Monday, November 25, 2013

In The Beginning

If we are to go forward, we must go back... Martin Luther King.

Humans hate going back. Even if going back is the right choice. We seem programmed regardless of rationality to keep moving forward even if, in moving forward, we'll fall off a cliff. “Not so bad,” we'll say to ourselves as we tumble down, “at least I didn't have to turn around.”

Sometimes we need to physically turn back – if we are climbing and are off route, back-country skiing and have entered hazardous avalanche terrain, or sea kayaking, and the waves are too big for our skill level. Other times, we need to mentally go back. We may think we know how to route-find, navigate, or plan trips, but, if everything goes wrong more times than not, we should go back and assess whether we really know all that we think we know.

Zoe Creek, Hinchinbrook Island

For quite a while now, I've been working on getting a reliable eskimo roll in my sea kayak. That journey has had its high and low points. Some sessions, I've rolled successfully multiple times, other times I haven't nailed a single roll. I have had advice from a half dozen different people, and I've seen another half dozen people shrug their shoulders in despair and walk away. At one point, I had heard so many different and disparate pieces of advice that I rolled over and simply hung upside down in my boat unable to do anything at all.

Finally, I decided to forget everything I thought I knew and start again. I did some reading, watched some videos and started practicing some basic drills – hip snaps, dryland rolls and the like. As best I could, I tried to erase all the muscle memory I had managed to accumulate and focused on a few basic manoeuvres – setting up in a full tuck with the paddle well out of the water, sweeping the paddle right back on the surface of the water, and, finally pulling the boat up with my knee and keeping my head on my shoulder. 

Doug landing at Ellis Beach
Last time I practiced I got three out of three rolls. At which point I quit for the day. One other thing I have learnt in this journey is that, like most things, more is not necessarily better. Best to stop while your form is good and finish the session with success rather than failure. There is nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, encoding poor or wrong technique. 

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