Muscle Memory, Ski Jumps, and Rolling a

Yesterday, I was skiing and landed a jump backwards (aka switch)… on purpose. I often ski backwards and find it easier to look back over my right shoulder easier than my left. I landed this jump by spinning to my right. It was a tiny jump but exciting all the same.

This got me thinking today about rolling my kayak. When I first learned to roll last summer, I took great pains in working on both sides of my boat. I ended up, like many people might, rolling better on one side than the other. This might be because of a weaker set of muscles on one side or it might be a brain issue. I keep working to perform equally well on both sides since either may be required depending on the conditions in the water when I really need this skill.

I now wonder if I could be much better at rolling if I focused on one side every time. I also wonder if I should always spin right when landing a jump backwards on skis or if I should be ambidextrous, so to speak, and always alternate or practice both sides roughly the same amount.

Does the brain/body learn muscle memory for techniques like rolling a kayak or ski jumping in a way that isn’t symmetrical? Would I be better at rolling on my right if that’s all I ever did? These are interesting questions to me. Does anyone care to mention their own experience in this area (kayaking or ski jumping is fine :slight_smile:


my experience

– Last Updated: Mar-30-09 4:52 PM EST –

You'll get a thousand opinons on this...

I learned on one side first, not even trying to learn on the other side until I thought my "good " side was pretty solid. When I started working on my "off" side I had a very hard time trying to mirror my movements -- my brain would lock up. It turned out to be easier to learn a different style of roll on my off side than to mirror my on-side roll. Now I think my "off" side works better than my "on" side.

I think that if I were starting again, I might try learning both sides at once. I might also start with a Greenland paddle or an unfeathered euro.

Now when I try to learn new rolls I try them on both sides.

The advantage to learning one side first is that you'll probably get it faster, and that's a huge confidence builder.

On muscle memory in general -- when I was learning to ride a bicycle(a looong time ago) my route was down the steet, left turn, up the street, left turn, repeated a gazillion times. To this day I'm more comfortable turning left than right in any context -- aircraft, car, bike, skis or boat.

I Practice Sides Equally

– Last Updated: Mar-30-09 4:18 PM EST –

For every onside I do an offside. It has come in very handy. Sometimes when you get trounced you find yourself set up on your offside. I have a buddy who has a fair onside roll and no offside. I told him he has GOT to practice throwing his right hand forward when he starts casizing either left or right. We also practiced in the pool getting the paddle from offside to onside position while upside down.

To summarize, if you have an offside, why not practice and make it a reliable offside?

I also teach beginners on both sides during their first sessions. In that way, there is no off-side.

didn’t stop with one side
until I truly had it, on the fourth 2 hour pool session (4 weeks in a row). At that point, I could do ten in a row in someone elses boat, or let loose of the paddle, have to grab it and set up, and realized it didn’t make any difference whether I had the blade face or back of the blade planing across the water. If I did the motions correctly, there was more than enough leverage either way, as I really needed very little if I was performing it correctly. The fifth night I decided was all about rolling on the other side, and if I failed the first try, I would roll back up on the side I already knew. Took me an hour and twenty minutes, and after that fifth session, I honestly didn’t feel I had a stronger side.

I’m a big believer in the muscle memory thing pertaining to the roll. I’d say if you feel you have a weak-side roll, practice that roll 3 times as much until that side feels as good or better. I have thought of it like a basketball layup. Put me in a pool next to an empty court in a contest against a basketball player. He makes a layup, I roll. Left and right-handed, we could likely go all day without failing. Now throw him/her a lane full of defenders to weave through and me a nice wave to give me a tumble, and the fact that we’re well practiced with both hands gives us both much greater success.

Now, both knowing we’re able, I figure I’ll roll 10 times a year for practice and he/she shoots 10 layups in a year. At this point, it would be ill-advised to count on either one of us in a difficult moment.

So I guess my personal thing was to practice one side over and over and over until it didn’t feel tentative, it felt like a learned skill, and then immediately do the same for the other side, I imagine not allowing my brain time to develop a memorized go-to side. The trouble is, I can never go back and learn again in a different way, so I can’t say what’s a better idea. At best we can all speak to our own experience, and maybe secondarily assume we can speak to others’ experience accurately.

"You’ll get a thousand opinons on this…
That’s what I’m hoping for. I thought it would be interesting to hear some feedback on the idea. Plus, I needed to brag about landing ‘switch’ on my skis.


I knew it ya showoff
I almost ended up in a cast the other weekend trying that. In the beginner park.

both sides
I first learned to roll on my right, and was completely incapable of even setting up properly on my left. I had some sort of mental block about it. But this winter I got some instruction on my roll, and the teachers took me back to square one in the first session, and had me work on my basic form on both sides. Just going through the motions with a float in my hands. Ever since that session I’ve suddenly had no problem at all rolling on my off side. It was like some sort of kayak regression therapy. They brought me back to rolling infancy, and undid whatever block I had about the offside. :slight_smile:

Now I always practice equally on both sides, and learn new rolls simultaneously on both sides.

Dude what’s with a 180?
That’s really lame …any speed and you are dead meat.

Very nasty leg breaks if your tail slices into the snow too.

I’ve seen it. Former National Ski Patrol Wannabe.

Twin tip ski?

– Last Updated: Mar-31-09 6:18 PM EST –

oh give me a break!

– Last Updated: Mar-31-09 4:33 PM EST –

You need to get out - this century. My 14 year-old niece can do 180s all day long. Her old uncle finally pulled one off in a quarter pipe - without twin tips.