Greenland at Sweetwater

Learning new tricks in Florida

Somewhere near the end of last season, I suddenly realized that I had to begin paddling "Greenland Style". Precisely why I cannot say. It has something to do with global warming and the loss of arctic cultures and also because every time I think about a new boat it is more, well, "Greenie" than the last. So I begged a stick of cedar from my builder and set out to build a paddle per the directions of Chuck Holst on QajaqUSA.

That went pretty well and soon I had a paddle that looked like it would work. Now I had only to get it wet. There were two problems with this. One was that it was now February in Western New York. I have to admit that this is not a show-stopper by itself as I have no reason not to get out on my lake (other than I am a wuss). The main problem, though, is that I really had no idea how to use it as it was intended.

I noticed that the Sweetwater Symposium, in addition to the normal BCU-week pre-symposium activities, was for the first time offering parallel Greenland-week pre-symposium courses. Knowing only that the short list of instructors was without peer and the water in Florida is warmer than Seneca Lake, I signed up. The Symposium itself came highly recommended, but I opted only for the pre-symposium days that I hoped would be more informal and less chaotic.

This was the best stroke of dumb luck I have ever had! Talk about exceeding expectations - it was downright inspirational. The first day I had a full-day, virtually semi-private stroke session with Greg Stamer and Freya Hoffmeister. I can't hope to learn all they know in one day but I am now quite certain that I can practice good stroke form based on their coaching and examples.

The second day I had a morning of one-on-one rolling lessions with Cheri Perry. Cheri is not only one of the best kayak rollers anywhere, she is a teacher of the highest ability. There is no nuance of any roll that escapes Cheri, and she is able to communicate that understanding in words -- and with a little poke here and there as necessary. I also think she has x-ray vision, as she knows exactly what you are doing under water, even when you don't! Within minutes (no, really) I had a balance brace, side scull, standard roll, and crook-of-elbow roll. On both sides. We tried butterfly and stick rolls, without total success, but hey not bad for a first timer. Later that same day I had another one-on-one rolling session, this time with Greg Stamer. It is really interesting to get another's perspective. Greg reinforced my "portfolio" and then had me doing shotgun (armpit) rolls. What a day!

Day 3... and I am feeling muscles not often employed in this manner. Cheri decided I need to try some of the forward-finishing rolls and techniques. So I worked with the "baby seal" (avataq) to get the hang of coming up in a forward position then went through the chest scull and reverse sweep with Cheri assisting. These will be added to my list next... I need to really own the layback rolls first and then catch up with the Green Team at another event. Cheri even let me get into her Outer Island and roll it with her standing by... so I would be less nervous about coming home and practicing in my boat.

We continued the afternoon session with Harpoon Throwing. I am not making this up! The team brought two harpoons with norsaqs for us to try! It was a lot more fun than I would have imagined. I don't think I'm ready to sustain myself with harpooned game, but I'd be happy to participate in more harpoon games. Finally, day 3 would not be complete without a play session! Freya and Dubside demonstrated "qajaq wrestling" (must be seen) then I got a "free roll" - wrapped myself around the bow of Freya's qajaq while she rolled the boat - it was amazing fun. Then I moved to the stern while Bonnie held onto the bow and Freya rolled the boat with both of us hanging on! Finally, while Freya sat in her boat, we disassembled it (it is a 3 piece boat), removing the bow and stern so she could play some more.

Dubside - in addition to coaching on the water - gave demonstrations of Qajaasaarneq each day and even assisted brave souls who wanted to get on the ropes and give it a try. If the pictures look interesting, I highly recommend that you buy his new video. In addition to the photos at right I also have a 10 second video of Dubside demonstrating Singernermillugu.

Lastly (but definitely not least) the "Green Team" included Turner Wilson. Turner managed to avoid teaching-the-newbie duty :), but offered much encouragement regarding my paddle building, future boat building, and roll critique. He also shot a couple of video clips of my newly-mastered standard roll that I may get to link here in coming days. In fact, he and Cheri expressed interest in coming to Western New York to give a Greenland session or even a SOF boat building workshop. Be sure to contact me if you are interested!


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