Thursday, November 19, 2009

NEWS FLASH: Three Mere Mortals Eskimo Roll Their Packrafts

None of the crew who'd put thigh straps in their boat could make it to the APU pool tonight where Tim Johnson, kayak expert and recent packraft Eskimo roller, was going to coach us.

Except Luc Mehl and me.

Luc invited his friends Galen and Dmitri, who paddled around in my yellow boat, while I got throughly confused on what I should be doing, other than trying to muscle over in the boat. I was getting nowhere.

Luc had managed a roll in the first 20 minutes or so with some tips from Galen, who once was a surf and sea kayak enthusiast. But then, like me, he floundered. At least he was getting his belly out of the water. I felt like I was just turning my boat from side to side underwater.

Meanwhile, Dmitri was off to the far end, doing his own thing. I'd actually written him off as just playing around in the packraft. Nobody seemed to be giving him any tips and I didn't hear any hooting and hollering -- until 9 PM, when I was just getting finished with hip snapping at the pool edge, which also was going nowhere.

It was getting time to leave. Tim had already gone into the locker room, no doubt amazed at how hapless, stiff, and uncoordinated I was.

"I probably will never be able to roll a packraft, even if glued to the thing," I thought.

Then I heard, "Do it again Dmitri!" and then watched in disbelief as he did what Luc had been doing all night and what anyone with thigh straps can do: get the upside down boat up to about a 45 degree angle by using the paddle in a standard kayak-style Eskimo-roll sweep. But he was finishing it off with a plop right side up!

Three times in a row he did it!

Paddling over to see what he did, I heard him recount the technique. He swept back with his arms to get up to the your-out-of-the-water stage, then hip thrust, "Like this," he gestured exaggerating his crunching hip movement.

I tipped over (I'd gotten good at that by now) came part way up Luc style and then hip thrust with a "Dmitri crunch", and BOOM -- I was over!

Awesome! I can't roll a kayak, and neither Luc nor Dmitri had ever rolled one. Now we were all rolling packrafts, long considered impossible to roll, then rolled recently but only by a kayaking expert.

Just to be sure I did it again. And again.

Luc was in the water now, paddling over to Dmitri to get his tuteleage -- then bam, bam he nailed two rolls in quick succession.

We'd done it!

Mere mortals, not kayak gods, had successfully rolled their packrafts and done it their own way.

Again -- awesome!


  1. Awesome!! The next step is to completely wind yourself, twirl the paddle around so it's all mixed up, grab it with one hand in the middle, flop yourself over, and roll up. That is about as close as you can get to a combat roll in the pool. If you can get up like that you have a pretty good shot when you douse your head in ice cold water, its totally dark, and the river is trying to suck your helmet off your head.

    You might also see if you can get into H20asis and try it in the wave pool (I know they used to do classes there, you might check with Jim Gonski of Alaska Kayak Academy). In wave trains you have to time your roll so that you roll up on the downstream side of the wave (so that the wave isn't knocking you over as you are trying to roll up).

  2. Thanks Paul. I was going for a more moderate next step of trying to get the roll on my other side....but these are super suggestions!

  3. Two weeks later another kayaker, Joe McLaughlin as well as two packrafters, Brad Meiklejohn and Tony Pirelli also rolled packrafts in pools.


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