Monday, March 21, 2005

DDF the Goofy Roller!

First off – I must post a quick excerpt from an Upper West Side-dwelling friend’s email by way of correction to a rather major error in “Pale Male Update”:

“PLEASE be informed that we on the UWS do not mistreat our birds. The crimes against Pale Male and occurred at 927 Fifth Ave., and not CPW.”

Oops! I don’t know where I picked up the misconception that they were on CPW – somehow I just always thought that was where the nest was. Funny. Well, now I know better & I hereby apologize to any and all Upper West Side residents who may have been hurt by my false accusations.

I had an interesting kayak rolling practice session in the pool at the Stamford Y on Sunday. I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve done with my 6 hours over the last 3 weeks but that’ll be for another post, I think.

Usually I take the train up - one of the things I like about the Small Boat Shop sessions is that I don't have to impose on anyone else to get there, the Stamford Y is completely accessible to even the carless Brooklynite. This time I was offered a ride up by one of my P63 paddling friends, DDF, who was coming up for his first practice session after getting his roll for the first time (and second, and enough more after that to be comfortable with a practice session) at a class in Garrison, run, if I'm remembering correctly, by Hudson Valley Outfitter.

He stumbled across Frogma last week, so I had solemnly sworn - in writing, too - that in exchange for the ride, I wouldn't write about it if he fell out of his boat 27 times. He didn’t, so I get to write. Yay! 'Cause it really ended up being an eye-opener for me at the end.

There were a couple of bailouts but really no more than you’d expect from someone who’d taken a class, gotten a roll, and then not had a chance to practice for more than a month. Waiting that long after your first class to try again is definitely not ideal. It's a weird & counterintuitive skill to learn, and your body just has to remember how it feels, and the longer you wait to try again, the vaguer the recollection gets to be. His first try just didn’t work. Everything just sort of went screwy in an absolutely, 100% normal way – his arms tried to do the whole thing & his boat just sort of swung around 90 degrees instead of coming up. I nearly dislocated my shoulder the first time I tried to roll a sea kayak, after having gotten my first roll at the pool in Stamford months before, because I made precisely the same mistake & I am of a light enough build that my shoulder was literally the weakest link. Long time before I rolled again - that's all I'm saying now 'cause that'd be a good post of it's own though (and heh heh heh, it's already written 'cause that was one of my long postings back when I was actively cluttering up people's inboxes on the NYCKayaker listserve). Anyhow, nothing so dramatic for him, just didn’t come up. Bailed out instead.

A couple more tries & it started to come back. First one wasn't pretty, but hey, he was rightside up & the pieces had begun to fall back into place. Once he’d gotten back the basic feel of what needed to happen, he started coming up quite reliably – but the strength of the rolls were pretty variable. A good roll feels effortless, and a bad one feels, well, bad, and he'd gotten the roll well enough at his class through Hudson Valley Outfitters (I have to go check but I think that's who ran it) that he could tell a good one from a not-so-hot one. Well, he worked and he worked and he worked, and he was getting that here & there, even got three in a row at one point (I think that was when I quit watching him & went to the locker room for a minute), but he was also doing some that he wasn’t as happy with.

Towards the end of the class, one of the instructors for this series came down to say hello to to the denizens of the deep end. We got to talking a little bit about teaching, and he mentioned that he’s strongly in favor of teaching a person to roll on both sides at the same time. Now, I’m not sure I entirely agree with that; when I learned, I got the on-side (“handedness” definitely counts in rolling, so for most right-handers, it’s easier to learn to roll setting up on the right side of the boat, and vice versa for lefties), then once that was solid, I was able to start messing around with the off-side, always knowing that when I blew it, which I did plenty of times, I could go back & roll on my on-side. Practicing with friends outside of a class situation becomes a lot more fun once you’ve got something that you know will work to fall back on! However, there’s that, then there’s the view the instructor was taking, and then I think I’ve heard that in Greenland, they teach the “off-side” first because once you can do it on that side, getting it on the “on-side” is easy. Personally, this sounds to me like one of those things where nobody’s really right or wrong – all three approaches have their points, and one might work great for one person, while another might be more effective for another, depending on individual learning style.

Anyways - this short conversation went on shortly before the end of the class, and that’s when things got quite interesting. D was pretty tired, but it was suggested that he try an off-side roll. Just to see what would happen, y’know?

What happened was one of the prettiest rolls he’d done all morning. Followed by another, and another.

He was doing Pawlata rolls – this is a pretty easy roll involving a shift of the hands from a standard paddling grip to holding the end of the paddle in one hand and the shaft in the other – the extended paddle affords a lot more leverage. It’s sometimes taught as a first roll. Very curious by this point, I asked him to try a standard sweep roll.

Same result. Perfect sweep roll. No problems.

Turns out that what had been assumed to be his on-side (and he is right-handed, so this wasn’t a bad assumption – just didn’t happen to be true in this case!) was in fact his off-side, so he’d quite inadvertently done it in what I’m thinking is more Greenland learning style – putting the extra effort into drilling on the more difficult side first, then switching over to the easier side.

Well, those Greenlanders do know a thing or two about rolling.

DDF thinks that the key to this oddity – and I’ve seriously never really seen this happen so dramatically – is that although he’s a righty, he’s a fairly ambidextrous righty; in fact he said this really made sense in light of the fact that when he used to skateboard, he was a “goofy-foot” skater – one who skated with his left foot forward.

He now says that he’s a “goofy roller” too.

Funny stuff. Fascinating, too. At least for me.

As I said, I’d never run across this before, but now that I have, I won’t forget it – good to know that there is such a thing as a “goofy roller”, just in case I ever find myself teaching another one!

So DDF - thanks for the ride & the lesson, too!

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