I'm a fraud! That is right, a kayaking fraud. Sure, I have kayaked countless rivers and lakes, taking on some big water and bigger waves. I've paddled both whitewater and flat water while blogging about the joys of boating. Indeed, in the past couple of years, I have totally become IMMERSED in the sport of kayaking.
However, being submerged in river while upside down underneath my kayak is whole another thing. On South Fork of the American River, I hit a ripple wrong, missed my bracing and flipped my kayak. After seconds, I pulled off the spray skirt, kicked free from the kayak and quickly popped to the surface. No panic, I been here before, just another swim for me, again. Another wet exit into another river. I quickly gathered my kayak and paddle, kindly refuse help from lady floating nearby on a rubber raft and swam towards the shore. Embarrassing. Here I am a kayaker who has yet to master a roll.
Underwater everyday for most of my childhood, doing flip and turns with grace and precision, I swam for years in competition. . It would seem, I would be a natural at this rolling thing. Still, I flail and fail when overturned in the water. For some reason, panic and thoughts of, "so this is what drowning is like," enter my brain. Clearly, the problem has more to do with my head than just getting wet.
|Roll & Tune Up Session at the River Store's pool.|
"Each individual's personal mental focus points are by far the most important elements in developing a kayak roll that will work for them whenever and wherever." said Current Adventures veteran instructor Dan Crandall, "Rolling is 90 percent mental. Your instinct tells you get your head out first, when it needs to be last."
I took part in Crandall's Roll & Tune Up assessment session at The River Store in Lotus, Ca. He was offering some instruction for folks who have already had some rolling experience and looking to improve their technique. Sitting poolside, I watched boater after boater tweak their rolls into something with style and grace. Waist deep in water, Crandall pointed out tips on making their roll physically and mentally effortless.
"Show me your roll," Crandall said to me in a matter of fact way as I paddled into the middle of pool.
"I don't really have one," I said wincing at the idea of trying.
I then attempted a shaky roll anyway. Underwater, I began to fight to get my head above the surface. Crandall rolled me over and smiled.
"You're right. You don't have a roll."
For the rest of my session he built me up while instructing me in this counter intuitive maneuver. In each roll I attempted, no matter how unsuccessful, I gained more and more confidence in being underwater. It was all about taking my time and not working against the boat. On my last attempt I rolled up and back over. At last some limited success.
Still, Crandall rewarded me with a slap on my PFD and and an echoing, "Nice!"
Current Adventures offers regular kayak roll lessons most Saturdays at 5 p.m. Custom kayak roll lessons are available with reservations. Call (530) 333-9115 or (888) 452-9254 for more information.