Greenland Kayak Training Camp Weekend – Qajaq USA

Over a long 4 day weekend I had a very different and very enjoyable experience at the Qajaq (pronounced kayak) Training Camp.  It is called training camp because it is a training and learning event, with lots of mentoring, and I’m just guessing the camp part because it is held at a private camp – Camp Lookout in Northwestern Michigan with Lower Lake Herring on one side of the camp and Lake Michigan on another side just over a small sand dune.


Getting Ready

Locked and Loaded

It is a beautiful wooded location on sand dunes; there are very few flat areas in the camp.   The camp faces Lower Herring Lake, with no roads to the camp; the only way to get there is by boat, so you have to paddle your kayak over to the camp.  Camp Lookout first opened in 1917 as a girl’s summer camp, there have only been three owners of the camp, and many of the individuals that went to the camp were multi-generational.  Going there reminded me of going to summer camp when I was young, it was a nice feeling.


Camp Lookout

Camp Lookout Dock and Dinning Hall

Qajaq Training Camp is put on by Qajaq USA.  According to Qajaq USA: “This is a non profit membership organization that is officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat (The Greenland Kayaking Association).  Qajaq USA is committed to supporting Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland Kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking the United States.”


Lake Michigan in front of Camp

Lake Michigan in front of Camp

The food was excellent prepared under the direction of Chef Michael Gray of Uncommon Adventures .  He has a cook book available “Hey, I’d Eat This At Home!” for those interested in preparing and tasting some of the food served at the training camp. Click on the Uncommon Adventures link above for more info.  Michael has a fantastic personality to go along with his culinary skills.  He also puts on kayak trips which sound like a bargain for the money knowing the food that comes along with it.  Going on one or more of his trips is on my list of things to do, “bucket list” if you will.


Lower Herring Lake

Lower Herring Lake

There was a Greenland National Kayaking Champion star joining the group for the event, his name is Maligiaq Padilla (first name pronounced muh-LIG-ee-ahk). “Maliqiaq is the undisputed “rock-star” of Greenland Kayaking.  He has won the national championships more times than anyone else in history.”  He is a native Greenlander, very humble, with lots of energy, humor, and character.  He is fun to be around, not to mention his traditional kayak skills which he wants to share.  Click on the link for his name above to learn more about him, a very interesting individual.  He was a very enjoyable addition to the training camp, just one of many parts that made the camp a magical place.  I enjoyed his “paddling on the ground” and “Italian warm-up” work out (you had to be there).


The training sessions are very informal, you find a mentor to work with, tell him what you’re interested in and away you go.  Of course everything has to be traditional that you want to learn.  There is lots of rolling training and static braces, sculling braces being taught.  I learned how to roll my kayak this weekend.  Previously I was able to roll it with a paddle float but not really rolling without it.  I was able to consistently make the roll after getting some training from Don Beale.  Don is a real nice guy, laid back and also very skilled.  Just one of the many great people I met during the weekend.


Static Kayak Brace

A New Kind Of Static Brace By "Rooster"

I can go on and on about how friendly and helpful everyone was at the training.  There was nobody that would not help you with any skill or answer any question.  I was surprised that I received several compliments on my Skin On Frame Greenland kayak.  This because there are so many skilled kayak builders there and this was the first boat I made.  I still have to work on it.


After working on rolling my SOF and spending time in the boat I found the beam at the back of the coaming was hurting my back, need to cut a curve in the beam and add some padding.  The back brace I have there is not keeping the boat comfortable.  I also need to move the foot braces forward just a bit for a tighter fit.  There was a suggestion made to me to add some padding on the Masik for a tighter fit as well to assist the boat in rolling.   My plastic P&H Capella did fine with rolling after I switched boats.


SOF Greenland Boats

SOF Greenland Boats

To raise money they hold a silent auction and for the first time a live auction.  I have been to silent auctions before where there is junk being donated.  Not here, it was all great stuff; I was eyeing the traditional paddles made by Roy Martin that breaks down into 4 parts for traveling.  They were beautiful.  I just could not justify the expense to my budget at the moment.  My kayak budget being well spent this year. There was also a raffle, I won a paddle sock!


One of my friends got roasted during the auction, it was hilarious, people were rolling over laughing.  Gerry made the mistake of bringing a Euro paddle to the event (I did also but stayed under the radar); it got auctioned off to his horror.  It really just got removed from the room but Gerry did not know that at the time, I had to chip in $10.00 to reimburse the young lady (Danielle) that won the exorcism.  Gerry kept raising his hand to stop the auction only to get the price raised.  Gerry was set up by his “friends” so nobody was really picking on him for bringing a Euro paddle as a second paddle.  I wish I had a video of this event.


Training Camp Group

"Gerry's Friends" with Gerry. The "Pack" as we were known with Mailiqiaq (White Shirt) - Which one is Gerry?

There were just so many highlights of the weekend to mention, a very enjoyable weekend that came to an end too fast.  Now I know why people come back every year.  I also joined Qajaq USA while I was there, it was hard not to with all the great people and the quality of the event that was put on.  One word of caution, the food is good, I put on 2-3 pounds during the long weekend, even with lots of exercise.  The three full great tasting meals a day are dangerous.

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