Summer Travels

A few days ago I staggered in the door of my townhouse in northern California. I was exhausted from traveling for the past two months but couldn’t help but crack a smile at how fat my cat had become in my absence. Over the summer I have seen some amazing places, made some fantastic new friends and shared laughs with old friends along the way. Finally my head appears to be back in the right time zone and I’ve had a little time to reflect on my adventures.

My trip began in mid-June when my friend Michael Morris and I drove to Washington to attend SSTIKS (South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayak Symposium). SSTIKS has always been a special event for me, because it was where I was first introduced to skin-on-frame qajaqs and traditional kayaking skills. This was my third year as an instructor there, and upon arrival I was immediately greeted by the friendly people that make this event happen. The high point for me at this year’s event was having the opportunity to do a rolling demonstration with Brian Shulz in a tandem skin-on-frame qajaq that he built. The two of us had never even seen each other roll, and the demonstration made us both laugh as we attempted one roll after the next… some successfully and others not so successfully.

After SSTIKS Michael dropped me off at the Seattle airport where I boarded a plane for Copenhagen, Denmark. For the next three weeks I did a tour of Denmark and Sweden with kayak designer Johan Wirsén. The tour was organized by Mats von Wowern of Tahe Marine. Johan and I traveled from one Tahe dealership to the next doing full day classes with me teaching rolling and him teaching boat design. We spent hours in the car together going from one place to the next, and jokingly commented that it was a good thing that we got along. Sweden and Denmark are beautiful, and the days that we weren’t teaching we explored castles, fields, historic landmarks and warm beaches. I had brought clothes for cold weather and was surprised by the hot sun shining down on people sunbathing and swimming in the warm, calm water.

After three weeks, and lots of good laughs, I once again found myself at an airport, this time on my way to Nuuk, Greenland to participate in the 2010 Greenland National Kayaking Championship. I was in Greenland in 2008, and it hadn’t really hit me that I was going back until I saw a small plane with the words Air Greenland painted on the side. As the plane dipped low over Greenland I saw the icebergs floating in the water and took a deep breath. My experiences in Greenland in 2008 were overwhelming, and I’d told myself that I’d be back. I feel very lucky that I returned a mere two years later. Greenland is magical. There’s no other way to describe it. Throughout the week I participated in several Greenland games, including racing, rolling and rope gymnastics. Although this is a competition, it is a friendly competition, and it is more about keeping the ancient tradition of kayaking alive than anything else. A week after arriving in Greenland I headed back to Copenhagen to catch a flight back to the U.S. the following morning, smiling at the icebergs and promising myself that I’ll be back.

I arrived in Copenhagen and although I had a nice room in a great hotel, I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about SSTIKS, Denmark, Sweden and Greenland. The following morning I hopped on a plane back to the U.S., but I wouldn’t be going back home for several weeks. I arrived in Seattle, and Barb Gronseth, co-owner of the Kayak Academy, picked me up. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the Kayak Academy, and immediately settled in, laughing and telling George Gronseth and Barb all about my adventures. The following evening I attended the Kayak Academy’s Wednesday Evening Skills Night. I did a rolling demonstration and chatted with participants about Greenland Week 2010, a fun week of activities and a three day competition organized by The Kayak Academy, Dubside, Maligiaq Padilla and myself. That evening Barb, George and I talked about the event and did some more planning. The following morning I hopped on an early flight to Minnesota for The Traditional Paddlers Gathering.

Alex Pak, one of the organizers of the event, picked up me and Will Bigelow of The Walden Qajaq Society. Will had just arrived in town, but was already off to play some squash. Alex took me on a tour of Minneapolis. That evening I stayed with Michelle and Jeff Forseth (thanks guys) and the following day we went to the event, which took place on Lake Mille Lacs. This is a camping event, and I watched as the braver of the group attempted to set up the large group tent. After setting up the tent we headed to the water and began some informal instruction. Over the next three days we had a blast with rolling, rescues and strokes instruction, a silent auction (I came home with an awesome new tuiliq, made by Chris Gmeinder) and a unique harpoon contest, ran by Jeff Bjorgo. I did the Saturday evening slideshow on my recent trip to Greenland. This was my first time attending The Traditional Paddlers Gathering, and I loved it. Paddlers in the mid-west know how to have a good time!

After the event I spent another night at the Forseth house, and then hopped on a plane to Thunder Bay, Canada. Joe O’Blenis, his partner Diane and Diane’s twin sister Dawna picked me up at the airport and took me to their house. Joe makes my paddles, and after numerous conversations with him he’d set up a weekend event at his house and surrounding areas. I wasn’t teaching until the following weekend, so we spent the week exploring the area (saw a bear up close) and rolling in the pool in the backyard. Joe has numerous kayaks surrounding the outdoor pool, and it was fun to hop in them throughout the day and just play in the water. The following weekend I taught rolling while Joe taught strokes. In the evening I did another Greenland slideshow presentation. Sunday afternoon I did a rolling demonstration in the pool followed by an interactive ropes class between two trees in the front yard, and Monday morning Joe took me back to the airport.

It was a strange feeling to be on my way home. It was even stranger to watch the familiar redwoods of my hometown come into view, but wonderful to see my friends Lexy and Michael waiting for the plane to land. So now I’m home, and after several days of sleep I’m almost ready for the next adventure… which begins on Thursday.

For more pictures, please visit the Gallery.

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