Friday, February 14, 2020

A ramble on rolling!

Rolling with joy, summer 2010, photo by Joan Byron


Posted this yesterday on Facebook - figured I'd share here too as it ended up being more of an essay than planned, plus I can add some links here. I'd meant to talk about having a good time at a pool session and somehow that morphed into telling my entire personal history of rolling!

So, back in one of those crazy times at work but quite buoyed by thinking back on the rolling session to which I treated myself on Sunday. Been weirdly on the fence about writing about it but an old friend called me "the ballerina of kayakers" on FB today, which was SO sweet and also EXACTLY what I'm trying to work my way back to these days (see above photo from 2010, which just captures how rolling feels to me when I'm rolling well - I LOVE this shot!)

I didn't roll for a while after my mastectomy for kind of obvious reasons. 1st roll after that went fine. 2nd one too, 5th one, 10th one, 20th one...mostly all fine, although sometimes the hip snap could've been snappier, but somehow the glee with which I used to fling myself over back when Violet was living in the area and paddled with me just hasn't come back, and that does so much towards relaxing you and letting you really play in your boat.

I don't know if this is true for all paddlers, but for me, an awful lot of the rolling game resides in my head. I didn't learn to roll all that fast; an early success (I didn't know how I'd done it, but hey, I was right-side up and the instructor swore he hadn't brought me up, so yay) in my first rolling class was followed by something uncomfortably close to a dislocated shoulder on my 1st attempt outside of a class. Took a while to work through the chickenosity that left behind (that thing about getting right back on the horse they made me do when I was a kid taking riding lessons? Unfortunately not so easy when dealing with rolling and a shoulder injury); eventually (in particular thanks to some careful instruction by Richard Chen-See at Manhattan Kayak, who did so much towards laying my early kayaking foundation) I ended up with a pretty solid roll. I still never really, truly, 100% believed it was going to work, though.

What finally busted through that mental block was getting into a string of winter rolling sessions back when the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club was running those at the Yonkers YMCA. They were on work nights and you would sign up for a set of them. Jack Gilman and Andy Laiosa were the main instructors there. Jack introduced me to Greenland rolling; those of us with rolls would practice in the deep end while beginners were working with instructors in the shallow end Yonkers had a great little fleet of old-school whitewater boats for the small YMCA pool; they were super easy to roll and with a string of sessions to play, you could just have more and more fun figuring out how many oddball ways you could get these boats rightside up. There was one memorable series in particular where we just started rolling with anything that wasn't nailed down - pool buoy? Check! Kickboard? Check! Hey, how about that lifesaving dummy? Yeah! Jack even brought in a hockey stick and a toy hockey stick one time and we rolled with those, too (hockey stick is fine but has to be facing the right way or the curve of the blade makes it dive - good to keep in mind next time you capsize in Canada and the only thing you can get your hands on is a hockey stick).

So that was the winter when the whole rolling thing got to be Just Plain Fun. I don't remember where that fits in with my first combat roll, which was with Atlantic Kayak Tours at a BCU 4-star training & assessment in Rhode Island, but I do know that that was when I just started rolling for kicks on almost every paddle - which I hadn't been doing before.

Fast forward to 2016, though - after the surgery, I did start rolling again, but there's just been this timidity about it. Again, as I said, not that I was failing - just that I didn't trust myself after a long break from practicing, with some very weird re-rigging of my pectoral muscles added. So, like, every time I went out, I would find some excuse not to roll. Too cold. Too windy. I have a cold. To many beginners on the trip. Don't want to make this paddle about me showing off. Yeah. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Needed more rolling, less excuses.

One great moment last year, though, was my first combat roll since the operation. That was on the makeup day that Dov Neimand ran for those of us who'd taken the IDW he'd run with Dale Williams in June of last year - with lightning storms in the area, we'd gotten weathered out for our rough water day, and although Dale and Dov had still given us what I would've said was a thoroughly good day of alternative dry land and indoor instruction, Dov still offered us a surf day. That happened in October, and although it wasn't the best conditions, we did get a good workout out at Breezy Point We finished off playing in some weird waves running over the sandbar at right angles to each other - there was one point when I went to brace only there wasn't anything to brace on by the time my blade hit the water, and boop, over I went. And it was shallow, and I could see the sand, and I said "Nope, not coming out of this boat" and I set up and came up with just as comfy a roll as I could want. And there were witnesses as I whooped and hollered like a crazy person. I was SO HAPPY!

So that was fantastic - combat roll does so much to re-instill confidence. So I was all excited to keep going with it at the pool this winter - but then the pool Sebago's had access to in past years has needed a lot of repairs lately & so we were left high and dry this year. Boo.

But Dov Neimand and Julie McCoy have been running sessions at the New York Sports Club up in Dobbs Ferry, though. They started with weeknights, which were a little tricky with work, but they did get some Sunday afternoon time slots last weekend and this weekend. Bit of a hike from Brooklyn but I do looove that train ride up the Hudson. And it really was just what I needed - an hour and a half to just roll and roll and roll and roll and roll some more, with both Greenland and euro and eventually even trying some hand rolling (which is a skill I had once but have lost - didn't get it back but the fact that I was comfortable enough to give it a try and trust in a greenland paddle tucked under the decklines as a backup felt good).dana, sans-serif;"> Dov brought an NDK Latitude for me to try - it's for the "tall thin paddler" so, uh, not quite me these days (tall, yes), but with a little wiggling I was able to squeeze in, and it rolled great. I did not work my way too far up the Greenland list as the space was small and there were active swimmers next to us, and I decided to stick with rolls that I could control well - but just doing the basics again and again and again felt great. And at the end I switched out that slick NDK for a Chatham 17, just to see what I could do with a boat that isn't quite such a "cheater" - well, offside didn't feel perfect but I was able to right the boat on both sides, and then at the end Julie came over to horse around with me a little bit & somewhere in there I fell over completely un-set-up and still didn't even think about ditching, just reset and rolled. Good finished - finished up with just that same spirit of play that that long ago Yonkers session had. So good to feel that again. So that was all fantastic and the ride home along the Hudson with the sun going down was just so much gravy.

I'll take that over a spa day any day.

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