Postscript – Eskimo Roll Weekend [15]

By David Winkworth

Thank you for coming to the Eskimo Roll Weekend recently. All participants made tremendous gains in rolling proficiency and I hope it’s the start of development of a reliable roll for you.

I think you would agree that proficient rolling is not something that you can acquire overnight. The various components for a successful roll are simple, but the smooth blending of these requires practice….lots of it.

For you to be able to depend on the roll as a primary self rescue method in ocean or surf, it is advisable for you to practice rolling every time you go for a paddle – even in winter. Make it a rule … with no exceptions.

Reliable roiling ability is self-reliance. You can’t always depend on a travelling companion to rescue you, especially when you capsize in a narrow rocky channel or big surf. ‘Comes down to the old saying: You got yourself into this, you get yourself out.’

As you may have found on the weekend, it is easy to fall into bad habits in rolling technique. If you do, then it’s time to go right back to basics and analyse your style. Do it straightaway before the fault becomes ingrained. You’ll know you’re doing something wrong when your roll becomes a “muscle up” affair. As you would have found on the weekend, a good roll feels EASY.

Below are some points on the various aspects of rolling that may be of some use to you in self-analysis of your technique. If you have a friend who is a proficient roller, he/she may wish to add or delete some points here too.

  • Use a dive mask for repeated practice. You won’t do a nose dribble over the dinner table six hours later.
  • Have frequent breaks from rolling practice. Don’t get stale.
  • Set-up. Do it properly. Get this bit wrong (eg when you’re tired) and you can muck up the whole exercise.

    1. Paddle over the side in the screw roll or extended paddle position
    2. Lean well forward.
    3. Push paddle forward too for a longer, more effective sweep
    4. When upside down, you’ll need to use your stomach muscles to hold yourself in the set-up position. Roll over either way….
    5. Push paddle to the surface – watch the blade angle.
    6. Rear blade must clear the bottom of the hull when upside down.
  • Paddle Sweep. Watch the angle of the working blade – too steep and it will push water and provide poor support. Too flat and it will be easily pulled down. when you get it right, notice where your rear hand is on the edges of the rear blade.

    1. Sweep paddle in a firm, powerful arc. It needs good motion for support
    2. Keep the blade up. Don’t pull on it too early. Remember it needs to be moving for support
    3. Swing the body out with the blade – keep watching it all the way. This may ensure that you keep your head down for the hip flick/exit.
    4. Looking towards the bottom will also help keep your head down
  • Lean Back. The hip flick is an important part of the roll.

    1. Practice your hip flick against a jetty or the side of a pool. You should be able to flick up with minimal force on your hands. Progress to fingertips when you can.
    2. Lean back. The lean back as you rise brings your body closer to the longitudinal axis of your boat. If you do it well you should not have a problem with your head coming up first.
    3. Try an exaggerated throw-back of your head with the lean back.

The most common errors in rolling are probably:

  • Head up first.
  • Paddle pulled to the bottom.
  • Failure to lean back.

Are any of these your problem? Once again, if you have to “muscle up”, you’ve mucked it up. When you’re rolling OK on the side, swap to the other for variety. You’ll find it quite different but at least you won’t have to wet exit to get up.Try varying the power put into your roll, you’ll soon work out how much is needed for the conditions you’re in. It will also save you the embarrassment of “going round again!”.

I wish you competent rolling,

David Winkworth.