All hail the eskimo roll

August 3, 2006

2nd August 2006

I can now eskimo roll. It’s official. [The crowd roars its approval. Thank you. Thank you.]

First let me tell you about customising my kayak. I got some advice from Sato-san, Yu-Yu-Kan owner, and followed it.

I bought some dense foam (difficult to compress and returns to original shape) from my favourite hardware store (Daishin), 1,000yen plus a contact adhesive suitable for plastics/foam 800yen. Using a cardboard template I cut my foam to fit the existing braces but then before bonding I checked and realised it would be better should the knee brace foam overhang the existing blocks hence the scored line in the image.

foam and adhesive

Contact adhesive requires a thin layer on both surfaces allowed to dry to touch dry stage and then contact bond. I had to be quite quick and did remove the blobs after taking this picture.

Here are the front braces in position:


I needed to narrow the seat down, the boat is designed (“for the larger paddler” – i.e. some fat ass) I was sliding around all over the place. I cut roughly 100mm square blocks from the same foam and, using straps bought from Mont Bell for 82yen each, strapped them on as below.


Mont Bell sell a similar type arrangement except with a nice neoprene cover for 5,000yen so this is the cheap and cheerful option.

So now with my nice tight kayak I was ready to try and perfect the short Pawletta that I had been taught by Kazu-sensei in Nagoya (I had also been buaght the principles of the long Pawletta by Nori-sensei).

I went to my usual launch beach at Oku Matsushima where a bunch of kids had nets fishing for minnows at high tide.

I started with just a tee-shirt and shorts but with the sun dipping I quickly got cold and switched to my wetsuit top.

My first try was a failure, I set up again underwater and failed again. I wet exited bailed the boat and tried again. This time I used the paddle float as described earlier. Instant success. I then let some air out of the float and tried again. Success. More air out. Failure. I set up again and managed to roll the boat (proud that I didn’t need to wet exit).






A paddle float (not exactly mine but close)

But why did I fail? It felt the same as my first failure without the paddle float and I realised that I wasn’t far enough out from the boat, you really need to push out and away from the boat so that your body is near the surface. I tried again with the paddlefloat on, success, and felt like I was getting the feel for the movements. Particularly as Kazu-sensei had emphasised not pulling down on the paddle but sliding it towards you, to prevent the blade sinking.

I then took the paddlefloat off, took a quick gasp of air and rolled over. I calmly set up, opened my eyes to watch the blade, strong hip flick, and before you know it I was breathing air again. Woo hoo! The knee-braces were really working, I felt locked-in and in control. Fantastic.

I tried again and failed, well sort of failed, I rolled the boat but because the blade hit the sand. I rolled again properly twice, interspersed by some improper rolls (blade hitting the bottom). Damn. It needs some practice.

I can see why some kayakers are more into rolling than paddling, its great to feel like you’re not stuck sitting in the boat, in fact you are part of the sea.

I tried some other rescue things; bracing with the paddlefloat, a hand roll using the paddlefloat (easy) and removing the paddlefloat from the bungees while underwater and rolling up with it (easy-ish). This is a definite self rescue possibility, I should get a foam paddlefloat to use like this. I also practiced using the paddlefloat as a pillow for my head to allow me to breath – worked.

Next time I’ll practice a wet exit, inflate and attach paddlefloat, re-entry and roll.

The paddlefloat is a very useful tool that all kayakers should have. I recommend teaching people to roll using the paddlefloat; it gives a very good sense of the movements and correct positioning of the paddle blade and of course it also means that students practice sucess rather than failure!

But for now I can eskimo roll! All hail the roller.

Thanks to my teachers Kazu-sensei and Nori-sensei


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