Kayak champion to visit Port Angeles

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Sequim Gazette staff

Helen Wilson, Greenland National Kayaking Champion, visits Port Angeles on July 30 as she examines modern kayaking throughout the world and how ancient skills are becoming increasing popular using both traditional and modern equipment.


The talk, entitled, “Greenland Culture and the Kayak Championships,” is open to the general public.


In recent years kayaking has grown in popularity throughout the world, although many people are unaware of the long history associated with it. Four thousand years ago people in the Arctic were using qajaqs for hunting and fishing. Their boats were extremely buoyant, made of seal skin and easy to self-right, even if turned over completely.


Rolling the qajaq was an essential self-rescue skill that was learned and used in case of a capsize. Various rolls were developed to handle any and all situations that might arise, from being entangled in fishing lines, to losing a paddle and needing to roll using hunting equipment; or using only hands or elbows to right oneself.


As the world changed, qajaqs weren’t being used as much for survival and there developed a concern that the history and culture associated with the sport could be lost. This is why, in 1984, the Greenlanders started kayaking clubs in several regions in Greenland. Competitions are held yearly and include racing, harpoon throwing, rolling and rope gymnastics. The purpose of these competitions is to keep tradition alive and to teach the skills that the Greenlanders have used for so many years. The Greenland National Kayaking Championship takes place over the course of a week and all ages, from children to the elderly, compete.


In 2008, Wilson competed in this championship in Qaqortoq, Greenland, and again in 2010 in Nuuk, Greenland, receiving five medals in four disciplines.


Wilson is a sea kayaker out of Arcata, Calif. She specializes in traditional paddling skills using traditional equipment.  


She performs rolling demonstrations, presentations and instructs at events worldwide.


Wilson has written skills articles for several publications, including Sea Kayaker magazine, The Masik and Ocean Paddler magazine, in which she has an ongoing feature.


In 2010, Wilson released an instructional DVD, “Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson,” which is available worldwide.


She has instructed at more than 50 events and symposiums in the United States, Italy, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Israel, Norway, Estonia and Holland.


In the next year she plans to return to many of the same places, adding Wales, Japan, New Zealand and Australia to the list.


For more information about Wilson, visit,


On this trip, Wilson is accompanied by British native Mark Tozer, who was a paddler and active coach for 25 years. He has participated in and led expeditions to Norway, Iceland, Alaska, Greenland, Kenya, Ecuador, Tanzania and Morocco.


Tozer’s exploits and activities can be followed at


Throughout the weekend of July 30-31, Wilson and Tozer will be conducting several rolling sessions. The classes are for those wanting to learn a first roll, learn another side roll or get a more consistent roll. For those interested in Greenland-style rolling, layback, forward finish, norsaq and hand rolls also can be covered.


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