Sunday, September 19, 2010

For the Rolling Challenged - Your Dry Happy Puppy

Here she is, your warm, dry, happy, puppy pic.

There is nothing better than being warm and dry after you've gotten a little (or a lot!) cold and shivery during a rolling lesson or practice and find yourself getting even colder soon after you've gotten out of your boat as you pack up your gear. At the very least, this is your top concern of the moment.

Even on what seemed like a fairly warm day when you started, in a not so cold lake in which others are swimming in Speedos, you can get pretty cold during a rolling lesson. A rolling lesson for the rolling challenged is not the same thing as rolling practice for those who can roll. We, the "rolling challenged", tend to spend more time in the water, which is usually cooler than our body temps, and so do our great coaches in the shallows at our decklines! (Mine are getting pretty stretched out . . . ! I mean the decklines!)

Why do we get cold? At least me. I don't know about you.

Because we aren't really moving. Mostly we are sitting in our boat, dumping over, time and time again, trying to roll back up. When learning, most people fail and spend lots of time in the water. You are either hauled back to the top by your coach, or you wet exit and get yourself back in your boat.

All the spectators on land are warm and dry. Most of mine seem to have their arms crossed. Does that indicate concern or sympathy, I wonder? Distractions aside, you are starting to shiver sitting in your boat in your wet gear, mine is usually neo. People in dry suits seem to fair better, but who wants to practice rolling in a fairly warm lake in the summer with a full dry suit! This is expensive gear to own.

The most important thing for me, during a rolling lesson, is to take a break and paddle for a few minutes when I get cold. This warms me up quickly and relaxes me too. When my coach says, "Can you try that again in between shivers?", I know it's time to paddle a bit.

After a rolling lesson, or paddling in cooler temps, as soon as I get out of my boat, the first thing I do is peel off the wet gear and squeeze into something warm and dry. It's a happy feeling.

While we're on the topic of warm and dry and how happy it can feel to a paddler, this is a good opportunity to share some links and stories about the importance of staying warm. It also means being SAFE.

Every year we hear a story or two about a paddler who didn't make it back from a trip. It could be a simple day trip or something longer. Something happened, in good weather or bad. A common theme is hypothermia. Getting cold and staying cold for too long. It's not a good feeling to get cold and it can be deadly. It is an important topic for paddlers to be aware of. Even if you are wearing the proper gear, you can get stuck in the water for too long, or on a shoreline with a wind that seemed friendly but can chill you to the bone, and no help is on the way anytime soon. Even close to home. The water you are paddling on can be colder than you think.

One of my favorite sites that covers the topic of hypothermia is Coldwater Bootcamp. Nine water savvy and fit volunteers from across Canada jump into water we paddle and boat in and share their stories of how cold the water really is and how it affects them. I just wish this website would make it more apparent at what time of year the volunteers jumped in to the water and what water body they jumped in to.

And here's a pic of one of my favorite warm, dry, safe, paddling moments in Quebec's famed Saguenay fjord, despite three hours of rain and fog in June. A great guide and good gear just rock! And this is one of those incredible paddle places where you really need both!Wishing you warm, dry, safe and happy paddling wherever your paddle takes you!
The Baffin Paddler

Do you have a favorite warm, dry, paddle moment? One where you were so happy to be warm and dry? Where was it?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For the Rolling Challenged - Your Wet Puppy

Here's your "Wet Puppy" pic. She doesn't seem to like it either . . . getting used to water.

Is this how you feel sometimes after a rolling lesson, whether you have successfully rolled or not. . . when you get out of your nice snug boat?

And she hasn't even experienced upside down underwater. But, she's a happy pup just the same . . . a little surprised, a bit confused, sometimes worried and whiney, needing a bit of support, love and understanding, and trying to get used to a whole new world, just like us! You gotta love a newbie to something.

I just wish she wouldn't sip my coffee!

A warm dry happy puppy pic will appear soon. The same way I feel after rolling practice and a great big towel!

Why puppies?
They just make you feel better don't they? And they share some of the same emotions we do. Even if you are feeling great, they make you smile harder.

Happy rolling practice and staying warm and dry!
The BaffinPaddler

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Half rolling success

The Half Roll

I'm starting to be able to half roll my new Maelstrom Vital.
What a nice feeling, especially when the coach says, "you did that by yourself." And despite a weak sweep, and a barely there hip flick, I can get up in my Maelstrom with a half roll. "It's the boat," I say. "It is very forgiving. I don't need much. It will spoil me."

If you don't know what a half roll is, here's a guy from Prestwick Paddlers on YouTube doing a half roll unassisted.

To practice a half roll, my coach pulls me over, asks me to count to three while I'm upside down, then start my sweep and hip flick. What I like about the guy in this video, is that he actually smacks the side of his boat with his leading blade before the sweep. Cool! That little move might just help me figure out where my leading blade should be, as I tend to let it drift away from the boat before I start my sweep, which leaves me with only a weak half sweep.

Why Practice Half Rolling?

Finding your way with half rolling builds confidence and helps you get the feel of the paddle sweep and the hip flick, bringing up your outside shoulder first and your head last, and the timing you need for these movements to get back up. It's also easier to learn than the full roll, at least for me. Learning in increments and baby steps is exactly what I need, and it's the same for most people.

Boat Fit!

I can do things with the Maelstrom Vital that I couldn't do with the Boreal Baffin, another boat that I love, but when a great boat doesn't fit you right, it just doesn't fit you right. My Boreal Baffin is a bit too big for me, even with seat mods. You can play with boat mods, and if it works, great. If not. Keep looking! It's working for me. I finally found a boat I love that fits me right.

Finding a boat you love is so worth it. I hope you find yours. Keep looking until you find it.

Full Roll Attempts

My full roll attempts are still in the same place though. Upside down! I still need to get it right to get it up! For some reason, the full roll still confuses me. When I roll over from the left side of my boat and I come around to the same spot that I was in for the half roll on my right side, it just doesn't feel the same. My coach says, "Your sweep looks like it is in slow motion. You don't have a committed sweep. It's one motion with the hip flick"

Yep, my sweep is in slow motion. I'm just gingerly trying to move the paddle through the water without diving it. Then, despite the weak sweep, when I do start to come up, I've been so focused just on the sweeping part, I forget to hip flick or to even try, and push down on the paddle instead and it goes straight to the bottom and so do I! This seems to be a very common thing when you watch others learning to roll, and it's a tough habit to break once you start it.

I also have to watch what I'm doing with my wrists. If you cock them the wrong way, the paddle dives. My coach has me holding the very end of my Greenland paddle with one hand, the back hand - with the palm facing up under the blade, while the leading right hand has a normal grip on top of the loom (or shaft). This seems to help me reduce the paddle diving habit and gives me a nice long paddle to sweep with.

Ear Plugs

I'm looking for good ear plugs for paddlers. Anyone with resources, please share and I'll post the info for others. You can get a lot of water in your ears when you are learning how to roll. This can be a pain or a real problem for some.

What are my "Rolling Rewards" today?
  • I was relaxed before trying, when I used to be stressed
  • I was not afraid to try and made more progress
  • I had a good coach by my side
  • A warm sunny day
  • A super clean lake to practice in
  • All the homework I did before my lesson did me some good (See "Rolling Rewards"). I was better able to understand and do some of the things my coach asked me to try, and I was more ready to try.
  • There was another rolling challenged paddler at the lake working hard without rolling success. Watching what he was doing helped me and I could empathize. He had a good attitude too. I have some of the same problems when trying a full roll. How do I stop that!? I can see some of the mistakes when others do it. I can start to feel some of my mistakes while I'm doing them, and can start to understand and identify what they are with the help of my coach, but it is not so easy to correct all of them in one day.
Despite all the good things today, I still hate the feeling of peeling myself out of wet neo in parking lots or smelly outhouses after rolling practice at a beautiful lake, and looking at all that wet soggy, sandy gear in the back of my car that I will have to deal with when I get home.

So what's my biggest rolling reward for today?

Profound visions of some of my favorite warm, dry moments as I shiver and peel myself out of all that soggy sandy gear! That's why this post sports a pic of me happy, warm, and dry hiking the White Mountains of New Hampshire, U.S.A. last week!

Happy paddling and finding your way on the water.
The BaffinPaddler

What are your rolling rewards for today?