posted on October 21, 2009 11:25
Sooner or later if you become serious about paddling you will have to start thinking about rolling. Once you can roll confidently in any situation it opens up a new world of possibilities for your paddling.
The best teaching aid I have come across is the American video from Performance Video � The Kayak Roll � and this article is based on their website.
The first step to rolling is feeling comfortable capsizing and then coming out of your boat. Capsizing and a wet exit should be one of the first things you attempt in a kayak so that if you capsize, blind panic doesn't set in. The more you get comfortable with hanging upside down in your boat before you pull your spray deck and exit, the easier it will be when you start to roll.
Starting to learn to roll is one of the most disorientating things you can do. As with any technique to paddling, whilst you can learn all the concepts by reading a book it is really only practice that will ingrain these ideas into your repertoire of skills.
The pool session is the best place to start learning, as it's generally a warmer and safer environment than open water.
The first exercise to practice is 'hip flicking' off the side of the pool.
The hip flick is the action that rights the boat. With your torso suspended near the surface, only one knee does the work of righting the boat. Your other knee relaxes, barely even touching the deck. If you are hanging onto the boat with both knees, you defeat the hip action, and the entire motion will feel strained. To activate one leg, you will pressure your toes on that leg. Avoid pushing with your heel if you have a bulkhead style brace, since that will defeat the righting action.
This motion can be practiced from the side of the pool but it is much better using an instructor who can force you not to use your arms which is a natural tendency.
This can be developed further with an instructor who can allow the trainee to completely submerse their head and then hip flick up from this position. There should be hardly any pressure on the hands of the instructor with all the technique concentrated in righting the boat with the hips.
Once the trainee has become comfortable with this the next step is to introduce a paddle. Again with the aid of an instructor who can hold the end of the paddle and guide it through the motion
There are two main types of roll.
This is the roll many people learn initially. The instructor can guide the paddle round with their hand to allow the trainee to feel the motion of the blade. The timing of the sweep dictates the start of the hip flick. The flat of the paddle blade should remain just above the surface at all times. When the paddle is perpendicular to the boat the hip flick should commence and the sweep of the paddle continue until the boat is righted.
C to C
The C to C is a variation on the sweep with the paddle put perpendicular to the upturned boat and a hip flick up from this position. With the C to C the blade does not continue towards the back of the boat.
Keep your head down ! The most common mistake with kayak rolls is bringing your head out of the water too early.
Taking your head out too early is a natural mistake to make as the body is working on survival instincts to get air. As the head is one of the heaviest parts of the body it needs to be the last thing to come out of the water, otherwise it just drags the boat and you back down again. Watching the end of the paddle as it sweeps through the water is an excellent way to stop your head coming up too soon.
Don't rely on strength
When I started to learn to roll I used a C to C. I found that by using brute strength I could roll and my head came up first out of the water but I still was able to right myself. The problem with relying on this type of roll is that it is very easy to injure shoulders and arms as they can be pulled out of joint. In addition relying on strength to roll means that when you need a roll most at the end of a long tiring day on the river you may just not have enough energy left to roll.
A kayak roll is all about technique and not pure strength. If you get the technique right, and you will know when you do, then a roll feels virtually effortless.
Developing your roll further.
Once you have got a basic roll in the pool the next place to try is in an enclosed lake. The difference from warm clean pool water to cold murky lake water can halt your progress for a time. Many people can roll in a pool but cannot roll outside. Perseverance normally overcomes this. Moving forward, rolls should be practised in grade 2 water and so on moving up the difficulty rating. There is a big difference in rolling in a lake to rolling in a frothy aerated stopper but again perseverance will overcome this.
There is a definite feeling of freedom when you realise that whatever situation you find yourself in if the worst comes to the worst you can always roll and you're not going to take a swim with the fishes.
Come along to one of our pool sessions to start your rolling practice with one of Croydon Active Paddlers qualified coaches.