Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

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pamf
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Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:15 pm

Hi folks - I have a rolling question for you. When performing a sweep roll, my hands and paddle are well out of the water, sufficient to allow my back hand to be free of the hull, but also due to the buoyancy of my BA, drysuit etc. The result is that I find that the start of my sweep is engaging fresh air, so, by the time I get the blade on the water, what I'm left with is insufficient to complete the roll successfully every time. Some kayaks do let me get away with this, ie the "reduced" sweep is sufficient and I can reliably roll. This is for reasons that I haven't entirely fathomed, but might relate to lower rear deck and a bit more "layback", hull shape, cockpit fit etc. But others (such as my Valley Nordkapp LV) seem to require the full sweep, or everything else about the roll to be textbook, the planets to be aligned and so forth, and I only get up one out of every 4 or so tries. Bringing both hands down to water level to start the roll disables the sweep altogether, obviously, as it proves awkward plus the back hand clunks the kayak hull. Bringing the forward hand down, results in the front blade diving, not sweeping. And too much experimenting causes my brain to melt!

I'm starting to think I might be better working on a C-to-C roll for those "difficult" kayaks. I tried the C-to-C for the first time today and did come up - I just need to try to make it consistent as I'm completely new to it and it feels a bit odd.

So my questions are:

- How do you get the sweep to fully engage from the get-go given the extra buoyancy? or
- Do I need to work on making everything else bombproof/textbook every time? (this could take a while), or
- Should I persevere with the C-to-C instead? or
- Do I need an easier-to-roll kayak?

Which brings me to another question: is it better to work with a kayak that requires perfection (but can lead to demoralisation), or a kayak that allows less-than-perfection but you can actually roll consistently (and makes you happy)?

I'd appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Wenley » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:29 pm

Hi Pam,

It is hard to say without seeing you try it, so I hope not to add confusion to your experimental rolling: The hand next to the hull should be over the hull as the water hand sweeps with the elbow flexed and not fully extended. Ideally, you should raise when the blade in the water is at a right angle to you. It is more than enough leverage and the most efficient point. Sweep with your shoulders and torso as you push with on the foot pedal next to the sweep. To ensure that your head not rises too early, look at the bottom as you sweep.

To be sure that you start the sweep on time, let the blade in the water snap the surface to check that it contacts the water at the right lifted angle.

As I recall, the Nordkapp LV rolls just fine.

After the first 2,000 thousands attempts everything will come together handsomely.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:48 pm

Hi Wenley - Thank you for that insight. I shall mull it over. I guess in the pool I'm used to having the blade making contact with the water right from the very start of the sweep. Interesting to read what you say about there being more than enough leverage from the right angle point on ... I guess that's what I've found with the "forgiving" kayaks, but am having difficulty with in the Nordy.
As I recall, the Nordkapp LV rolls just fine.
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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Harvey.Anderson » Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:00 pm

Pam,

I would learn to perfect your technique using a modern playboat.

I would also recommend (highly) using video footage so you can start to marry the feel
of your roll with the visual observations. That way you can continue with experiential
learning with a direct feed back mechanism for you to improve.

Harvey

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Jim » Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:18 pm

Seems like you just need to find the middle ground so your leading blade is not up in the air at the start, but just on the surface rather than just under?
Also maybe you are rolling too fast if you are losing a major part of the sweep, try starting more slowly so you can adjust until you feel the blade on the water and then speeding up a little if necessary.

I can't work out why bringing the blade to water level disables the sweep? It may sound odd but I can't ever recall the back blade catching the boat even when I was learning so I think it's a waste of time even trying to think about whats its doing and it will help to empty your mind of anything like that.

Is the problem is that your bouyancy means the boat is not fully upside down? Try bringing your whole body into the sweep, it is as much about unwinding your body as sweeping the paddle. When Wenley says you only need the leverage from 90 deg onwards, I think that is on the assumption that you have used plenty of body rotation up to that point. Especially when you are not upside down, your body buoyancy can provide enough support for effective body rotation in the early part of the roll.

Jim

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Sat Aug 22, 2009 10:49 pm

Thank you Harvey - you'll definitely see me back at the pool. Tried to make it last night, but it (the pool - as you may know) was broken! And yes, video is a good idea.

Jim -
Is the problem is that your bouyancy means the boat is not fully upside down?
No, the boat is settled upside down, but I myself am floating quite far up, so when I stick my hands in the air, they're quite high out the water. If I bring them down to the water level, it feels strange - my paddle is almost at eye level then, as opposed to above, which I'm used to. Perhaps I just need to reach a little more forward to get the blade on the water.
... it will help to empty your mind of anything like that.
You're right, I've only started thinking about this in the Nordkapp, because I'm probably over-analysing. Admittedly today, my best rolls were those done with an empty mind. My first one was pretty much perfect, then I started thinking about it all :(

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Owen » Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:09 am

Pam,

Do you open your eyes when underwater? Look at the blade, so you see that it's on the water surface before you start your sweep. If you keep watching the blade it helps keep your head down until the end of the roll.

Another trick is to slap the water after you've pushed your paddle out of the water. Helps you feel the surface.

At the end of your sweep, once past the 90degree point, if your not quite up skull the blade forward, gives you that extra little bit. That's something you can't do with a C to C. Keep on trying, your already better than XX% of the people who go kayaking but never bother to try.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:36 pm

Hi Owen - Yes, I do open my eyes underwater and have been trying to focus on head positioning (along with everything else), but the feeling I get is that my sweep has been inadequate, mostly due to this "buoyancy" issue. By the time I get to the critical point of ensuring good head positioning, I "know" the roll has failed already. At least I think I know. Sometimes they don't fail, which just confuses me.

At the start of the roll, my face and shoulders are right at the surface, so when I bring my paddle down to the water, it feels awkward and weird. The paddle isn't so much above me (as I've been used to) as alongside me. But I end up sticking my arms up and sweeping the air at the start because that's the position I'm used to. I think I need to adjust my roll to this new body positioning. I need to go along to the pool in my drysuit and BA!

Thanks for your encouragement. After all this practise, I really would like to nail it consistently in my own sea kayak, so I shall persevere!

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by danthomas » Sun Aug 23, 2009 6:06 pm

Hi Pam. We met in May, at Kilchattan, if you remember. I'm far from qualified to discuss the subtleties of rolling technique - I just roll - but here are my thoughts for what they are worth. I think the issue of your blade being out of the water may be a red herring. I wonder whether the issue might be the timing of your hip flick relative to that of your sweep.

I've always thought that the term "hip flick" is misleading. A hip flick may be somewhat flick-like in a C-to-C roll but in a sweep roll it is more of a slow unrolling of your legs and lower trunk, timed so that it starts as your sweep starts and ends as your sweep ends. When your hip flick starts, your lower trunk rises higher in the water. Without support from a paddle blade (because, for example, the blade is in the air) your upper trunk will compensate by sinking lower in the water. So even if your blade starts in the air, it will engage with the water just as soon as you begin your hip flick. If it is staying in the air until you have mostly completed your sweep, could it be because you are only starting your hip flick as you finish your sweep, i.e. too late?

Well done for getting your blade out of the water, BTW. You are more bendy than me. When I roll, my blade starts below the surface (a long way below when I am being lazy) but climbs up as I sweep.

Don't get too worked up over the difference between a sweep roll and a C-to-C. I suspect that for many people, the C-to-C is a bit easier to learn because its timing is simpler. In a C-to-C you sweep, then hip flick. In a sweep roll you have to sweep and hip flick at the same time. Beyond that there is not a lot of difference. There is even a hybrid, delightfully known as a screw-across, in which you start out doing a sweep (aka screw) roll but change to a C-to-C (aka put-across) when your paddle shaft reaches 90 degrees. Experiment and find what works best for you.

As regards the best boat to learn in, it's the one that you are going to have to roll for real. Until you are confident of your roll, you'll find that any silly little change from your routine increases your self doubt, and nothing kills a roll quicker than self doubt. Pogies, a hat, sunglasses, night-time darkness, are all irrelevant (I roll with my eyes shut) but have all seriously put me off at one time or another. A change of boat isn't as relevant as you might think, but it is huge by comparison.

Hope this makes sense. Please ignore me if it doesn't.

Dan

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by jamesl2play » Sun Aug 23, 2009 8:18 pm

pamf wrote: When performing a sweep roll, my hands and paddle are well out of the water, sufficient to allow my back hand to be free of the hull, but also due to the buoyancy of my BA, drysuit etc.
Hi Pam,
My thoughts are:
The above comment is a good thing, it means you have already started the rotation without even commencing your paddle stroke. Now you need to look at some videos of some rolling gurus and see where they go from there.
First, you do not want the blade to sink from this point you need it to carve an arc across the surface. When you are at this point are you looking up? if you are that is fine but as others have said as you start the stroke you need to look first forward and then down so that your head comes out of the water last.
Second, when you push your hands out of the water are they both straight up? if they are then good but from here you have to lean forward keep the front arm straight with the blade next to the boat and also bring the blade down onto the water, even if you bend the rear arm, but keep the rear blade over the hull.
Once the blade is on the water start the arc across the surface and un wind making sure you look forward and then down.

There is a video at the bottom of this page which shows the rear arm position and the head down position, I cannot seem to isolate it.
http://beyond-the-break.blogspot.com/20 ... chive.html

Thanks to Eurion for the use of his blog.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Jim » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:41 pm

pamf wrote: At the start of the roll, my face and shoulders are right at the surface, so when I bring my paddle down to the water, it feels awkward and weird.
Well I definitely can't get my face and shoulders to water level, maybe you are leaning too far forward and thus restricting your rotation?

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by jamesl2play » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:43 pm

I agree Jim, if I was in that position I would be half way up.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Owen » Sun Aug 23, 2009 10:19 pm

Just a thought; something that might help is some skulling practice. Start skulling on one side and lower yourself down till the back of your head is in the water. Which is the reverse of what your trying to do in a roll. From this position try and bring yourself back up with a sweep and hipflick or skull up. It might help you get a feel for what you need to do.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Nick P » Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:22 pm

Pam,
I'm far from the best person to describe how to roll, but I do remember when I was learning, one day I took along my diving mask so I could see CLEARLY what the paddle was doing.
It was a revelation!
After that, the movements were 'memorised' in mind and muscle and the mask was not needed. I still use it now and again when practising.
Just my 2p's worth

Nick

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by wilsoj2 » Sun Aug 23, 2009 11:29 pm

danthomas wrote: As regards the best boat to learn in, it's the one that you are going to have to roll for real. Until you are confident of your roll, you'll find that any silly little change from your routine increases your self doubt, and nothing kills a roll quicker than self doubt.
Dan
Lots of good suggestions. The 3 things that help me most when working on my roll are:
>slowing down. A rushed roll is often a failed roll. Executing slowly allows time to adjust if things are not going right.
>watching the leading (wet) blade of the paddle. This keeps my head properly oriented and seems to help my body unwinding in a orderly and productive way.
>practicing sculling. Sculling up and down reminds my muscles what they should be doing. It also provides an alternative when a roll just isn't happening.

BTW: Of my boats, the Nordkapp LV rolls the fastest. I've windowshaded it more than all my other boats combined. However, when rebuilding skills, I start in my Romany ;-)

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by danthomas » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:56 am

I thought someone might pick me up on that. Of course the situation isn't as simple as I was making out but there is a limit to the number of "ifs", "buts" and "howsoevers" that you can get with away all at one time. You wouldn't want to learn to roll in a really, really difficult boat because it would just destroy your confidence. Nor would you want to learn in a boat that is hugely easier than your regular boat because you would just fall apart when you changed over. (Been there, done that!). Granted the Romany is an easy-rolling boat but I've never heard that the Nordkapp LV is a hard one. I've never rolled one but I've rolled the full size equivalent and also the HM and I didn't have to consciously modify my technique for either of them.

I'm interested that the LV is very quick rolling. That may mean a C-to-C will work better than a sweep roll, which favours boats that roll slo-o-o-owly.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:39 am

Thanks so much for all these thoughtful responses! Loads for me to think about. I'll address a few points:

Dan said:
I think the issue of your blade being out of the water may be a red herring.
(And yes, I remember you from Kilchattan) I strongly suspect you are correct here. I think there may be something else wrong, but I'm latching on to this as prime suspect and losing track of other factors.
Well done for getting your blade out of the water, BTW. You are more bendy than me. When I roll, my blade starts below the surface (a long way below when I am being lazy) but climbs up as I sweep.
Why, thank you - wish I knew how I managed it! I just kind of keep floating up, up, up! I am a bit of a lightweight (in more ways than one), so maybe that's not helping. And/or maybe I'm taking too long ... but I tend to wait for the kayak to settle.
Experiment and find what works best for you.
Good suggestion. I've become very "stuck" on the sweep roll, frightened to change too much in case I lose what capability I have. But I need to play more.

jamesl2play - You are describing my situation well. I've been thinking I need to lean forward more and get the blade in the water from there.

Owen - interesting idea. I'm also thinking maybe some half-rolls are in order to get the blade action down.

Nick - I may well get a mask or goggles, as I don't really see what the blade is doing and guess most of the time based on the feel of the paddle shaft. It would also train me to look at the blade if I could actually see it, and this would help with head positioning.

wilsoj2 -
BTW: Of my boats, the Nordkapp LV rolls the fastest. I've windowshaded it more than all my other boats combined. However, when rebuilding skills, I start in my Romany ;-)
My husband has been in danger of windowshading the Nordkapps with his CtoC. He is trying to convert me over. Interesting point about rebuilding skills. I could also do with a morale boost! At least I can work with the pool boats in that regard.

Thank you again, everyone. Part of my trouble is that I've become almost superstitious about this, ie I know my roll "works" consistently (ie I get up!) in some kayaks, so I don't want to change anything, right down to the order in which I put on my socks. But yet I know I have to change something - it's a case of isolating the problem sufficient to not mess up what is working.

I'll be out practising this afternoon again and will bear in mind your comments.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Jim » Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:44 pm

Oh yes, forgot to mention - the exact style of roll really doesn't matter too much, I rarely do a full C to C or combat type roll, but I do often finish a screw roll with an extra forward sweep which may not be approved by purists but it provides a bit more stability as you clear your eyes and leaves you ready to start a forward power stroke - not essential in practice but wait until you get knocked down in surf, you will want to be doing something about getting boat speed up as soon as possible!

Unfortunately all my rolling tends to be done inland in small boats so my most natural roll now is a reverse screw for a number of reasons, but I can do most kinds of roll if I need/want to. A screw or reverse screw is generally the most useful because you don't have to move your hands, but once you master some variation on either that works for you, then work on other variations and types of roll. Like I say adding extra sculls in here and there is perfectly acceptable if it allows you to stay safe and come up. But best to make what you can do more or less bombproof before trying much else. Build up the muscle memory for one particular roll first and then you always have it to go back to.

Jim

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by Andy H » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:15 pm

Hi
My advise forget about engageing the sweep C to c rolls different boats ect ect. all you have to do is find a good coach and they will be able to spot straight away whats going wrong and will sort it. simples

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:52 pm

pamf wrote:is it better to work with a kayak that requires perfection (but can lead to demoralisation), or a kayak that allows less-than-perfection but you can actually roll consistently (and makes you happy)?
Do both!

I started my learning to roll in a Perception Arc, but I was a bit too big for it. Then I got a Dagger Approach, which unfortunately has the seat in a set position (too high for me) and rolling it was much much harder, I had about 10% success - it had to be perfect. I fitted 7kg of ballast in it, which helped a lot. It enabled me to have a roll that worked most of the time. As time progressed, I did a number of things which allowed me to remove most of the ballast, the major ones being:

1) Adding hip padding such that my bum could hardly move as I reached over to set up, and embellishing the padding around my thighs and knees for better contact. Finally, making sure the backband is tight enough.
2) Watching the "problems" section in Performance Video's "The Kayak Roll" DVD, it mentioned body rotation which I wasn't doing - applying body rotation caused me to do less work with my arms, and also guarantees that I'm looking sideways at the end of the roll.
3) When doing hip-flick practise, going from facing-up underwater, to facing-down above water, to reinforce the body rotation in (2).
4) If "nearly making it", dinking my head towards the water - it engages the correct knee.
5) Working on body rotation above water, exercises to be able to get the body to turn as much as possible - thus ensuring that I could get my body at 90 degrees to the boat during set up. Plus, getting my head as close to the surface as possible during set up.

Since then I got a Jackson SuperFun, and found it much much easier to roll, and has allowed me to work on combining the sculling high brace with a roll - sculling with the head on water, then flicking the boat on top. The paddle dives, but keep sculling and feathering upwards, after a couple of strokes, hip flick back, then keep sculling upwards and getting the body out of the water. Since doing that, I've found myself finishing a normal roll with a bit of sculling.

I still practice in the Approach, to avoid becoming complacent in the boat that's easier to roll. So I'd suggest doing both the easier and the harder - use the easier boat to develop new technique, the harder one to safisty yourself that the technique is consistently good.
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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:59 pm

More good info, thanks!

Jim said -
But best to make what you can do more or less bombproof before trying much else. Build up the muscle memory for one particular roll first and then you always have it to go back to.
That has been my gut feeling. I feel I've come so far with the sweep roll, that I'm reluctant to start tinkering with a new roll just yet. It's also not very encouraging to be struggling with more than one type of roll! I'd rather put the effort in to perfecting the one I've worked longest on.

Andy said -
My advise forget about engageing the sweep C to c rolls different boats ect ect. all you have to do is find a good coach and they will be able to spot straight away whats going wrong and will sort it. simples
I was in fact up at Skyak 3 weeks ago, and that's what got me rolling sea kayaks for the first time (even in rough water), but kayaks other than my own. You are right, a good coach works wonders. Certainly, the coach's observation that I came away with was that I still needed to work on my head positioning. I have been trying to do so, and have had mixed results. But see below!

technoengineer - several good points there. I have fitted out my Nordkapp to and I think it's nice and snug now. I had a problem with thigh contact before but moved the seat forward and added some padding. It's much better now. I've been contemplating a second "day" kayak. Is this what happens - you start collecting kayaks? Yikes.

And now for an update. I went our for a short practice session today and did the following:

- Slapped the blade on the water to find the surface. It still felt a little odd to not have my arms higher up, but I persevered.
- Watched the leading blade the whole time. This is a great tip! I think the problem is that once you start fixating on your head, you don't relax and that impedes the roll. So I've been trying to pay attention to it, but relax at the same time. Watching the blade acts as a focus which achieves the desired results.

I can report a major improvement. My husband's observations were that my roll looked solid, ie not the usual "touch 'n go". The body movement felt much less strained, it was all very smooth. I did not practise long today as I wanted to end on a note of success and I now know where my focus lies. I will continue to work on this, esp at the pool.

Many, many thanks for all the great tips and hints! It's great to hear from others who have been down this path already.

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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by KimB » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:00 am

pamf wrote:.........The result is that I find that the start of my sweep is engaging fresh air, so, by the time I get the blade on the water, what I'm left with is insufficient to complete the roll successfully every time. ............Bringing both hands down to water level to start the roll disables the sweep altogether, obviously, as it proves awkward plus the back hand clunks the kayak hull. Bringing the forward hand down, results in the front blade diving, not sweeping

So my questions are:

- How do you get the sweep to fully engage from the get-go given the extra buoyancy?
-
I agree with the other suggestions about getting a good coach to give you feedback, but just a few thoughts-
Maybe you're getting your paddle clunked up because it's too close to the boat. A common reason for this is that the paddler sets up by leaning forward, and keeps their body more or less in that plain while trying to sweep the paddle. Far better (in my opinion) is to tuck up at an angle with your head towards the surface at the front of your boat on your paddle side, then sweep your head at the surface in an arc with the paddle - head and paddle as one unit - always with your head up at the surface and away from the boat as far as you can. Doing this keeps the back hand well away from the hull and allows a fully engaged sweep.

Good luck - it sounds like the practise is paying off!
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Re: Rolling: how to fully engage sweep?

Post by pamf » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:31 am

Kim - Thanks for that feedback. Yes, the bit about "head and paddle as one unit" is consistent with following the paddle blade, which helped me enormously yesterday.

BTW, I had a look at your website and your March 12 article on "Choking" goes a long way to explaining that whole "thinking too much" problem. I do feel that there comes a point where you have to walk away, re-set the brain and come back later. In rolling, I have a strong instinct to "feel" the roll, more than think about it. The trick is to think just enough to make the necessary corrections without getting hung up on all the other thoughts that tag along.

Thanks for that!

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