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Learning to Roll a Kayak in the Hot Springs of Volcan Michimahuida

by Daniel Jerdan

Traveling all the way to Chile to learn how to roll?

Although at the time I signed up for the trip that wasn't my main goal in the end a reliable roll was one of the most important skills I got. Until I spent some time under Chris Spelius' tutelage I was a very roll resistant individual; I had had professional instruction prior to my trip and I understood the theoretical mechanics of the roll but it just was not clicking. Given two or three attempts in a swimming pool I could generally come up but I was muscling my way up and if I really needed to roll in a whitewater situation I wasn't confidant in my ability to right the boat.

Having voiced my concerns to Chris he recommended spending some time troubleshooting my roll in the hot springs . We started with the basics and little by little created muscle memory for the perfect roll both for my on side and my offside. Like all things in life it took time to develop but, in the end, when I left the hot springs, I not only had learned the skills I needed but I also understood the process well enough to be able to trouble-shoot my own roll if ever need be. Chris changed my focus from being able to right the boat at any cost to being able to right the boat with ease and economy of energy. As he likes to say if you do everything right the kayak has no choice but to right itself; I now believe that!

Besides Chris Spelius' excellent teaching and coaching style there is the environment in which you learn; I have practiced rolling in swimming pools, river eddies, lakes and even made a couple attempts in frigid rocky mountain snowmelt and NOTHING comes close to the hot springs . The water is comfortably warm so you actually look forward to rolling over to practice, there is no chlorine so you don't end the day with burning eyes and sinuses and, anytime you start getting tired, you can just hop out of your kayak and enjoy a relaxing soak. You will be amazed how many practice rolls you can do.


Over the past three years since I first started paddling I have had access to what I thought were good learning environments but they all pale in comparison to the Volcan Michimahuida Springs; they are a top-notch place to learn in a beautiful setting.

The true quality of Chris' teaching methods did not become apparent until after we had returned to the United States . A little over a month after our stay in Futaleufú my wife and I were paddling with an instructor for our first run down a new river. When we did a few warm up rolls at the put-in our instructor surprisingly stated that our rolls showed better form than his own.

Now five months later, after not having been in a kayak in two and half months I went out on a river and my very first roll was solid and in over a dozen practice attempts I did not miss a single one. Paddling the Futaleufú valley was memorable, staying at the Expediciones Chile Lodge was enjoyable and convivial but having learned a dependable roll has changed my approach to kayaking. If you aren't 100% sure your roll will work every time I highly recommend spending a day or two working on it with Expediciones Chile it will change your outlook on river running.

Thank you Chris and all the instructors at Expediciones Chile,

Daniel Jerdan

Expediciones Chile specializes in adventure travel vacations in Patagonia Chile. Rafting in Chile on the Futaleufu River. Torres del Paine, Cerro FitzRoy trekking in Patagonia. Off season skiing in Chile and Argentina. Equestrian vacations and mountain biking holidays in the Futaleufu Valley. Whitewater kayaking in Chile. Whitewater rafting outdoor guide school. Fly fishing in Patagonia Chile and Argentina. Learn to roll a kayak at the Expediciones Chile kayak school. Eco tours and yoga vacations. Information on the climate of Patagonia, traveling in Patagonia and regional maps.

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