I have been trying to learn to eskimo roll for a long time. Searching back through the Conspiracy Times archives, even I am shocked at how long it has been, and how much I have written on the subject (go here, here, here, here, here, here, how many of these should I link to?). I've been able to roll - with face mask on under perfect conditions - semi-reliably a few times only to lose the skill completely for weeks at a time.
One thing people always say to you when you miss a roll is "keep your head down." It's a reasonable suggestion because, in all likelihood, the person is pulling their head up. But, it has never seemed to me terribly useful advice. How do I keep my head down? What active measure can I take to keep my head down? One book I have recommends pressing your head into the water, something I have never even managed to visualize let alone do.
It's a bit like learning to ski tight trees. The instructor says "avoid the trees." The skier hears "trees" and can only see the trees not the spaces between them; then proceeds to pin-ball from tree to tree. If you can't relate to tree skiing, I am sure just about everyone can relate to dieting. "Don't eat junk food" the health experts say, planting junk food firmly in your mind so all you can think about is a bag of potato chips.
Tree skiing in the Valhalla Range, BC, Canada
What the ski instructor should say is "look at the spaces between the trees." The skier now sees one, two, even a dozen lines that can be skied linking up the open areas between the trees. Similarly, the health experts should say "eat real food." This allows the dieter to think about all the food they can eat - fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, nuts, etc. without fixating on the food they should not eat.
One day, a couple of weeks ago, after a particularly dismal practice session when, despite flipping the kayak about 50 times, I only managed two eskimo rolls, we were driving home wondering what on earth I could try next to nail this f**king eskimo roll when Doug said something about "pulling on the water knee." Sure, I had not tried that specific thing so why not.
Turns out this is probably the most useful piece of advice I have ever received. Instead of thinking passively "keep your head down" which just does not translate into action (at least for me). I now say to myself "yank on your water knee." If I do that, I come up. Sometimes I am coming up so easily that I am not even sure how I did it.
Heading for South Direction Island
Will it last? Who can say, certainly not me. My progress in mastering this skill has been anything but step-wise, unless you count steps backwards. But, it is working right now, I am coming up easier than I have ever done before and I feel cautiously optimistic.