Two of the competition judges

Campbell River kayaker on a roll

The competition included traditional Greenland events of distance racing, kayak rolling, ropes gymnastics and harpoon throwing

Kayak enthusiasts, in particular Greenland style paddlers from the West Coast regions of North America travelled to the Seattle area October 26-30 for the North American Greenland Kayak Competition, a celebration of traditional kayaking skills being held at Kayak Academy’s Center at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, Washington.

The competition included traditional Greenland events of distance racing, kayak rolling, ropes gymnastics and harpoon throwing.

Local Greenland paddler Allan Dunham won Gold in the premier event of Greenland Kayak Rolling.

Actually the podium was swept by Vancouver Island…with second and third places being taken by two Victoria rollers.

There are 35 different rolls in a Greenland competition. Rolls using a Greenland paddle, some with a Norsaq (Throwing Stick), and others that are just using your hands or a clinched fist. There are even a couple of rolls that the competitor must hold a brick.

The list of 35 rolls are performed with a 15 minute time limit, judges score the rolls upon completion and have the option to deduct marks for procedure flaws.

Local kayak enthusiast and instructor Ken Bueckert also travelled down to the competition, to help the organizers run the event.

The kayak has been around for over 4,000 years. It was created almost out of necessity by the people of the Arctic in order for them to be able to hunt and fish away from their frozen landscape on which they lived. Traditional kayaks were made of driftwood and sewn animal skins. A skirt of skin was worn by the paddler and sewn to the boat to prevent the frigid water of the region from entering the kayak. Because a wet exit wasn’t possible once sewn into the boat, the Eskimo roll maneuver became a critical means of righting the kayak without leaving the cockpit.

In the mid-1980s, the Greenland Kayaking Association (Qaannat Kattuffiat) organized national kayaking championships and compiled a selection of rolling manoeuvres for competition.

Rolling purely as a self-rescue technique is like jumping off a diving board without doing any twists or flips. It has a tendency to get boring once the initial intimidation is overcome. Kayakers who master the basic rolls often have an inclination toward creating more difficult tricks. “Because I can,” is often the only rationale for rolling a kayak in ways that have little basis in real-life capsize situations. With the growing popularity in North America of traditional kayaking techniques, and the continuing activity of Greenland paddling in kayak clubs, new ideas and innovations have advanced the state of the art.

Vancouver Island, and in particular the Campbell River and Comox Valley areas are becoming a Greenland Kayaking hotbed, boasting a large number of  Greenland paddlers and is attracting the all the top Greenland kayak instructors and teachers.

Interested people can contact Campbell River Paddlers at Campbell River Paddlers is a local paddling club that hosts a large spectrum of paddlers from beginners to experts.