Sunday, 23 November 2014

Eskimo Rolling

Paddling in a pond
The weekend started in a pond. Considering my last paddling outing before this was around the dramatic islands of St Kilda this was quite a contrast. Still, it was a nice pond, complete with ducks, and these were manoeuvrable little kayaks that could whizz around the pond and turn on a sixpence which was great fun (although a tad traumatic for the ducks) It was kind of like a game of dodgems on water as we tried to avoid crashing into each other. Although at times the stiff breeze propelled us from one end of the pond to the other on its own we were able to practice lots of kayaking skills without fear of being knocked over by a big wave. Number one skill being whenever wearing a fancy new dry suit always make sure the zip is done up, eh Simon?

Next we moved indoors for the afternoon pool session where the real fun began.
The kayak rolling pool
 After the St Kilda trip we had both decided that we really should make the effort to do some proper kayak skills training, in particular rescue skills and learning to roll a kayak so that we were less of a liability to ourselves and others. I have done some rescue training in the past but could really do with a few refresher courses and despite spending a not inconsiderable amount of time in both the sea and various pool sessions I felt I’d never got close to mastering a roll convincingly.
Rolling a kayak is much trickier than it looks which is why I signed the pair of us up for this course in kayak rolling. It is very difficult to work out the not-quite-mirror-image-but-upside down movement and damn near impossible to practice it in any other scenario. There is something quite counter intuitive about it. I actually quite enjoyed the hanging upside down aspect of practicing a roll. It’s incredibly peaceful underwater, very therapeutic. I wish I could develop a set of gills. Good job I enjoyed it as I was doing it rather a lot over the 2 days. 
Upside down
 The sequence of moves that required to be mastered seemed to be as follows: Put the paddle on the water alongside you parallel to the kayak and roll over in that direction. Once upside down flip your paddle up and down to ensure that it is above the water (this takes practice as you can’t actually see where your paddle is) sweep the paddle round, bring your knee up, flick your hips sideways, keep your head low and…hey presto… Well that’s how it’s supposed to happen but generally it simply resulted in a lot of flailing arms, waving paddles and gasping for breath desperately before the instructor turned you the right way up. 
Upside down again
 Simon (type A personality, competitive, good at everything, you know the sort) didn’t take well to not perfecting the role immediately. I doubt somehow that many people do which is precisely why these “intensive kayak rolling clinics” exist but that was of no consolation. At one point he stayed under water for so long he turned blue and had to be hauled out and semi resuscitated before threatening to get out of the pool much to the bemusement of the others on the course. I pride myself that I can spit the dummy some distance on the rare occasion when I am suitably annoyed but in reality I am a mere amateur…
Simon was delighted that I signed him up for this course...
 The main difficulty I had was that while everyone else seemed to be wearing a swimming costume or single wetsuit, I was wearing thermal top and trousers, wetsuit, cagoule and at times a buoyancy aid and I was the one shivering and having to disappear into the sauna to warm up. And this was in a swimming pool. A heated swimming pool.
and upside down again....
 The group was comprised of 6 people who had varying degrees of success over the course of the weekend. Tony was the only one of us who could really say he “got it” and convincingly pulled off a series of rolls. Four of us, myself and Simon included managed something with a semblance of a roll and the sixth person gave up and got out. I get the impression that Simon’s roll was more skillful than mine but to be fair mine was all a bit of a blur really. I suppose I can say that I can now master at least 270 degrees of an Eskimo roll convincingly with the last 90 degrees a bit hit and miss. Success of sorts, although at this stage I would be reluctant to put it to the test in, say, the middle of the North Sea…
Back on dry land and running through the forest

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