Eyes open or closed - Rolling

closed, but…
I always seem to have my eyes closed and at least I can then roll in the dark as easy as day. But I think I want to start getting used to having my eyes open. In the surf sometimes I will get tossed a lot and not be sure which side I should roll on. I figure I could get it right even faster if I could see which side of the kayak has more light (since the boat is likely on edge being carried by the wave). When I was learning then using a dive mask and having my eyes open helped a lot.

Closed is better for feeling body orientation. Humans are so visual that sometimes seeing things actually becomes a crutch in cases where you can’t count on always being able to see what’s where. Rolling is such a case. Water isn’t always clear, it is possible you might need to roll at night, or you might be in such turbulent water that seeing does not help.

I also don’t like my eyes to be vulnerable to getting sand or gravel in them.

Having said that, I learned using a dive mask with eyes open. After a while I began closing my eyes, and found that the rolls were better with closed eyes. Now I don’t think it makes any difference. But for me, relying on sight was actually hindering my improvement in body mechanics.

No reason not to try it both ways yourself and compare.

Yes - Crutch
If I was teaching a beginner to roll I’d be hesitant to suggest a mask / goggles. I’d be concerned that they couldn’t or wouldn’t roll without it. My crutch is nose plugs. If it looks like I’m going to get knocked over, on go the plugs. Yeah, I can roll without 'em but I hate it.

Mask and goggles

– Last Updated: Jan-30-11 8:41 AM EST –

In pool water covering the eyes is not optional for many of us, and little can be gained to learn a roll if we can only stay in the pool for 20 minutes.

The crutch thing is, to me, overrated as an issue. If someone can learn a roll faster by being physically comfortable, it is a much more effective reward than struggling with issues beyond the roll itself. Those who are serious will do the work needed to keep it fresh and increasingly reliable. Those who are not won't do that anyway so it doesn't much matter what crutches they had in learning.

I know some who regard nose plugs as a huge crutch too. And I finally, after getting out of my boat a good bit, managed to get thru the nasal rinse of a capsize in surf. Nose plugs aren't going to stay on in that stuff anyway.

But for fresh water, like in WW, they go on ahead of each rapid and it has really helped me to think about the roll rather than the screaming pain in my sinuses. I roll in fresh water a few times each season just to make sure I can tolerate it if I have to. But it often takes extra strength Tylenol to knock out the resulting headache, and it's not convenient to go down the river popping pills.

developing muscle memory
As you get the muscle memory you can keep your eyes closed, but for many including myself there was the question of getting this muscle memory in the first place. One key help for me was to follow the blade on the surface all the way until I’m up looking back to toward the stern (sweep roll). Sure I suppose it would be possible to learn with my eyes closed, but way harder. Once the muscle memory set in it wasn’t too hard to start keeping them closed. Furthermore, people learn better when they are comfortable (lets the brain not forget key steps) and for most, seeing is more comfortable than not.

I Was Talking Visual Crutch
You’re the first I’ve heard of severe chlorine sensitivity.

A buddy of mine won’t give up the goggles for fear of losing a contact lens. I keep trying to tell him to close his eyes and go for it. Hell, contacts are cheap nowadays.


– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 6:46 PM EST –

Everything you say is true... but some folks have a hard time reducing their own comfort level. "You can have my goggles after you pry them off my cold, dead, head."

Yes... muscle memory. I've helped a lot of new rollers by guiding their paddle when they sweep. Most new rollers try to sweep toward the bottom of the pool.

Eyes open
I like taking a gander at mermaids!

For Andy

“strong side” eye or “weak side” eye?
Or do you mix it up just to stay on top of your game?

Chlorine Sensitivy – me too.
Err, I know more than a few people who find it extremely unpleasant to roll in a pool without a nose plug, and I’m one of them.

The resulting eye-watering, sinus-searing pain is far from fun. Because of the shape of my nose, I use Harmony disc-shaped plugs, which cost a bit more than the standard Smileys my friends all use. However, they are worth it and I stock up when I can find them.

However, I don’t use a mask. And I don’t use nose plugs in WW or in the salt, although fresh water in a lake hurts. I kinda view rolling in the ocean and the resulting sinus flush to be beneficial.

As much as I enjoy learning new rolls
With my eyes open I find that I can gain a better feel for rolling with my eyes closed. When I’m practicing I try to do whatever it takes to make my roll as dependable as possible.

people learn better when they are…
"…people learn better when they are comfortable"

Yes, though it may be contrary to the beliefs of sadistic gym teachers, coaches, and drill instructors, most people learn better when they are not in pain or frightened.

Sinus flush
I agree that it is more strange feeling than painful, happily anything in salt water is way more comfortable than in fresh. But I found it terribly disconcerting at first. I think it is partly because it is associated with the time under the boat where I am also in foam and I can’t feel enough support in the water to make rolling up terribly practical - so I am kinda stuck there until I am in something green again.

I suspect…
the same people who won’t take off their goggles once they have gotten that muscle memory down are generally more self-limiting in how they’ll develop their paddling skills. Maybe they get the first few pool rolls, but won’t go out and risk deep braces and the need for a roll as part of their regular paddling. So a few months after they got that first pool roll they’ll have lost it (and any other skill they got with someone helping them) due to lack of practice.

At least that’s what I’ve seen.

Gawd, that brings back bad memories
…of gym class in school.

Besides frightened or in pain, add “lined up for team leaders to call out their picks”. Fat kids were at the very bottom of the pick, with small ones next-least-desirable. Being one of the small ones, I would have loved nothing more than to say, “I don’t even want to play ball games so let me make this easier by just dropping out of the line completely!” But there were no choices if you weren’t the picker.

Then there was that annual farce wherein kids who had zero training in running were made to run a timed mile. Every year there’d be fainting kids and puking kids. It’s a wonder they didn’t have any heart attacks, since kids who look perfectly healthy CAN have heart attacks.

I sure hope phys. ed. tactics have changed for the better since I was a kid.

“shut up and climb that rope”!

always closed
especially in the surf zone where sand/stuff in the waves could damage my eyes.

Definitely Open
I can roll with my eyes closed but I keep them open when it matters. When I learned how to roll I realized that I had difficulty when I tried:

a) Roll over, eyes closed and just sit capsized for a few seconds. Then roll up.

I was disoriented and did not resurface reliably every time.

b) Roll over, eyes closed, set up on one side then change your mind, switch to the opposite side and roll up. - this to practice for situations when you realize that your boat had yawed to present you at the opposite side of the swell - rolling up could knock you back into the soup. You need to be able to switch sides and roll up on the side so that your righting momentum goes with the energy of the waves coming at you.

Both of these situations I found it difficult and unreliable to do with my eyes closed. Opening my eyes under water and seeing the light and reaching for it has helped me become better at my rolling.

I struggled with which eye to open
but recent medication adjustments have helped. Now I just “let whichever eye opens first” guide my destiny.