To roll, or not to roll …

Right now, it’s not so much a matter of choice on whether or not to roll, as a matter of ability. It’s definitely one of the more challenging goals I’ve worked towards in recent times, and I recognise that a lot of the obstacles that I am still trying to overcome are psychological. In other words, I’m my own worst enemy. I take comfort from the fact that I am not alone in this, even although it often feels like I am. I understand that attempting to achieve the “Holy Grail” of kayaking has turned many a normal (well, relatively) person into an irrational, anxiety-ridden, neurotic bundle of pent-up frustration. So far, I have managed to avoid an embarrassing public tantrum/meltdown and a well-drookit visage has disguised the many tears of despair that I have barely managed to suppress.

Friday night at the pool had Alan performing his first C-to-C roll. I’d like to say I rushed over to warmly congratulate him, but actually I could only muster up a scarcely concealed sweary word as coach Richard drew my attention to Alan’s achievement. And yet, I am genuinely happy for Alan (no, really) especially as he has had to learn to roll up on his “bad” side to avoid aggravating a shoulder injury on the other side. Richard did voice a preference for learning the sweep (or screw) roll for sea kayaking, but I am certain that Alan will move on to that also.

I am still working on the sweep roll and managed to get myself up for the first time, although gravity took hold at the last minute. I believe I have to start my hip flick a little sooner. I feel I am definitely suffering from a lack of momentum in my practice. It sometimes seems like I’m going one step forward and 2 back and I am now turning my focus to going weekly to the pool sessions.

That lack of momentum partly contributes to the psychological issues I mentioned. I know that I have come a long way since my first few visits to the pool, yet some nights are better than others. I often feel like the awkward duck in a pool full of swans. And, when I’m underwater, I am frequently overwhelmed with thoughts of inability and ineptitude, of just not getting it, of panic, and so on. Richard’s 10 year-old daughter (who can roll her Dad’s boat beautifully) did warn me about this by saying, “If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t.” How very true.

Perhaps I could persuade my yoga teacher to come along on Friday nights. She would remind me to breathe (before capsizing at least), to relax, to maintain my focus on the required movements (versus the water demons in my head), and to effectively use my hip flick and torso in the ways I’ve learned. But I know all this already. It’s just a case of implementing it for myself.

I know I can, I know I can …


  1. Ignacio Wenley Palacios Iglesias says:


    How ungentlemanly of Alan. Really. This man is playing with fire.

    I agree with Richard about the sweep roll. Who wouldn’t? But I have the impression that the screw roll being a sweep type of roll is somewhat different. The blade pulls away from the boat and pushes down in the surface at the end of its arc. Then you gain some support out of the blade and the hip fully unwinds turning the kayak up.

    However, I turn out to be perfectly wrong often, so why don’t you ask Richard? He sure knows best.


  2. pamf says:

    Wenley – I know, you’d think Alan would have the decency to hold off on his rolling success until I catch up! But then, that may well be asking too much.

    Thank you for your note about sweep versus screw rolls. I will have to determine the finer points. I think the technical term for the roll I am attempting is “any-old-roll-will-do” – but indeed, I should at least know what it most closely (or most vaguely) resembles (other than the spin cycle of a washing machine).

    It will give me something to discuss with Richard this weekend in Islay. I fear the weather may require that we have lots of good conversation topics lined up. Will keep you posted.

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