Every Monday night from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the Outdoor Recreation Committee holds a kayak roll session at Schlessman Pool, open to all members of the CC community.
A typical session is run by at least three student instructors, although often there are six or seven individuals who assist in teaching. Most instructors have taught professionally and have extensive kayaking experience, which enables them to work not only with individuals who are new to the sport, but also with those who are looking to develop more advanced techniques. Senior kayak instructor Mike Curran said, “The main focus of the roll session is to get people in boats who never have [been in them] before, get them to an ability level with which they can come on kayaking trips with the Whitewater Program, and in general, just to get and keep people excited about kayaking.”
The first hour of the session consists of instructors working with a group of participants who are at about the same skill level; for beginners, this hour is dedicated to getting comfortable with the basics of maneuvering in a kayak as well as learning how to roll. “My favorite part about the roll sessions is the feeling of the first time you do something correctly,” freshman Celia Palmer said. “After flailing around underwater numerous times, it’s exciting to finally get your roll down and come up on the other side.”
For those with more experience kayaking, who have already learned to roll, instructors provide assistance with more advanced skills such as off-side rolls, hand rolls, and cartwheels.
Once participants have attempted to master the roll, the last 25 minutes of class are dedicated to a game of kayak water polo, which encourages people to become more comfortable in their boats.
“One of the main objectives of this is actually to get people to flip – being comfortable while upside down in the water is the first step in obtaining a bomber roll, and this is an ideal and safe environment in which to build this comfort of inversion,” Curran said.
Not only is kayak water polo useful in getting people to feel more relaxed in their boats, but it’s also a fun way to end the class.
“Kayak polo is my favorite part of the session. It’s loud, it’s wet, and it’s hilarious,” freshman Sam Elkind said.
Although sessions may change slightly from week to week based on the number of participants as well as the different experience levels, classes generally follow the same format. In the future, instructors of the program envision different sessions for beginning, intermediate, and advanced kayakers in order to increase instructor-to-student ratios and create a more welcoming environment for those who are new to kayaking. Eventually, one-on-one lessons may be implemented so people can sign up for private instruction.
Regardless of past experience, kayak roll sessions are a terrific way to take a break from studying, learn a new skill, and meet a great group of people.