Question: The 2007 Chatham’s have a different seat design which in a weird anomaly, allows for giant black brackets (whose purpose we can only assume is to hold the seat straps, away from the body). My question is about flexibility training. Are there any tricks and techniques for stretching that could be used to optimize technique?
Answer: Yeah, I think those brackets are a bad design. My Chatham 16 has them too, and I’ve been meaning to remove them. I believe they create a safety hazard for women with rear relief zippers (butt entrapment issues) as well as cause unnecessary rubbing on a drysuit. I’m also not big on the long straps used to adjust the outfitting. They can hang out the side of the sprayskirt and be mistaken for a grab loop, causing a person upside down in the water to be unable to wet exit easily.
With rolling I have found that a person’s size has very little to do with ability. A person’s flexibility however can play a huge role. For advanced layback rolls the ability to twist out to the side keeping the shoulders flat is a huge advantage. To test your flexibility in this region, lie flat on your back on the floor and twist at the waist to put your body in an “L” shape. If you can get your body all the way out to the side with your shoulders remaining flat on the floor and your legs straight (knees facing the ceiling), then you are in very good shape for advanced layback rolls. If you can only twist a little out to the side, or your shoulders are not flat, then this is a good exercise to work on. Practice it often, on both sides, and flexibility will slowly come.
For forward finishing rolls, it is good to work on hamstring flexibility. The simple exercise of sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you, holding your feet and putting your head on your knees (or as close as you can) with your legs remaining straight is a great way of increasing this flexibility (flexing your feet will make it more challenging).
If you have the time and interest, sign up for a yoga class at a yoga studio. There are many different styles to pick from. I practice Hatha Raja. A good “at home” yoga program is OM Yoga in a Box (these come in several different levels). I have found that these programs are simple to follow and beneficial for increasing flexibility, especially if they are done 3 or more times a week.