In recent years kayaking has grown in popularity in the United States, although many people are unaware of the long history that is associated with it. Four thousand years ago people in the Arctic were using qajaqs for hunting and fishing. Their boats were extremely buoyant, made of seal skin and easy to self-right, even if turned completely over.
Rolling the qajaq was an essential self-rescue skill that was learned and was used in case of a capsize. Various rolls were developed to handle any and all situations that might arise, from being entangled in fishing lines, to losing a paddle and needing to roll using hunting equipment; or using only hands or elbows to right oneself.
As the world changed, qajaqs weren’t being used as much for survival, and there developed a concern that the history and culture associated with the sport could be lost. This is why, in 1984, the Greenlanders started kayaking clubs in several regions in Greenland. Competitions are held yearly and include racing, harpoon throwing, rolling and rope gymnastics. The purpose of these competitions is to keep tradition alive, and to teach the skills that the Greenlanders have used for so many years.
The Greenland National Kayaking Championship takes place over the course of a week, and all ages, from children to the elderly, compete. In 2008 Helen Wilson competed in this Championship in Qaqortoq, Greenland, and again in 2010 in Nuuk, Greenland. Her husband and business partner, Mark Tozer, had also traveled to Greenland twice, and in August 2012 and July 2014 Helen and Mark returned to Greenland together to host commercial expeditions on the east and south coasts. Helen and Mark’s next trip to Greenland will be in the summer of 2016.