06 January 2010

45 Rolls for my 45th Birthday

Starring: Gnarlydog, Greg Schwarz, Adventuretess


Celebrating my birthday close to Christmas and New Year has always posed challenges as to the best way to celebrate. Most people are partied out after so many ‘festive’ celebrations. I prefer celebrating by spending time with favourite people, outdoors if possible.
During a recent QSKC trip, ideas were tossed around as to the best way to acknowledge my 45th birthday. It's the wrong time of year to undertake a 45km bush walk in Queensland (too hot), perhaps a 45km paddle would do the trick. The suggestion was put forward to try doing 45 kayak rolls using Greenland paddles (GP).
As I only learned to kayak roll with a euro paddle a little over a year ago and could then only do 3 rolls in a row in flat water if I was lucky, I felt this would be a suitable, fun challenge to commemorate my birthday. While I can roll and have spent hours roll training, I have never counted them. I believed the desired outcome was achievable; I just wasn’t sure how difficult it would be.
Vanilla and Blackduck were both out with chest infections, leaving Gnarlydog and Greg Schwarz to bravely join me in the challenge. Plans were made, rules discussed and rewards decided. The 3 challengers would use traditional paddles (Greg his homemade Schwarz GP; Gnarlydog an Elver GP & Adventuretess a borrowed Mitchell GP thanks Steve).
We 3 are all GP newbies, with different kayaking styles and skills. The smart money was on Greg having the easiest time reaching our target of 45 rolls each. Greg and his wife Moira are skilled rollers who practice regularly and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They introduced me to balanced bracing and have taught me new rolls, as well as helping me to improve my existing rolls.
All the visualisation, vitamins and yoga paid off (I’m kidding, we woke up, drove to the beach and launched) as Gnarlydog set the pace by aggressively rolling 10 times in fast succession.
While Gnarly was eager to get his rolls on the tally board, Greg and I were a little slower to begin.


A healthy competition to be the first to reach 45 was soon underway, our beachfront audience of mostly grey nomads watched in alarm before realising we were repeatedly tipping over on purpose.
There was a variety of beautiful rolls performed, but the choppy conditions made photographing our quest difficult.
My rolls were not always ‘pretty’, but I did not fail any until I passed the 50 mark and started playing with my offside and forward sculling rolls – neither of which I have done before!
Gnarlydog was first to reach 45, plus 1 for good luck. video

Greg and I quickly followed and as there was still some air left in the tanks, we continued to roll. Around 60 rolls in, Gnarly’s ADD (Action Deficit Disorder) kicked in and he couldn’t resist surfing the small waves pushing us around.
‘Speed rolling’ was something else I hadn’t tried before, so timing each other, we took turns to see how many rolls we could do in 10 seconds. What fun, although I may need to change my name to Dizzytess!
Celebrating later with Greg and his wife Moira over a feed of fresh prawns and ginger beer, the new Gordon Brown DVD played in the background as we discussed the different ways to construct traditional paddles and the merits of using different types of wood. It was the perfect end to my birthday challenge.
Completing the challenge was a huge achievement for me. The improvement in my rolling during the last 12 months affirmed my 2009 decision to dedicate time to roll and play instead of ‘throwing a few rolls in at the end of a trip’, usually tired and with a loaded boat.
I’m now almost more comfortable upside down than right way up in the kayak.
2010 presents more opportunities to continue improving my skills, with a strong focus on GP. I am very impressed with traditional paddles and particularly the lack of stress in my body. I also paddle with an Aleut paddle, which is slightly different to a GP.
I could not think of a better way to celebrate turning 45 – except maybe doing 45 different rolls….

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