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Thursday, May 26, 2011

“The Maligiaq Padilla Experience"

You know when you’ve had a life experience! It can be shared by more than one at the same time. It can be simple or complex, based on history or not, fulfilling or not I’m sure, but something that impacts you deep enough to cause you  to reflect later as to the events that previously transpired.

And of course, if you are going to have one of life’s moving experiences, you have to get your kayak to the water!

This days water would be Sandy Pond. Aptly named but not traditional in any sense as far as Greenland Paddling is concerned but adequate enough to ensure that nothing gets lost in the instruction process due to unforeseen elements, especially weather elements. Our warm-up treadmill so to speak.

So I thought….. when you settle down for long paddling sessions like out on a hunt for seals or whale, it might be best to limber up first because you never know when that next out of boat experience may come.

Our instructor today would be Maligiaq. I’m not going to elaborate on his Greenland credentials or his paddling skills, we all know about those. I’d like to focus just a little bit on how much fun he made paddling with a greenland paddle as none of us had skin on frames so we could not experience that part but certainly the on water part and where and how those sticks ended up in our hands in the first place.

It became evident to me right away the humility of this small man whom I’ve read and heard so much about. Though he may be small in stature he is big on strength and skill. His effortlessness in the boat was inspiring. I liked the history he related to us about the people of Greenland and the skills and stories he learned from his grandfather. It was nice to see such pride and culture mingled in such a wonderful application of transport on water.

I hung on his every word as years of culture poured forth as he explained to us the Greenland paddling technique that he had learned. As well as  explaining to us the importance of the hunt and paddling in groups and the responsibilities thereof. We set out to experience that feeling each eventually taking a leadership role while paddling single file and being reminded to watch-out  for our fellow hunters behind us , making sure we were all close together. Experiencing what it may be like in the cold waters off Greenland during a hunt with bergy bits and ice flows all around. Imagining the lifting swell of tides and wind waves as we stealthily sought out our prey. I imagined for a moment what excitement and thrill of adventure Maligiaq must have felt as his grandfather must have related to him on that day.

I really felt that the Greenlanders also had true fun in their boats. It is evident when you see photos of 5 and 8 years olds paddling in the coves of Greenland. It was a cool morning and we needed warming so Maligiaq organized a few races that got the competitive juices flowing, all in a gentle fun sort of way.

His infectious smile made you feel comfortable as he observed some of your strokes critiquing only when he felt it was needed. What i did learn most was that there is really no ‘right’ way to Greenland paddle. It seems to be what works best for you. I can handle that. He explained his style and stipulated how it was different from others. It was amazing how effortlessly he moved through the water even when racing when I was churning up a fair wake.

One of the contest we had held was tying our stern toggles together and paddling like heck in opposite directions to the cheering of the others. A kayak tug-of-war. It was a good laugh but a good workout as well. Many got sweaty inside our suits and chilled as a result later in the day but this certainly didn’t thwart any of the fun and learning that was to follow. Dean is digging in here and though the fun factor was high I could also see how this could lead to skill development of maintaining balance while struggling ith towing a catch such as huge seal, whale parts etc.


The pace was fluid and relaxed and everyone got the time they needed to tune in on the skills or parts thereof that they wanted work with.

Some KNL members listening to the master.

Gerard new to the Greenland stick, gets a private session. He enjoyed the course so much he went to the next days session as well. I believe Gerard and Maligiaq became quite good pals over the course of the weekend instruction and festivities. It was nice to get to know Mailigiaq on a personal level as well.

Following the hunters I had to stray behind occasionally to take some shots but was soon prompted to not get too far behind less I should jeopardize the hunting party. ; )


Michael said...

Great article Stan about a remarkable guy, a real ambassador for his sport and his people! I was lucky enough to host Maligiaq years ago and spent two weeks with him. I wish I could have been there with you all, but alas it wasn't to be. Glad instead that you folks have all the fun!

Sean Dawe said...

Stan: Once again you did a great job of recreating the day through photos and commentary. After the sessions with Maligiaq I came up with some great questions I had to ask, but, alas, it was too late!! D'oh!!


Stan Mac Kenzie said...

Thanks guys. It was truly a remarkable experience for me. I agree with you Michael that Maligiaq is a very fine ambassador of his people and his culture and I thank him for sharing that with us.

I look forward to seeing his newborn in a kayak soon. Sure was cute seeing her holding that Greenland PAddle in the picture he showed us all. A very proud father indeed!