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Rolling A Kayak – Yoda Would Be Ticked!

Posted Aug 18 2005 12:00am
Come on baby… And we had no fear
And we ran to him… Then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodbye
We had become like they are, We had taken his hand
We had become like they are. . . Roeser

Ok, so sitting down this morning thinking about writing another bit about rolling seems somehow over-cooked. It’s not like 10,000 people have not written everything there is to write about rolling a kayak. And it’s certainly true that there is no new methods to rolling. However, at least for me, there has been a bit of an epiphany in teaching a roll. As I mentioned in a previous post I had some time to watch a friend teach and I suddenly went "Whaaaa???". I felt like I was coming out of the stone age.

At first glance it’s so stupid. Teach someone an extended paddle roll first. How tough is that? Ah, But wait. We don’t do that! We teach a proper C to C or Sweep. Right? Ok. Maybe, but. . hmm. . . The thing about learning the extended roll first is that all that extra leverage makes up for a whole bunch of errors. Weak hip-snaps and no head-dink will generally not stop the extended roll. Heck even a diving blade angle will often result in a successful roll. Yes, you do go through the fundementals first. You take time working on hip snaps off your hands, you talk about keeping the head down etc., but within a short time you move right into the complete rolling process itself. Guiding the blade, coaching on the fundements and so forth. The result is that you can potentially give your student a victory in a very short time. As little as 10 minutes I’ve been told. My first try at this had my student rolling in about an hour. No doubt this is a sloppy roll. But still, a successful roll that can be repeated without help from the coach. From these humble beginnings we can start hammering away at those touchstones as it were. Focusing on the fundements to tighten up the roll and smooth it out. Then move on to the sweep or C to C from there. Now that the student has a roll they become confident enough to go practice. Something that I found very hard to do solo. But I’ll get back to that.

Now my first argument against teaching the extended paddle roll first was that we were de-emphasizing the important skills. Hey, they need to learn a good hipsnap, head dink, etc., Otherwise they are never going to have a real "bombproof" roll right? That’s when I started thinking about how I learned to roll.

I was taught the C to C. Heck it was the only option provided by the shop. Most of us know by now that the C to C is considered a strong roll and easy to teach because of it’s very rigid steps. I still consider this my "when-the-*#&$-hits-the-fan" roll. Set Up, Sweep, Hip-Snap. . . Wham!! But "easy to teach" does not mean easy to learn. I spent a full season working on that one. I used a paddle-float attached to the paddle. I took off the skirt so I could easily get back in after each couple failed attempts. I hammered away at blade angles, strong hip-snaps, keeping my head down and all the rest. I was extremely discouraged. I’m sure if it were not for my somewhat dogged nature, I would have just quit. What I did in fact was took another class and 2 private lessons. Finally I got the roll.

So if I teach someone a sloppy extended paddle roll first. . . They . . . have to go home and practice the same exact stuff as I did. The only difference is that they can roll up. They can focus on the skills and not worry so much about the water. I bet the person with that sloppy roll is going to feel much less like a loser than I did for the first few months I spent fruitlessly working on my C to C. They are also going to be building on a foundation as opposed to building "the" foundation. Seems good, but I do have some other concerns as well.

It had been mentioned in our discussions that the paddle could break if torqued wrong. That does seem like a fair concern. I’m sure it could happen. Hopefully as a coach I work with the student on blade angle, etc., I could avoid this issue. But it certainly is a valid argument. But on the other hand I’m probably taking the same risk teaching a student the paddle-float rescue. Especially if I taught the "under the bungies" method. (Which I don’t by the way).

Would a student get too cocky or complacent and think they suddenly have a primary roll? Would they stop learing and just compound bad habits? Would they take unnecessary risks? Well, some would I’m sure. But all you need to do is give some people a paddle and they are already taking stupid risks. I’m not sure that giving someone a quick roll is going to make any difference there.

I am almost willing to go out on a limb and say that an extended paddle roll is not in anyway a primary roll. On the other hand I did see a discussion once where a couple people did have reasonable arguments to support this as a primary roll. I’m not so sure. I can imagine all sorts of situations where the EP roll would not be a good option. But is that a good argument not to start out with it?

It’s the light that makes me queasy. Do I deny someone a roll because I feel they need to learn each step in the chain correctly? That does’nt seem right somehow. But then again. . .

Hmmm, somewhere I hear Yoda saying "do not take the easy path, it leads to the dark side. ."

What do you think?

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