If you do one search for photos on Google for “whitewater kayaking” and one for “sea kayaking” it’s pretty obvious that one thing that’s different about whitewater kayakers is that they have wet hair. If we put aside the other differences in whitewater and sea kayaking demographics, wet hair (or a wet head, in deference to my peers whose shine comes not from conditioner-enriched hair but the lack of it) may be more than a superficial difference. If your head is wet, the rest of you is likely to be wet, and if that’s the case, you are more likely to be dressed for getting drenched. If your face is wet, winding up in the water isn’t as much of a shock as it is plunging in when warm and dry. In whitewater, getting your head and face wet is usually automatic. Sea kayakers may have to shift to manual and make a choice to get a feel for the water.
If you don’t mind getting your hair wet, maybe it’s finding yourself upside down underwater that makes you uncomfortable. Ironically the last time any of us were truly and entirely content we were upside down and underwater. That blissful state, unfortunately, came to an abrupt end on your birthday. No, you can’t go back, but you can learn to be at peace when capsized.
I know of many sea kayakers who have been diligently working at learning how to roll for weeks, if not months or years. Once they succeed it doesn’t take long to roll with an ease that belies the struggles they had to get to that point. The hurdle looks much lower after you’ve gotten over it.
I’ve never understood why rolling a kayak is viewed as a basic skill for whitewater kayakers, but has been elevated by many sea kayakers to the status of a holy grail. To be sure, whitewater kayaking may attract a younger and more athletic demographic, but rolling a kayak is just a matter of technique and timing. It doesn’t require great strength or exceptional flexibility.
So what keeps a significant percentage of sea kayakers from learning to roll? If you are hesitant to learn how to roll or if you’re finding the technique eludes you, we’d be interested in hearing from you. Please join our online forum and post your thoughts there. We’ll look for common themes that might point us toward ways of making rolling easier. We’ll let you know what we find out in a subsequent newsletter. If you don’t think sea kayakers need to know how to roll we’d like to hear from you too. We’d be happy to make a list of reasons to keep your hair dry.