In the last week, I had a student ask me for a couple private lessons to work on a sculling high brace and a static balance brace. Besides lucking out by having gorgeous weather for both lessons, it was also a fortunate coincidence that I had recently watched my new Helen Wilson DVD, “Simplifying the Roll” (see my previous blog). It gave me a lot of new ways to assist this student in learning particular skills that he wanted to master.
I would just like to say that the suggestions Ms. Wilson gives for ways to learn the static balance brace and the extended paddle roll were extremely helpful as I worked with this student. The emphasis on correct body position and arching the back to put the forehead in the water were very helpful in teaching the student to keep the boat from rolling over on top of him. The demonstration of laying in the water on my back with my legs draped over the top of the kayak deck worked well to show how your life jacket will keep your torso afloat as well as allowing the student to relax while learning body and paddle positions. At the end of the first lesson, I sent the student home with my copy of the DVD to watch.
At the second lesson, when we worked on learning a static balance brace, we used the Helen Wilson method of placing an inflated paddle float on both blades of the paddle gradually letting air out of the floats. This student was using a Euro-blade paddle rather than a Greenland paddle, but within a half hour, he was doing a static balance brace with no paddle floats. His excitement at achieving this goal was gratifying to me as an instructor. After learning the static balance brace, we went back to working on the sculling high brace again. The confidence gained in doing the balance brace showed as the student was able to perform a much more relaxed and efficient sculling high brace.
Developing a solid roll and bracing skills is really about confidence and learning to relax. Normally, that is much easier said than done in most rolling and bracing classes. Ms. Wilson has done an outstanding job in coming up with some practical ways to learn the body position and paddle dexterity while at the same time reinforcing the development of confidence and relaxation needed to perform these skills. I have often told my students that kayaking is all about physics. The trick is usually getting the students to believe that the physics really works. At the end of the two lessons, this student was a firm believer in physics! : ) (No doubt, those of you who are my personal paddling companions will very shortly figure out who this student is.)
If any of you out there are contemplating working on rolling or bracing at pool sessions over the winter, I would strongly recommend that you get a copy of this DVD, “Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson” and watch it very carefully before heading out to practice the skills in the pool. Since rolling and bracing are often skills that padders struggle to learn, I would like to hear about your personal experiences, both the difficulties and the triumphs, as I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching methods.