Maintaining one's roll for good

-- Last Updated: Aug-25-05 12:56 PM EST --

There are certainly a proud number of people posting here, that have successfully learned to roll this summer (including off-side rolls).

Living in the northern latitudes, I'm a bit concerned that as my paddling trips, roll practice, and desire to roll in cold water all diminish, it is possible to lose the roll!
While owning a sem-drysuit, 5mm Henderson hood, and warm gloves, I can foresee a limited desire to roll in under 60 degree water . . .while yet those are the temps a roll becomes more important.

In summary, how best to have the roll a permanent learned skill when 5 months out of the year, ya just might not be practicing them very often?

In my case, I seem to maintain my skills well only by constantly practicing them. Having learned to roll and brace well this summer, this will be my first winter season with these skills. In the NE where I live, water temps decline rather quickly in another month. (if one had access to an indoor pool, that would be ideal)

Winter Pool Sessions
Lot’s of clubs, stores, kayak polo teams schedule winter pool sessions. Check around or maybe approach your local rec dept or Y or community college about setting up one in an indoor pool.

To be honest though if you go over in cold water and you have not practiced in real conditions you will end up pulling the pin and bailing out of your boat. Pool practice helps but you need to be willing to practice rescues in the conditions you actually paddle in. I usually paddle in fairly warm water, it never gets colder than 55 F, but I like to travel to places with nasty cold water, and it is a huge shock.

Rolling in really
cold water can be exhilarating, as long as you’re properly prepared. Thick fleece under the drysuit (I like Stohlquist’s one-piece drysuit liner, which wicks very well, and is extremely warm but not bulky), one, two, or even three neoprene hoods, diving mask if you need it to prevent your face from freezing, drygloves or heavy neoprene gloves (I prefer 5mm lobster-claw style diving gloves), and you’re ready to go in ice water. Swim in the water first. Make sure your face and head are already wet before you roll (to reduce the risk of “gasp reflex,” sudden, uncontrollabe breathing when cold water hits the face/neck/head). Ear plugs are extremely important to prevent the risk of cold water-induced vertigo.

One thing’s for sure–when you head out in 20 degree air and 32 degree water, you’ll have the place pretty much to yourself (except for me, Sing, and Nicolas from Montreal). Be safe and enjoy,



– Last Updated: Aug-25-05 1:12 PM EST –

I like your idea of getting your head wet first before rolling- maybe via a laid back high brace or sculling - but I assume the same cold shock or gasp reflex is possible.

Go out in the water
Just wade out and splash water on your face, then dive in, I do this every time I surf in the winter. You want to make sure that big shock comes when you can just stand back up and walk to shore. It also helps you make sure your wetsuit or drysuit is up to the task if you have to swim.

Extending into cold
A pool is easiest, but you can stay outside for lower temps than 60. Just my experience and I’m not near as tough as those mentioned above, but even with my wimpy will to be upside down in colder water the following have worked out OK.

Stay practicing outside until the water hits 50 degrees regardless, get upside down religiously every time you are in the water as the temps cool off. The 50’s are fine with hood and a couple of layers of heavier duty neo, like the NRS Mystery tops, and a drytop over it (for the wind chill when you are upright). You should be fine if you wear neoprene under your Henderson suit as things get really chilly. Below 50 is where individual tolerances start really showing up - see how far you can go.

Use ear plugs and goggles or face mask freely, at least when stating practice. (In addition to hood(s).) Keeping cold water out of your ears and off from around your eyes makes a huge difference in relaxing.

Swim in the water before getting in the boat, making sure you immerse your face fully, when you get to the launch point. You are right - you don’t want to have that shock the first time when you actually go over.

As the water gets colder, there is also a blue silicone-based (vegetable based silicone as I understand) that divers use to protect their skin. Some of the folks on this board have mentioned that a generous coating of that over their face handles quite cold water temps, and apparently it stays on quite well. I don’t know if it is good or bad for drysuit gaskets, but there’s a point where staying warm is more important. I forget the name, but if you check online for skin divers supplies you’ll see it.

My lowest water temp so far was 46 degrees, and I am hoping to push that down a few this year. But that is partly because I am much more secure in my ability than before. As temps get colder, you may want to balance off your ability to stay relaxed in the conditions against any impact of increased tension on your roll. There’s always next spring - once you have it down it comes back a good bit faster.

What’s the big deal?
Wear your dry top and roll sevral times every time you paddle. Where i live the water is mostly below 50 year round. Noone thinks about it. We surf year round, and with decent gear it’s not even a shock really.

re-inforcing ear plugs
I want to re-inforce the desirability of using ear plugs when rolling in cold water.

I found working in below 60 degree water that I lost my sense of balance and got light headed without ear plugs.

I have been told that ones ear canals will also gradually narrow from repeated incursion of cold water.

Surfer’s Ear – Doc’s Proplugs
> I have been told that ones ear canals will also gradually narrow from repeated incursion of cold water.

Yup… it’s called surfer’s ear, or exostosis. It’s all explained here… where they also sell fancy earplugs that I’m told the surfing community swears by. You can also get custom fitted ear-plugs from an audiologist.


If You Plan To Paddle It…
then you should practice in it. The psychology of a pool roll in warm water is vastly different from having to roll in an unexpected capsize in cold water. So, if you plan on paddling on cold water, then you should practice a bit in the same water.

I’ve been surfing (and kayaking) through the winter for the past two years. Drysuit, drygloves, 5 mm surf hood (this type cinches around the face), and silicone grease on exposed skin areas have allowed me to surf pretty comfortably down to 33-34 degree water days. Rolling is a given in surf. Beats a swim anytime in ice water (or any kind of water. I hate swimming).


I used form-fitting
silicone earplugs for several years, but developed surfer’s ear nonetheless. So I went to the same audiologist who fit my hearing aids, and got a $70 pair of custom-fitted earplugs. They are markedly better than any commercial plug, allowing no water in the ear canal at all. I’ve had no ear infections since using them, and hopefully my surfer’s ear has not gotten worse.


train like you fight

– Last Updated: Aug-27-05 2:16 PM EST –

then you can fight like.....

same thing for paddling especially in cold weather.

I either
swim before paddling, or start with a chest scull, gradually lowering my face into the water. After a couple of chest sculls I ease back into a regular scull and then a balance brace, at which point, the cold water has fully worked its way around my head and I’m ready to start rolling.