The Rolling Fear Factor Story Continues

This thread continues my effort to tame the primordial brain not to panic about the mechanics of rolling. For those of you who roll fearlessly, you may not be interested in this thread. For those of you who are tuning in for the first time, I’ve been working at the side of a dock with my stirup rope secured and hanging in the water for a few weeks now with mask and noseclips.

This week I put in just as a rolling class was breaking up. I said “hi, how’d it go…” to one of the students and she said she rolled a couple of times, but was unable to do it on her own. “Me too” I said and invited to join my little quest. Being the “classaholic” I am, the instructor knew me well, and said “Lou, you know how to roll, it’s all in your head”. I agreed.

Set myself up by stirup rope on the dock and started from scratch capsizing with the rope in hand, and hip snapping back up. Then I moved on to capsizing on the side farthest from the dock and coming up (rope assisted) on the dock side. The “monkey brain” protested mildly, but gave in pretty fast.

Next, I tried rolling with my foam paddle float, intent on using it instead of the rope, and sweeping it as I would a paddle in a real roll. This did not work well. I seems like my foam float is not as bouyant as the inflatable that I had used successfully with this drill in pool class.

So, I tried a half roll excercise using paddle and float. I started with the paddle/float on the deck in front of me, and slowly tipped the boat. It was a bit scary at first, but after a few tries, I got the boat totally upside down, the paddle braced on the hull, and my body lying in the water with my face above water. This position was very comfortable with very little effort to stay this way. I swept the paddle, and I came rightside up easily. I repeated this until I felt pretty confident.

Next, I assumed the capsized but floating position again, only this time I moved the paddle to the setup position for a full sweep, allowing my body to sink underwater, then completing a full sweep. This felt pretty sloppy, but it worked without much protest from the “monkey brain”. This was progress. A low panic paddle float half roll. My reward, a nice paddle around the marshes.

My objective for next time, a full sweep roll with the paddle float.


definitely understand
As I have always been afraid of water (traumatic near drowning as a kid), it’s strange that kayaking would end up being my chosen sport. I also struggled with becoming comfortable underwater in regards to rolling. However with practice comes comfort and I admire your dedication in learning this skill. Have you tried a Pawlata (extended paddle) roll yet? I would have thought one of your instructors would have had you try that out.

With a float, yes
I’ve worked with quite a few instructors. One worked with me on this roll with a float. I’m working with a sweep roll because it’s the roll I was able to do with no float at multiple classes with an instructor standing by. I think it’s my best shot.

It may be worth trying also. Thanks.


Last year I had the greenland, sweep, roll down

to the point where I couldn’t miss…After the long

winter lay off I found myself last saturday unable

to do anything right. I though, duh!, I would pick

it up right away…The worse part was I found myself

dealing with fear in the attempts, something I

hadn’t experienced last year…so of course I

wasn’t getting anywhere…I know if I don’t relax

I’m not going to get the fluid sweep, twist, ect.

down, and the roll is botched…the results being

a sore shoulder and mildly sprained thumb…

Good Session Lou
I’m enjoying the “monkey brain” analogy by the way.

Actually you had a better time than I did last night - just couldn’t do anything right except the scull is gradually getting a little deeper. But some nights the force just ain’t with you, and it’s been coming that I have to spend a session on basics re the roll.

I’ll probably miss some of the best parts of your story the next couple of weeks, but will try and check in from the local public library. Thanks for the update.

If it’s any consolation…
you’re light years ahead of me!

I’ll Keep Fear Factor In The Subject
This way you can do a search.

If conquering the fear factor in Judo is any indication, then I imagine I’d have to continue to practice every week once I’m comfortable with rolling to keep that comfort alive.

Last week, the monkey brain activity started in the car. That little voice said “…look at all this traffic, why don’t we turn back…”. Then the water was too cold, and wouldn’t I much rather be out paddling, just a bunch of excuses.


Thanks, and it gets easier
The ability to hold onto those positive thoughts gets more robust over time. Really! After a certain time into this - I think it was a few months after I had first been able to start talking myself into getting upside down at least once a week if only to count off and then wet exit - I had a very pleasant surprise. I went into a winter pool session expecting to have to spend the first half hour just getting used to hanging off the side of the pool since it had been 3 weeks since the last one, and I suddenly got into the boat and realized I was totally comfortable starting right into working with someone on more direct roll training.

Other comfort came similarly. After indulging my need to have very,very specific requirements for where I practiced a roll for a good bit of time, it seemed that I hit a point where I suddenly was able to try one in many other environments. And yeah - my brain kept trying to talk me out of a session because the water was cold, a storm might come thru… you name it.

It comes down to having personal confidence that you can handle it if something goes wrong, which simply takes the time it takes. But if you just keep doing what you are doing, pushing yourself just a smidge past that edge a bit at a time, I suspect you’ll find that your horizons have opened up hugely by sometime in September. And then you’ll be well set to reinforce things in the pool over the winter, be ready to rock come spring.

Although my monkey brain isn’t quite as intimidated by a pool. It still complains, but not as hard.


Thanks, Lou
for your interesting and helpful threads. I am keeping tabs on your progress and using it as inspiration for my own.

Keep up the good work let us know how it is going.

More Monkey Brains out there
Hi Lou,

My friend Heather (paddle_lupe) and I have have been ona quest since January to learn to roll. We both attended roll classes in Jan and Feb and both sucessfully completed rolls. Since then, neither of us have been able to do more than floundering wet exits. We are planning a reasonably serious whitewater trip in Aug and we both are desperately trying to get this roll.

Good luck to you and your Monkey Brain.


…like somebody once said…
“Let’s Roll!”