One step towards the total control of your kayak is being able to recover your balance by getting support from water. But, before we learn to do eskimo rolls or braces, it is essential that we know a few basic principles and techniques. This allows us to apply our skills to different kinds of real life situations. But as the need to use these skills can occur rapidly, they must be as automatic as possible. This means that you should practise them often.
In this chapter, you can also find tips for training. Remember that when practising, you will probably find yourself many times sitting in a kayak that is upside down. Therefore you should avoid practising these things alone.
First you should observe closely how the paddle moves at the surface and under the water; what makes it go down and what makes it go up, how it is hard to move and how it slices water lightly. It might even be a good idea to go standing in a hip deep water with your paddle and leave the kayak on the shore for a while. Hopefully you will notice at least the following three things.
First, while the water does move out when you push your blade fast down into it, it gives a fairly good resistance that you could lean on. But notice that the resisting force lasts only while your paddle is in horizontal angle. So whenever you are doing braces, try to keep your paddle close to the surface and as horizontal as possible.
Secondly you will notice that whenever the blade is swept horizontally in water so that it is in raising angle, it will create a lifting force that will last until the movement stops. This means that if you are able to continue the supporting movement you are able to get support as long as you like.
And thirdly, if you move the blade so that it only slices the water, the resistance of water is almost zero. This is useful whenever you need to quickly pull the sunken blade up to the surface.
With these three things in mind you should have a good foundation for your paddlework. But we also need to learn to use our body properly.
Hip flick is the most important part of a successful brace or eskimo roll technique. Basically it means that when you have fallen, instead of first trying to pull your upper body back to balance, you always first flip the kayak back to upright position by using your hips and only after that worry about your upper body. This may first feel unnatural but you will soon accept that it is the easiest way. When doing braces you should think it more as pulling the kayak back underneath you, instead of pushing your upper body back on top of the the kayak. You should try to use the same visualization in your mind for eskimo roll also. The hip flick is done using your abdominal muscles to twist your waist and raise your other knee that then pushes the kayak's deck. It is quite similar to edging that you might have used when doing carved turns.
To practice the hip flick technique you need to find something steady that you can take a hold on in water. A dock, a side of a swimming pool or a friend standing in chest deep water will be just fine. When doing the hip flick, it is important that you are able to control it precisely with your feet, so always "take a hold" on kayak by pressing your heels down and knees up a bit.
First you can try to do the hip flick so that you only "loose your balance" just a little and then pull the kayak back underneath. Then let yourself fall so that your body and the kayak is sideways in water and then flick the kayak back upright. Then eventually you can try to go all the way upside down and do the recovery.
While practicing the hip flick, try to keep your upper body as close to the back deck as possible. And for comparison, try to reach your body as far to the side as possible. You will notice that by keeping the body closer to the deck, you need a lot less strength for recovery. Notice also that if you do the flick firm and fast enough, after a certain point your body will start to follow the movement and the rotational energy of the kayak almost pulls your body out of the water. Keeping these things in mind will help you to succeed in the last phases of braces and eskimo roll.
Also keep in mind that when you are falling, the water slows your movement. This means that if you have seriously lost your balance and falling into water can't be prevented, it might be a better idea to first let it happen and only then take the brace from the surface and try to pull yourself back again. This way, majority of your body's movement energy is vanished when you splash into water. After that, you can start the recovery stroke with your paddle in a good position. Otherwise you would be fighting your self into same starting situation, but your paddle would be way under the water. It is also a good idea to try to take the starting position for your recovery stroke while you are falling. This way you are ready to go as soon as you hit the water.
The fear of being in a kayak head under the water can be quite intimidating. Therefore you should try to make yourself as comfortable as possible when practicing braces and eskimo rolls for the first time.
It is a good idea to have someone that can help you if something goes wrong. A best place to start practising is no doubt the swimming pool since there are no waves and the water is warm and clear. But any calm and deep enough place will do just fine.
A paddle float can also offer a great assistance, because it gives you constant support and allows you to fine tune hip flicks or other upper body movements. For example, by using a paddle float, all the phases of eskimo roll can be examined without rush. The paddle float however makes it hard to lear a proper paddle movements, so it is only good for the first drills.
A nose clip and goggles are also a good thing to help you stay calm and focus on the essentials. And if you have skipped the chapter Safe kayaking, then read it well first.