Rolling through Adversity

 ‘’Wow, I think pulled my head up hard on those roll attempts and pulled myself out of the boat.. I really need to work on that before the next rapid so I won’t swim again!”

Said nobody.  Ever.  

Instead most paddlers who just swam after several attempts say  ‘’the backband came loose’’ or ‘’my knee popped out’’ and of course the old ‘’my skirt popped off’’ often followed by ‘’I just got SUCKED out of the boat’’!

With Gauley Season upon us, I thought it important to pass on this corny video drill  that makes any river, but especially a big one with continuous rapids, far safer so you can have more fun.  

The critical parts of a bomb-proof combat roll are:  A. CONFIDENCE   B. keep your HEAD DOWN and C.  HIP SNAP… so if you can keep these key aspects of your roll ROCK-SOLID the rest doesn’t matter so much.  The problem lies in the way those other distractions affect your base.  Its not that your knee popped out, it’s that in response to this distraction you lost your Confidence and started pulling your Head Up!

Like any skill, the key is practice.   Up on the Ottawa, right before sending the OKS Keener kids into the maw of Phil’s Hole, Stephen Wright gets kids to practice drills that build rolling confidence so that we get to see tons of action and clean up less mess.   In hopes of cleaning up the run-out of Insig and Pillow Rock, this seems like a perfect time to pass this drill along.  Here we go:

Rolling through Adversity Drills: 

1. In an eddy, have buddy watch you do a PERFECT roll… I’m talking paddle on the surface, snappy hip snap, head sweeping to the back deck then dragging across the stern while your eyes stay locked on the blade you are rolling with (or whatever you consider perfect is fine). 

2.  Pop the back-band loose, squeeze your heels towards your butt to lock the knees in place and hit another PERFECT roll.  

3. Cinch back up, pop a knee into the cockpit area, now PUSH OUTWARDS on it – forcing it tightly into the cockpit rim and the other knee snugly into the side of the kayak –  then hit another PERFECT roll.  

4.  Pop that skirt off the side or whole front, remind yourself that your legs are about to get wet, and hit that PERFECT roll.   Now hit it again.   You should be able to get 2-3 rolls and still paddle to shore way faster than anyone can swim, and even if you sink in the next drop.. that’s one less drop to swim!

5.  Want to see just how good your roll is?   Combine all these aspects for a final exam!   

Whether you pass or fail all these rolling tests on the first try, you are gaining experience in dealing with these unexpected challenges and training your brain to stay confident, stay focused on the basics and hit a PERFECT ROLL right through these distracting adversities.   Save the excuses.. hit your roll .. then try to keep a straight face the next time you are cleaning up someone’s debris and they use one of these excuses on you… 

Clay Wright

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