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Washington Kayak Club
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Sea Kayaking Discussion

Kayak Rolls - ideas for understanding them better

Matt H.

I have been working hard on rolls - working a lot with Paul Brower (and others) at the pool and watching a lot of DVDs and youtubes.  

I'm just now starting to get to the point where I am practicing rolls in a pool session without any wet exits.
Does it confuse anybody why folks call it a hip snap?  You hear talk about "the rolling knee" and "the hip snap".  They also talk about making sure not to push with both knees - but to raise the rolling knee and  "drop the other knee".  
To me, it seems to make sense to make it all about the FEET, as in both of them. For me, what seems to create a powerful "hip snap" is when I pull my "rolling knee" up, and the opposite foot DOWN.  As soon as I thought about it this way, my hip snap power seemed to triple to the point that even if my setup was not perfect, and my head came up a bit early, there was more than enough snap there to get me up fast.  To say you should drop your other knee - dropping it is very passive way to think about what needs to happen.  I think you actually need to really drive the other foot down.  When you drive the other foot down, and the rolling knee up, THAT is what creates torsion of the hips in a very strong way, and truthfully I think this is more what is actually turning the boat. Does it seem this way to anybody else?  

When I try to do a hip snap just thinking about hip muscles and hip movement, that actually doesn't necessarily translate into the rolling knee moving up, nor the other foot moving down, and somehow what in my mind would be a hip snap doesn't end up having the same power.  
Other things that I am trying to understand better:

With the C to C, going from home position to where the paddle is 90 degrees out from the boat and still on top of the water:  this I have a little trouble with due to limited flexibility.  But I notice variations of the C to C where they start the hip snap at more like 45 degrees.  This is kind of what I have started to do - something in my body just says "do the hip snap" when I reach 45 degrees.  I will admit that once I hit the hip snap, it all becomes a blur.  When the hip snap is powerful, the rest goes really fast.  The only times I fail the roll is when I am thinking too much about my setup - having the paddle out of the air - and then forget to do the things that make the hipsnap work (push rolling knee up and other foot DOWN).  The other thing that causes me to fail is bringing head up and not having face towards the water as I come up. 

I also noticed after practicing the roll this way that I had no soreness in neck or shoulders compared to week prior's practice.  When my hip snap is weak, I try to save it with using the paddle.  When hip snap is strong, I don't resort to that, and also, my paddle stays closer to the surface throughout the roll.  

I think everybody agrees on what a good home position is for beginning the roll - especially when just learning rolls.  But since the hip snap is such a significant part of the roll, it kind of confused me early on calling it a "hip snap" when it actually has so much to do with the foot and knee.  I guarantee if you understand what to do with the foot and knee, there is nothing that would be missed in what needs to happen with the hip, as moving the foot and knee cannot be done without creating the powerful hip torsion.  But if you are thinking about hips, you may just curve your waist but possibly forget about lifting the rolling knee and pushing down with the other foot and having a hip snap that is considerably less powerful.  Even just pushing the foot down seems to add so much power to the hip snap alone, and also, feet are often talked about in reference to powerful sweep strokes - it makes sense that awareness of what you should be doing with the feet would translate into hip snap power.
Thoughts?  Perhaps this is not a new concept.  

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