24 August 2011

GEAR: the Birthday Rolls counter

I was getting dizzy and closer to my goal but I didn’t know for sure if I hit my target; I had lost count of my rolls.
It has become customary that when one of the senior paddlers in our group celebrates his/her birthday rolls must be performed.
A tradition started by Adventuretess that has gained popularity and is now religiously observed: one must perform a kayak roll for every year he/she celebrates (plus one for good luck).
Concentrating on keeping my rolls going in the rather nippy water I lost count of how many I still had to do.
I could cheat (nobody was really counting, they were all busy busting out their own rolls) but hey, we are an honest bunch and the Birthday Rolls are a serious matter to us.
So our ever ingenius collective mind, fuelled by friendly banter, suddenly came up with the idea to create a “rollometer”
We need something that will count how many revolutions a kayak makes.
Unaware of the existence of such a gizmo I thought that modifying a “step counter” (device used for walking, favoured by seniors) could work for sea kayaking.

I had a step counter laying around (schwag collected at a trade show) that my engineer promptly disassembled and modified.
The step counter has a spring that holds the contact separated. A relatively firm jolt is needed to create the contact and trigger the counter.
When rolling there is no such jolt (as when walking) and the spring had to be de-tuned and made really “soft”.
We disassembled the step counter, re-soldered the spring/contact and luckily everything fit back together again.
Now the counter adds correctly even when simply inverted, not just when jolted.
A waterproof container with a viewing window was needed so it would be easy to see the progress of the rolls. A small clear dry bag (the ones used for waterproofing a cell phone) is used to keep the roll-counter in sight on the kayak's deck so progress can be monitored.

Now there are no ifs or buts anymore; the counter doesn’t lie. I must do all of my rolls or there is no cake for me later :-)



  1. Hi Dog, if it was your birthday, then, happy birthday. It’s not surprising you lost count of the rolls!!!!!! That is a fantastic birthday custom.

    David A.

  2. Cool gadget! Must get one before my birthday next year :)

  3. Happy Birthday Gnarls! Cool device. I can't keep count of the number of times I roll on any given outing (not that it's astronomical, I'm just math and memory-challenged), so your device would be a great reality checker. "Hey Moulton, how many times you roll this time?" "Oh, I dunno, seems like hundreds..."
    Roll Counter: 7

  4. That gadget is ridiculous! But it does sound like a lot of fun. Happy birthday! I just had mine 3 weeks ago and did NOT do 58 rolls, plus one for good luck. I went swimming in a river instead, and did an extra dive for good luck.

    Keep up the cool posts!


  5. Eric, according to the rules you would have to do only 43 rolls.
    You should be subtracting the years over 50 but still add one for good luck: 50-8=42+1… 43
    When you are hundred years old you won’t to do any rolls :-)


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