Monday, November 10, 2014

Rolling is Mostly Mental

By Mike Aronoff. 

Aronoff is a L4 River Canoe ITE, L3 River Kayak ITE, L4 Coastal Kayak ITE, L3 Safety & Rescue IT and chair of the Intro to Paddling committee. He is also the owner of Canoe Kayak and Paddle Company (an ACA Pro School) in Vienna, VA.

If you want to learn how to roll a kayak, the first step is finding a good instructor who can teach you how. Download the ACA's Paddle Ready app (for iPhone and Android) and use the convenient “Find Instruction” feature. The new app also contains tons of safety information for you to learn, so you’ll arrive at your first lesson armed with knowledge to impress your instructor…and the confidence to start learning your roll.
Rolling a kayak, theoretically, is very simple: you use the support of the paddle to allow you to flip your kayak upright and then let the body and head follow. So where do the problems arise? First, the roll is counter-intuitive. Since we are air-breathers, it’s only natural to want to bring our head up first to get some air. The reflex of coming up naturally leads to coming up headfirst. Telling someone to come out of the water backside first, followed by the torso, with the head being the last thing out, seems unnatural. Doing it correctly becomes even more difficult when we get anxious and feel as though we are running out of air.

Unless you are already phobic when going underwater, holding your breath for at least fifteen seconds is not difficult. In fifteen seconds, it is relatively easy to set up and try to execute two rolls and still have time for a third setup or a wet exit. Therefore, missing a roll should not be blamed on lack of air. The key mistakes that most beginners see when rolls fail are the following:

1. Head coming up first to get air. Your mantra should be “Head up last.”

2. Rushing to do the roll instead of taking the extra two seconds to properly position yourself in the setup position.

3. A death grip on the paddle usually leads to pulling down on the paddle rather than sweeping it out (if it is a sweeping type roll.) A tight grip leads to having your paddle too deep in the water if you are attempting a C to C roll. A tight grip often translates to a bent elbow, which shortens your reach. Keep your fingers loose on the lead hand so you can really stretch and get your working blade to the surface.

4. Overall body tension instead of being loose. When conditions get rough and you feel anxiety building up, try to let go of some of that energy by exaggerating certain movements. When you feel your trunk muscles tightening up, snap your hips from side to side fast to help ease tension.

5. Negative internal dialogue will hurt. To quote Richard Bach’s Illusions: “Argue for your limitations and they are yours.” If you get nervous and say: “I better not blow this roll” or “I know I’m not going to make this roll” or “I don’t want to miss this roll in front of my friends”, your success is questionable from the start.

6. Think positive. When you suddenly go over, take a normal breath before submerging, get into the setup position and them smile as you visualize yourself finishing the perfect roll. Do your roll in a relaxed manner for success.

There are other mistakes, but the major roadblocks that cause roll failures can be avoided with the right preparation and patience. Conditions can affect a normal roll: breaking waves, pinning against an obstacle, and very cold water (most common), but most times when we miss a roll, we are the cause.

The “Bomb Proof Roll” is a worthy pursuit but we all swim sooner or later. Keep your wet exit skills sharp when your mental game needs help. And PRACTICE!

The ACA’s Paddle Ready app is FREE on the App Store and Google Play. In addition to the unique “Find Instruction” feature, Paddle Ready will also inform your friends and family where you’ll be paddling, let you quickly check the conditions of your favorite routes, and so much more. Download it today!

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