Greenland National Championships in Sisimiut 2006

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Day 1, Saturday, 1st of July 2006:

I think I just realized when I was driving the 4 hrs from Husum to Copenhagen that my trip to Greenland really became true!
Traveling that much as I do it’s hard to recap the last trip, and already planning and looking forward to the next, besides working and living in between at home with my son, too.

I made up my mind to go to Greenland 2 days after I was back from Newfoundland, and time really became short for booking, training and planning, but oh well, I love to do things under time pressure and think I’m even better then :-) )
Arriving at night in Copenhagen, I slept in my car outside at the beach rather than staying in Pavia Lumhold’s apartment he nicely offered me for use, as it was a beautiful summer night and Pavia was off working the night through anyway.

The airport was already really busy at 7 am, but as Pavia wanted to pick and use my car later, I didn’t have to look far for a cheap parking place, and just pulled in close to the entrance.

I had to handle my big bag with my four-pieces Qaanaaq SS I took with me, and I was glad they charged me only 20kg instead of 30 kg overweight, which was still 200 € extra fee :-( (, but for what it’s worth, I really wanted to have my own (rolling) kayak there!

Air Greenland acted really stubborn on the booking, as 2 hrs after I had booked my flight I got to know about the “Paartoq Race”, organized by Maligiaq Padilla to celebrate Sisimiut’s 250th anniversary.

I just wanted to change my arrival flight to a week earlier, but no way… “tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable”, not even for a (usual) changing fee of about 50 bucks or so – f… them. This made another 400 € extra for a second half flight…it’s always bad if companies have somehow the monopoly anywhere.

I flew from Copenhagen via Kangerlussuaq, arriving in Sisimiut with 1 hr delay, as we had to circle around for long due to low hanging clouds. Too much turbulence on the small airstrip close to high mountain walls… 

I think the crew door already looked very Greenlandic!

Maligiaq Padilla and Javier Knøerr from Spain picked me up with Maligiaq’s truck, and I had to get used to the “Greenlandic style” of driving, and no seat belts…

I was glad to see Javier again after we met last year on the Spanish Symposium, where I’m going to teach next year again, this time together with Greg Stamer and Maligiaq.
I have never met Maligiaq before, but as usual having mutual friends and some previous e-mails made it feel like we know already for long…

He instantly noticed that his concern came true that I was taller than him and took it with a smile ;-) ), obviously just worried I wouldn’t fit in his racing kayaks he offered me to use the next days :-)

 

There was an amazingly high number of cars, taxis and busses driving around in the small town of Sisimiut, with only 6500 inhabitants.

Considering you can easily *walk* from on end to the other, and that you can drive nowhere else without the use of the ferry, which is coming once a week to connect all coastal towns to North or South, this feels somehow funny for us who are used to jump in a car and just going anywhere…

The town of Sisimiut, Greenland’s second large “city” looked friendly and colorful to me, with all the little wooden houses painted in a different bright color, looking from above like a puppet village.

Sisimiut is actually a very busy and modern town where you can get almost everything, from freshly hunted seal- and whale meat and howling sledge dogs to high-speed internet access, i-pods and high tech cell phones.

The sledge dogs are chained up in every free space between the houses, and sometimes they spend their summer on nearby islands.

Be careful where you step or land your kayak, as the dogs are getting fed about once a week, and might not act particularly very friendly when you approach them…

Puppies and kids are running free, and you can see young children playing independently in the streets long after midnight as there is daylight 24 hrs here in summer.

 

Time seems to be non-existent, you sleep eat when you are tired or hungry.

Parties long until the morning are not that hard to take, as the daylight keeps you from being really tired…but every now and then your body says “recovery”…

Maligiaq was first bringing my luggage to the school, where all participants of the competition were supposed to stay the next week.

We were driving then down to the qajaq house, unpacking and assembling my Qaanaaq SS.

It was the only hard-shell-kayak around, but at least it is Greenland-style looking :-) ) Maligiaq likes it, as he was using it before on his two visits to Japan.He got one donated there, too, but as it was no 4-pieces it is still in Japan…

Seeing all those strap-on skegs, I was thinking to add one to mine, too, as it weather cocks incredibly when I want to use it for paddling… we’ll work on that tomorrow. ..

We made a short stop at the “Greenlandic School of Arts”, where the Qajaq club rented an additional room for building paddles and kayaks before the competition, besides the workshop they have in the qajaq house.

There were about 15 qajaqs in different finishing stages, and the atmosphere seemed like busy work on the last days close to the competition.

Amazingly I saw them more working *on* their kayaks than working out *in* the kayaks on the water, actually nobody was busy rolling or paddling some distance for training…

We drove back to the school, and Maligiaq decided to invite me to stay instead at an empty apartment belonging to his family, where Javier lived, too.

I felt it was an honor to get that invitation, having a bit more privacy and “luxury”, and agreed happily!

So we grabbed my luggage again, and we drove up to a two-story apartment house, overlooking the village on a hill. I got a nice single room, and Javier and I made ourselves at home in our international “kayaker’s living community”.

He and I went food shopping, and Javier, knowing Greenland already a bit more than I as a “newbie” showed me the small local market, where the fishermen sell directly their latest catch.

There was seal, whale and various fish for sale, directly unskinned, cut and sliced on the tables there.

Nothing to look at for people who are not used to see blood, and only know neatly cut pieces of meat sealed in clean plastic foil…but as my father was a hunter, too, and I passed my hunting license already as a young girl, trying to follow in his footsteps, I was used to that “bloody” view.
There were slices of whale fins, whose texture were exactly looking like white fiberglass, and obviously felt like it, too, when you chewed on them…

Javier bought whale meat, which looked pretty good, big pieces of dark red meat, with no bones and tendons in it. I tried that already once on the Lofoten Islands in Norway, it tastes like a mixture of beef, fish and cat, but ok. You just need to get used to the smell once fried…

The “matak” from a mink whale he bought, too, was a bit harder to take, and even to look at.

A piece consisted of the about ½ cm thick dark leathery skin of the whale, with about 3 cm of white fat underneath, followed by ½ cm of red meat.

You were supposed to cut little blocks and eat that raw as a local specialty, or fried.  It has lots of vitamins…but I was honest to admit I preferred to get my vitamins from fresh oranges and German-style dark bread which were luckily available, too…

Javier turned out to be a perfect cook and houseman in our kitchen, and he even made a cake for us which was almost instantly gone… :-)

Later we walked down to the qajaq house, and I got to see Uluunguaq, Maligiaq’s girlfriend, working on her first roll with another guy standing in the water.

Greenlandic women seem not to roll as much as some men do, I think they need to catch up a bit as the American and European women did already.

But I think it’s mainly the lack of good warm equipment which prevents them from diving more frequently into the ice-cold water in the short summer month, and pools are rarely to be found in Greenland. There are actually only two, one in Nuuk, one here in Sisimiut, and so small I wonder if they let them in with the kayaks.

The traditional sealskin tuilik, a paddling jacket combined with hood and spray deck, is heavy, inflexible and way less waterproof than a good neoprene one, so having good (dry) underwear like neoprene- or dry suit is really necessary to get it going in theses cold waters.

A sealskin tuilik or aquuilisak needs to be soaked in water first before you can wear it.

 

Lisa and Christel  were working on a sealskin to soften it, to get it ready to sew two aquuilisaks, the summer spray skirts, out of it.

It looked like hard work, rubbing, stretching and pulling it over a wooden pole for hours until it seems soft enough to be cut and sewed.

In ancient times the women chewed on it to get it soft…ok, it was already hard work and smelly enough just to work on it like that…just what you are used to…admirable skills…

 

 

The seem is stitched waterproof, with nothing to see on the outer surface. This skill obviously needs some experience, and I’m glad we do have our neoprene and dry suits in our country…

Some other sealskin clothes like boots were to be seen, and the women really loved some evening garments like skirts, vests or jackets with the fur still on it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really loved Kaaleraq Bech’s sealskin anorak, actually a men’s garment…

 

 

 

 

 

Later in the museum I got to see all theses old skills and materials displayed, and there was a qajaq completely covered with sealskin, too. At the other end of the town I discovered later a huge Umiak, the women’s boat, with sealskin all over in a good shape. What a work!

 

 

 

 

The qajaqs in our times are all covered with canvas or nylon on the wooden frame, and the painted several times. Still some work…

 

 

 

I think the “invention” of a mitten with two thumbs to flip it around once one side got soaked was interesting…

 

Overall it was already a very interesting and educative first day, and I was looking forward to go for a paddle with Maligiaq and the other guys tomorrow!

 

 

 


Day 2, Sunday, 2nd of July 2006:

We all met at the qajaq house at 11 am for about an hour’s paddle to check out a route for the portage races later in the competition.

We were a group of 11 guys, Uluunguaq and I, paddling through a small channel to the harbor, and the to the end of the fjord up to and old cabin.

 

 

Jørgen , Maligiaq, Elias, Apollo, Enok, Ari and Piitaaraq

 

The guys were making good speed, playfully checking already out each other’s strength for competition, and I had to paddle hard to keep somehow up with them :-)

I noticed again that my carbon paddle is a great rolling tool, but for my style of paddling I need a wider and thinner loom to maintain my high racing style I’m used to from mainly paddling a wing blade on trips.

I traded paddles with Maligiaq, and I just guessed this is what I need, too!
I either hope to make my own “paddling” Greenland blade soon, or at least to take the measurements from what I think I might like for racing.

And again I was missing a skeg…

Back in the qajaq house I offered Uluunguaq a rolling lesson, as I was noticing yesterday the guy helping her was not really able to get her less scared of diving into the cold water…

She agreed, and I noticed that she got more and more relaxed in the way I taught her, and she even got excited about learning more than she could get in the about 1/2 hr until we both froze to death :-)
At least she got her first roll in a proper style!

Maligiaq cut me a skeg out of hard oak wood, and I sharpened it with a plane and sanded it. The strap-on looked pretty good and tight on my carbon hull, and I went out for an hour’s “test paddle” around the nearby lighthouse island.
Beautiful views out there! High snow-capped mountains, solid rocky shores everywhere, hard to find a spot to land.

The qajaq house was just left open with nobody there, the TV was running, assumingly no problem. But later I noticed I was way not the last one there tonight at 9pm, people are working or starting to paddle even later due to the permanent daylight…

I walked up to the apartment, meeting Javier who told me there was a freshly cooked whale meat stew waiting for me…how nice! I tried a bit, but I must admit I did have a hard time more with the fishy smell all over the kitchen…


Day 3, Monday, 3rd of July 2006:

I do still have some problems sleeping when the sun is bright all night, and started to get creative covering my window with towels and blankets. Maybe a blindfold on my eyes would work better :-) ?
But being a morning person, and having a 4hrs jetlag and bright sunshine outside didn’t make me staying in bed for long.

We had a whale watching session this morning, directly from our apartment window! I felt sorry I forgot to bring my binoculars…

The walk back and forth to the apartment and to the qajaq house is always a good training, carrying my gear bags. I think I could use some workout like that to get in shape for the competition!

Across the qajaq house there is an island with sledge dogs running free spending the summer, and every time the owner is rowing over with food or water they start a great “concert”, sounding more like howling wolves rather than like barking dogs…I wish I could record that sound!

Being down there way too early for “Greenlandic time”, I just started a paddle on my own to explore the area.

My first landing ashore way north was my first encounter with millions of flies and mosquitoes, too, and I was thinking about my head net lying safe and sound in my room…

My second landing on a sandy beach on a dog-free island didn’t have any mosquitoes, and I went for a short nap to warm up in the bright sun…and felt just great!

Heading back to Sisimiut I passed the airport with a plane just landed, and I was almost paddling onto the runway…no fences…

The most important safety device was obviously a motor raft to rescue the people who didn’t hit the short airstrip, surrounded by water

The little islands close to the airport had signs on top: ”no dogs”, and I was wondering whether they were concerned about the dogs or the planes…

Back at the qajaq house I was landing as usual at the bottom of the stairs, and on the exit I somehow lost balance and fell into the cold water…how embarrassing, but nobody saw me…

Climbing upstairs with the kayak on my head and the dripping clothes, the just arrived group from the US  greeted me with: ”Hallo, Freya, were you out rolling?” …at least I had a tuilik on…but I embarrassedly admitted I just fell into the water on the exit…

Maligiaq was busy adding some sealskin deck lines to his newly made racing kayak.

He stretched the sealskin lines and made them smooth by running them several times through a piece of a caribou antler.

Kaalerq Bech, the Sisimiut qajaq club president, was holding an official meeting at the school about the Paartoq Race at night, which will be up for the next three days. They showed the route and what to bring on the overnight stays.

I went to bed at midnight, still feeling it was right in the middle of the day…

 

 

 


Day 4, Tuesday, 4th of July 2006:

Again a beautiful bright sunny morning! A good start for the Paartoq race, day one!

Meeting at the qajaq house was scheduled at 8.30 am.

Maligiaq and his best friend Jørgen Leander showed up in really “professional” looking bicycle dresses for the race, stating clear who the champions are supposed to be!

All 18 kayaks of the participants were loaded on a bigger fisher boat, stacked on logs across the whole boat.

It was an enjoyable one hour’s sail to Assaqutaq, an abandoned village down the fjord located in a beautiful bay.

I’m sorry I can’t completely explain the historical background of the race, it was somehow about bringing a letter to two other villages connected to Sisimiut, to celebrate Sisimiut’s 250th anniversary.

For us it meant 3 days of paddling (racing!) through beautiful fjords and scenery, every morning getting a ride to a different starting point.

Today will be 35 km long. Everybody prepared himself in his own way, storing energy bars and – jelly under the deck lines, filling water bags, and getting dressed.

Although there were about 10 little escort boats besides most of the paddlers, it is still amazing with what few equipment Greenlanders are heading out offshore on ice cold water…

No PFD anywhere, the sealskin summer aquusiliak was not really a waterproof connection to the kayak when it would come to rolling up again…

For clothes I decided in the last minute, too, to go short sleeved, as it was a *race* and paddling fast makes me understandable sweating easily…and chances for me capsizing were low I assumed :-)

But I wore my open palm neoprene gloves, as the water was still ice cold, and my hands are getting easily ice cold, to… :-( (

I was using my Qaanaaq SS for racing, as I didn’t bring another boat, and the other kayaks Maligiaq offered me to use either did not fit me or I considered them even slower than my low volume rolling boat.

Line up for the start, and all 18 people were paddling like hell to get in a good position.

Only three women were participating, Alison Sigethy from the US, Uluunguaq and I.

Uluunguaq, a lovely, tiny little 24 year old of about 45 kgs was surprisingly sticking to my stern for about ½ hr until she dropped off! Good job, girl! I didn’t expect her to be that fast and tough. She came in 8th in the whole field after the 35 km, leaving lots of guys behind, too!

I came in 6th overall, with 3 hrs 43 min, 7 min distance to Uluunguaq, but still 25 min distance to Maligiaq, coming in first… Alison finished in 4 hrs 51 min and was 15th after two guys dropped out.

The portage in the middle of the race was new for me, and I was glad I used my (usually :-) ) easy to enter end exit Qaanaaq, and it was very lightweight, too.

But no way *running* the portage! I was just glad my legs were still working after 20 km in that flat-seated 4,80 m kayak which is really good at everything, but not made for racing.

Anyway, I gained one position on the portage, which I was able to hold the second half.

We ended the day in the small village of Sarfannguaq, where already a big party at the harbor was organized by the village locals! Barbecues, live music, and selling this and that gave the locals obviously a good reason to party, too.

I felt just a bit sorry about my gear bag was put on the boat escorting the last paddler, so I had to wait until I could change in warm and dry clothes for more than one hour…Greenlandic organization :-) , but oh well…

I lost my newly built strap-on skeg after about 1 hr of paddling, as I guessed the strap would be enough without tape :-( , but wrong…ok, continuing without skeg, and hoping for straight or no winds the next days. But even the few waves from the escort boats were bothering my feather-light flat-bottomed boat…

Considering all that non-specialized gear and that I was not really used to the Greenlandic paddle for racing, I was quite contend with my average speed of about 10 km per hour!

I had to adapt my high widely gripped racing style to my narrow-loomed rolling paddle, and this felt a bit strange all day. But luckily no blisters were showing on my hands, but on some other people’s who had a rougher wooden shaft.

Watching the different paddling styles I found everything from the “Greenlandic” low narrow grip with high paddling frequency to the other “European” high racing style I do more prefer.

 

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Kaalaraq Bech, the Sisimiut Qajaq Club president, announcing the day’s results

 

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When there’s no room, just make room…

 

After a mutual dinner with the announcement of the day’s results we were sleeping at a school and kindergarten, and I was so naughty to place myself single in the kiddy’s nap room with 8 tiny little beds and some nice air condition…but I used my sleeping pad and didn’t squeeze myself in one of theses cute little beds…

 

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The favorite way to spend the night for most of the Greenlandic guys was watching the world’s soccer competition on TV – in the kindergarten… :-)


 

Day 5, Wednesday, 5th of July 2006:

Starting another bright and sunny, but a bit more windy day with loading all kayaks this time on the 9 little escort motorboats.

 

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Each boat took two qajaqs across, and the people and gear.

 

I’m really used to a convoy of *cars* heading to a launching point, but this was very different, and obviously a very “Greenlandic” way of doing the ride!

It was almost a race of all 9 boats in two hours up to the next starting point in Saqqaq, and the cold air felt good when you were dressed properly on the open little boats.

 

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I was lucky to be squeezed in nicely and warm between two Greenlandic guys :-)

 

I caught a ride on Morton’s red rubber raft, and this felt like bouncing on a trampoline the whole time! That was fun! But the two kayaks we were transporting were doing the same, and I was thinking of my poor little very thin gel-coated carbon Qaanaaq…

It was nicely strapped to another boat, but I forgot to ask for some padding, so it got some gel coat damage on the rough long ride…but Marine Sealant was handy in my repair kit.

 

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We arrived after a two hrs ride in the beautiful bay of Saqqaq, and had about two hrs for lunch and getting ready again.

 

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No bugs this time…Maligiaq’s mom was busy taking care that everybody had enough dried fish to eat.

 

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A good catch of fish drying in the sun

 

I thought the strap-on skeg James Song from the US was generously offering me to use (as his folding kayak was broken) was doing his job today in keeping me paddling straight, but no way…

I was paddling the whole time on one side only until to the portage, and Uluunguaq saw her chance and even came in 10 sec earlier to the portage…but I was quicker in exiting, running and entering and again gained two positions!

 

The wind direction changed, so the second leg was a bit easier to paddle straight, and it was 20 km overall today only.

But I only came in Itilleq as 9th with 2 hrs 4 min, Uluunguaq 5 min later as 10th.

 

We had fun showing off the crowd a few rolls in the ice cold harbor water, with shirt sleeved summer cags on…4 rolls were really more than enough.

Amazingly my bag was there arriving before me today, and I was looking forward to a nice hot shower. But when it was my turn the guys had showered all the hot water off… :-( and I was freezing again for some hours.

Men and women in the same shower room…no problem in Greenland…ok, at least with some curtains for privacy, but I wouldn’t have cared anyway…

 

A good dinner with the announcement of the results, and sleeping in the school finished the exciting day! As all three days will count together, I was not worried about NOT winning the lady’s part of the whole thing tomorrow…


Day 6, Thursday 6th of July 2006:

Starting off again with loading the kayaks on the little motorboats, I took good care this time that my Qaanaaq was loaded on the only rubber raft, and it was padded enough on that!

I held it close all the time, and I was glad that on this two hours *very* rough ride it came off without any damage at Uummannaarsuk.

 

The weather was not that nice (what is “nice”?) this morning, and as expected there were some *nice* waves out there!

These are *my* conditions, as I easily get bored on flat water… :-) and I took my chance on the second half in really rough stuff to pull out my experience and fun in rough water, overtaking overall no. 3 and 5 at that part.

 

4 participants were stopping during that day, and 4 didn’t even start at all…no wonder with *that* gear and the rough conditions.

I came in 5th that day, with 3 hrs 27 min for about 30 km.
Uluunguaq stopped with no big wave experience and no rolling skills, but Alison came through with 4 hrs 13 min!

 

Jørgen Leander, a tall strong tough guy and great runner, skier and mountain biker, but with little kayaking experience, capsized twice, bailed out, got rescued on the escort boat, changed clothes, and started off again, obviously not willing to give up!

Tough guy…congrats on that job! I assume everybody else would have stopped under those conditions…

Hi finished the day last with 4 hrs 16 min, but at least came in and got a score for the whole race!

 

The arrival in Sisimiut was like a village party again, TV, radio and press all over. The whole race was reported constantly on the local radio, I wonder what the guy was talking all the time… :-)

 

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Maligiaq Padilla won as expected with 8 hrs 1 min over all three days.

 

I finished 6th overall with 9 hrs 15 min, and was quite contend with myself…a picture of me carrying my Qaanaaq on my head filled the whole front page of the newspaper the next day :-)

 

Maligiaq got a black sealskin tie from the major of the town, and his sponsored prize for winning was a huge TV! Apollo Zeeb was 2nd, got a little smaller TV, and Piitaaraq Janussen as 3rd, a DVD player.

The woman’s winner prize I got was a very attractive Greenlandic bone sculpture, showing a kayak and 3 Inuit men pulling a walrus out of the water. I like that!

 

Results from the Paartoq Race 2006:

1. Maligiaq Padilla                3.18.04   1.46.14   2.57.24     8.01.42

2. Apollo Zeeb                       3.20.19   1.47.40   3.20.09     8.13.11

3. Piitaaraq Janussen          3.29.41   1.50.36   3.30.56     8.51.13

4. Enok Matthiassen             3.37.12   1.54.38   3.20.09     8.51.59

5. Niels Thomassen              3.47.57   1.58.19   3.39.38     9.25.54

6. Freya Hoffmeister             3.43.40   2.04.01   3.27.30     9.15.11

7. Kristian Ari Josefsen        3.52.34   2.07.41   3.23.09     9.23.24

8. Jørgen Leander                3.41.50   1.54.43   4.16.24     9.52.57

9. Jafet Davidsen                  4.16.20   2.40.06   3.44.02   10.40.28

10.Alison Sigethy                  4.51.25   2.40.00   4.12.59    11.44.25

Uluunguaq Rosbach             3.50.36   2.09.43

Emaanooraq Nathansen      4.03.54   2.02.32

Kasper Larsen                      4.24.58   2.02.44

Javier Knoerr                        4.59.32   2.50.29

Thomas Milani                      5.17.15   3.00.07

Simon Jensen                      1.58.02

Hilmer Christensen              2.10.54

James Song


 

Day 7, Friday 7th July 2006:

Back “home” in our apartment, we had pancakes for breakfast. Later I went a bit food shopping in town, and noticed that you really can buy “everything” in Sisimiut.

A Greenlander without a cell phone was non existing, they are even more “heavy users” than we are! Talking and texting all the time, I found it even more strange than we do, maybe because I didn’t expect it here?

I was walking the whole day up and down to the qajaq house and to the workshop, talking here and there, helping building qajaqs, and watching and learning. Not much of a workout today, but very interesting and educational.

I was glad to see my one and only little piece of “iceberg” floating by my apartment window this night, as it was unusual for Sisimiut at this time of the year. Actually, I would have loved to paddle with icebergs, but on the other hand the water might have been then even some degrees colder for rolling…


 

Day 8, Saturday 8th of July 2006:

Alison and I went for a short paddle to check out the competition site, especially the expected portage…

Dubside, who arrived yesterday, had obviously the same idea, and met us halfway. We stopped at the airport again, and were so naughty to curiously almost enter the airfield…

Back at the qajaq house, we got dressed for some rolling practise, and a few guys were watching us, obviously very interested in what we were doing…

 

I just stepped out of the shower, still dressed in my dry suit, when Jørgen passed by, and I instantly offered him a rolling lesson here and now, as on the next race he better should roll up when capsized :-)

Although having no gear with him he agreed, and I got him dressed almost dry with dry top and tuilik, but I had no matching bottoms! No matter, he said, and jumped just in his underwear in my wet Qaanaaq to keep his jeans dry for later…:-) He did a good job, and got a proper standard roll before he got a bit cold then…

 

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This is *not* Jørgen… :-)

 

Lisa liked some instruction, too, but as she was more experienced and came up alone in any case, I could happily stay off the water and just talk.

Just before Jørgen, Maligiaq’s best friend, started his rolling practise with me, he told me confidently about Maligiaq having had a motorboat accident, and was lying in hospital…nobody really knew how serious it was…but at that time of the day we couldn’t do anything but waiting.

I was very worried about Maligiaq all night, and I was supposed not to talk about it to anyone at that time.

Idun, Javier’s nice Greenlandic girlfriend arrived, and I moved downstairs in another room in our apartment to give them upstairs a bit more privacy, Javier and I worked out the mattress problem the night before already :-) ) – and were laughing a lot !


 

Day 9, Sunday 9th of July 2006:

Again just talking, watching, helping building qajaqs, getting the last things done before the competition starts next day. Most of the people were finishing their qajaqs in last minute late at night, and put them first to water at almost midnight…

I asked Jørgen about internet access in his home, and I got to do my e-mail.

Later we wet to the hospital, visiting Maligiaq. He didn’t seem to be well, and suffered a lot from his bruises and a damaged back. But at least he could move his legs, it could have been worse…

Maligiaq wanted to trade his truck for a motorboat, and the guy who owned the boat offered a test ride. Unfortunately the boat’s owner was still suffering a bit from the Friday night’s party, and hit the shore. The boat got thrown over, and Maligiaq was unconscious for 6 hrs…

Sh.. happens…the champion was out of the race :-( (


 

Day 10, Monday 10th of July 2006:

The Greenlandic national championship was started, with an official opening ceremony with a procession to the church, and a service with placing of wreaths.

It was very formal, very festive with flags and formal dresses.

Over the competition site there was a string with flags of all nations participating, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Great Britain, USA, Canada…

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Over the competition site there was a string with flags of all nations participating, Greenland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Great Britain, USA, Canada…

 

I went food shopping in the lunch break, and I was glad that Maligiaq allowed me to use his racing kayak and offered transport on Jørgen’s uncle Steffen Olsen’s truck to the competition site, as there was no “official” transport…be creative and have connections…

My Qaanaaq could follow tomorrow as I didn’t need it today for the short distance race.

Underestimating the time I need to walk up and down to my apartment, I was glad to meet Javier at the school waiting in a taxi for Idun, and I happily jumped in to get transported to the competition site on the other side of the bay.

There was supposed to be a bus transport, but nobody knew what time it was going…and I didn’t want to be late at the first day! But no worries, things started slow…

 

Still excited about my first race in the competition and the first time in Maligiaq’s qajaq, using his paddle and spray skirt, too, I didn’t know about the skills of the other 18 woman participating in the 20-34 years old class. I downsized my age of 42 to that class, as I expected a bit more of competition there… :-)

The start was like a heavy struggle out of the crowd, with bouncing into each other’s kayak, pushing sideways to get free space for paddling. I almost lost my paddle on that struggle…but before we had to go around a corner I was glad to be at least a kayak length ahead of the whole crowd.

The short distance was only 2 km, on flat water, going around two buoys…not really my favourite conditions. I arrived at the finishing line  in 09.05.82. IUluunguaq came in 2nd with 09.35.58, Lisa 3rd with 09.41.50.

 

At 8pm it was the kid’s race in front of the clubhouse in easier to control conditions amongst the rocks, and it was fun to watch the youngsters fighting like champions…

 

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Camilla

 

The youngest ones were allowed to use an “outrigger” for stability, a wooden bar strapped crosswise over the stern, and two empty drinking bottles, plastic ducks or whatever floats was strapped to the ends. How cute!

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Sandra

 

The cheering was not less than at the adult’s race, Greenlanders love to cheer, shout, sing and dance for motivation their favourite competitor. What a noise! Another great event.

 

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Greenlanders love to show off where thy belong to…


 

Day 11, Tuesday, 11th of July 2006:

Today is individual rolling day, my favourite discipline…

I organized my Qaanaaq getting transported on Morton’s red rubber raft again, and he took good care about bringing it safely to the competition beach.

I knew already the rolling skills of the Greenlandic women in my class, and was more worried about Alison’s skills… she was able to do a roll I was still struggling with, the under the hull sculling roll…

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Alison Sighety from the US

 

We were 8 women overall, 6 Greenlandic in the early 20 years, Alison and I.

I had to perform 3rd, and there was no Avatoq available at that time. I never did that roll, as I have no Avatoq to work with, but considering my other skills I was not worried I would get that, too.

 

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Two sealskin Avatoq’s, the hunting float of the Greenlanders

Kampe, our judge, was fair enough not to give any other woman a try on that when an avatoq showed up later for competition.

I had to pick my own brick before I started, too, and the one Kampe was contending with was way bigger than the one I was training with…

So I missed the avatoq chance, skipped all sculling rolls, and messed up the forward finishing brick rolls. And I did no walrus pull in my fragile Qaanaaq.

The rest went ok, although I needed a second try on two or three rolls, and I must admit I felt my left straightjacket roll was a bit too loose…but I got the points for that.

 

Overall 275 points, plus 10 “virtual” points for the missing avatoq, this made me 3rd in the men’s field…

Only Dubside, who scored unbelievable 352 points and Kunuunnguaq Davidsen, the first Greenlandic man with 296 points, scored better!

 

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Kunuunnguaq Davidsen

 

Jakob Peter Enoksen had 281 points, Kristian Ari Josefsen 248 points, and Tonnes Lyberth, first in the age group 15-17 scored 223 points.

After this top group of five people scoring more than 200 points there was Alison doing well (unfortunately she missed some rolls she normally hits) with 183 (+10 missing avatoq) points, and Philipp from Canada with 136 points. All others had well under 100 points…

This means to me either they have good equipment like dry suit or neoprene under the sealskin tuilik, or they don’t have it, and are not really able to practice in the ice cold water then…not really equal circumstances…some did some strange movements to get warm again :-)

 

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break dance in neoprene on the beach…

 

Next time I’ll think about the advantage of the wind direction…Dubside, who missed only one forward finishing brick roll, was clever enough to turn around sometimes!

 

Maligiaq showed up at the beach, walking with help, but *walking*, and he was driving his truck on his own today…!

 

The afternoon was for the kid’s rope competition, in windy and foggy conditions, and I decided to rather catch a ride home for a hot shower and a bit of a nap, to be in good shape for the first price giving ceremony night!

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The kids were in unbelievable good shape!

 

The Greenlandic participants got their gold, silver and bronze medals in their age category.

The international people who competed got as an award the same pin, patch and sticker, regardless to the place they achieved.

I knew it was the National Greenlandic Championship, I was just a guest, not a Greenlander and I was not using the traditional sealskin gear, and I was happy to be able to participate.

But it still felt strange winning the overall women’s field, but the gold medal goes to someone else…they promised us “real” medals for “later”, but…


 

Day 12, Wednesday, 12th of July 2006:

It’s portage race today, and I felt more comfortable using my lightweight Qaanaaq again rather than Maligiaq’s racing qajaq at that short distance, as I couldn’t enter and exit his qajaq easily, and it was much heavier than mine.

This time it was Lisa who had a better start than I had, but at the turning point of the first buoy I had the advantage of the inside passage and got free off her then following me too close.

The portage went well and quick without incidents, and I came in first again with 14 min 19 sec. Lisa was 2nd with 14 min 47 sec, and Uluunguaq 3rd this time with 14 min 55 sec.

Maligiaq showed up again, this time trying to walk alone… but painful…tough guy!

 

In the men’s field the first three men were disqualified, as they went a wrong way at one of the portages. I can imagine that this happens easily, although they try to mark the way with little flags. But carrying a kayak the Greenlandic way on your head you can’t see very far…

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“Portage” in the Greenlandic way, during the race…

 

They started the adult’s rope event, with three judging teams working the same time, but they had to stop at midnight, before the international competitors came to compete.

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Strengh and power on the ropes, demonstrated by Piitaaraq Janussen from Paamiut

I didn’t compete at the ropes, as I feel my elbows wouldn’t like that again…maybe I’m too heavy :-) ??


Day 13. Thursday, 13th of July 2006:

It’s team rolling day, usually fun to do it, but there was only Alison and me…we asked a Greenlandic woman to participate with us, and were happy to find Bibi Kilesen. But no other Greenlandic women teams were starting…

 

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A Greenlandic men’s team in sealskin tuiliks

 

Bibi was able to do all layback stuff, but no forward finishing, or hand rolls.

She seemed to be very nervous about getting to perform with us experienced rollers, and we did our best to support her. She unhappily failed on an armpit roll, and lost her paddle. The guy floating close by for assisting her on rescuing came up to her a bit late, and the poor girl seemed to have swallowed a lot of water…and had to stop.

No bailing out in sealskin out of these tight fitting rolling kayaks…and no spare paddle or handroll ability…sh.. happens again.

Alison and I kept on playing around a bit, as it was not worth to get wet with so few rolls…but “first place” anyway :-)

 

The rope event for international competitors was continuing this afternoon, and Dubside broke the record with incredible 642 points!

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The rope judge Jens Peter Möller just fell off his chair seeing Dubside’s result :-)

 

I kept myself busy in the afternoon with climbing a nearby mountain, and after dinner at the school the harpoon throwing started at 7pm, stopping at midnight, but at least it got finished.

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Piitaaraq Janussen smiling on the harpoon competition

 

I wonder how Kampe, the judge, could still count the all yellow balls marking the distance in that light…every 5th and 10th ball in a different color would have been easier…

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Harpoon throwing

 

No harpooning for me, as I do not own one, and I didn’t like to ask someone about borrowing and competing without practice.

 

Juumie from Baffin Island is still hunting with a heavy harpoon some whales, but he uses a motorboat…

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Juumie and his auntie from Baffin Island

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Juumie, and Phillipp from Canada

 

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The Greenlandic way of storing guns…

 

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Carrying parts of the prey back home, no driving possible…

 

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…and what’s leftover then… :-)

a skull of a musk ox


 

Day 14, Friday, 14th of July 2006:

In the morning it was kid’s long distance race, the adult’s long distance started at 2pm.

I chose to use Maligiaq’s kayak, and again I came in first of all women, with 27.51. Uluunguaq was 2nd with 28.49, Lisa 3rd with 29.52.

 

I watched the men’s long distance race from Morten’s escorting rubber raft, this was more fun than just standing at the beach and waiting until they were coming back!

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Jørgen in the long distance race

 

Maligiaq was running around already with less and less pain, but still suffering…

At night I asked him about e-mailing at his house, and I was welcome to use his computer.

I was glad to see that Uluunguaq loves to keep a nice and well decorated home, and felt very good later with her singing to the guitar! She plays very well, and has a lovely voice.

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Uluunguaq and Maligiaq enjoying their nice home, singing to to the guitar

 

I left at 1am, being polite assuming they wanted to go to bed soon, but they told me later they have been out then until 5am… :-) ) – Greenlandic all-daylight schedule…when do people sleep here???


Day 15, Saturday, 15th of July 2006:

It’s team race today, more fun than serious…teaming up with Alison and Idun, Javier’s Greenlandic girlfriend.

I was the third starter in the race, and had to fill up the gap at the end…no chance, but at least we got from the 5th place after the first round over the 3rd place after the second to the 2nd place then…1st place international anyway…

 

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And you could see DUBSIDE racing, in a WHITE shirt!!! Unbelievable!

Again there was a price giving ceremony at the gymnasium, an endless row of awarding medals for all the different disciplines in the different age categories, with shouting, singing and applauding as loud a possible!

Some participants helped themselves carrying the weight of all the medals in the shirt pockets after hanging them around the neck :-)

 

Maligiaq invited me to join a private “after ceremony” party that night, and I got to know what a “real” Greenlandic young kayakers party was meant to be! Singing, shouting, dancing, drinking all night long, until I had to leave at 5 am to get at least 3 hrs of sleep for that night…we had fun! And Maligiaq was somehow “dancing” already! Seems as if patying is a good treatment… :-) When it came time to party, I felt the Greenlandic men were well mannered, yet also “party-animals”, behaving way more nicely and clean when drunk than many other nations…


 

Day 16, Sunday 16th of July 2006:

Today is the race to Assaqutaq, offside the official National competition, with sponsored prices to win (which I didn’t know before…)!

And I didn’t know about that there was again a portage, and I was worried about having to handle Maligiaq’s kayak I chose to use. It was so heavy, and I couldn’t see anything :-) ), but I made it at least the launching point again, and headed quickly off. I was somehow glad about being able to stretch out my legs on the portage, as his kayak was a bit too short for me on 3 hrs of paddle.

15 people started, 8 men, 5 women finished.

I was able to overtake Enok Mattiassen, who was always way ahead of me, in the last ½ hr, with a bit of (my favourite!) headwinds. I “apologized” at night with giving him an extra dance…

Apollo Zeeb won in 2 hrs 53 min, Elias Inuusuttoq was 2nd with 2 hrs 55 min, Arne Simonsen was 3rd with 3 hrs 3 min.

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Apollo Zeeb, the fastest Greenlandic men, got raised by the crowd in his qajaq after he won the final race.

 

I was 4th (1st woman) with 3 hrs 13 min, and Enok came in 5th with 3 hrs 14 min, then Steffen Olsen with 3 hrs 21 min.

The second woman was Ane Simonsen with 3 hrs 58 min, and Lisa was 3rd, with 4 hrs 14 min.

The first three men and women got sponsored money prices, 1st place 3000 Dkr, 2nd 2000 Dkr, 3rd 1000 Dkr…

I think it was worth starting with three hrs of sleep only! Thanks, sponsors!
I felt this was exactly the money I spent on having to buy the extra flight to be able to come earlier…

 

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The official “banquet” night was held in the big city gymnasium, with long rows of tables with nicely set (paper and plastic) plates and cutlery. Flags were hanging out, and some candles made it very festive. The dinner was very well spiced and lean beef with potatoe gratin, delicious!

 

Then the obligate official speeches, the price ceremonies of the last two days, and the award for the sponsored race today and for the Paartoq Race.

The overall winner in all disciplines were called out.  They give 21 points for each 1st place, 18 points for each 2nd place, 15 points for each 3rd, and so on…adding the points up and who has most is “Kayak women or men of the year”.

Uluunguaq won the “Greenlandic National Championships” with 104 points, competing in all 9 events, followed by Lisa with 90 points, and Bibsi Ottensen with 78 points.

At the men’s it was Kristian Ari Josefsen with 130 points, followed by Jakob Peter Enoksen with 118 points, and Piitaaraq Janusson with 99 points.

For myself I was content to know that *IF* I could compete in the Greenlandic class I would have been the “Kayaking women of the Year”, having 5 x 1st places and 1 x 2nd, 123 points overall, and having not competed in all events like ropes and 2 x harpoon throwing…but that’s the game! I was proud I was able to participate and rather loved to compare my skills to the men’s :-) )

 

Once the official pricing ceremony was over, dancing started until 1 am.

I had to try the “Greenlandic Polka dance” with Javier, which really reminded me to a German village party :-)   Again mutual singing, circle dancing and the obligate “Polonaise” line dance (or however it is named in English…) – overall EVERYBODY was dancing and having fun (which I rarely see in German parties…)

 

The second “after award” private party used all my last energy, going to bed at 6am…and today I can’t talk anymore :-) ) :-) ) :-) ) – this is why I’m writing TODAY that much!

I felt very sorry my flashlight at my camera wasn’t working any more after a couple of days, so very few indoor pictures were taken :-( (, no ceremony or party pics…

 

I’ll stay here a bit longer, and will update my blog as soon I need to recover again from a true 2 day’s “Greenlandic party” with paddling hard in between…

 

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Thanks to Steffen Olsen to let me use his computer for more than 10 hours now…hope the salt was able to be washed off your face after the last race!


Back home, I got the time to edit and upload my pics.

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I found a spot of snow in July to play with…

 

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