I'm not drowning, really...

Try Waving Away A Helicopter
Yes, unfortunately, there will always be trigger happy people calling emergency even when not needed, such as I have experienced out in the surfline fooling around on my surfski: a rescue helicopter suddenly appears and hovers above me. I couldn’t wave him off, so I just scampered back on and paddled back to the beach.

Waving off a helicopter will never work. When people wish to be rescued, they don’t sit there calmly waiting, they tend to wave their arms back and forth in an effort to get attention. You thought you were trying to wave them off and they thought you were requesting help.

Look up on the web for the signals used by lifeguards, surfers, SCUBA divers, and the like. If you are in no trouble, make an ‘O’ with your arms over your head (the classic ok signal with the fingers is fine if the ‘rescuers’ are close enough) to indicate you are Ok. In low viz conditions, you draw a circle with a glow stick or (preferably) flashlight or other light source. The latter works reasonably well and I’ve used it while doing night dives off the channel islands here in ca. to signal the dive boat.


Why Roll - Love your prose
Why Roll - Love your prose

I’ve told rangers I was going to practic

– Last Updated: Jun-06-11 6:37 PM EST –

This was after my husband told me somebody ran up to a ranger to report a capsized kayaker. I guess that person didn't watch the next second or two to see that I rolled up...it helps if your roll is pretty reliable so people can quickly see there's no problem. But there could always be an instant-panicker around. (In this case, the ranger watched and figured out that it was just practice.)

Anyway, after that day I told the ranger in advance I would be practicing. Because I practiced every time I paddled there, and always near shore, soon there was no need for me to warn them it was just practice. The rangers all knew. It got so that I'd hear other park visitors say, "Oh, look, she's here again; let's watch her roll."

Some people are genuinely worried; others think they will play hero by reporting an incident that isn't. I watched a guy on shore jumping around flailing his arms above his head after a young teenager capsized his little sailboat. The kid was figuring out how to get on and the water was cold, but he appeared calm and methodical. Also, this was very close to shore. Meanwhile, the shore guy was not helping with his antics and yelling toward the kid, "We're getting help for you! Don't worry!"

I walked to a ranger and told him there was someone in the water who might need help after a few more minutes, but he seemed OK so far. The ranger said he and others had been watching the situation and were ready to go if necessary. He also expressed great irritation at the jumping, yelling, waving guy on shore.

If you can find a sheltered spot close to shore to practice, that might be less likely to frighten people.

A couple of weeks ago…
… someone yelled to ask if I was ok. I was wet exiting, re-entering and rolling. However it took a couple of attempts to manage to get in my narrow cockpit upside down, which might have been why he was checking.

He might have also been aware that the water wasn’t very warm (around 50 - 55 degrees). However I was wearing a dry suit… make that semi-dry suit:)

Yeah, R&R could freak them out
It looks like a failed roll, and it takes longer than a simple roll.

The other thing that could worry people is switching sides under water, also because it takes a little longer. I always worry someone is going to panic over that one.

Most people here probably don’t know what a drysuit is. Sometimes I deliberately wade in the water and just float there while wearing it, to show any would-be-panickers nearby that everything is A-OK. Same for the wetsuits.

I doubt that…
…I’ll bother wearing my wet suit again. The drysuit is so much more comfortable and actually easier to get on.

When I first started out several summers ago I bought a dry top. The first time I ever used it I ended up getting rescued for first time.

It happened at home on dry land. I managed to get the dry top on over my head with my arms sticking straight up and got stuck. I had to stumble over to my next door neighbor’s place and beat on the door until she answered and beg her to help get the damn thing off of me.

I’m sure glad that I had my pants on:)

Fun With Immersion Gear
If you want to have a really enjoyable time, watch people at a dive shop putting on a wetsuit for the first time. All the hopping, struggling, falling over, etc. is comedy gold. Just watching people trying to take off booties that are just a hair too small gets pretty amusing.

Back to the topic:

Informing the authorities you are practicing is a good general rule. They will usually keep an eye out and make sure that no overt rescue attempt is made unless warranted. I’ve done this many times and have even had them allow me to bend the rules a bit (i.e. let me wet exit in waters marked “no swimming” so that I can do re-entries, rescues, etc). It buys you some much appreciated good will, if nothing else.

I’ve also gone as far as informing someone on shore that I am practicing. Then when someone approaches, they just pass on the word.

I’ve not had anyone (yet) try to rescue me when I didn’t need it, but I have, on more than one occasion, swum out to someone who might be having difficulties and asked them if they wanted help (language is important and if you say, “Do you need help,” people will generally say ‘no,’ even if their feet are 2 inches from the combine blades. If you ask, “Do you want a hand…,” they are more likely to say yes and even specify the amount of help they desire. When someone you know is in trouble and they refuse assistance (and I’ve had this happen), all you can do is mumble under your breath, “you’re all going to die,” in your best impersonation of Richard Dreyfus, and monitor the situation.


and big gulps!

I’ve gotten that, too
The person who told me to roll made it sound like a command barked at a subordinate.

Since that was not the nature of our acquaintance, I said, “No, I don’t feel like it now.”

I like to practice on weekdays and/or quiet spots, but in summer there may not be seclusion even on weekdays.

It’s no fun
…removing a wet full-length wetsuit. Much worse than a dry fit in the shop! My own sweat makes the insides wet, and after rolling there’s always some water infiltration even in a snug suit.

Pulling off a damp Lycra shirt is almost as bad. It wants to roll up into a circle around the lower torso and refuses to budge past the larger-diameter ribcage.

you’re ignoring the simple solution
(correct the ribcage-to-waistline ratio!)

Was she hawt?

That flippy thing
People were perplexed when we started practicing rolling on the cove we spend part of the summer in Maine. We spoke to folks so they understood we were intentionally capsizing. Over the years they’ve gotten so used to us doing ‘the flippy thing’ that they question when we practice assisted rescues or re-entry self-rescues.

Our concern has become that folks are so used to us practicing that if someone in a kayak capsizes and actually needs help the folks on the cove will think it is just more practice…

Practice vs. real emergency
That’s a good reason not to “practice” screaming and waving paddle around.

Your fear has occurred to me, too. I would like my husband to practice rescues with me (he doesn’t roll). But I’m afraid that we’d end up arguing with each other (loudly) and someone on shore might think there was an emergency.

Some things are best done with non-spouse companions. It’s good that you and Celia can do this kind of practice together.

Learning to Roll with Small Scuba tank
Yah I could really use some help with this too. I am planning on strapping a pony bottle on the deck of my kayak and using a scuba regulator to learn how to roll.

While upside down under water I will have all the time I need to set up properly, develop muscle memory, and try different things with the luxury of not drowning. As a plus I wont have any cumbersome wet exits and re-entries.

But somebody is going to call the police if they see an occupied capsized kayak still in the water for a minute or so! A few failed attempts will probably get the Coast Guard involved as well.

When I get “good enough” I can continue to practice without using a pony bottle, of course (for those who were going to be overly critical).

go at night

Thanks - it is easier
Tho’ it’d be a reach to say that we were rolling together much of this last summer. Much of it was Jim coming over for me to take a bow rescue. For whatever reason things were going south once I was upside down and thinking about it. Even my scull, which had become virtually foolproof, was going bad. Just doing dumb stuff.

Happily this season started out much better - the right side roll seems to have snapped back into place with just a couple of head corrections in the pool in early April, and the scull seems back to itself on both sides. If we can ever get by the work of unpacking a few hundred boxes of stuff back into this house I can go out and repair the left side roll.

Most of the people we paddle with are one half of a couple where the spouse doesn’t paddle at all, or does not paddle at the same level. I am always impressed at the accommodations some of these folks make to clear time for paddling. I’m not sure I’d be as dedicated.