Bluegrass Wildcatter Association welcoming to novice, expert Kayakers. Winter Roll Sessions include opportunity to learn, practice rolling and rescue techniques in human-powered watercrafts
By Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh
Spring fever is running high, just like many of our local creeks and rivers after weeks of alternating rain and snow. For many recreational paddlers, myself included, the first warm days of spring signal that its time to dust off our boats and get out on the water.
For my husband and I, that has long meant loading up our trusty canoe and wooden paddles and heading to one of our favorite lakes for a relaxing day on calm water.
Regular readers of this column know that this year will be different for Team Stambaugh.
I’m in the midst of writing a 40-destination paddling guide on the state of Kentucky, which will be published next spring by the Globe Pequot Press under its Falcon Guidebook series. The book focuses primarily on friendly flat-water paddles, although several paddles are on rivers and creeks with class I-II whitewater. Narrowing down the options to just 40 has already proven to be tricky…
While I’ve not found one definitive figure, experts agree Kentucky has a lot of waterways to explore. With more than 49,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks or and more than 700 square miles of water (excluding ponds less than 40 acres and streams less than 1/8 miles across) there are whole lot of places to ply a paddle in Kentucky.
Although I have spent plenty of time in a kayak — I spent a whole summer on a Michigan lake teaching YMCA campers to paddle —I’ve never owned one of my own. That changed in December when Carl and I each bought Liquidlogic Remix kayaks. Touted as “the” crossover boat, we plan to paddle them on shallow creeks, rivers and eventually take on some of Kentucky’s milder whitewater.
To do so safely, however, I needed to learn how to roll my boat. It’s essential to know how to right a capsized boat using only a body-power and a paddle if one is planning to take on whitewater.
To learn Carl and I turned to the folks at Bluegrass Wildwater Association. The BWA has been around since 1976, and boasts a membership of more than 200 “human-powered watercraft enthusiasts” from across the Bluegrass and beyond.
BWA hosts winter pool sessions in Lexington for kayakers interested in perfecting or learning how to roll. Club members who’ve mastered their technique volunteer to teach others. We were finally able to attend a session at the Pinnacle Pool on Friday night.
As a total newbie, I was a little intimidated. Would this crowd, sure to include hardened whitewater kayakers, welcome a rookie who had never even sat in her boat in water until that very day? Would they roll their eyes, when they noticed my paddle was for flat water and not whitewater? Would they laugh if I sucked down water instead of air while struggling to roll?
My fears were put to rest quickly as were welcomed with open paddles. Various members helped me to adjust my kayak so it fit properly and another offered me the use of his shorter paddle for the night. Others made friendly conversation and offered a host of online videos to check out for further instruction.
Long time BWA member Hanley Loller has been teaching newbies to roll their boats for more than 30 years was our volunteer instructor. More than 30 experienced and newbie kayakers filled the pool with boats Friday night, and every one of them was polite and helpful to one another. I heard lots of cheers and claps following successful rolls.
Under Loller’s expert instruction, Carl and I learned the basics and after being carefully guided through the technique numerous times, were able to complete several rolls on our own. It was beyond my highest expectations. Loller is an excellent, patient teacher. I will be forever grateful to him.
While I have far from perfected my techniques, in fact, I struggled to replicate my earlier success on my own later in the evening. But I am more confident now that I can and eventually will master the roll.
Soon it will be time to test my skills on some nice calm water – probably Grayson Lake. With water temperatures still hovering in the mid-30s to lower 40s, it will probably be a little while longer. Or maybe I’ll just bust out the wet suit…
The BWA hosted Pool Roll Sessions are held at the Pinnacle Pool, 621 Southpoint Drive, in Lexington from 7:45 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. The cost is $5 for adult members, $2 for member children ages 12-18 and free for those under 11. Non-members pay member rates for their first roll session. For more information and for a calendar of events visit the the Bluegrass Wildwater Association at www.bluegrasswildwater.org.