Monday, September 24, 2007

Do it like an Inuit

Sunday (9/23) I took a class on rolling kayaks in the Greenland Inuit style. Considering it was the first day of fall, it was a great day to be out on/in the water.

This was one of those "lost art" things where the Inuit ditched their kayaks in favor of powerboats and by 1983 there were literally only 1 or 2 septuagenarians who still knew the old ways. Then some young Greenlanders, inspired by a museum exhibit, experienced a cultural preservation panic. They sought out those old experts to teach them how to build and use the traditional boats, and spawned a renaissance of interest. Now pretty much every town on the west coast of Greenland has a kayak club and there's a national competition.

Compared to whitewater or a typical "sea kayak" roll, it is more of a balance thing. The more advanced you are, the less strenuous it is and the less you need the paddle. I got up to just holding the paddle in one hand, and have seen video of someone rolling in a straightjacket.

About half the people in the class either built their own kayak or got one second hand from someone who did. In a nod to political correctness, the skin-on-frame kayaks are skinned with nylon instead of seal skin. They came from as far as Quebec City (4 hour drive) so I almost felt guilty only having about a 10 minute drive.... almost.

Facilitators ("We're all learners here") Cheri and Turner pass out clues

Hand roll, no paddle: