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?


  1. Best plugs I have found are the finned type you can find in most drugstores

  2. For what it's worth, it took me two teachers and months of trying to get my roll working. So stick with it and keep trying coaches until you find one that works for you. I recommend using a diving mask if you are having trouble orienting from the upside down position. Watch what you are doing in comfort until you find out what works and your body starts to know the position. If it's any help to you, here is my video of a standard GP extended paddle roll