Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Kayakways workshop 08/12/07

Haluu!* And welcome to the next Post of the Small Boat Shop Goes Greenlandic Series!

Sunday the 12th was another beautiful day in South Norwalk. Somebody was in the good graces of the weather gods for these workshops. Fantastic.

Another spectrum - this time of handcrafted paddles.

The rolling section always starts with a demo. Cheri begins here by demonstrating a very basic drill with the avataq. The avataq is a float; originally it was made from the inflated skin of a seal & was fastened to a line attached to a harpoon and when a seal or other marine mammal was hit, this would tire out the animal. In the US, of course, the avataq are all made of neoprene & I believe the primary use is as an aid to learning to roll. In that role, it's so useful that I am considering getting one. Most of the Greenland-style rolling instructors simply start by teaching the sculling brace with back-deck recovery - I've always found that that seems like a lot to throw at a person who hasn't done anything like that before, and I feel like the avataq really simplifies teaching the recovery. Big confidence builder - the student can gradually lighten their grasp on the float as they begin to feel how much support the water gives & what muscles need to activate & deactivate to get from the water to the back deck, until they're not really using it - but they still have it right there, so they know they can use it & not worry about capsizing before they are ready.

Having begun at the very beginning (a very good place to start, I hear), Cheri then works through a selection of rolls.

What's next, Cheri?

Mmm, how about a nice reverse sweep ("kingumut naatillugu", #6 on the Greenland Kayaking Championship list I have).

Then it's time for the students to pair off & get in their boats. That's another advantage of the avataq - using that for the first step simplifies things enough that even total newbies can work together while Cheri & Turner circulate & gradually build on that first drill step by step. I think that's the best thing I got out of this - a nice, simple, clear series of steps to follow that lead to a roll. I've taught people to roll before, but I've actually been more comfortable teaching with a Euroblade, where I have a fairly set series of motions that gradually build on each other - with teaching Greenland style rolling, I've had some success but I've never had a clear idea of the sort of graduated steps that make it all fairly simple & clear. This was a fantastic thing to come away with.

Of course getting people into Cheri & Turner's boats can be a bit of a challenge to begin with - but once you're in, they fit so well it's like rolling NOTHING. Quite wonderful.

At this point the gopher got assigned a guinea pig & had to put her camera away - but I had to get it out when I momentarily fell madly in love with this little catboat...

My guinea pig was great, picked everything up very quickly, and with Turner & Cheri coming by & giving us the next step in the process as he was ready, he made quick progress. It's such a great feeling when everything is falling into place for someone you're working with, and you realize that they are suddenly doing everything right, and you stand back, tell them "Go" and watch them do everything just right. You always have to tell them that they did it themselves - and if they did it right, it was usually so easy they may not believe you.

One other person got her roll on my watch - Cheri had told me to go work with her, and I did the same set of steps; she didn't get it quite as quickly, she was coming up but it wasn't smooth, the paddle kept getting away from her, when in the Greenland standard sweep roll the paddle is parked right on your sternum. Cheri gave us a diagnosis - there was this funny skip happening & I was having a hard time identifying the cause, Cheri explained that this was evidence that her hands, instead of being quiet & following the sweep of the torso, were getting away & shifting the angle of the blade to a climbing angle. We kept working on it until finally she capsized, and visibly paused under the water in a way she hadn't done before. A moment later, and the paddle went right to where it was supposed to be - and she did a beautiful, effortless sweep.

I'm positive I was beaming from ear to ear when she came up - and I'm sure she didn't need me to tell her that yes, that one was GOOD, 'cause I'm sure it just FELT so much better - nevertheless, I began burbling about how pretty it was.

"You know what made it work that time?" she asked.

I was dying of curiousity. What was the key?

"I thought of Jack".

She's a Yonkers Paddling & Rowing Club member & a friend of my friend & first Greenland mentor Jack Gilman (the guy behind that clouds-and-marsh-grass photo). She's probably seen Jack roll about a million times.

She just pictured what his hands do when he rolls - and suddenly her body understood what needed to be done, and did it.

So funny, the things that work for people.

End of a perfect day - and thank goodness those swans are very used to people & let it stay that way!

One last shot of Turner -

I'm so glad they let me participate the way I did.

ps - I found this, and several other ways to say "Hello" in Kalaallisut (the Greenlandic language) on a very enjoyable site. Check it out if you've got a minute or ten to browse, head on over to Jennifer's Hello Pages - it's fun!

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