The long road to the role. An encouragement. A blog post for anyone who is struggling with the role.
| Author: Lena Grüb, S2S Pro-Team
It happens that you capsize while paddling. More often for some people, less often for others. Even as a child, I didn't want to get my head wet under any circumstances - and that hasn't changed to this day 😉. My parents used to try to choose the rivers according to my ability. They managed to do that really well.
When they slowly started to give me their own assessment of what I could paddle, I started to lift places that they would have thought I could. Above all, my little sister Anne was braver and I admired her for daring to paddle there.
Even though I was naturally a bit annoyed that my little sister paddled many places and rivers before me (😘), I really enjoyed paddling even back then.
What my little sister also mastered before me was the Eskimo roll. We actually learned the roll more or less at the same time in winter in the swimming pool. She capsized for the first time shortly afterwards at Easter and rolled up without any problems. It was to take me another five years before my first Whitewater Roll . That wasn't really a problem because I only capsized once a year (although I paddled a lot).
Back then I paddled the lower Ötztaler Ache, the Teufelsschlucht in Lofer or the Brandenberger Ache including the Kaiserklamm without falling over. I was brutally good at not falling over back then! Of course, back then I resolved to roll if necessary. And of course, not rolling always left me with a certain amount of uncertainty in the back of my mind.
"I was brutally good at not falling over back then!"
Then, five years, five swims and thousands of paddled kilometers later, the time had come: my first Whitewater Roll! I remember talking to a friend at the top of the eddy about how I finally wanted to make the roll. Out of the eddy and the Venter Ache pushed me over. Zack! I rolled up and raced into the eddy beaming, where I euphorically talked about my first roll. The good friend who was sitting there at the time asked:
He: "Rolled for the first time today?"
Him: "This weekend?"
Him: "This year?"
Me: "Noooo, in my lifetime!!!"
He looked at me in disbelief. He had never noticed, even though we had been on the Ötztaler Ache, Brandy and Co. together.
In critical situations and when it really mattered, I rolled from that moment on. When I did swim, it was usually straight into the eddy or when the spot was more or less over. Strange, isn't it! When I think about where I've been paddling, I'm pretty proud that I've never had a bad swim. But I've also always been rather careful on the water.
I realized that I had to really want the role and believe in my abilities.
I can only say that my roll would have blown up - if at all - more than 10 years after my first Whitewater Roll . Since I was on the Zambezi in 2021, the roll has worked much better and I've realized that I have to really want it and believe in my ability. Then the chances are at least much better. 😉 I was also forced to practise in the balancing water - that was probably good for me. I always knew that practising would have helped, but I just didn't want to get my head wet. In the pool or when I rolled on purpose, I've been able to roll really well for over 15 years now.
2022 was the first year that I never swam. I'd never managed that in the 23 years of paddling before that.
So, if you're one of those people who can't do everything straight away: don't be discouraged, go your own way and have fun paddling! In my case, not rolling has led to a very safe, non-flipping paddling style, which is clearly a very positive thing. I've also managed to paddle impressive rivers in many parts of the world.
PS: I've been practicing undercutting for a loooong time now. Let's see how long it takes me this time until I can really do it 😅 Because I'm sure I'll get it right one day. As with the roll, the only thing that helps here is practicing, practicing, practicing, getting good tips and above all: don't get discouraged!