Kayakers hone skills with St. Vincent College 'winter roll' classes
For 11 Tuesday evenings this winter, the pool at St. Vincent College was packed with upside-down kayakers working to right themselves.
Jeff Prycl, an avid whitewater kayaker and the owner of Rocky Mountain Kayak in Hempfield, has taught users of the fiberglass canoe-like boats for more than 25 years.
The “winter roll classes” at St. Vincent started Jan. 7 and helped kayakers of varying skill levels improve on skills that are crucial in whitewater kayaking.
“I have a friend who kayaks, and I wanted to learn how to kayak,” said Monika Holbein, who traveled from Pittsburgh to attend the class. “I learned how to rescue myself and how to roll. It's been a good class.”
The winter roll classes give beginners and veteran kayakers an opportunity to practice rolling or escaping from an overturned boat in a controlled setting to help prepare them for any capsizes that might occur in more chaotic conditions.
“The first time I flipped my kayak upside down underwater, I had been kayaking regular easy rivers for 10 years,” said Kelly Majiros of Pleasant Unity, who has attended Prycl's classes for about three years. “The first time I flipped upside down, I did not at all expect to be as panicked as I was. (The classes) slow you down and make you think, (so the roll) becomes second nature.”
The winter classes lasted about two hours each Tuesday night regardless of weather and attracted about 20 kayakers per session.
“Everybody goes at their own pace,” Majiros said. “Some people pick it up right away, and I'm not one of them. You just don't compare yourself to anybody else and don't give up.”
Prycl said he doesn't make money by offering the winter roll classes — class fees barely cover the costs of reserving the pool — but he teaches out of a passion for kayaking and a desire to draw more people to the sport.
“You can't paddle by yourself,” Prycl said. “You have to have these friends. That's why I do this. ... I teach people how to paddle. I want to get people to the point where you can go out and paddle with your friends.”
In addition to the classes at St. Vincent, he teaches in Johnstown. Once the weather warms up, he'll hold classes in the two-acre lake he built on his Rocky Mountain Kayak property. He also offers free instruction on Sundays in the summer at Ohiopyle State Park.
“I find out what made it work, the easy way to do it, and I don't give them so much knowledge that they can't digest it,” Prycl said. “I keep it down to the basics, and if you learn the basics; you can always move on to the advanced stuff.”
For experienced whitewater enthusiasts looking to move on to that advanced stuff, he even leads a yearly clinic on how to run waterfalls at Valley Falls State Park near Fairmont, W.Va.
The winter roll classes wrapped up on Saturday with a trip for beginners on Loyalhanna Creek.
“Not everybody's an A-paddler,” Prycl said. “There's a lot of B-, C-, D-paddlers that aren't really comfortable paddling unless there's some people around to save them. We provide that. We have a lot of safety boats; a lot of these people come out that have been boating for a while.
“They all started out somewhere. They were just like these new boaters, and they come out and they help because they came up through the ranks. And now they give back.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Changes await students at Latrobe, Ligonier Valley, Derry Area
- Hostetter family crusades for an end to brain disorder