and follow through. I found it very frustrating and eventually my body just added a small sweep. There are dozens of names for rolls and mine most often resembles a Screw Roll. A good helper will guide you here. As long as they are consistent and help you with repetitions, you and your muscle memory are on their way.
I keep referring to a good helper. A helper might not have a roll themselves, but they understand the basics and are good observers of what’s working or not working for you. Partner up with some paddling friends this next boating season and when you help teach you get better yourself.
Now as your helper guides you through the steps of a sweep roll try to relax. With each repetition your muscle memory is getting better and better. Your helper will take you through the roll sequence: flip over in the set up position, get plenty of “air” on your hands, sweep your paddle out as you relax one knee and drive the other (the boat is already starting to rotate), keep driving your knee upwards, lean back to complete the sweep, bring your head up last and recover!
Challenge yourself this next boating season! Pick a paddling partner to help roll with. Bring a boat to share during the winter at the Keelhauler Saturday roll sessions, even if it is only a river boat. Just get started. I’m usually there with several other Bradstreet paddlers who’d be glad to help. Call me to set something up. I learned in my river boat and easily transferred the sequence to several other models of sea kayaks. My goal last year was to roll as many different sea kayaks as possible. At roll sessions it’s tiring to roll the entire time so swap off and help each other. If you are lucky enough to own a camcorder you can videotape to see your progress. Only when your technique is strong, add your float bag to the end of your paddle. This will allow you to work solo. You must have good technique here to use a float bag or you will trade off a problem of teaching the wrong muscle memory steps to your body, and you’ll need a lot of time to correct it. The float bag technique allows you to start rolling with the bag fully inflated, then let some air out as long as you are still succeeding until the bag is empty.
By March you can participate in the Red Cross Roll sessions scheduled on Mondays evenings. There will be river and sea kayaks available and plenty of instructors. Just think, if you’ve challenged yourself with a goal for the paddling season and it is rolling, you have already gotten a big head start. Once the lake warms up you’ll find yourself wanting to put in early to start or stay later for a few roll attempts. Don’t forget the Bradstreet Roll Sessions for the summer with Mark Pecot, held the last Wednesday of each month. Now when the lake kicks up and you’d like to surf, treat yourself to a helmet and roll the season away!