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Posted Aug 20 2010 8:07am

Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on
– lennon

We’re almost done with the Low Impact Rolling Series .  I hope you’ve gained something from it.  Remember, it’s not important that you do everything the way I do it.  In time everyone finds their own way.  But my hope is that through this series you may have found a tip or technique that has helped either firm up your roll or to make it easier and more efficient.  I also hope that you’ll take what you’ve pulled from this and share it freely.

Today we move on to “recoveries”.  I’m using the word recovery for this post because a roll is a combination of techniques, many of which we’ve covered previously. The recovery is just that last bit, where we get the boat back under our bums. I’m going to break this down as it relates to two sorts of rolls.. A standard “C2C, Sweep” roll recovery and a layback recovery.  My goal is to show you where the two rolling styles converge and where they become distinct and how I deal with both.  The layback roll is unquestionably the lowest impact roll from start to finish, so let’s start there.

Layback Roll

Let’s start here since a lot of what we’ve been talking about in this series lends itself most naturally to a layback roll.  Because a layback roll keeps our body down until after we complete the recovery, there is no power necessary to bring the kayak, or your body back up.  No push, and no head-dink.  A layback, regardless of your exact roll will in general be much easier on you and use much less energy to complete.  Again keep in mind, I’m not really trying to teach you to roll here.  It’s best to seek out a qualified coach.  However, what I can hopefully do is help you make your current roll a bit cleaner.

Alex Pak relaxing with his paddle behind his head.  (Balance Brace)

As I mentioned previously, in Greenland style paddling you can learn to simply float or balance on the surface of the water, then bring the boat back under you to complete a recovery.  There is no “roll” involved.   You float, you relax, then when you like, you simply bring the boat back under you, then sit up and you’re on your way. Rolling assumes you go all the way upside down. Even then in Greenland Style you’d simply arch your back and rise into the balance brace as a sort of “home”. From there you recover as usual.   When I talk about rolling here, I sort of pass through the balance brace.  We don’t stay squared up and stop there, but move right through to completing our roll.

Be A Snake!

So taking what we know so far into account, we find ourselves upside down, we arch our backs and twist our bodies to bring our torso as close to the surface as we can.  To complete the roll we begin to transition from “squared shoulders” as soon as we begin our arch.  We bring our torsos (while still in the water) along side the kayak, then slither up.  This is the most important concept I can express in the lay back roll.  Be a snake!  You slide the kayak under you, or if you wish, slide back onto the kayak from bottom to top.  Lower Torso. Back. Shoulders. Neck. Head.  Or to keep it simple; Torso, Shoulders, Head.  Memorize that one.  It’s a bit like a belly dancer, or one of those things Christina Aguilera always seems to be doing in every commercial that she does.  Torso, Shoulders, Head. Stay low, slide on, head down. Slither. How much you can “slither” depends on your personal flexibility, the size of your PFD (Life Jacket) and on something the experts call “Freeboard”.  Freeboard is simply the distance between the water line and the deck of your kayak.  If your life jacket is really fat, or  your kayak rides high in the water, it can be a challenge to slither onto the back deck.

In the Layback video  (above) I’ve used a traditional extended paddle roll to slow things down as much as I could to demonstrate my snake-like recovery.. (I hope you’re giggling at that.. I am!)  It’s not a bad idea to practice just this simple bit on the beach or while someone holds your kayak for you. Get your partner (or your hope-to-be partner) to steady the boat while you work on your slither… they may enjoy it!

Regardless of speed or paddle, remember the layback roll recovery goes like this.. Torso, shoulders, head.  Slither up onto the back deck.  Keep your body and your head as low as physically possible at all times.  Don’t sit up until you are completely stable again in your kayak. (Did I repeat everything enough? LOL!)

Below is a Norsaq or Stick Roll.  Same idea just much quicker.

Standard Rolls

Standard rolls such as the C2C and sweep roll by necessity need a bit more power simply because we actually sit up in the midst of rolling our boat.  Yet there are times when we simply don’t have the luxury of laying back or conditions are such that a layback may not be the best option.  Well, we can still take away much of what we’ve learned here.  We focus on the body, and as before we can still begin the roll by squaring up and arching our backs to bring our bodies to the surface as I discussed last time.  The more we bring our bodies to the surface at this stage, the less energy our roll will need overall.  When you watch my standard roll video below, in the first example I’ve done my best to slow it down and show you that first step.  You’ll see that I sweep the paddle out which give me purchase, then the boat will roll up onto its side.  That’s the arch.  But now we have to complete the roll.

I arch, bringing my body to the surface, then I begin my C2C.  I complete the roll with a twist of my whole body.  How much “hip-snap” there is certainly depends on how fast I want  to get up.  But as we did in those body rolls early on, I twist every bit of my body I can control.  I turn my toes, my legs, my hips and even though it’s not overly pronounced in the video, I turn my torso and shoulders toward to the paddle side as well.

Now, as I showed you in my last, “ You be the coach ” video.  I can screw up a lot and still roll.  This comes in time.  However, each mistake wastes energy and for a new roller, may stop you from rolling all together.  So with that in mind it’s important that I take a moment to talk about “head dink”. When you bring your body up directly instead of laying back, there is a tendency to fall right back over.  Coaches will often tell you that this is because your head weighs 8lbs or something and bringing that weight up first, will keep  you off balance and you’ll fall back in.  I’m sure there may be some truth to that.  On the other hand I can roll with my head up.  I see it all the time.  So there has to be more to it than simply, a big fat head.   So here’s my spin…

Bad Form – Lifting Head.

Let’s look at the picture from yesterday.  It’s a good pic because the reflection on my torso demonstrates what happens when you lift your head.   Your spine curves out, opposite the direction that you lean your head.  That in turn pushes down on your hip, which in turn pushes down on your kayak.  That means if there is any weakness in your roll you will go back over.  Not because of the weight of your head, but because your boat never really comes back to level.  Lifting your head actually forces your kayak back down. So in the end will lifting your head stop your roll?  No.  However, it does make it harder, more awkward, and lifting your head will force you to waste additional energy.

Forward Recoveries

Now, there is one more way to right your boat.  Not directly like a C2C, or by laying back, but by bringing your body forward.  This is where I struggle in my learning curve.  Forward recovering rolls require a bit more flexibility and some ab-crunching.  What I’ve been playing with recently is called a “reverse sweep”, which is one of the easiest forward recovery rolls.  I’ve had that one down for some time actually, but what’s had me in the water for a few frustrating hours recently is doing this roll as a behind the head roll as well.  This forces me to crunch even more forward which is always a challenge for someone of my build.  (See Video Below)  Thing is, you should never say you can’t do something, and you should never believe you can only do something the way others do.. The trick is to figure out the way YOU can do it.  That’s true for most things in life, including kayak rolls.


Next week I’ll come back with the last post in this series which will deal with the “Blade”.  What you do with your paddle is important as well it just should not drive the discussion which is why I saved it for last.

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