Combat roll training, build a rolling recovery map


To paraphrase Jane Austen “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a sea kayak must be in want of a reliable combat roll”. I know I want one. In controlled circumstances I can perform over 40 different rolls and maneuvers, what happens in an uncontrolled environment? Will I come up in a rock garden with breaking aerated surf?
It is worth thinking about your response to unexpected capsizes in advance of them happening. When training I have many opportunities to examine my response to the unexpected. Frequently due to failed rolls, occasionally as a result of comedians who deliberately like to flip you in the pool and occasionally when I perform an aggressive turn or draw and end upside down unexpectedly. What do you do next? Until 2010 my default response was to recover using an on-side standard Greenland roll, my strongest and most reliable immersion response weapon.
If you only have one roll you only have one emergency response plan to recover with. It is highly unlikely that you capsize in the setup position for your recovery roll. You will need to reposition your torso, your arms and the paddle, and then hope that the water allows you to perform your roll.
The unexpected roll is, of course, unexpected. There is no opportunity to prepare, no chance to take a deep breath. There is no mental preparation or visualization of your recovery in advance. You are just there, upside down, with every instinct fighting to get your head above water to breathe again.
What’s your plan? How do you train for this situation? What can you do to your equipment to make recovery more reliable?
One training tool I have been working on is a mental recovery map. It guides me to the easiest recovery roll from the position I find myself in. When pinned on the back deck do I do a back deck roll, a reverse sweep roll, a mummy roll? When face-down, sideways to the kayak, do I perform a forward finishing butterfly roll, a storm roll or a standard Greenland roll? Where is the paddle? How can it help me? To build your own recovery map you need to understand the positions that you can recover from reliably. Then understand that those rolls do not require the convoluted setups that we use to train, but can instead be completed from nearly any position along the path the body takes throughout the roll.
For example if I find that I have the paddle floating on the surface, no matter in what position, I am invariably going to use a butterfly recovery, be that a forward or lay-back recovery. If I am face down but pointed backwards I am most likely going to use a reverse sweep. If I am pushed forward onto the foredeck I am most likely going to use a storm. And so the map goes on, providing me the quickest easiest recovery roll based upon my body and the paddles relative position.
Next time you are training I suggest you start practicing your recovery from multiple positions, face up and face down, angled at every 15 degrees around the cockpit. You will quickly learn your best recovery roll and then develop your own recovery map, which with practice you can train yourself to use instinctively, in combat.