Winter pool rolling sessions are finishing up this month. Spring is in the air and off you go to the river, only to find out that all the work done this winter on your roll seems to not have paid off. How could it be that you worked towards a “bomb proof” roll in the pool, but the first (second/third) time you go to try that roll on the river, it doesn’t work? So what does it take to transition from the pool to the river?
The Mental Game of Rolling
Depending on the individual, rolling is anywhere from 20-90% mental. So the first issue you are dealing with is surprise. Every roll you did this winter was planned. You could think through the steps, slowly breaking down each step of those steps as you set up and tip over. On the river, you are upside down before you even know it. It’s suddenly challenging to even know where to set up, let alone slow down enough to actually follow through with each of the steps. The intelligent part of your brain is urging you to do whatever it takes to get your head back into that oxygen rich environment.
Rushing the Kayak Roll
Because the intelligent side of your brain is trying to take over, messages of “rocks,” “rapids,” “swimming” are being transmitted to your brain. You lose your focus and find yourself carping on the roll in a hurried attempt to get back up.
Swimming out of Your Kayak is Too Easy
Inherently knowing how easy it is to pull and get out of the boat, you default to a quick exit out of the boat rather than slowing things down and setting up for another roll.
Directional Rolling is the Key to Success
You go back to the same side and try to roll again rather than switching to the other side and rolling on that side. Directional rolling is the key to success. Ff you have a roll on only one side, it is like going to a gun fight with only one gun in your holster. And sometimes rolling on the river seems like you are in the middle of a gun fight!
How do you Transition from a Pool Roll to a River Roll?
So how does one go from a pool roll to rolling confidently on the river? Gotta practice. There are many aspects of kayaking that can be like riding a bike. Rolling is not one of them. It is inherently counter intuitive. Why in the world would someone WANT to be upside down in moving water?!? Well, one rarely “accidently” flips when floating around in the pool – or even sitting in an eddy. If the only places you practice your roll are in controlled environments, you are not preparing yourself for that accidental upside down time.
Rolling a Kayak is (should be, sometimes,) Fun!
For those “I always have a dry haired day on the river” kayakers – you are setting yourself for a humiliating swim. You need to get back to thinking that rolling a kayak is and/or should be sometimes fun! Get off Class V and go learn how to do stern squirts and have fun being upside down. Go do some hole playing time where you will flip. If you ever watch play boaters, they are constantly upside down. It’s part of the game. And they do not freak out about it. That’s your goal!
Self Diagnosing Doesn’t Work Well
If Olympic-bound athletes have coaches, is it really too much to accept that a little coaching can get you back on track and having fun? If there is something a bit off on your roll, get professional help to fix it. Self-diagnosing doesn’t work well. A little time with a professional coach can help you figure out what you struggle to figure out on your own.
This is not our first post about that transition from the pool to the river. If you like what you’re reading here, we have lots more valuable articles that will help you on your quest to learn/improve/tweak your roll. Check them out here….