Kayak Roll vs Surfski remount (Epic V7)

Ok, I am not going to lie to you. I don’t like spray skirts and especially detaching them during a wet exit. It’s fine during warm weather but in winter being packed in a drysuit, hood and winter gloves I just plain hate it. That is coming close to ruining the entire experience for me.
So it’s said learn to roll. But it looks like a complex motion that needs constant practice. I don’t mind putting in the hours but the background thought here is that complex things tend to fail in complex scenarios.
Now, there’s Epic V7. Rotomolded, said to have a stability of a sea kayak and has a hatch. I watched a ton of videos and remount seems remarkably simple compared to any form of kayak self-rescue.
So the obvious blasphemy here that I am struggling with is should I not just switch to a V7 instead of maintaining a number of self-rescue skills and lugging the extra gear. Simplification seems quite tempting to tell you the truth.

In terms of my usage, the gear hauling of a sea kayak is pretty irrelevant to me. I doubt I will ever go on trips longer than a day. Being on lake Ontario I am more likely to get into surfing since we have a number of decent spots along the shoreline, the closest one being half an hour away.


First of all, who says you have to roll to self rescue? Depending on the boat, all that is necessary is a lay back and the boat will right itself. Of course that also is somewhat dependent on how the paddler is proportioned. Anyway, a good brace-up is also probably the best first option if you don’t like being inverted.

In my experience, if it gets so catastrophic that keeping the boat upright is a problem it’s probably time to call it a day.

If the plastic Epic is the same one I have paddled (I get easily confused by Epic’s numbering system), it is very stable for a surf ski. Felt comparable to a sea kayak in stability. But YMMV, so do try one out if at all possible.

Remounting a surf ski is pretty easy, but does take a touch of practice. If you can cowboy a sea kayak you almost definitely could get back on a ski.

Being on a surf ski could possibly require more/heavier clothing, as sitting inside a kayak will give your lower body protection from the elements, which you won;t get in a ski. Plus likely your butt would be sitting in water in the ski.

Of course, you could always just paddle your sea kayak without a skirt or with an easier to get on/off skirt. Though this may not be preferable if you are surfing.

The clothing aspect doesn’t bother me. In fact it will probably be better to be more wet as I don’t like being underlayered because I might get hot when paddling. I prefer being dressed for a swim with no compromises period. People made fun of how many layers I put on.
Practicing the remount is fine. It’s just one thing to master.

So much of this is where your personal mind has directed it’s focus. Or perhaps the biggest frustration you’ve experienced as of late.
I’ve paddled a V7 a couple of times. I surfed some waves in one the first time, and tried one with a sail in a nice steady wind this summer. It’s plenty stable, like a stable sea kayak. It’s fun to paddle. I’ll encourage you to pick one up and have fun.

Complexity of the roll? Depends upon the individual. I learned it, use it, it’s no big deal, and it’s really not all that complex to some. In order to figure out where you might fall on the rolling spectrum - just a simple motion, to a constantly elusive, never quite get to the relaxed and confident end of the spectrum, you just have to learn it for yourself. But besides that, I wouldn’t compare remounting a V7 with a roll. A roll is just a stroke. It’s really not comparable with coming out of the cockpit of your boat, sit-in or SOT.

A significant thing that reasonably would have you reflecting upon the insignificance of your skirt frustration would be the difference in exposure in cool weather between a sit-in and SOT. That difference is major.

The V7 is good for runs, but turning back out over breaking water without something holding me in the cockpit left the V7 washing out from underneath of me. There’s no way to control it like you would control a typical sea kayak on a surf play day.

I would suggest you do two things. First and foremost, stop avoiding the thing that is frustrating you. Before the next time you get on the water in your kayak,attach and detach your skirt, 100 times, with and without the grab loop. Make it the thing you are doing, instead of the thing in the way of the thing you are doing. This might sound goofy, but the level of frustration you’re expressing surrounding it seems to warrant a “get yourself over this” approach.
Second, I think you should get yourself a V7.

I have been doing the on/off thing. And I am certainly capable of self-rescues. But as I found capsizing in a 45 degree water is mentally very different from summer conditions. Something about the harshness of this environment weighs heavily on me. I am still able, just not sure I want to battle basic survival instincts. A little unwaranted anxiety is one thing, I know how to handle that. Being upside down in grey winter waters is heavy. I am just not sure I can win over it.

@SpaceSputnik said:
I have been doing the on/off thing. And I am certainly capable of self-rescues. But as I found capsizing in a 45 degree water is mentally very different from summer conditions. Something about the harshness of this environment weighs heavily on me. I am still able, just not sure I want to battle basic survival instincts. A little unwaranted anxiety is one thing, I know how to handle that. Being upside down in grey winter waters is heavy. I am just not sure I can win over that.

Some may ask why not to lay off winter paddling altogether. I have been trying, but I don’t think it’s working :slight_smile:

Just a note on one comment you made:

Learning to roll is the complex part. Actually doing it after you have learned and practiced is not.

@SpaceSputnik said:
I don’t like spray skirts and especially detaching them during a wet exit. It’s fine during warm weather but in winter being packed in a drysuit, hood and winter gloves I just plain hate it.

You are very wise to hate that. I have had some scaring experience. With winter gloves I can detach my sprayskirt using the loop. Without winter gloves I have also trained detaching it by grabbing the sides. But the first time I found myself accidentally looking at fishes during winter paddling, with the loop stuffed away beneath the sprayskirt, I discovered that I had not trained grabbing the sides while wearing gloves…

My advice: Get a sprayskirt with a safety strap across the knees. If you for some reason can’t find the loop, or you can’t handle it with gloves, the safety strap is very easy to pull, even with gloves. And of course you can also push the strap from below with your knees (something which did not work with my old skirt, because the fabric was too elastic.

Safety strap. Thanks, this is something to look at.

I say get a surfski that is easy to remount (not all are including mine) like the V7 or V8. The Stellar SR18 is a good stable ski too. The drain plugs will remove the water that may get in. In the V7 you’ll rarely flip over. If you want speed then get a faster ski. The learning curve takes a while but it’s worth it. I don’t like cold water so staying above it is important to me. Unless one is in large waves or whitewater there’s really no reason to be flipping over.

Thanks guys.

Having both kayaks and surf skis, and having a solid roll (through lots of practice) I’ll just add that rolling is much faster, physically much easier, and with less water exposure, than; falling off a ski, completely immersed up to you chest/neck, trying to maintain contact with your paddle and ski, and scrambling back in.

That said, a ski avoids the issues associated with a flooded (sit-inside) kayak should your roll fail and you exit the cockpit.
Climbing back on a ski gracefully takes some practice too, and is not always easy in conditions.

A wet-exit session, where you repeatedly practice capsizing and remove a spray skirt, until it becomes boring, would probably go far to allaying your fears. If for some reason you can’t remove the front of the skirt, it’s usually very easy to release the skirt at the sides. Often when people start learning a roll they have problems staying IN their kayak.

One nice thing about a ski is that you can put your legs out to stabilize yourself in bumpy conditions.

Threre’s advantages and disadvantages to both.

Considering how new you are at this, despite your committed practicing and learning, you’re not likely completely comfortable hanging out in a kayak in warm water, let alone water that’s only a few degrees above “solid”. There’s no shame in this. It’s just the way it is when you’re starting out with anything.

Having been upside down in near freezing water many, many, many times now, I can attest to the fact that it isn’t all that pleasant. Whenever I do it on purpose, I make it QUICK and almost always have a full hood on. More than about 5 seconds and the “ice cream headache” starts. I suggest for the experience level you’re at, avoid purposely capsizing in water that’s less than say 15°C. At that temperature, it isn’t going to have quite the same shock effect that it does right now and will let you take a little more time to calm yourself down and execute a controlled exit.

The panic reflex and I are old friends – just about drowned myself perhaps twice now… but hey, now I’m pretty good at not panicking because I know I have 2-3 times to try a roll and if that fails I pull the “eject” loop. If this is where your anxiety lies, you may want to work with a partner in the water beside the boat and practice exiting with the spray skirt on. If you gain enough confidence with your partner, you can work toward signalling him/her that you want to come up again and they should right the boat for you. That way you can try hanging out longer and longer underwater without needing to keep getting back in the boat.

Even when your body starts telling you to breathe, you have a lot more time before you’re really in trouble. Look into free diving breathing techniques, but do be careful trying anything there before you know what you’re getting into.

I’d also suggest that you look into some pool lessons that start teaching the preliminaries of rolling (better yet, solid bracing to avoid the need for a roll). It takes patience, time, experience, and some body training to get it right.

@Sparky961 Interestingly the panic alone is not the main issue, I mean I get it sometimes, but I am apparently able to compose myself even in 45 degree water and ice-cream headache and Glacier gloves on (although I don’t want to wet-exit with them on anymore, the loss of feel is pronounced). In warmer water I had some anxiety at first but got over it to the point of being able to do a bow rescue. In cold water specifically I do question how safe all this truly is, since margins for error feel much much narrower. In other words where does unreasonable anxiety ends and the actual danger begins. This is a question I can’t help asking myself. Although, asking a question like this in a sea kayaking forum is a probably a futile thing, since obviously sea kayakers have answered such questions for themselves a long time ago. It’s a personal choice I feel, since the collective mindset of the kayaking community won’t help me detach my skirt in November waters of lake Ontario.

Is the primary concern “air”, and the avoidance of drowning? Did you have a close call, perhaps?

^ yes and no.

@SpaceSputnik said:
^ yes and no.

Care to elaborate? I’m trying to get at the root issue here because my impression is that is doesn’t have much to do with the style of boat.

In this climate (SW Ontario) if you want to be out more than 4 months of the year, having a closed boat is a huge advantage over SOT, surf ski, or canoe. If there’s something going on that you can work out, that’s where I’d be spending my time and money.

I suffer from cleithrophobia (yes I know, it makes no sense) but unfortunately it’s something I’m always fighting against. Some people with this issue do not like being closed in anything, even if the top part of the body is free. Being upside-down in a sea kayak can be scarey even it’s only for a couple of seconds. I’ve sea kayaked for decades but the uncomfortable feeling doesn’t go away. Didn’t stop me but didn’t make me happy either. Thankfully with a surfski I don’t have to deal with it any more. And thankfully I have no phobia about drowning.

@Sparky961 I mean, surely the fear is being under the water and not being able to breathe. Water on its own doesn’t scare me, as a matter of fact I enjoy floating in my drysuit as well as diving and swimming. But being trapped under is a point and at that being trapped with things that can fail to release especially.
Close call - don’t recall anything of the sort if I don’t count somewhat frantic loop grabbing once or twice during botched roll attempts in said cold waters of lake Ontario. That was largely due to lack of feel in Glacier gloves I think. The week prior to that I had no issues using neoprene gloves while still being in the suit with the same layers and a pfd. The water was a tad warmer at that time, but not a whole lot.

Now, besides all this useful discussion (and I am not being sarcastic), skis do hold a certain amount of appeal to me, How cold does it get? Is it not fixable though heavier layering/shoes?