‘Uncategorized’

Greenland!

A wonderful Greenlandic woman named Heidi recently described Greenland as a dose of vitamins. You go to Greenland, and every day your body fills with vitamins. When you leave Greenland, your body starts to use those vitamins, and eventually, they’re all gone, and you have to return. When she told us this, I couldn’t help but smile, because it’s true, and it was time for our Greenland vitamin fix. For both Mark and I this was our fourth trip to Greenland, and the second together. This time the destination was South Greenland, and six clients joined us for Greenland or Bust’s South Greenland Expedition, which included 13 days on the water and 300 kilometers paddled.

The "team" before heading out on day one.

The “team” before heading out on day one.

Wind had driven ice into the harbor, which turned our launch site into an obstacle course.

Wind had driven ice into the harbor, which turned our launch site into an obstacle course.

In fact we had lots of ice to maneuver through on the first day.

In fact we had lots of ice to maneuver through on the first day.

A short crossing to some ruins gave us the opportunity to get to know the kayaks.

A short crossing to Qassiarsuk gave us the opportunity to get to know the kayaks.

Then we headed out into the ice.

Then we headed out into the ice.

Paddling amongst ice is a magical experience.

No two icebergs are alike.

Oded takes in the spectacular scenery., which is paddexperience than where h

Oded takes in the spectacular scenery.

Every iceberg takes on a personality of its own.

Every iceberg takes on a personality of its own.

More ice.

More ice.

And still more.

And still more.

This seal bravely hangs out on a piece of ice.

This seal bravely hangs out on a piece of ice.

Greenland's landscape can feel very vast, and what looks to be a short crossing often isn't.

Greenland’s landscape can feel very vast, and what looks to be a short crossing often isn’t.

At times the ice moved in a solid flow, but we were always able to pass.

At times the ice moved in a solid flow, but we were always able to pass.

Drinking water was easy to find, and filters weren't needed.

Drinking water was easy to find, and filters weren’t needed.

We had three portages throughout the trip. This ramp helped out a lot.

We had three portages throughout the trip. This ramp helped out a lot.

The top of the land bridge.

The top of the land bridge.

The journey down was the best part.

The journey down was the best part.

The second land bridge wasn't quite as much fun… up a rocky beach, a short paddle across a murky pond and down a rocky beach.

The second land bridge wasn’t quite as much fun… up a rocky beach, a short paddle across a murky pond and down a rocky beach.

Our final portage took us, our kayaks and our gear across four kilometers in the back of a flatbed truck.

Our final portage took us, our kayaks and our gear across four kilometers in the back of a flatbed truck.

Many of the best landing beaches had Norse or Inuit ruins. Here the group stands in an old Inuit earth house.

Many of the best landing beaches had Norse or Inuit ruins. Here the group stands in the remains of an Inuit earth house.

This pile of rocks is an Inuit grave. Over time many of these graves have opened up, revealing bones from long ago.

This pile of rocks is an Inuit grave. Over time many of these graves have opened up, revealing bones from long ago.

This day our "camp" was a little tricky to get to.

This day our “camp” was a little tricky to get to.

But getting to the top was well worth the trip. This "space pod," as we named it, was unlocked and ready to provide shelter.

But getting to the top was well worth the hike. This “space pod,” as we named it, was unlocked and ready to provide shelter.

Norse ruins line the hillsides. The "space pod" was likely placed for researchers to study the ruins that are not easily assessable.

Norse ruins line the hillsides. The “space pod” was likely placed for researchers to study the ruins that are not easily assessable.

Many of the ruins were in very good condition.

Many of the ruins were in very good condition.

We visited active villages as well. Here Gennifer buys pastries from an Inuit woman in Narsaq.

We visited active settlements as well. Here Gennifer buys pastries from an Inuit woman in Narsaq.

Our lunch spots and campsites were always scenic.

Our lunch spots and campsites were always scenic.

Sunsets were always spectacular.

Sunsets were always spectacular.

Piles of rocks are a common site in Greenland.

Piles of rocks are a common site in Greenland.

Watching icebergs from shore can be fun, especially when they put on a show by rolling or shedding smaller bergs.

Watching icebergs from shore can be fun, especially when they put on a show by rolling or shedding smaller bergs.

Gennifer shares some whale, which she'd purchased in a town and cooked up as an evening treat.

Gennifer shares some whale, which she’d purchased in a town and cooked up as an evening treat.

I'm not sure there's a prettier place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

I don’t think there’s a prettier place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

Mark cooks up some tasty falafels.

Mark cooks up some tasty falafels.

Camp always had a very relaxed feel.

Camp often had a very relaxed feel.

Iceberg chair.

Iceberg chair.

We spent a night camping at some hot springs.

We spent a night camping at some hot springs.

Every team member had the opportunity to plan part of the route. Here Jack tells the group the plan.

Every team member had the opportunity to plan part of the route. Here Jack tells the group the plan.

We stayed in Qaqortoq for two nights and a full day to experience some of the Greenland National Kayaking Championship.

We stayed in Qaqortoq for two nights and a full day to experience some of the Greenland National Kayaking Championship.

Kampe and Dubside greeted us upon arrival.

Kampe and Dubside greeted us upon arrival, and it was great to catch up with them.

Heidi teaches Greenlandic during breakfast at the hostel.

Heidi teaches Greenlandic during breakfast at the hostel.

A sealskin akuilisaq is ready for the competition.

A sealskin akuilisaq is ready for the competition.

This avataq is complete with feet.

This avataq is complete with feet.

A father teaches his son how to roll.

A father teaches his son how to roll.

Kampe coaches Heather (a visitor from Canada) on the ropes.

Kampe coaches Heather (a visitor from New York) on the ropes.

This boy competes in Greenland Rope Gymnastics.

This boy competes in Greenland Rope Gymnastics.

The rolling competition is always a great spectator event.

The rolling competition is always a great spectator event.

This boy is ready to roll. The tuilik that he is wearing is made from sealskin.

This boy is ready to roll, and he’s wearing a sealskin tuilik for the occasion.

This boy prepares to do a norsaq roll.

This boy prepares to do a norsaq roll.

This man is ready to do the avataq roll.

This man is ready to do the avataq roll.

These proud fathers embrace after their sons compete in the team rolling event.

These proud fathers embrace after their sons compete in the team rolling event.

Canadians James and James embrace after competing in the team rolling event.

Canadians James and James embrace after competing in the team rolling event.

There are many types of races in the Championship.

There are many types of races in the Championship.

And just about everyone got a medal or two.

And just about everyone got a medal or two.

More winners.

More winners.

Sealskin kayaks are displayed in the museum.

Sealskin kayaks are displayed in the museum.

After the expedition we had a traditional Greenlandic dinner in Narsarsuaq.

After the expedition we had a traditional Greenlandic dinner in Narsarsuaq.

Muktuk, or whale blubber, is a delicacy.

Mattak, or whale blubber, is a delicacy.

Greenlandic Coffee is a special treat… and a very good one.

Greenlandic Coffee is a special treat… and a very good one.

Mark and I are well stocked up on our "Greenland Vitamins." We'll be back though… would you like to join us?

Mark and I are well stocked up on our “Greenland Vitamins.” We’ll be back though… would you like to join us?

 

 

The tour continues

After leaving Bergen we made our way to Fitjar, Norway to run classes for the Sunnhordland Padleklubb. We arrived a day early, and it was great to catch up with our wonderful hosts Geir Ingolf and Ingeborg, who we also stayed with last year. They made us feel right at home, and soon we were sitting around a table outside catching up while enjoying the gorgeous weather and scenery. This was our second year in Fitjar, and it was great to see some familiar faces. Throughout the three-day weekend I ran six Simplifying the Roll classes, while Mark ran six Fun – Balance – Games classes.

The Fun - Balance - Games class shows their talent during a sing-along.

The Fun – Balance – Games class shows their talent during a sing-along.

There are many ways to work on balance.

There are many ways to work on balance.

Johanas also works on balance.

Johanas also works on balance.

Geir Ingolf perfects the Shotgun Roll.

Geir Ingolf perfects the Shotgun Roll.

Ingeborg learns a Standard Roll (yep, she got it).

Ingeborg learns a Standard Roll (yep, she got it).

Most days we had great weather during the lunch break.

Most days we had great weather during the lunch break.

But even when temperatures cooled off our Kokatat Storm Cags kept us dry and warm.

But even when temperatures cooled off our Kokatat Storm Cags kept us dry and warm.

After the weekend we stuck around for an extra day (Geir Ingolf and Ingeborg are such wonderful people that we didn’t want to leave), then we headed south to Preikestolen, an incredible cliff with a plateau at the top which is 604 meters above the water. The hike from Preikestolen Mountain Lodge takes about two hours each way and is very steep in places, but the view from the top is incredible and well worth the trip.

The trailhead to Preikestolen.

The trailhead to Preikestolen.

Maps along the trail showed a hiker's progress.

Maps along the trail showed a hiker’s progress.

Me at the top!

Me at the top!

Mark at the top!

Mark at the top!

Looking over the edge felt safer from all fours.

Looking over the edge felt safer from all fours.

Our last night with Geir Ingolf and Ingeborg we cooked up a tasty Mexican meal.

Our last night with Geir Ingolf and Ingeborg we cooked up a tasty Mexican meal.

Now we’re on our way to Austevoll, an archepelago off the west coast of Norway, and just across the water from Fitjar.

Pictures by Helen and Mark.

Greenland or Bust’s June Newsletter

news

SWEDEN • NORWAY • DENMARK • GREENLAND

We’re writing this newsletter from a campsite in Norway, where it’s easy to say that summer has arrived. Surrounding us are tall trees and steep mountains, and although some of them have snow on their peaks, the sun is hot and bright at the base of the mountain. We’re dressed in shorts and sun hats, and our bare legs and feet are soaking up the warm sun. We’re here for our 2014 Nordic Tour, which started last weekend in Helsingborg, Sweden.

This year’s tour is supported by Rebel Kayaks, and on Saturday morning we met up with Johan Wirsen, who owns the company. Johan is the designer of the Tahe Greenland, which was renamed the Zegul Greenland, but he’s taken his design to his new company and it is now calling it the Rebel Ilaga, which Helen is using during the tour. Mark is using another of Johan’s designs, the Greenland T, a larger version of the Ilaga that is also part of the Rebel line. Both kayaks are made in Poland by Aquarius.

After getting our kayaks we hit the water, running a general sea kayaking class on Saturday and two sessions of Simplifying the Roll on Sunday. We also had the opportunity to explore the active seaside community by both bike and foot before beginning the long drive to Norway on Monday afternoon. We’ve been steadily making our way to Bergen, stopping at campsites along the way and exploring as much as we can. We’re teaching classes in Bergen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we’ll be sticking around and teaching classes in Norway for most of June. At the end of June we head to Denmark, and in July we have classes in Sweden and an expedition in South Greenland. August takes us back to Sweden and Denmark, and the tour continues through August 31. It’s going to be a busy summer!

Earlier this month Helen ran Simplifying the Roll and Simplifying the Rescue at Whiskeytown Lake in Northern California while Mark taught Rolling and Rescues, Incident Management, Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning and a BCU 4 Star Training and Assessment at the Anglesey Symposium in Wales. The following weekend Helen headed to Denmark for the Danish Canoe Federation’s Weekend for Coaches, where she taught Simplifying the Greenland Stroke, Fun – Balance – Games and two sessions of Simplifying the Roll. She also ran a morning session of Yoga for Paddlers and was the Saturday evening presenter, with a presentation titled “Greenland Kayaking: The Past, The Present and the Future.”

Later this year we have classes and symposia scheduled in the U.S., Wales, Scotland, Israel and Mexico. More on all of that later.

As usual, visit www.greenlandorbust.org for more information and our current Events calendar, Shop and Blog postings. For questions, comments or to schedule us in your neighborhood, email info@greenlandorbust.org.

Wherever you are, enjoy the summer, and happy paddling!
– Helen and Mark

Dr. T’s Coaching Corner

When paddling in areas where we might find moving water, be that from the current or flow from estuaries, we need to think more tactically (choice of angle) and accurately (use of speed) when maneuvering our kayak. It might be that we want to cross the stream without loosing ground, or enter the stream to make progress downstream / exit the stream to find safe water, or even progress upstream to play on a wave / go round a corner. Your target will determine your angle and the speed of flow, as well as your paddling speed will determine how quickly you get there.

To help understand our position as it relates to angle, think of upstream being 12 o’clock on a clock face. Now you can experiment when entering and leaving the flow by pointing your kayak at different hours (angles). For example, by aiming the kayak at 1 o’clock you may find that the kayak makes a wider turn and ends up further from the eddy line. If you aim the kayak for 3 o’clock then you may find yourself turning more rapidly and heading down the flow, perhaps closer to the eddy line. What you should discover is the more the kayak points across the flow, the sharper any maneuvers become.

Now you can experiment with how fast you are paddling when you enter and leave the current to see how much that effects any maneuvers. From this you should see that the faster you paddle, the wider the turn and the further you travel into the flow or eddy. The slower you go, the sharper the turn. As it takes time to build speed, plan ahead and think about how much room your long boat needs to do this before entering / exiting the flow. Remember, with the right speed and angle you will eventually reach the intended target!

Program Schedule

South Greenland Expedition: July 9 to 20, South Greenland

Nordic Tour:

• May 23 to July 4 and July 24 to August 31

• May 24 to 25 – Helsingborg, Sweden

• May 30 to June 1 – Bergen, Norway

• June 7 to 9 – Fitjar, Norway

• June 14 to 15 – Bekkjarvik, Norway

• June 19 to 22 – Oslo, Norway

• June 27 to 29 – Copenhagen, Denmark

• July 4 to 5 – Grebbestad, Sweden

• July 24 to August 4 – Nynashamn, Sweden

• August 5 to 7 – Stockholm, Sweden

• August 9 to 10 – Mora, Sweden

• August 12 to 14 – Karlstad, Sweden

• August 16 to 17 – Frederiksværk, Denmark

• August 20 to 21 – Svendborg, Denmark

• August 23 – Malmo, Sweden

• August 24 – Karlshamn, Sweden

• August 29 to 31 – Sandhamn, Sweden

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Copyright © 2014 Greenland or Bust, All rights reserved.

Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer • (707) 834-5501
info@greenlandorbust.org

Greenland or Bust’s May Newsletter

MaySTRAWBERRIES • SUMMER • THE U.S. STORM GATHERING SYMPOSIUM

This week has been so hot and sunny in Northern California that it’s easy to feel guilty. The State has been in a draught for months, and more sun is the last thing that we need… but it feels so good to be outside eating strawberries, drinking margaritas and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

April began with us guiding a five-day Anglesey Adventure. After that we headed to the Ladies Paddle Symposium, also in Wales and then to Scotland for some personal fun exploring the land, water and a few distilleries. Mark stuck around and ran an Advanced Leader Training and Planning course with participants from Sweden, while Helen flew back to California to run Yoga for Paddlers and a Paddle Day for our local kayaking club. She also participated in the ENC Kayaking Social and ran classes throughout the event.

This weekend Helen heads to Whiskeytown Lake in Northern California to run rolling and rescue classes. After that she hops on a plane to Denmark to instruct at the Danish Canoe Federation’s weekend for coaches. Mark in the meantime will be at the Anglesey Symposium and teaching during BCU Week.  Then it’s home for a week and Mark will be busy preparing the van for this year’s Europe Tour, which will be supported by Rebel Kayaks. This year’s tour will be HUGE! It starts in Helsingborg, Sweden on May 24 and continues until August 31. This year’s tour covers Sweden, Norway and Denmark. We’ll be taking a break from the tour for a couple of weeks in July when we’ll be flying over to Greenland to guide an expedition and stop in at the Greenland National Kayaking Championship, taking place in Qaqortoq, Greenland.

Later in the year we have classes and symposia scheduled in the U.S., Wales, Scotland, Israel and Mexico. We’ve also started working on our 2015 schedule, which will include some really great classes and expeditions. Hopefully you’ll join us for one or two of them 🙂

We’ve been working hard on organizing the U.S. Storm Gathering symposium, taking place in Trinidad, California on March 6, 7 and 8, 2015. Sponsors are being confirmed, and the local community is prepared to warmly welcome participants and instructors from outside the area. If you came to the ENC Kayaking Social, you’ll know that our local paddlers ROCK and they’re getting excited about an event in their neighborhood. Come join us!

As usual, visit www.greenlandorbust.org for more information and our current Events calendar and Blog postings. For questions, comments or to schedule us in your neighborhood, email info@greenlandorbust.org.

Happy paddling!
– Helen and Mark

Helen’s Coaching Corner

Often when teaching rolling, I have students ask me about bringing their foot pegs closer to lock themselves in their kayaks. While this may seem like a good idea, it really isn’t. By bringing the foot pegs closer you are locking in your hips, which will restrict their movement and therefore make rolling more challenging. Your feet should feel relaxed and comfortable on the foot pegs, similar to how they feel when driving a car. Although I wouldn’t suggest removing your foot pegs completely, you’d have better control of your roll with no foot pegs, than having them too close.

Program Schedule

Simplifying the Rescue: May 4, Whiskeytown, California

Simplifying the Roll: May 3 and 4, Whiskeytown, California

Coastal Navigation and Tidal Planning: May 9, Anglesey, Wales

Danish Canoe Federation’s Weekend for Coaches: May 10 to 11, Kerteminde, Denmark

BCU 4 Star Sea Training: May 10 to 11, Anglesey, Wales

BCU 4 Star Sea Assessment: May 17 to 18, Anglesey, Wales

South Greenland Expedition: July 9 to 20, South Greenland

Nordic Tour:

May 23 to July 4 and July 24 to August 31

• May 24 to 25 – Helsingborg, Sweden

• May 31 to June 1 – Bergen, Norway

• June 7 to 9 – Fitjar, Norway

• June 14 to 15 – Bekkjarvik, Norway

• June 19 to 22 – Oslo, Norway

• June 27 to 29 – Copenhagen, Denmark

• July 4 to 5 – Grebbestad, Sweden

• July 24 to August 4 – Nynashamn, Sweden

• August 5 to 7 – Stockholm, Sweden

• August 9 to 10 – Mora, Sweden

• August 12 to 14 – Karlstad, Sweden

• August 16 to 17 – Frederiksværk, Denmark

• August 20 to 21 – Svendborg, Denmark

• August 23 – Malmo, Sweden

• August 24 – Karlshamn, Sweden

• August 29 to 31 – Sandhamn, Sweden

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Copyright © 2014 Greenland or Bust, All rights reserved.

Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer • (707) 834-5501
info@greenlandorbust.org

The Ladies Paddle Symposium, an aqueduct, a couple of islands and some whiskey

Earlier this month, Mark and I made our way to the Ladies Paddle Symposium, which is based out of Bala in North Wales. This was our first year at the event, and it was an absolute blast. One of the things that makes this event unique is that it provides instruction in so many disciplines. Classes were categorized into skill levels, and the disciplines to pick from were white water kayak, open canoe, sea kayak, White Water Safety Rescue (WWSR), freestyle and raft. Mark and I instructed beginning sea kayaking on Saturday and intermediate sea kayaking on Sunday. On Saturday evening I ran Yoga for Paddlers, which was so popular that we ran out of space. All in all it was a great event and wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic ladies.

Balancing exercises.

There are lots of ways to play around in a kayak.

afasfa

Limits were tested.

After leaving the event we headed to Llangollen, also in North Wales. Llangollen is a charming little town with a canal that runs through it. Part of the canal system contains the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which caries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee at an astonishing height of 126 feet. Of course, we paddled it, because how often do kayakers really get to paddle over a river?

Don't look down.

Don’t look down.

Or do, the River Dee is a long way down.

The River Dee is a long way down.

After that adventure we headed north to Islay, Scotland. Islay has been on our wish list of places to go for awhile, and it was wonderful to spend a couple of days there, soaking up the peaceful island and a few of the distilleries. It was lots of fun to explore by land and then paddle along the coast for a distillery tour kayaker-style.

Mark checks out the barley which is spread on the floor of the Laphroaig malting house to germinate.

Mark checks out the barley which is spread on the floor of the Laphroaig malting house to germinate.

Whiskey is matured in oak barrels.

Whiskey is matured in oak barrels.

At the end of our tour we did a tasting.

At the end of our tour we did a tasting.

adafsa

The following day we went for a paddle.

And visited my favorite distillery one more time.

And visited my favorite distillery one more time.

After leaving Islay we headed to Oban. Oban is another wonderful place in Scotland, and one that we’ve visited a few times. It was great to be back and to catch up with some of the locals. It was also fun to paddle around Kerrera with a stop for lunch at the Gylen Castle, which was built in 1582.

A gorgeous day to paddle around Kerrera.

A gorgeous day to paddle around Kerrera.

For the first half of the trip the water was undisturbed except for the wakes from passing ferries.

For the first half of the trip the water was undisturbed except for the wakes from passing ferries.

A castle is always a good place to stop for lunch.

A castle is always a good place to stop for lunch.

After a couple of days in Oban I flew back to California to run classes locally, while Mark stuck around for a few days to run classes in Scotland.

Happy Holidays From Greenland or Bust – 2012

Yoga for Paddlers and Paddle Night: September 12, Big Lagoon, California

Date: September 12

Location: Big Lagoon, California

Description: Join Helen and Mark for an evening of Yoga for Paddlers (one hour session) followed by a relaxing paddle and hot tea. Bring a yoga mat and wear comfortable clothing. $20 drop-in fee. Yoga starts at 6 p.m.

Contact: For more information, e-mail info@greenlandorbust.org.

6th UK Storm Gathering: Anglesey, Wales

For me, flying to Manchester, England to instruct at the 6th UK Storm Gathering felt a bit like going back in time. I spent the first seven years of my life living in England, and visited after that, but I hadn’t been back in over 20 years. The organizer of the Storm Gathering, Mark Tozer, is also my fiancée, and it was very cool to have him show me around the place where I spent the first part of my life.

We meandered from the airport in Manchester to Anglesey Outdoors, the center for the symposium, detouring through a couple of very cute places; including Conway, a village comprised mostly of a huge castle, and Bangor, a charming university town. We also stopped at the Menai Bridge, and walked across it, while Mark shared stories of his University days (which I won’t repeat here). Once at Anglesey Outdoors, it was good to see some old friends and meet some of the people that Mark has paddled and instructed with on a regular basis.

The event is called the UK Storm Gathering because it is late in the season, so the hope is that the seas will kick up a bit, and paddlers will have the opportunity to challenge themselves in conditions that they might not paddle in otherwise. With gale force winds throughout the entire weekend, the “storm” was certainly in effect.

James Stevenson breaks through the surf.

Throughout the weekend participants challenged themselves, and tired smiles and laughter in the evening showed that the event had been successful. Paddlers were thrilled that they had experienced conditions that they would not normally have gone out in, and I was very impressed with the comptence and judgement of the instructors.

Jim Krawiecki enjoying his morning coffee at Anglesey Outdoors.

Evening entertainment at Anglesey Outdoors.

A walk to South Stack.

Some of the places that Mark took me for walking or paddling included Bull Bay on the North Coast of Anglesey, Puffin Island on the East Coast of Anglesey, Trearddur Bay near Holyhead, Llyn Padarn near Llanberis and Point Llynas on the North Coast. We also walked out to South Stack and explored Beaumaris Castle. Another thrill for me was going in the shops, which included a traditional sweet shop that sold candy that I remembered from my childhood. After the three-day symposium and a couple more days of exploring, I hopped on a plane to Washington for Greenland Week.

A windy paddle out of Trearddur Bay.

Photos by Mark Tozer, George Maskell and Helen Wilson.

A Few Classes, the Delmarva Paddlers Retreat and a Stormy Southern Oregon

After returning home from Japan, I headed off to teach some private rolling classes during the Bay Area Sea Kayakers (BASK) Mendo Madness weekend. BASK is a fun group of sea kayakers, and are wonderful to hang out with. This year however, I was finding that -16 hours of jet lag had caught up with me, so when I wasn’t on the water, I was hidden away, fast asleep. I do look forward to catching up with everyone again throughout the year though.

A gorgeous day on Big River in Mendocino, California.

After Mendo Madness I headed home for a day and then hopped on a plane to the Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat. It was my third time attending the Retreat, and I was there early to participate in the day-long Qajaq USA Board Meeting. It was exciting to hear about everything that is going on with Qajaq USA.

That evening Mark arrived. Mark is an instructor at BCU events worldwide, but it was his first time attending a Greenland style symposium. He found people to be very welcoming, and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the event. I spent the on-water time mentoring two classes of forward finish hand and norsaq rolls, one class of layback hand rolls and one class of the Chest Scull and Reverse Sweep. I also had the opportunity to take Maligiaq Padilla’s stroke class. If you get the chance to do this, it is well worth it. Maligiaq’s technique is very different than the way that most of us were taught, and many people opted to take both Maligiaq and Greg Stamer’s strokes classes throughout the weekend, comparing the two very different styles.

As usual, the silent auction was tons of fun, and I had a blast helping auction off a changing robe with Dave Sides. Palo’s Race was also lots of fun, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then maybe you should go next year!

Ben Fuller chillin' with some qajaqs.

Some very pretty qajaqs.

Palo's Race.

After Delmarva, Mark and I headed home to Arcata, California, and spend several days playing in the local waters, going on long bike rides, tying ourselves in knots at the yoga studio and trying out the climbing wall. Between finding sand dollars on the beach and checking out the music scene in the evening, we had several business meetings about our new venture starting early next year, Embrace the Elements, which will offer open ocean and flat water classes, BCU certification programs, traditional skills classes and mountaineering trips in the redwood forest. Classes will be worldwide as Mark and I have done independently in the past, but we will also be offering more classes and tours at home. We’re currently working on a new website, but to book early, e-mail info@greenlandorbust.org. Trinidad is an amazing, awesome, fantastic and superb place to paddle and hike… and with ten years of living here, I’m pretty familiar with all of the good spots on both the ocean and in the majestic redwood forests.

Trinidad, California.

Another picture of Trinidad, California... or home as I like to call it.

Mark hanging out behind one of Trinidad's many offshore rocks.

After all these meetings and a full summer of teaching, we decided it was time for a vacation, and with Southern Oregon just a couple of hours away, it seemed like the ideal spot. There are some great places to paddle in the southern part of the state, and we were hoping for a couple of mellow days on the ocean so that we could get into those spots… no such luck. 16 plus feet of swell from one direction, mixed with a long period swell from the other and some fairly substantial wind waves, and our rock garden paradise turned into a spectacular place to hang out… from the beach.

I have driven through Oregon many times and have seen ad after ad for the Sea Lion Caves. Advertised as “the world’s largest sea cave,” I was kind of curious, so we made the drive up the coast to see what it was all about. It was a bit strange to take an elevator from the cliffs above to the cave 200 feet below and to read signs asking for “no flash photography,” despite the lack of sea lions. With our faces pressed to the fence barrier, separating us from the cave, I thought about how lucky sea kayakers are. We go into places like this without paying admission, and instead of being spectators, we get to be part of the scene itself. Don’t get me wrong, the Sea Lion Caves were very cool, but it really did make me appreciate the things that sea kayakers get to experience that many are oblivious to. As far as “the world’s largest sea cave…” well, maybe if you add in that tunnel… and what was down the tunnel? Unfortunately, the fence prevented us from finding out.

Stopping for a kiss.

A totally different way to enter a sea cave.

The Sea Lion Caves.

We didn’t really have an agenda for our three day vacation, but decided to stop in Florence, mainly because it was so close to the Sea Lion Caves. After checking out a couple of places to stay, we stopped at the Edwin K Bed & Breakfast. Not only was it inexpensive, but it was in Old Town, and included sherry and cookies in the evening and a five-course breakfast the following morning that kept us going until late that evening. Our room had a jet tub, and the people that run the place, Marv and Laurie VandeStreek were wonderful and didn’t wink an eye at our sandy boots and my hair, which had turned into two temporary dreadlocks from all of the saltwater.

The following day we went to Port Orford to play in some caves, but the growing swell prevented us from going very far. We paddled out, bounced around a lot and then landed, with me telling Mark about all of the cool spots that we weren’t able to get into. That night we went to Gold Bluffs Beach, another place on the Oregon Coast that I tend to drive through slowly, always telling myself that I should check out sometime. We found a great room at Ireland’s Rustic Lodges, and watched the large waves from the comfort of our room with the fireplace going. Of course, a soak in the hot tub, a walk on the beach and an even longer walk to find food were part of the agenda, and we left feeling relaxed and refreshed.

The harbor at Port Orford.

We then drove to one of my favorite launch sites, and watched the huge waves breaking onto the beach… or lack of beach in this case. Being on the ocean is always wonderful, but sometimes the ocean really does want to be left alone, and seeing it in its splendor from the warmth of a good rain jacket is quite a treat. On the way home we stopped at a couple more beaches to check out the impressive incoming waves. Finally, we pulled into California, declared that we had no fresh fruit to the Department of Agriculture at the border then ended our trip with Mexican food and plans for our next trip…

Enjoying the ocean from a stormy beach.

Photos by Mark Tozer and Helen Wilson.

Greenland Users Trial Stages (GUTS) – Japan

Last week I arrived in Japan for the Greenland Users Trial Stages (GUTS). This was my first trip to Japan, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From my home in California it took two flights to Narita airport, where I met up with Wayne and Mel Hanley, a couple coming from Australia to participate in the event. We hopped on a train, and then another train and made our way up the entire east coast of Japan to Hachinohe, where we were picked up and taken to a school where we’d be staying for the week. The school has been closed for its original purpose for seven years and now serves as an outdoor school and a place for people to stay during events. I was told that I was staying in the “principal’s office.” The gym was a great place for drying gear and performing paddle tricks. Another room was primarily used for building skin-on-frame kayaks.

 

Kayaks in the school.

 

One of many dragonflies... this one on my head.

 

Bringing in the kayaks.

 

The following day we explored the local area, checking out the Misawa Aviation and Science Museum in Aomori, and I experienced my first onsen, or bath house, and absolutely loved it. The baths resemble hot springs, and I tried all of them, which ranged in temperature from very hot to very cold. Some had jets, and some had electricity, which moved through the water creating tingly sensations on the skin. We visited Tree Side Slow Base, a group of stores sharing a large building. Amongst the stores is Outdoorbox River Runs, an outdoor store owned by Takuma Togawa, one of the organizers of the event. There are several tree houses in the forest behind. Each serves a purpose, whether it be a tea room, a room for bathing or even a “ninja room.”

 

The onsen.

 

One of several tree houses.

 

We then visited the site for the rolling competition that would be held on Sunday. It was also one of the disaster sites of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Seeing the damage in this area, which is far away from the epicenter of that devastating disaster, stirred up feelings in me that are difficult to put into words. Seeing damage on the television in America is very different from standing in front of broken buildings, garages bent from powerful waves and a stack of destroyed boats waiting to be turned into scrap metal. I felt a shudder go up my spine as I looked around me, seeing where powerful surges had knocked down wall after wall. Throughout the week I experienced four earthquakes. The first occurred in the night, and I jumped up, waking others, to be told that aftershocks and other earthquakes are a daily event in Japan. Living in California, I am familiar with earthquakes, but experiencing them on this frequency was very new to me. I am writing this from a train on my way back to the airport, and even now as I glance out of the window I can see piles of rubble and damaged houses in an area much closer to the epicenter than where I have been for the past week. GUTS 2011 was a charity event that was raising funds for the Japanese Red Cross for the earthquake and tsunami victims, and being here it is clear to see that much help is needed in the recovery efforts.

 

Tsunami damage.

 

Later that day, Eiichi Ito, president of Qajaq Japan and organizer of the event, arrived. A translator named Natalie Kruckenberg also arrived, and her and I chatted about plans for the coming days.

 

On Saturday the event started at the lake. Kayaks lined the beach, and I tried several different kinds of Qaanaaq kayaks, a brand that is not available outside of Japan. After a morning of rolling practice, formal instruction began. No matter what the skill level, everyone would be competing in teams the following day. The teams were picked by a lottery, and everyone on the team needed to perform the rolls successfully for the team to receive points, so I worked with the groups on the rolls that they would be performing. Every team was to attempt side sculling, the standard roll and the storm roll, while the last two rolls performed were picked in a lottery. Teams were given either the armpit roll, crook of arm roll or reverse sweep and the forward to back brick roll, a spine norsaq roll or the elbow roll. The evening was filled with presentations.

 

The before GUTS picture.

 

Sunday’s weather prevented kayaking in the morning, so I ran an on-land class in the school gymnasium which included paddle tricks and a discussion about weather, conditions and incident management, as well as a final discussion of the technique involved for each of the rolls in the competition that was set for the afternoon. I also did a second slideshow presentation. The group then headed to the beach for lunch followed by the competition, which I judged. It was wonderful to see people trying rolls that they had just learned, and spirits were high as one group after the next competed. That evening awards and trophies were presented, with the team of Eiichi and Mel taking the trophy.

 

The judging booth.

 

On Monday we went sightseeing, and enjoyed looking at the beautiful landscape, a pyramid and a place called Christ’s Grave, which seems to have a lot of stories behind it. We also went to a Shinto Shrine, and I participated in the standard ritual of those visiting a shrine, which includes walking up stairs to the shrine and washing the hands and mouth before offering a donation.

 

The shrine.

 

Tuesday’s activities included paddling on Lake Towada, a lake in the crater of a volcano. We paddled across, checking out the gorgeous surroundings and playing amongst overhanging trees at the water’s edge. We had lunch at a tasty ramen restaurant and visited a very old (and beautiful) onsen.

 

Lake Towada.

 

One of the things that I really enjoyed about my visit to Japan was trying all of the food. Throughout the week I experienced a fish market, which sells not only fish, but all types of other meat as well. We selected our meat and then headed to the barbecue (which is located in the fish market) to cook it up. We also went to a trout farm and saw the various stages of trout, as well as checking out stumps that were covered in shitake mushrooms waiting to be harvested. Other culinary delights throughout the week included a wonderful traditional restaurant with all kinds of Japanese food such as sashimi and sea squirt. At the school I tried tasty treats suck as scallops, squid, tempura and sake.

 

The fish market.

The barbecue.

Thank you to Eiichi, Takuma and all of the members of Qajaq Japan for having me as a guest at this year’s event. And thank you to Natalie, who did a wonderful job of translating.

 

Thanks Eiichi!

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