I had an epiphany

I’ve experienced kayak training not simply as something that someone suggests or shows, and I just replicate and do. I’ve experienced it as gathering information and going out and putting it into practice, often for quite some time. The point between trying something, really consistently using something, and then actually being able to feel I learned something, I’ve experienced as a series of epiphanies.
I remember bringing home a brand-new P&H Sirius, back when efficiently traveling miles through the sea seemed to be the popularly accepted pinnacle of sea kayaking. Now it seems the kayak that most efficiently travels miles through rough open water has given way to kayaks easiest and most maneuverable and stable for playing in surf waves. Boats like the P&H Delphin/Aries, Dagger Stratos, CD Karla, etc. There are very noticeable performance differences, and these too are compromise kayaks. In any case, I paddled a lot of miles in that Sirius not figuring that I could ever feel perfectly relaxed paddling it. I thought attention to stability was just a part of it. Then there was that random day, a short period following sea in the Atlantic, and I was so focused on directional control and connecting rides to travel fast, that I guess I had just forgotten about keeping my kayak nice and upright underneath of me. It got my attention when I felt myself starting to slowly tip, but I stubbornly refused to interrupt my forward cadence. I was determined that my next stroke on that side would be enough to stabilize, and the next to reset, and just keep cruising. I was right, but I also noticed just how far I had edged my kayak over without my even realizing it. I continued on, and that moment, after a culmination of all kinds of reading and learning and practice and skills training, in the midst of challenge and effort, an epiphany. That kayak, and every other kayak, became different kayaks on that day. The P&H Sirius was now comfortably stable.
Is it the kayak or the paddler? I’d say both.
Is it a skill? Absolutely.
Is it a worthwhile skill? For me, so much yes.
Does the skill apply and make you more competent even if you’re in more stable boats? Without a doubt, yes.
Can you make an even substitution for these skills, such as in this case, just paddle a more stable boat? I would say sometimes and marginally. The caution here would be not to forgo the ability to right yourself gracefully when off-balance in favor of a very stable boat, and then venture into water that might put you off balance even in your stable boat. It’s fairly easy to pick out people in breaking waves who are depending on their boat to keep them upright, and to me that’s scary to watch.

All of the most meaningful skills progressions seem to have been a series of skills and training just coming together and suddenly working. Like there was some tiny piece missing, but there it is, and all of the other hard-earned, long-practiced pieces fall into place.
Does it come easier for y’all, or have you experienced things similarly?


You mention such a sweet boat! I still remember how nice it felt, was one of the earliest glass sea kayaks I tried. It was at a P&H dealer on the south shore of LI.

At the time I was fairly sure the boat was above my skill level. But frankly if it had existed closer to where Jim and I were when we each found a boat that would work for us (one Valley and one NDK), I would probably have gone for it and figured out how to catch up after I had it.

Later version of a less so but related issue, I swear I will properly recover my roll on both sides for next season if the Delta variant does not screw pool sessions, so I can have a year of messing with the Nordlow before letting it move on.

The Nordlow is a cool boat. I remember how excited I was to try one briefly. Then I quickly realized that I’m not so low volume, it was a bit snug, and the regular Nordkapp a much more comfortable fit for me.
As it should be I figure. I’m not particularly small. There are lots of boats in my size range.
Good luck with the rolling. If I were in your neck of the woods I’d want to try to help you with that this summer.

Thanks for the thought! The Nordlow is not so small on me, but rolls like a dream. I had a beaut on both sides at one point, almost nothing on the paddle, but Jim got sick etc.

It is just a matter of how fast I want to get it back. I got it back last summer by myself on the right in the Romany, and when there were pool sessions I had it back by the beginning of the second in the WW boat. But frankly both were a bit uglier than what I had before.

By myself the head thing is going on, a leftover from initial panic that it took me a year and a half to get by way back at first. I think I could save that crap by having someone standing there, at least on the right. The left was hard fought, I really an very right-sided, so that one would be some steady pool session time working on a gradually more controlled scull. But I only needed both sides for surf or WW and I do not much of either right now.

We have warm water in ponds for another month here that I could take advantage of for prep work if/when I can get some clear time. Not a heck of a lot of that in August and it is only the 4th. But I have a couple of folks I may be able to hook up with locally before winter comes.

I just helped someone who hadn’t rolled in over a year last weekend. I like this method, as it let’s the person operate in confidence, and I mostly just keep my mouth shut except to answer any questions. I just stand near the end of the stern, ready to roll the person up, or even just assist at the finish. I helped twice, agreed with her own assessment of a tweak, and that was it. She kept on rolling successfully and solidly. For experienced people, I like this approach. I hope you get the opportunity to give it a try with someone this summer. I think knowing for sure you’re coming upright allows a relaxed confidence. Everyone is different though.

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I like playing in the surf it is a good teacher of boat control. It’s where the water is in control, and you have to learn to respond to it. I enjoy weaving in and out of shoreline overhanging trees limbs on lakes and rivers for the same reason. Then there are the wonderful in water strokes with a single blade paddle and a solo canoe. A long days paddle where you are in a rhythm and just gliding along with a fluid forward stroke. The epiphany comes when you realize you aren’t thinking about it, just doing it. Nice when it happens. You and the boat dancing on the water.

I have long been oriented toward where the boat could take me, and the sense of adventure it provided exploring those places. In the process the connection with the boat became just as important.

I can always use pointers to my roll, but am quite confident upside down. Rolling hasn’t become an unthinking reaction.



I agree that the surf is a good teacher. I remember when I first moved to North Carolina, the first time where an ocean beach was the close convenient launch for everyday paddling. I remember several days in a row where I realized I was rolling too much, and it was taking too much time to set back up between waves, and this resulted in too many bad positions and maytag moments and swims. I was sitting on the beach feeling tired after my second or third swim of the day, and a fire lit inside of me. This is not just how it goes! I’m missing something! Right now I’m getting either knocked over, or I’m leaning too far into the wave to recover my balance after it hits me.
My problem was I often needed to not edge, but to lean off balance to counteract getting knocked over, AND I needed to be able to not flip upside down afterwards, and take all that time to set up and roll and recover. I remembered a Jackson video that I have, showing a deep high brace recovery with your blade on the surface, and then progressing all the way to having your paddle verticle in the water as you went over, and recovering. Well I figured the rule of all of these roll and off-balance recovery things is always to use as little paddle support as possible. What difference does it make what angle my shaft is at? Can I not still get that same light bit of resistance? So I watch the video again, go out to flat water, and sure enough, if I focus on getting just that little bit of resistance from the paddle, it really works just fine from any angle. So I attacked that skill pretty readily, I gained an ability to quickly just sit up instead of having to fall completely upside down and set up for a roll, and the surf zone experience completely changed.
I do also love just being “in a rhythm and just gliding along with a fluid forward stroke”. And I’m ever more tempted by picking out what I think might be a fun solo canoe for me - The Northstar Magic or Wenonah Advantage or something like that seems like what I would lean towards for flatwater rivers, lakes, tidal creeks and maybe a calm ocean day here and there? I’m loving practicing executing solid maneuvering strokes with a single blade, so I’m not worried about being frustrated by a straight tracking canoe. That glide through the water feels like it would be the most rewarding thing to me for local waters.


I connected with your opening post. I felt I understood its substance. Trying to define the feeling has also led to me trying to understand how it happens.

The dynamics on the water are between the paddle in the water, the body in the boat, and the hull in the water. When that becomes as fluid as the water it satisfies something deep within us.

“Dynamics” doesn’t have the needed poetry to match the feeling. Perhaps “dance steps on the water” to add the feeling’s poetry.

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in as yo-yo
within balance Yang to Yin

upside downunder
forces in wonder
and flow moves through within

Or to just be with silly grin
(lack of brevity’s my poetic sin)

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Spot on, and with a silly grin.
Looking forward to purchasing “The CWD Thesaurus Of Unique Sinonyms”