Kayak community gears up for week of traditional Greenland training and competition

Maligiaq Padilla, Helen Wilson and Dubside to join hundreds of kayakers from Pacific Northwest and beyond for Kayak Academy's second annual Greenland Week Festival & Competition

ISSAQUAH, WASHINGTON — Paddlers from across the region are traveling to the Seattle area this October for Greenland Week, a celebration of traditional kayaking skills being held from Wednesday, Oct. 26 to Sunday, Oct. 30 at Kayak Academy’s Center at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, Washington. Featured kayaking personalities will include Maligiaq Padilla from Greenland, Helen Wilson, and Dubside, all of whom have done various instructional DVD’s and traveled internationally teaching and demonstrating Greenland kayaking techniques. Clinic’s and training run from Wednesday, Oct. 26 to Saturday Oct 29, and the competition itself takes place from Friday, Oct 28 to Sunday, Oct 30 and includes racing, rolling, ropes and harpoon throwing. Paddlers of all skill levels as well as spectators will flock to Lake Sammamish State Park to train, compete and enjoy exhibitions, presentations, food and music.

At first glance the traditional Greenland-style paddle looks like an unadorned stick. Closer examination reveals a long narrow blade on each end that differs considerably from the spoon shaped blade of conventional paddles. The uninitiated often conclude that a Greenland paddle can’t generate very much power. This year’s race offers a unique opportunity to compare paddles and race times directly because the Greenland Week Race will run simultaneously with a larger race conducted by the Sound Rowers, a local paddling organization. Can a 1000 year old design hold its own against modern scientific engineering? Come find out.

Flipping a kayak upside and rolling back up again is a familiar whitewater technique. Yet, Greenland kayak hunters had already raised rolling to a highly advanced degree long before the advent of whitewater kayaking. At the Greenland Week rolling event you will see dozens of different ways to roll including one-armed rolls, holding the paddle behind your head, rolling with only your hand or a clenched fist, or even holding a brick.

Harpoon throwing harkens back to the traditional kayak hunter’s means of bringing home food. The throw is made using a special throwing stick that adds leverage. Throwing a harpoon from a moving kayak requires a carefully orchestrated series of movements and a lot of practice to develop accuracy.

Greenland Rope gymnastics are done on land using horizontally suspended ropes. From increasingly difficult positions a competitor tries to rotate completely around without touching the ground. Experienced contestants make it look remarkably easy. These exercises have been done for generations by Inuit adults and youth for building the strength and endurance kayaking in the Arctic required.

“We’ve tried to preserve the cultural aspects of traditional kayaking by using the same rolling and ropes maneuvers as Greenland’s National Qajaq Championship, using the Greenlandic names, and crediting the Inuit origins of all kayaks; while at the same time acknowledging the appeal of modern influences such as carbon fiber, electronic scoring, and action photography,” says Dubside who, like Maligiaq and Helen Wilson will be doing the judging as well as exhibition demonstrations.

The event is hosted by the Kayak Academy and organized by George and Barb Gronseth. On-line registration for competitors is $16 plus $18 for each event and includes a T-shirt, awards. First prize overall is a Kokatat Gore-tex Dry Suit. For more information, to be a part of this event as a sponsor, an exhibitor or to operate a booth, e-mail barb@kayakacademy.com

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