Friday, July 9, 2010

Take your head out of the game

The key to the roll is your mind. There is nothing terribly physical about it. It doesn't take great strength or great flexibility. But you need to be in the moment. You cannot be thinking about the 'what ifs'. If you think, 'What if I don't make this roll', you won't make the roll. The only thing that is real at that moment, is that you are in a kayak that must be righted.

When I went to the National Whitewater Center, when I tried to roll, I was thinking about the what ifs. What if I missed my roll, I would be in the next set of rapids upside down. So guess what happened. My friend made me slow down. He did something that was very interesting. He had me do a roll, then he had me set up - Dragon Bows his head - on the wrong side. Roll the kayak upside down, move to my strong side, and roll. If you have ever tried to move your set up underwater, you know how long it takes. It is a slow process. But that slow process slows everything down. It made me stop thinking, and just roll. And the rest of the day I rolled just fine.

The other aspect of the trouble I had at the USNWCC was the nature of the water. Upside down in a sea kayak, even in surf is fairly peaceful - unless your upside down in surf that happens to be crashing on a beach or rocks - It is relatively quiet. There is little turbulence even in a rolling swell. But in whitewater there is a fair amount of water rushing around you, it's noisy, and that was increasing my adrenaline and making me rush. So the biggest advice I can give to some who is learning to roll, is slow down. That, and keep your head in the water as long as possible.

And this is why we say your roll is solid when you have done it two hundred times on each side. By then it is muscle memory. By then it is instinct. By then it is a reaction. And that is our goal.

Just like I have a fall back for what to do if I miss my roll, I have a fall back within my roll, as a contingency. So as I said previously, If I miss my roll, I try a rodeo re-entry. If that doesn't work, the tried and true paddle float re-entry. But before I abandon my roll, I have a system that I work through.

So I find myself upside down under water. I try my roll, on whatever side I may be on. If I miss my roll, and I am not on my stronger side, I move to my stronger side, and try again. If that doesn't work, I switch to a sweep roll. Which I will detail in a later post. If my sweep roll fails, and I am not exhausted or out of breath - I can usually grab a breath on a failed roll attempt - I try one more thing. The extended Sweep roll. If all of those fail, I wet exit. I can then gather my thoughts, asses my situation, and move onto the rest of the out of the kayak progression, primarily the rodeo. But all the while that I am attempting to roll. I am staying focused, and slow, and in the moment.

There is an expression I like very much, Slow is Fast. By going slowly, we don't make mistakes. The mistakes we make when we rush something. The outcome is faster than if we rush something, and make mistakes.

This is just some rolling fun, but look behind me for Andy doing his 'dead man roll'. He is really quite good, and yes, he does that without a paddle.

rolling fun from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

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