This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way – bowie
We’ve all heard the quote,”Those Who Can, Do; Those Who Can’t, Teach.” Personally I like the Woody Allen version.. “Those who can’t do teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.” Well, that certainly fit my middle-school gym teacher anyway.. Buh! I’ve always hated that quote, but sometimes there is a ring of truth in it as well. I mean, there are some careers you’d never take a relatively low paying job teaching if you could make real money actually doing.. As a sea kayaking / rolling coach there is one place where the phrase points it’s nasty little finger right at me however, that’s the Balance Brace. I can teach it, but I’ll be damned if I can do it!
A Balance or Static Brace (Nalaasaarneq Meaning “To lie down”) , is a traditional Greenland style kayaking skill where the paddler can lie with their upper torso in the water while positioning the kayak to “balance” against their upper torso and basically float on the surface without sinking. It’s a great move. Once you’ve learned it, the whole concept of rolling your kayak changes. From an inverted position (under water) one can simply bring their body back up to the surface and slide back onto the rear deck of the kayak. It sort makes those “power roller” types look like chumps. Heck, even if you can’t quite hang there, knowing the method still allows you to roll with almost no effort simply because you are putting your focus where it should be, on your body and your boat.
As I said, I can’t Balance Brace but honestly, I’m pretty much over it. I’ve grown used to watching my students practically fall over and float with only a small bit of instruction from me. I’ve come to accept that there is some special magical fate that says I’ll be destined to show people a skill that I myself cannot perform. Damn you Greek Gods who insist on torturing your human playthings!!!! Still, I have to admit just a touch of envy when I see how some students just “do” with hardly a second thought.
Of course, when I teach students to balance brace, like anything else, I never tell them that this is a skill to be mastered, something challenging or “advanced”. I just say, “let’s do this”. They lay over in their kayaks, I stabilize their backs with one hand so they don’t sink and then just start verbally grooving with them to find that zen moment when all things come into balance. They wiggle, twist, adjust and fiddle both above and below the cockpit combing looking for the sweet spot. Mostly, they find it within minutes. Often with no added floatation. It’s an amazing thing to watch. You’d think everyone can do it with no more difficulty than lying in bed.
Now, that’s not true of course. As I said, I can’t do it. Not all of us can, not that simply anyway. Some of us are top-heavy. Sometimes our kayaks just don’t play well with us. Maybe we have flexibility or balance issues. And let’s not forget, there is actually a method to learn… There are many reasons that balance braces can be hard to do. But when a student can do it, and with little help from their coach.. It’s an amazing thing to watch…
If you want to learn more about the Balance Brace, Check out this page at QajaqRolls.com with video & illustrations. Good Luck!