Question: As promised at the Storm Gathering, I’m trying to hand roll. I’ve been using a single paddlefloat on my right hand, and successively reducing buoyancy until it’s probably got about a litre of air left in it. This works fine – I can do a “hand” roll like that and am happy with a Balance Brace. However, when I decrease the air to nothing I can no longer do the balance brace, my nose ends up a couple of inches underwater and I can’t get myself back up. Interestingly, in the same pool session I was trying re-entry and roll and with a half-full kayak the balance brace without paddlefloat was no problem – presumably because more of me (at least one leg) is already below the water line at the other end, and the lip of the cockpit is lower. In fact I did manage a slow but full 360 hand-roll like that. So am I doing something wrong, or is it quite likely I simply can’t balance brace with no flotation support?
Answer: It’s great to hear that you’ve been working on your rolls. When doing a Balance Brace, you want to think about your upper and lower body being separate (the division is at the waist). Your lower body should stay engaged, keeping the kayak as upright as possible. Your upper body should float on the surface. This means that you need to bring your upper body as perpendicular as possible to the kayak, so that both shoulders are flat on the surface. You may need to arch your back fairly aggressively to get your body over the cockpit and into the water while keeping the kayak upright. Your arms should be relaxed, and your head should be in the water without any tension. A couple of common mistakes with the Balance Brace are not having both shoulders flat on the surface and not having both arms relaxed. If both shoulders are not flat, your body is in a sinking position, not a floating position. If both arms are not relaxed, then the tendency is to pull down on the paddle/paddle float/etc. Play around with body position, and keep practicing… it’ll come.