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Rolling Practice

I took a shot at rolling practice this evening – solo.

What happened was, I went down to work at the Pier 40 ranch, but there was nothing scheduled, so I took the time to paddle north against max current a bit, and then practice in the embayment.

I spent a lot of time practicing my sculling for support and high brace, working myself up to try a roll. The first time in I always have to work up the will, but once I’m dunked, I’m like a little fish. So, after some procrastination, I set up, and went in.

I swung and I missed. I set up again and dove the paddle. I tried again and – what was this? The back blade seemed caught on something. It wasn’t happening. I popped out and did into a paddle float self-rescue.


I pumped water a bit, missing having a paddle buddy. The nice thing about having someone to practice these things with is that they can perform a bow rescue, or worst case, pull the boat out and dump the water. I did the next best thing: I went to a dock, got out and dumped water, and then got back in.

Back to basics.

One really great learning trick one of my coaches gave me was to start with an extremely high brace. Instead of a 360 roll, basically I go into the water with the paddle already in position; after hitting the water. I just pull myself up. I tried some non-extreme braces first, and then went in.

I got up, and went back in. I got up, and went back in. By now my paddle was so far out of position that all I could do was return to the standard, lean-forward position, and try an actual roll.

I came up. I came up. I had flubbed what I tried to do, but still actually made it up. While these were very simple conditions, that is exactly what rolling is meant for: recovering when something goes awry.

I noticed two women who had been watching for a bit, so I paddled over to say hello. Turned out it was Johna, of Wind Against Current fame, and a friend of hers. “I saw you setting up and thought you would try that,” she said. She congratulated me on my setup and execution, and we chatted a but more before they left, and I paddled around a bit.

I considered going in, but I wanted to try a proper roll. I did some more bracing, and then set up for a roll, and came up. Thrilled, wet, I looked towards the sky; it had been overcast all evening. The Floating the Apple people came into the embayment, in their mighty Whitehall Gigs.

I did one more roll, and called it a day, thrilled that I’d been able to rolle consecutively, and on demand, even though I totally flubbed my first attempt.

Published in 2013 Backpaddle Kayaking New York


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