Rolling Fear Factor Saga Continues

I haven’t posted on this topic in a while. However, I feel that this past weekend I made some progress.

Now some of you may read on and say “…that’s progress?..” and from the point of view of mechanics, the answer would be no. However, I’m working on conquering the fear that is preventing a calm, focused, roll attempt. If this sounds like “whimpified” drivel to you, then spare yourself and read no further. By the way, I am not seeking advice, although it’s always welcome.

I’d been working alongside a dock for a while using rope hanging in the water as my rescue “bow”. This helped me get comfortable hanging under water, and allowed me to work on my hip snap. But, setting up for a sweep was something I felt uncomfortable with at dockside. Taking Greyak’s advice, I studied the “First Roll” video, abandoned my paddle float, and started to work by the shore “First Roll” style. I used a bottom brace to recover from my (100%) failed roll attempts. For me, the big progress was that I could finally hang upside down, setup for the sweep, and sort of scull upside down. With practice, I’m sure I will become comfortable enough to correct the mechanical problems (body position, focus on hips, following the blade with head).

I thoroughly enjoyed the practice…Lou

The most important thing…
… is contained in your last line!

Torso action
> For me, the big progress was that I could finally hang upside down, setup for the sweep, and sort of scull upside down.

One thing that many beginners fail to do is to actively bend your torso upward, so that your head is never more than a few inches underwater. Your setup starts this process, and during the sweep you need to extend, sweep, and actively bend your torso upward. If you do this you will find that you are never sculling “upside down” (which seems to imply that your head is pointing toward the bottom in a “pile-driver” position. For Greenland techniques, your face will break the surface on the first sweep and scull of the paddle.

Please note that extending and bending your torso upward during the sweep is not the same thing as the common refrain “keep your head down” (which comes into play during the hipsnap/recovery). This does cause some confusion among beginning rollers who stay in the “pile driver” (head toward bottom) position, thinking that they are keeping their head “down”.

BTW, the action of the torso is very well shown in Paul Dutky’s book, “The Bombproof Roll and Beyond”. This is not just a reference for advanced rollers, but beginners too.

It sounds like you are making good progress. Becoming comfortable while under water is the first and most crucial step.

Greg Stamer

You should forward these threads to the Outdoor Life Network and pitch it as a new reality show.

When ratings begin to drop, you could throw some gators, jellyfish and piranha in the water.

I am looking at the Paddle
As I sweep the blade across the surface, I am looking at the paddle. I’m not sure if I’ve got my body positioned correctly yet. That’s what one of the next things I’m going to work on.


I would have to do something to compete with the real Fear Factor show. If a gator bites off my paddle blade, and I still roll up, that will surely prove that I have ***** of steel and a great hip snap.


Looking up…
>As I sweep the blade across the surface, I am looking at the paddle. I’m not sure if I’ve got my body positioned correctly yet. That’s what one of the next things I’m going to work on.

There are a lot of different roll styles and advice for one style does not always translate to another. For a standard Greenland roll you don’t watch the paddle blade, instead, your face looks straight up at the sky during the sweep (your head is immersed except for your eyes, nose and mouth – identical to side-sculling). This encourages an easy layback recovery. This advice would not apply to a C-to-C roll.

For forward and reverse sweeps on the surface I do encourage people to look at their working blade to ensure that they are sweeping with their torso, rather than arms.

I strongly recommend Dutky’s book. It has very clear illustrations to help you build a good mental image of what you are trying to accomplish.

Greg Stamer


– Last Updated: Sep-26-05 5:41 PM EST –

I haven't had a fear problem... it was a technique problem. "EJs Rolling and Bracing" DVD by Eric Jackson helped me tremendously. I highly recommend it. The progression from brace to roll in the video seems like a natural way to develop a roll AND to deal with anxiety. Sort of like a gradual desensitization.

sculling upsidedown
I don’t know if this would help you or not. But I found this business of trying to scull UP a big help! ;o)

I had some trouble rolling up for a while, specifically, a diving paddle. So when I read someone on this board(!) that you could actually scull your way up, and it sounded so simple, I thight I give it a try…

First, I praticed sculling while right side up, leaning the boat over as much as I dare, which was not much. But I could feel the support of the moving paddle. Then I knew I had to “take the plunge”. So I stopped the sculling and let myself fall into the water. Now I reach up, not just with arms, but with my body, as far up as I can. Now my paddle is up in the air! I had to lower my arm to let the paddle contact water! Since I was sculling only a few seconds ago, I still had some short term memory left on how to scull. I tried them while in the water.

Remember, I was trying this idea of sculling up… So I scull… And the next thing I knew, my body was out of the water and the boat was turned half way upright! Quick! I did a hurried, half-hearted hip-snap (a.k.a. brace). I nearly fall over the other side!!!

In short, combining a good scull and a good hip-snap, there’s enough power to do almost TWO rolls! Some people were able to just hipsnap their way up without even using the paddle. Others scull all the way up without needing a strong hipsnap. I finally realize what it really means when people say “every one does it a little differently”.

Sculling, Hip Snap
I’ve been getting a scull this summer, and the diff between my on side and off side is perfectly illustrative of the idea that different people get there in different proportions. On my right, my on side, if I want to sweep up rather than just pop up from a very light brace and a hip snap I have to think about slowing down my usual response. On my left (off) side, which I only really starting pushing in early August, I need enough paddle that I can fail to get up from the scull even with a full sweep about 50% of the time. (and that’s a big improvement from three weeks ago…)

There are also diff’s between the two sides in how easily and automatically I lift the boat to sideways when I am down there. On my right, I long since have stopped noticing that I am doing it. On my left, I am very aware of getting the boat lifted up to that halfway position. This also plays into how easy it is to get to a postion where I can get up via the last half of a roll or a brace. (the diff between the two once the boat is sideways seems pretty fine)

torque your torso completely to the deck
or as close as possible as greg says, if there was something to practice it would be keeping your torso at the surface after capsize.

I Think The Same Issue Arises
I haven’t seen the video, but I do know that I can high brace to about my elbow before the same fear issues arise. If the 1st Roll approach runs out of gas, maybe I’ll check it out.


Nice description! This could fit nicely with the strategy I’m taking now. I’ll give it a try.


Off Side

– Last Updated: Sep-27-05 4:54 PM EST –

Before Eric Jackson's video I never attempted an off side roll. On my first session on the water after tv skool, I did many offside rolls. I'm not special. The technique he teaches is that easy.

A Strange Thing
From what I’m told, since I’m a “righty”, my first roll should becoming up on my right side. However, I feel more comfortable coming up on the left. Guess I am working on my offside roll first.


EJ and deep high brace
Ditto that for me an a deep (wet shoulder) high brace.

I had worked on it on and off for a year or more and gotten advice from several instructors, but wasn’t very successful. After watching EJ’s video and picking up the tip to drive your head into the water as hard as you can, I went to the pool and immediately ran off a bunch of perfect deep high braces.


Don’t you have to…
… actually be coming up before you decide that? Technically you only have offsides right now L

Sorry - couldn’t resist.

BTW - You should get away from “bottom bracing” with “1st Roll” method very quickly. I know it sort of starts that way (same as holding pool edge or someone’s bow)- but try to think of it more as gently resting the paddle on/near the water surface (where you will want it throughout the sweep). If it hits bottom while really shallow - fine. As you move deeper it should not. If it does you are pulling way too much on the paddle and it will just sink/dive when you try to roll. Kill that pull up habit early while still working in a foot or two of water. Keep the focus on the torso/ab power and twisting the boat over. Paddle is there mainly for stabilization and position control. The sweep orients your torso to unwind and deliver power to the hull and helps keep you near the surface - while your body rolls the boat.

I use the bottom brace for air
I was deep enough not to hit bottom, but since I have a 100% flub rate, I bottom brace to get my face out of the water for some air, then back down to work on the sweep.


Sweep/scull for air
Sweep/scull (same thing really as side sculling simply = sweeping back and forth) for air. That way you don’t keep ingraining bad habits!

Use slow and easy movements. You can sweep much slower than you may think as long as you’re at the surface. Let the PDF help (another reason to slow down).

If you are tucking up well, and sweeping even borderline decent, you should be up enough to sneak some air.

Still, it’s better to wait and get air after boat is over and pulling you out of the water after it. If you go for air before that (mid sweep) you’ll blow the roll (unless you are comfortable side sculling - but then there would be no continued saga…).

Two biggest things that mess people up: Focusing on getting them selves out of the water, and focusing on getting air (the real cause of diving paddles, lifting heads, weak/wrong knee drives, etc.). The body out of the water and hte breathing parts come at the end of the roll.

If you default to something that’s out of the process as your fall back for getting air - that reaction will impede your progress. If you are pole vaulting like that for air regularly I’d say it would be better to move back to (much)shallower water for a while.

DO NOT skip ahead! It doesn’t sound like full inversion is going to be fully productive yet. Still too much rushing and struggle going on. Spend more time on your side in water shallow enough to be laying on the bottom so you are on your side and able to breath. Then slightly deeper so you can still push up off the bottom with your hands (not paddle) for air if needed. That’s deep enough to work on setup, hip flicks, sweep and sculling. All done with low stress and while fully oxygenated.

The 1st Roll technique works on a natural progression. Give it a chance. Once the sweep is working and not bottoming out and you’re able to twist the boat off (without scrambling to get up or get air) there is really noting to stop your roll.

EJ’s technique is good
and I use it periodically to get things fixed up on the right side when I get lazy and start taking too much advantage of how much my boat helps me come up.

My offside issue - I am one of those for whom the off side is much stiffer and less intuitive than the right. I’ve started, but it’ll take me some time. I expect that a fairly well-oiled off side should appear by the early this coming season with work into this fall and winter pool sessions.