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Learning To Fly

Posted Jul 06 2005 12:00am

A fatal attraction is holding me fast,

how Can I escape this irresistible grasp?
- pink floyd
Sea Kayaking is an addiction. How often am I off the water while my mind is lost dancing in the waves?

Ok, so we’re leaving tomorrow at about 4am to head up to Door County for what should be our final Symposium of the year. (That is unless we decide to go to Georgia for the BCU symposium in October.) Door County lays claim to over 300 miles of shoreline and is another mid-west sea kayaking wonderland. However I did notice that the Door County Chamber of Commerce website seems to omit kayaking in favor of Yachts when it comes to on-water recreation. I am afraid many of us sea kayaker types just don’t spread around enough disposable income. What little we have tends to go into replacing worn gear instead of purchasing artistically prepared fish plates. Wait, to be fair, they did include a picture of a recreational kayak in a slideshow. . .

As luck would have it, I’ve been blessed with a serious case of “swimmer’s ear” and only have half my head working. (Probably the reason for the sarcasm above) It’s my own fault for not actually using the big bottle of 50% Alcohol & 50% white vinegar that I keep by the bathroom sink. If you remember to put a few drops of this little mix in your ears after each outing your risk of getting simmer’s ear is much less. I on the other hand often come home cold, wet, tired, and stupid, completely blowing off such mature & responsible actions and instead drop to the floor in a befuddled lump. For FACTS about swimmer’s ear please go to WEBMD’s Topic Overview.

Regardless of my (great) suffering we still need to get packed up and ready for the 6 hour drive to Rowleys Bay. You would think that we would have settled into the routine of packing up the jeep for these extended weekends but it’s actually quite the contrary. Each trip has added at least one more person and caused us to re-invent our packing. Down comes the bar where I could conveniently hang all my gear. The rear seat much come up meaning that my Greenland paddle will either be pressed against the front windsheild or staying at home. We will of course, have no choice but to use our kayaks to hold gear. If like us you sometimes have to load gear in your boats, be sure to check your racks weight limit. Using our factory mounts on the Jeep for instance allows for about 160 lbs. So you can really trust only about 130 lbs or so. When we factor in our infamously heavy Nigel Dennis Explorers (or see; Sea Kayaking UK) we can wipe out about 120 lbs right off. So that means nothing in the boats but clothing. And dainty clothing at that!

I spent Saturday near Milwaukee working with a few folks on offside rolls and supportive bracing skills. My observation has been that the most common flaw in the “offside” roll is the lack of a good hip-snap. You often have to start from scratch and learn it all over on the “off” side. JB and I both tried and suceeded doing a re-entry roll while re-attaching the spray skirt under water before rolling up. This is actually quite easy (at least in calm water) but neither of us had tried it before. The point of this silly manuver is to keep water out of your cockpit and have your skirt on to face the conditions that caused you to have to re-enter and roll in the first place.

On Sunday Mary and I met with friends who are moving to the area and introduced them to our local paddle pond, Devil’s Lake. I have a fantastic video from the day I’ve labeled “The Lumber Jack Roll”, but I have to hold out on that until the roller, or should that be rollee?, sees it and says I can post it. It answers the burning question, “Can you roll a White Water Kayak with a Landscape Timber?”. Now, don’t go trying that at home!

Thanks to KW I have a pretty good grasp of the “Angel” or “Butterfly” roll and now have pulled off 3 very sloppy successes. I also have a few nice bruises for my efforts. Ah, wondering what that is? Well this is one of those fancy traditional rolls that is best performed with a Greenland Paddle although I have seen it done with a big fat whitewater blade as well. Here is a description that was originally posted in the Qajaq USA forum by Brian Nystrom:

To do a butterfly roll to the right side:

- Hold your right arm across your abdomen, with your hand near your left hip.

- Hold the paddle in the center of the loom with your left hand.

- Reach across and place the paddle along the right gunwale, palm down

- Capsize to the right.

- When the boat rolls around and you start to come up, reach up and outward with the paddle as you lay back on the deck and flop your right hand over for balance. It’s sort of like you’re “unfolding” onto the rear deck. You finish laying on the back deck with your arms outstretched on either side of the boat and the paddle parallel to the boat. - Thanks to Michael Daly for creating a great Kayak Rolling Cross Reference! Check that out Here!

The Great thing about kayaking is that you are always learning. Someone new to the sport and just learning a sculling draw is really in the same place as someone else learning a “butterfly roll”. We’re working on different skills but sharing the same process of failure, success, and advancement. This is why many great paddlers will always call themselves “intermediate”. They know that no matter how much they learn there is still a mountain in front of them. This is a very humbling experience. I know whenever I’m feeling a bit cocky, all I need to do is try to pull off a hand-roll. As I sink slowly back to an inverted position and pull my paddle loose from my bungies, I am reminded again that if “they” are intermediates I am certainly still just a beginner.

See you at the Symposium!

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