I strongly believe that pool sessions are excellent at practicing skills and learning new skills in a controlled, safe environment. But then, nothing compares to practicing those same skills out in the real world.
A quick story that happened to me. After two full winters of pool sessions, doing rolls and practicing, and feeling like I had a strong roll on both sides, and then also practicing my roll out on the water as well... But conditions near us out where we live are usually not that crazy. So we don't really get a lot of surf. We don't get very rough conditions. Then, I went down to South Carolina to do a week of training in rough water and surf. Then, I remember one time it was a little windy. Conditions were not bad. It was actually really fun.
It was breaking waves probably between one and three-footers. So they were perfect, really. Then, a wave caught me off guard. I capsized, and then while I was upside down, my paddle got stuck in the sand. I panicked and pulled my skirt, and wet-exited and everything was fine. We did an assisted rescue, and within a couple of seconds I was back in my kayak. But I had felt very confident in my roll. I had worked for more than a year on my roll on both sides, and then when it really came to a moment where I should've been able to roll back up, it went out the window.
I hadn't practiced enough with my dry suit on and understanding what that buoyancy was like. I hadn't practiced what it was going to feel like getting knocked around by waves while you're upside down. So after that happened to me, I made it a goal that anytime I find myself in rough conditions or in surf, I always try to fit in a couple of rolls for practice. I find that the more situations you practice in, the better prepared you will be for when you capsize unexpectedly.
So if you are learning and practicing rolls and rescues in a pool setting, I urge you to practice them all in different types of scenarios. Wear different layers. Practice without your goggles. Practice without your nose clips. Practice with and without your skirt. See what it's like rolling with a wetsuit, a dry suit, a dry suit that hasn't been burnt, because you forgot to do it. Go out into the real world and practice them there as well. As you continue to grow your skills and grow your confidence, same thing.
Try to find situations where you can safely, let's say with a group that can spot you, practice them in rougher conditions, in stronger wind, in surf. Because if you get knocked over and you're not expecting it, it's very easy to panic and just say, "Oh, that's it. I need to get out." But if you practice enough and you can remain calm, just take your time, set up, and you'll come up.
I hope that was helpful. As always, Luke Rovner for Kayak Hipster. See you next time.
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