When you go to the river, I see you catching all those eddies, working those ferries and peel outs.  I even see you going for some decent surf sessions.  You are proudly working the river, developing your skills as a kayaker, building your boat control and confidence. BUT, that confidence is  shakey cause in the back of your head you tell yourself “if I flip, I’m gonna swim”.  Now folks, I know exactly who this boater is, cause I’ve been that boater (and sometimes I still am!).  Just knowing that you have a fighting chance of rolling really changes how you can enjoy the river.  It’s time to work on your river roll the same way you work on catching eddies, and all that other stuff.

When you go to the pool, and you’ve gotten comfy with a set up roll, it’s time to add some stress to that situation.  If you haven’t got comfy with a set up roll, then you need to practice that roll until it’s routine and boring to do so.  Yes, it’s work, but fun is work that you wanna do.  Rolling SHOULD BE fun. If you don’t have a work ethic about this, don’t expect much to change.  Once you understand the mechanics of rolling, then the problem, of course is 90% headgame.  You know that, of course, so now it’s time to put some stress on yourself in the pool, cause that’s for sure what the river is going to do, and as my martial arts instructors oft repeated, “every drop of blood you spill in training is one you don’t have to spill on the street”.  So, why not try rolling without setting up?  Now, when I go roll, I do 3 warm ups with a set up roll, all the rest (at least 25) are done without setting up, with my paddle and body in various positions.  There are numerous variations to make the basic roll more challenging in the pool and plenty of “how to roll” videos and in person instructors can tell you more.  You need to do stuff like this, in the pool or lake, till it is also routine and boring.  It needs to be automatic, like driving a car, otherwise it won’t work under the real stress of the river.

When you go to the river, you need to be rolling in every eddy.  You will only get comfortable with rolling at the river, by rolling in the river.  You should set a goal (as EJ suggests) before you paddle as to how many rolls you will do.  And guess what I’m going to say?  You need to roll in eddies until it’s boring and routine…see a pattern here?  Work ethic?  Once that’s boring and routine find some mild current to try your roll.  Again, until doing so is boring and routine.  See?  You are slowly and methodically rewiring your neurological response to stimulus so it is less stressful, and you can also react better to the stress.

Now, WHY just wait for the river to flip you to do a combat roll?  Go to an easy river you are very comfortable with, and paddlers you trust.  Let them know you want to work on your roll from the get go.  And then when you are staring at the rapid that is unobstructed and relatively deep, tell them you are going to flip on purpose without setting up to work on your roll.  Successful?  Unsuccessful? Great!  Now repeat until it’s routine and boring!  Go find other fairly “safe” rapids with different characteristics (fast flow, swirly boiling water, etc) and repeat.  I think Whirlpool on the Cartecay is just great for this kind of stuff.  Try to surf some stuff that’s a little bigger than your britches (maybe not holes).  I see people all the time who I know have a good pool/eddy roll.  But, I rarely see them even executing an eddy roll, much less trying it out in current.  WHY?  Come on folks, let’s get wet!  I also see folks who had pretty good combat rolls, to match their other skills.  But they get comfortable, they rarely flip, and they also rarely do practice rolls.  Then, suddenly, they need to roll and they are swimming on the Tellico/Ocoee/Chattooga/Wherever.  Rolling is not like riding a bike.  Rolling is a perishable skill.  Practice your skills methodically.  Just the opinion of a very mediocre, barely intermediate paddler………