The Combat Roll

by Nancy Soares on November 4, 2013

by Tsunami Ranger John Lull

While paddling south one day from Point Arena on the northern California coast, I spotted an inner passage through the sandstone cliffs, cut deep into the uplifted marine terrace.  After exploring the passage for a considerable distance, it became obvious it would dead end up ahead, so I entered a narrow slot that would take me back out to sea.  Large waves were crashing on the cliffs outside, but there appeared to be a deep channel at the mouth of the slot where the waves were surging, rather than breaking.  I watched for a bit, then made my move to paddle out.  I should have waited and watched longer.

Just as I left the slot, I noticed a huge wave steepening up directly in front of me.  There was no turning back because the surge had already swept me south of the slot so my only option was to paddle forward at full speed and try to break the wave barrier.  I still recall an instant of terrible beauty when the wave reared up way over my head and I could see the sheen of the setting sun piercing the translucent wave face.  Then the whole world was demolished in a welter of whitewater.  I was tossed end over end backwards and shaken like a leaf in a typhoon.  This was not a good place for a swim because there was no access to shore, due to the vertical cliffs.  And trying to re-enter a swamped kayak, up against the cliff with waves pounding in, would have been nearly impossible, assuming the boat wasn’t smashed to pieces.  So it was a ‘roll up or die’ situation.  I was aware of this uncomfortable fact, but before I could process the thought I rolled back up and paddled for my life, just making it over the next wave and finally out to the safety of deeper water.  A reflexive combat roll had turned what would have been a major survival ordeal, suitable for an article in the “Deep Trouble” section of Sea Kayaker Magazine, into a non-event.

A solid combat roll will help open up new paddling horizons

A solid combat roll will help open up new paddling horizons

The combat roll is any roll you have to perform due to an unintended capsize, especially in rough conditions due to wind, surf, tide rips, ocean rock gardens, and storm seas.  You want a roll that will work in all these conditions, especially given the fact that you are far more likely to capsize and need to roll in rough water than in calm, benign seas.  At the extreme end is a situation where the roll is your only recourse, where rescues are difficult to impossible and swimming is highly undesireable and dangerous.  Ideally you avoid such conditions, but you never know for sure what you’ll encounter at sea.  Storms can arrise suddenly or you may find yourself caught inside a rock garden by a rogue set of large waves.  An effective combat roll may save the day, or your life, in such a situation.  A combat roll is one you can perform consistently, almost a reflex action, without having to think about it.

The main difference between a combat roll and a “pool roll” is psychological.  The technique is identical, but the shock of capsizing in cold, rough water out at sea can make it seem more difficult.  Also, wind, breaking waves, or current can make it difficult to roll on one side or the other.

First Steps

1) Learn to roll.  This is the obvious first step.  You can find the techique described in numerous books and articles, but you’ll eventually have to get on the water and learn it first-hand, preferably from a good instructor.  My favorite roll is the “Sweep Roll” because I think it’s the most powerful and versatile roll, especially in a sea kayak.  But whatever roll you can perform consistently and well is fine.

2) Practice, Practice, Practice.  The goal is to be able to roll without having to think about it.  Start by practicing in calm water close to shore or a swimming pool.  Then graduate to controlled training sessions in real conditions.  Make sure you have an easy bailout, either close to shore or with partners standing by who can perform a rescue, and practice in wind, moderately rough water, and small surf to get used to rolling in such conditions.

Tips for the Combat Roll

Roll Setup

Roll Setup

1) Set up is crucial.  If you don’t set up properly, you won’t have a chance of making your roll.  After capsizing, immediately tuck forward (“kiss the deck”) into the roll set up position, holding your paddle close to the surface and parallel to the kayak.  This has the added benefit of being a very protected position, especially when being thrashed in the surf or upside down in a churning ocean rock garden.

2) Relax.  As you move into the roll set up position relax to conserve oxygen and prepare to roll.  Panic will only hinder you.

3) Keep your head down when rolling up, using a good “hip snap.”  Your head should come up last, following your torso.  Pulling the head out too soon is by far the most common reason a roll fails.

4) Be prepared to hang in the set up position and wait a few seconds before starting the roll.  If you are being pushed around by surge in rock gardens, or bounced in a breaking wave, it is often best to wait for things to calm a bit before rolling.  Experience will be your guide.

5) The roll needs to be automatic.  If, after capsizing, you have to think through the tips above, you need more practice.  Ideally, you aren’t thinking about roll technique at all; your body knows what to do and does it.

6) Learn to roll on both sides.  It is often necessary to switch sides when your roll fails due to the water dynamics (see next section on “special circumstances”).

7) Once upright, be prepared to deal with the situation.  You may have to paddle quickly out of a rock garden before the next wave set, or break through an uncoming wave, or immediately brace when hit sideways by a wave.  Do whatever is necessary to get out of the situation that resulted in your capsize in the first place.

Completion of Sweep Roll

Completion of Sweep Roll

Special Circumstances

Strong wind, current, and breaking waves can hinder your ability to roll on one side, but actually help you to roll on the opposite side.  If you attempt to roll and feel like you hit a brick wall, relax, set up again on the opposite side, and roll.  It turns out that in strong wind it is much easier to roll on the up-wind side, in surf on the wave side, and in current on the downstream side, all for the same reason:  The relative motion of the kayak along the surface of the water.  For example, wind will push the kayak along the surface, making water pile up on the downwind side and hindering your ability to right the kayak on that side.  The upwind side is the ‘trailing edge’ and the kayak will roll easily on that side.  The same is true in a breaking wave which will push you shorewards; the trailing edge is seaward on the wave side and the boat will roll up easily on that side, into the wave.  In current the trailing edge is on the downstream side.  Of course when upside down you may not know which side is the trailing edge, so just try rolling up and if you don’t make it, switch sides and try again.

For situations where your normal roll is not working (for whatever reason), it is good to have a backup using the extended paddle roll (aka Pawlata Roll).  This is a variation on the sweep roll using the entire length of the paddle shaft for added leverage.  Normally, you don’t want to depend on paddle leverage to roll, but we’re talking about a special circumstance.  When setting up, slide the shaft outward and grab the paddle blade on one corner, with your other hand on the shaft.  Then perform a sweep roll.  The added leverage will make the roll much easier.  This isn’t a first choice because you have to shift hand position on the paddle; use it as a backup when all else fails (you might want to learn this roll first, then progress to a roll keeping your hands in normal position).  I’ve avoided some potentially dangerous swims using the extended paddle roll.  As always, you have to practice it.

Conclusion

A combat roll will allow you to paddle ocean whitewater with confidence and safety

A combat roll will allow you to paddle ocean whitewater with confidence and safety

A well-honed combat roll will increase your confidence and allow you to explore a wider range of conditions at sea, with a much higher degree of safety.  The key to developing the combat roll is to practice rolling in a variety of conditions.  Practice switching sides by rolling part way up on one side, then capsize and roll up on the other.  The goal is to make the roll a reflex action that you do automatically following a capsize.

The above is only an overview.  Please feel free to comment, ask questions, and keep the discussion going.

 

Like this post? Then please help us out and share it on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. And don't miss any Tsunami Rangers posts: subscribe by e-mail or subscribe by RSS. And you can leave a comment below...

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 5:31 am

On the subject of setups – I’ve found it very useful to train setting up on the downwave side as an instinct-reaction to capsizing. For example, if the wave that’s knocking you over is on your right, you’ll set up on the left. Once this is happening as a reflex, you should find yourself in a setup position, even before your head hits the water. On a big(ish) wave, all you need to do now is wait til you’re underwater, stick your paddle out a bit and the rest happens more or less, by itself.

About 90% of my surf capsizes I’ll do this nowadays and the roll is both instantaneous and effortless.

Reply

Bill Vonnegut November 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

Nice article John, some good things to think about.

And I agree with Ross about the surf roll. When I know I am going over in the surf, I actually dive into the set up position adding momentum to the direction that I am getting flipped, and many of the times find myself rolling back up fast enough to take a stroke and stay on the same wave.

I think the biggest thing for rolling in a combat situation is when you get past the point where your first thought is to wet exit. Once getting to the point of having faith in your roll it becomes your first thought and since you have faith in it you become more relaxed and in turn being relaxed gives you much more air/time to complete the roll. Also the more faith you have in your roll the better it becomes, because instead of being desperate to pull your head up and get that breath, you can focus on proper technique and end up paddling away with all the breaths you want.

Reply

Chris Ketner November 4, 2013 at 8:26 am

Great writing + I agree with Bill. I think that very often “waiting” is omitted from the training routine. Aspiring combat rollers ( actually all kayakers) should spend more time underwater! When practicing take some time to enjoy being upside down underwater… relaxing into it. “Wait for it!”

Reply

Paul McHugh November 4, 2013 at 9:05 am

Clear article, good comments….

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 9:08 am

Right on guys. You all have the right idea! As you point out, Ross, setting up as you are rolled over in a wave is a good technique. It’s always a good idea to get into the roll setup position quickly to be ready to roll and because it’s a protected position. The situation you describe is when you’re parallel to the wave (side-surfing). It’s known as ‘window shading’ and the roll almost happens by itself!

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 9:15 am

That’s exactly what I’m talking about, John. For a totally stupid example of how much the wave does have a look at this clip from my last surf session, where I got flipped so fast I was still in a high brace when I came up. Didn’t even matter! http://youtu.be/QwpmXOGLw0Q?t=3m42s

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 10:52 am

Good stuff, Ross. But who’s the guy surfing without a helmet?!

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

Guilty as charged. I don’t wear helmets if the beach is sandy, the break is mellow and all a helmet is really good for is making me and inch and change more likely to break my neck. Everywhere else – yup, brain bucket.

That said there was an incident recently where I found myself hanging upside down, 5 or 6 feet above some seriously gnarly brickwork, sans helmet, waiting on the swell that had left me up there, coming back for round two. Plan didn’t involve rocks, so I hadn’t taken a hat. Would have been my own stupid fault if I’d have bought the farm. Won’t make that mistake again.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Yeah, I have to admit I’ve never hit my head rolling in surf, although I’ve felt the helmet bouncing off rocks more than once when upside down in a river! I still wear one in the surf because for sure the one time I didn’t wear it, I’d find the only rock sticking out of the sand.

Reply

MikeK November 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Even sans rocks or other hard objects, there’s often another very good reason to wear a helmet in surf (or any dynamic water): other boats.

Reply

Nancy Soares November 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Absolutely, Mike. I always wear my helmet and the only time I’ve needed it was when I got smashed in the head by another boat. A Tsunami double, as a matter of fact, a boat that weighs 150 lbs empty. The helmet may have saved my life.

Reply

Roger Smith November 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

+1 for the post and comments. I am an “aspiring combat roller” and find that most of the problem is mental (yes, I’ll wait for the jokes to subside!). The body knows what to do but the mind gets in the way especially the more complex the situation or set up is, like switching to the other side when the first attempt is blocked by the immediate environs. I go out and find some rough water that has an easy and safe out to train in. Train the body in the pool, train the mind in rough water.

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 10:09 am

Getting to a stage where you’re comfortable upside down is just a matter of practice but it’s worth persevering. Any time I’ve failed a roll, it’s always been because I was in too much of hurry to get up. I let my body’s natural instinct to get the head out the water take over and that was all she wrote.

One thing that really helps is “trying to beat your record”. In flat calm or swimming pool conditions, see if you can stay down there for 30 secs, or a minute, or a couple of minutes. It’s really hard, at first, because, by the time you decide to come up, there’s an added sense of urgency that can make the actual roll attempt a bit panicky. Also, try expelling all the air in your lungs before going under, as this will quite often be the case in combat situations. Psychologically your brain is wired toward being a lot more upset about the situation if you didn’t grab a big lungful on the way down. Physiologically the difference is only really a couple of seconds.

Another thing I’ve seen time and time again, is trying again too quick. Not only does this fail because you don’t set up properly, you’re wasting valuable oxygen , lighting up all of your roll-muscles. So if you bomb on your first attempt, take a couple of seconds to relax, get a good setup, use your paddle to feel what’s going on, on the surface, then try again.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 10:29 am

Yes, well said Ross! Another thing I’ve found very useful when practicing the roll is to capsize in a discombobulated fashion. For example, hold your paddle up in the air in one hand and tip over; then set up under water calmly and roll up. Do the whole thing with your eyes closed. Have someone else push you over. Paddle forward or backward and tip over. And so on.

I do try to get a final breath of air when I know I’m going over in rough water, especially in surf. Sometimes a wave will ‘work you’ for what seems an eternity and you have to relax and wait it out before rolling (unless it’s the ‘window shade’ scenario).

Reply

Sergey November 4, 2013 at 10:28 am

I believe the only difference between “solid roll” and “combat roll” is the abilities to make decisions while under water and predict where you a going to end up after the hit. Here are some examples. In a big surf you have an option to release one hand from the paddle to avoid your shoulders being pulled out by the surge. While rolling in rock gardens I found many cases where I DO NOT want to go to set up position. If I go over rock on a surge I will try to roll immediately (even if I know I have no chance to successfully accomplish the roll) for the sake to create more water cushion in between my head and rock by swinging my torso to the side. If I found myself on the back deck underwater I would stay there with the paddle in front of my face instead of trying to bend my body forward to classic set-up position while I am going over the shoal. Ideally ANY position should become set-up position for the roll. Think about what I call roll scouting. Typical situation you are capsized close to the rock. You extend you paddle to one side – you fill the rock. Do not try this side anymore- go scout another and roll from your offside. What if you have rock from the other side? Would you wait for the next wave to flush you out or you hit eject button? Well, depends where my torso is. If it is toward the rocks at the shore side I would give up. What if you tried to roll from one side – fail, from the other side- fail? That means either your bow or stern is dry on the rock, on more possibility – you have thick kelp around you or may be your paddle jut broken? Different actions required to solve that. You may wait for the next wave in case of trapped bow, try to do hand roll or grab your spare if your paddle is broken or I would quit in kelp. Anyway you have to stay calm to figure out what is going on and make decisions, decisions, decision. It is what I call “combat”.

Reply

Sergey November 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

As for the pool practice I found next drill is very usefull. After capsize you go out of the braces and release one hand from the paddle while your torso sticking out of cockpit at 90 degrees. This is the set up :) . Repeat with no spray skirt on.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

I wouldn’t call that the set up. You have to go into your set up from there. But it is a great exercise.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 10:42 am

You make some good points, Sergey. But in many of the situations you describe there is no absolute rule. For example, the ONLY time I wouldn’t immediately go into the protected tuck of a roll set up position in a rock garden would be if the surge forced me into another position (like on the back deck, as you described–and that would be a VERY dangerous situation; your face & teeth are exposed to the rock!). Otherwise I’m always going to tuck forward into the roll position, especially in the rocks. I understand what you mean about rolling immediately in a rock garden, but if you rush it or try to roll without setting up, you will usually fail. Far better to wait a second or two and get set up, and let things settle down, if the wave or surge is tossing you around.

And there are situations among rocks where it might be better to exit the kayak, but that’s a different subject.

Reply

Sergey November 4, 2013 at 11:17 am

John, it is what I am talking about. No rules, you have to think almost every complicated case. I agree that bent forward setup position is WAY more safe. I am talking about situations when the process of transition into this safe position could be more dangerous than staying on back deck face (ouch!) down. Same thoughts about faulty rolling – I attempt that then I need to win 1 second to go over the ridge not having my head and torso sticking down. Actually these days I rarely start my roll from classic set up position. Type of roll (forward, reverse or sculling) to perform depends where the blade is and what is the direction of your movement underwater (it is also an important knowledge).

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

I’m all for going with what works. And eventually you use what works best for YOU. That might not always be what is generally the ‘best’ technique for most people.

Sometimes it might be necessary to roll from a ‘non-setup’ position. But I wouldn’t advise most kayakers to roll without setting up. For the simple reason that most rolls fail due to a poor set up or rushed attempt.

Reply

Bill Vonnegut November 4, 2013 at 11:32 am

As a reference to Sergeys rolling experience. You can jump to 4.07 in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btv95tAY4rA&list=TLjvzib1wXdTCW54VIciAWKOT6u494WvFS

I have seen this guy roll in some amazing places : )

Reply

Roger Smith November 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I think Olga is a great person to watch roll. There is always a pause before you even see her paddle surface. Once it does, it is a very relaxed sweep. That caught my eye the first time I saw her roll and has been very consistent thereafter.

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 11:01 am

Another thing that’s worth thinking about is what I call “Having a backup plan” Tactically I’m assuming a failed roll – I’m already almost out of the water but If go with the – try like a bear to get up – thing, I’m headed straight back under, quick-smart. So what else can I do?

This is where I’m totally with John’s OP – the sweep roll. Unless I’m rolling from some “opportunistic” position where I’ve been ripped up and suddenly find support where I wasn’t even looking for it, I’ll go sweep every time. I assume the sweep will fail. I’m ready with a high scull. If I do this layback, I can wait there all day and come up when I feel like it. Or maybe I want to come up in a forward tuck so I have a reverse sweep/low brace combo going on.

What’s important is that this is what I’m concentrating on, as soon as I’ve managed to finangle my way into a setup, not the roll itself as much as what I’m going to do when it bombs. Ironically I don’t fail anywhere near as any rolls as I did before I had my backup plan. It’s like Neptune just says to himself – “Screw it, I’m beat” and gives up trying to nix me :)

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

Ross, as I said in the article, I have used an extended paddle roll (“Pawalta” roll) as a backup on more than one occasion.

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I’ve never actually used a Pawlata, John. If I’m upside down in something mad enough to make me fail a roll, I’m wary of letting go my paddle. I know a lot of guys who swear by them, tho. Never say never – one day I might have no choice. Note to self – try some pawlatas next time it’s bouncy…

Reply

Nancy Soares November 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I’m learning that the most important thing when in combat roll situation is to relax, pause, set up, and commit to an action. If/when action fails, go to Plan B. And keep trying. The pause is important so you can assess the situation so you can act in a way that makes sense. Setting up gives you a more sure chance of success but in the end, like John says, whatever works. Practicing in a variety of circumstances seems indicated. Also, sometimes when you pause the wave rolls you up. Like John says, a non-event. Good stuff to keep in mind.

Reply

Buck Johnson November 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Nicely written article, John! I enjoy the way you paint the picture; ‘I still recall an instant of terrible beauty when the wave reared up way over my head and I could see the sheen of the setting sun piercing the translucent wave face. Then the whole world was demolished in a welter of whitewater.’

To add another thought to making a roll combat-ready, I advise folks to practice a roll as slowly as they can, ‘painfully slowly’, so that when the adrenaline rush of a combat situation hits and their actions speed up, the timing of the body parts during the roll will still be there.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Excellent point Buck, about practicing the roll in slow motion. That is a super-effective practice method to hone in on your technique and get it right.

Ross, with the Pawlata Roll you don’t lose contact with your paddle. You simply slide it out into extended position along the shaft, which takes only a fraction of a second. I do know what you mean, though, because the paddle is then no longer in paddle-ready position. I’d say to that, it doesn’t matter if you’re upside down and having trouble rolling up the standard way. Like everything, it takes some practice, though. And it’s a backup.

Speaking of backups, I consider the roll itself to be a backup to your judgment, paddling skill (while upright), balance, and bracing. Ironically, the better you can roll, the better you can brace (since a roll uses similar technique to a brace), the more confidence you have to find your balance, and therefore the LESS likely you are to capsize and need to roll. IMO, if you’re out there having to roll a lot, that’s a red flag and means you need more work on balance, bracing, and probably judgment, wave-reading, timing, etc.

Thanks for all the great comments everyone! The initial post can only cover a small part of a topic like this, so feel free to share what you know and your opinions.

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

When I used to skateboard the saying was “If you’re not sketching, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough”

If I’m out to play (As opposed to trying to get somewhere) I’m looking to be right on the ragged edge of my skills. I get knocked over a lot. If I’m not getting knocked over then it’s time to look for something bigger, faster, meaner. Then, when I’ve stopped getting knocked over there, I’m bigger, faster and meaner! Wash, rinse, repeat…

Stuff I paddle in now used to demolish me a few years back. Stuff that demolishes me now will be tomorrows comfort zone.

Reply

John Lull November 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Very true. I agree if you’re trying to push yourself, push the envelope, and develop your skills in a kayak, then you’ll be capsizing. And hopefully rolling back up most of the time, although you’ll take some swims too.

But there’s a limit to that as well. I know you’re not doing this, but I’ve seen some paddlers who lack basic paddling skills trying to go way beyond their ability, putting themselves and others in needless danger. Probably we’ve all been there at some point early on (I know I was when I started out in whitewater rivers), but eventually you get smarter about it and gain the skill set you need to actually push the envelope, not simply dive in mindlessly and hope for the best. There’s a balance. Which is what a ‘combat’ roll is all about.

Reply

Ross Young November 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Hell yeah! I’ve certainly been one of those paddlers in a previous incarnation. Still take the odd swim. Last time was just the other weekt, when I got my paddle blade snagged under the rear deckline of my Delphin!

Reply

John Gerlach November 7, 2013 at 8:49 am

I also agree with Sergey that sometimes going to set up is not an option. A couple of weeks ago I got hit from the side by a wave while doing a long and shallow pour over. As I was rolling down I started for the set up but it was too shallow and I ended up scraping across the rock with my paddle protecting my face from the barnacles and sea palms. When I made it to deeper water in that position I just popped up without trying to roll – sort of like a face-first brace or something. I use a white water one-piece paddle and a similar thing has happened to me on the river against a wall.

Reply

Tony Moore November 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I know I’m awfully late in commenting, but great article, John! I like how you emphasized the set-up, and taking enough time. This is especially important in a wash-deck kayak like my Tsunamis, where your feet can be dislodged, and you can even be twisted around in your seatbelt, when powerful hydraulics are at play, such as getting clobbered by a breaking wave. All of these “discombobulations” have to be addressed before a roll is attempted: you must replace your feet on the foot pedals, and make sure you are in the correct orientation as far as the seatbelt goes (specifically, not twisted around). Of course, a sit-inside boat does give you a better connection to the boat (unless, of course you get sucked out completely by an extreme situation), and barring this extreme situation, a paddler’s rolling success rate is probably better with a sit-inside because of this better connection to the boat…however, in my mind, this is balanced by the fact that if you DO have to swim, you’re better off with an S-O-T.

Reply

Nancy Soares November 26, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Better late than never, Tony! Your comment reminded me of something my kayaker friend Barbara Kossy told me. She was trying to learn to roll a Tsunami X15, I think it was, in a pool. Her feet kept falling off the pedals and she would end up hanging from the seatbelt underwater, giggling. Giggling underwater, of course, is counterproductive. Interestingly, when I was trying to teach myself how to roll in the lake this summer that wasn’t the problem. I guess I’ve just spent so many years digging into my pedals I stuck to them from habit. I only tried twice and was starting to get it. After reading this article I realize I wasn’t using my hips. Still think I’m going to try it again next summer with a little help from Derek Hutchinson’s book.

Reply

John Lull November 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Good point Tony about the sit-on-top. No matter what the kayak, you have to be set up to roll, even when it’s not a ‘standard’ set up as in the situations Sergey mentioned. It might vary according to the kayak; with a sit-on-top a seat belt or thigh straps are needed to hold you in and with a closed deck kayak it’s helpful to have some foam bracing for a good fit. Also, as you point out, with a closed deck kayak it might be a bit easier to roll, but it’s also more essential in certain situations where re-entering could be difficult or impossible. Every piece of equipment has its advantages and limitations. It’s always a compromise.

Reply

Tony Moore November 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Nancy, yes, Dereck Hutchinson’s Book “Eskimo Rolling” is great and has helped me a lot. As far as the Tsunami foot pedals go, I rub them with surfer’s wax, which greatly increases the friction, and makes it much more likely that your wet suit boots won’t slip off the pedals.
John, I agree, it’s always a compromise, and as individuals, we must each decide for ourselves as to which compromise we adopt. I almost always use sit-on-tops, my preference being greatly influenced by decades of diving and spearfishing. The only time I use a sit-inside (my wife’s old Sea Lion) is during the cold weather, and even then only if I’m not surfing or doing rock gardens. I can’t use a sit-inside in the warmer months without overheating. I love the solid connection I have with the Sea Lion, but for me, because of my individual preferences and needs, the compromise usually falls on the side of the sit-on-tops, especially my three Tsunamis.

Reply

Nancy Soares November 27, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Great idea about the surfer’s wax, Tony. I’m gonna try it.

Reply

John Lull November 27, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Yeah Tony, I can see where divers especially prefer an open deck kayak. And I’d take ANYTHING over a plastic sea kayak like the Sea Lion! I’m totally spoiled with ‘high performance’ fiberglass/kevlar sea kayaks like the Mariner line (no longer available new; Matt & Cam retired), especially the Coaster for rock gardens. I do like a plastic whitewater kayak in rock gardens also, but they are useless for paddling any distance in open water. For surfing I have a kevlar surf kayak that is fantastic, but it’s only good for surfing. I was just out in it today and had a blast! Speaking of rolling, that surf kayak is so easy to roll it almost rolls itself.

Reply

Moulton Avery December 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Excellent article, John, and great comments! Sorry I’m so late with mine.

Wayne Horodowich has written a very nice article – The Mental Game of Rolling – that helped me a lot when I was trying to relearn my rolls and avoid claustrophobic freak out. I tamed that beast somewhat by using the counting technique that Ross mentioned (both in and out of the water); also by counting in the shower with the water going full blast on my face. I still have trouble keeping the beast in check when I get tossed around by surf.

Warren Williamson does some impressive side sculling in that Deception Pass video, and it’s my preferred recovery if I blow the first roll – maybe that’s because it’s mentally reassuring and I have a solid side scull. I also think rough water practice is invaluable. Still, my combat roll remains an elusive and frustrating work in progress, and I swam twice in surf this past summer.

Reply

Nancy Soares December 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Only swam twice? Moulton, you put me to shame! Getting a combat roll down is on my New Year’s Resolutions (that and meditating for 40 minutes every day – I do 30 min. now but it’s still difficult as hell). I wonder which achievement is going to be harder to attain?

Reply

Moulton Avery December 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Yeah, Nancy, only twice – but it was East Coast surf;-)

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: