This past weekend I was able to attend a pool session specifically to work on my balance brace. Previously I have been able to hold the balance brace with a paddle or a norsaq but have struggled to hold it with just my hands. I had some success by cheating with a PFD. Prior to this latest session I have needed to scull with my hands to keep my nose and mouth above water. Through conversations with James Manke I learned that I was missing an opportunity to make the brace easier by using my offside leg. Prior to discussing with James I have always held true to the idea of not using the offside leg while rolling. James proposed that I should use both legs, working them in opposite directions. The on-side legs lifting hard against the deck/masik in the traditional way and the off-side leg (heel) pushing down hard on the bottom of the hull. This provides an additional force to assist the kayak’s rotation and hence allow my torso to float higher in the water.
Using this double sided approach I was able to not only hold the kayak in the balance brace while lying relaxed in the water with no paddle (or norsaq), but I was also able to hand roll into the balance brace. Quite an accomplishment for me.
James also stated that he uses this approach to help him complete more advanced rolls like the elbow roll. In preparation for the elbow roll, I attempted to recover from the static brace with my hand behind my head. My rate of success was fairly low. The few times I manged to make it work I rotated my head with my shoulders flat on the water and looked away from the kayak with my nose level with the water. This approach seemed to allow my head to stay low enough to allow it very gently to get onto the back deck. However, when I attempted this by rolling into the brace position I was unable to successfully make it onto the back deck. The only thing that I could identify as different, and hence the probable culprit, was the position my back and spine was in relative to the cockpit. When I was successful, my back was pushed fairly hard into the back of the seat, but when I was rolling into the position my back was looser and more towards the edge of the kayak, probably due to the twisting of my torso. Clearly I have more work to do on the elbow roll recovery.