Rolling for Women?

Posted by Kurt Maurer on Jun 19, 2004

Howdy gang! I just HAFFTA brag on my pal Leslie tonight. She is just ONE GUTSY GAL!!!

First, a little necessary and highly pertinent background: as a teenager, she had a harrowing near-death experience involving slow drowning, which barely left her physically uninjured, and which left her with a life-long psychological MORTAL DREAD of total submersion. Now, stack the above on top the fact that sticking with an upturned boat is, by anyone's definition, including LOTS of active kayakers (!), a terrifying proposition...

Today she set out to learn to roll. With dogged determination she stayed with it for four hours, and got extremely close to actually accomplishing it in an unassisted fashion with my instruction. Why, if she had had COMPETENT instruction she would have HAD it!

The following is composed of the salient points regarding her failure to "solo", for anyone interested in learning to roll themselves:

Disorientation. This happens to everybody, and if it doesn't really, then those people who get it right at the outset ought to be shot. First time I tried to roll, the paddle, guided by my coach, went in an unexpected direction even though I been practicing dry-land drills (if only in my mind). After actually *staying in an upside-down boat*, this is perhaps the toughest part of the whole deal. Aerobatic flying instructors are either masochists or saints. Up is down, and down is up... never mind what your body is doing, that's just the way it is now.

"Reaching For The Sky". See above. When you go into your wind-up position and capsize, you must reach further "down" in order to get your paddle further *up*. As in, up in the air, so you can sweep it over to your let's-roll-this-SOB-up position.

Syncronizing The Hip Flick With The Bracing Sweep. The stroke you make with your paddle to roll upright is nothing more than a bracing sweep, just as you make when upright and all is well with the world. No additional effort required -- as long as you flick your hips in concert with it. You do not need to honk on your paddle; just a graceful sweep'll do ya.

The Lay-Back. When you get your paddle to the let's-roll-this-SOB-up position, you really must do three things almost at once: hip flick as though you mean it, commence your bracing sweep, and lay the hell back (or forward) to get your upper body mass closer to the centerline of the rolling action. This is probably the most common cause of roll failure: trying to accomplish it in an upright posture. Leslie had fits with this, but then, a sharper instructor would probably have caught it sooner, resulting in earlier success. Alas for poor Leslie!

But tonight I am bursting with pride over her performance. With grit and determination she overcame a fairly accrued and meanly won *phobia* that has plagued her for all her adult life. AND, she damn near rolled, from absolute scratch, within a single session... with a GREEN instructor.

What a gal! I'll let you know when she gets it. It'll be tomorrow night, just you watch!!

Cheers, Kurt