I love to roll my kayak. Beyond being fun for me and entertaining for spectators, rolling is a serious skill. It a a great way to cool off while wearing a hot drysuit while crossing cold water on a warm day; without it, the temptation to shed the suit and risk the consequences of ignoring the dress-for-immersion rule would be strong. More seriously, it is a survival skill that enables me to recover from a capsize and ensure that I remain inside an upright kayak in the midst of storm-tossed waves. Even more seriously, it empowers me to remain a rescuer for others around me who have capsized and need my assistance. The nightmare of an "all-in" group capsize in a storm keeps trip leaders awake at night. The ability to save myself so that I can save my friends is a skill bigger than self-preservation.
So imagine my shock when I was unable to roll up this spring! I missed my first roll of the year, in front of a group of students no less. Embarrassment turned to worry when I missed several more during a follow-up practice session. And several more during more practice sessions. Even though I assured myself that I was merely rusty from lapse of rolling practice during the winter, doubt whispered in the darkest corner of my mind. The prospect of losing the joy of rolling, of endangering myself in big water, and transforming from an asset to a liability to my paddling friends was unnerving, however abstract. I resolved to fix this problem before doubt grew to self-fulfilling dimensions. I went "back to the basics" and paid close attention to all elements of my technique: planing the paddle instead of letting it dive, rolling my hips instead of pushing with my arms, and resisting the temptation to pull my head up ahead of my torso. It took several more sessions, but tonight at Lake Ahquabi I was delighted to hit all of my rolls smoothly and efficiently. I felt like Superman after a bout with kryptonite!
Here is my celebratory video (with rolls interspersed with high braces, sculling braces, high brace turns, bow rudders, and edged sweeping):
Happy with the renewal of my roll, I pulled ashore at the end of my practice session and received an additional reward when a little girl skipped over to me as she walked past my kayak with her mother. "I saw you doing those flips on the water!," she exclaimed excitedly, "that was SO COOL!"
Buoyed by success and unexpected admiration, I found myself humming a tune as I made my way back to my car with my kayak hoisted onto my shoulder. It was Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again", but a few key word changes:
On the roll again
I can't wait to get back my roll again
My great love is paddling with my friends
I just wanna get on the roll again!
(still photos by Diane Michaud Lowry)