Craig Bumgarner <email@example.com> Date: Tuesday, 5 November 2002, at 1:15 p.m.
In Response To: Yes, do not get out! + Age for teaching (Nicolas Bertrand)
At 13, he had been watching me practice for a year. When he expressed sufficient interest, we started right away. He did his first roll within a half hour. If you are interested, here is the method we used.
He had paddled with me in mild conditions occassionally for several years, so he knew the bow from the stern. He is also a good swimmer and sailor, average in his athletic ability and motivation.
We started in shallow water with a capsize drill, no paddle. He'd turn over and I'd flipped him up right away (his eyes were pretty wide when he came up). I showed him how it was easier for me to flip him up if he layed back on the aft deck. Then we tried a few times with him calling for the flip up when he was ready by thumping on the hull with his hands, trying to linger a while upside down. This helped him relax upside down and helped imprint that when he asks for help, it comes. I then showed him the Petrussen and had him do it first without, then with a paddle in hand. Once comfortable with this (5 minutes), we went on to the sculling brace and recovery from the sculling brace (another 5 minutes).
From here we just worked backwards on an extended paddle sweep roll with a strong layback, Greenland style. In waist deep water, I had him assume the setup postion and capsize on the same side as he would roll up on. Assume this is the starboard side of the boat: Standing beside the kayak on the starboard side, just behind him, I would catch him as he capsizes to starboard with my left arm under his right armpit and my right hand under his head, supporting him with his face just out of the water. This support is comfortable and allows the motions of the roll to be executed while being supported with the face above water. We worked on the sweep, the hipsnap, layback recovery and keeping the head down from this postion. "Push your head into my hand as you recover" seemed to help imprint the right set of motions. After a few tries, I let him go under the water and he came right back up on the first try. After a couple of these he was ready for a capsize on the opposite side, rotated under the boat and popped right up. High fives all around! (I'd like to give credit to Dan Baumer who showed me this backwards technique of teaching the roll. Thanks Dan!)
After the first day, we went back to the beach for a refresher course about a week later, but only once. Since then, he has rolled up on his own or uses the Pretussen to rest if the roll fails and then rolls up. Occasisonally, he would get lazy and "Petrussened" around until I give him a bow up, but he is on his own now.
I've only taught my own son and he was 13 at the time. I have no idea how young a child could start, but I have heard Greenlanders historically started paddling at 4 and were active in hunting seals by the time they are 8-9. I should think a child would need to be comfortable in the water, swimming & general horseplay first, so starting modern kids before 8-9 might be rushing things. After that, I would think anytime they show an interest, though this may not be until they are 11 or 12. I'd consider teaching a child who is old enough to be out in a kayak the capsize drill, the Petrussen and how to use assisted recoveries while still in the boat ("Give them a bow" for instance). This way, you and they would be assured they would try to stay in the boat if capsized, could breath, not panic and could wait patiently for another boat to help them up. Even if they can't roll this seems a lot better than having them in the water, swimming.
Hope this helps. Enjoyed your article on ice kayaking in Sea Kayaker by the way. Sounds pretty sporting to me. We haven't had much ice on the Chesapeake in a while, but we have in the past and who knows, this might be the year!