by Liz Johnson
This article appeared in the October issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker online magazine.
Kayakers around the world are drawn to the simplicity and grace of the Greenland paddle. It's the perfect tool for rolling, but its application goes far beyond rolling and paddling in protected waters. Some of the world’s outstanding paddlers today use Greenland paddles for extensive expeditions and rough water paddling.
Maine, home to the world’s first island trail, has a particular historical connection to Greenland. It seemed natural to celebrate that heritage, while helping Greenland paddlers develop the knowledge, skills and experience for exploring Maine’s unique coastal environment. So the idea for the Maine Greenland Kayak Festival was born.
An outstanding line-up of Coaches and Registered Maine Sea Kayak Guides agreed to teach classes on Journeying, Rough Water Management, Surfing, Rocks & Obstacles, and Beginning and Advanced Rolling. Greg Stamer, Ginni Callahan of Sea Kayak Baja Mexico, Dan Segal, Vernon Doucette, Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry joined Tom Bergh and Liz Johnson at Maine Island Kayak Company on Peaks Island for this ocean event.
Peaks Island and the surrounding waters, islands and ledges offer a unique paddling environment: from the calm, protected area by MIKCo’s beach, to channels between islands affected by tidal currents, to paddling in the exposed ocean swell around rocks and under towering cliffs. These "micro-environments" provide a perfect gradual progression for paddlers to experience a wide range of conditions in close proximity.
As we built Greenlandic skills out on the water, we also built community. Participants from Quebec to Virginia to Nova Scotia filled the 8th Maine Regimental Lodge. The 8th Maine is an amazing venue: an historic, Civil War era regimental hall perched above Whitehead passage and our “ocean classrooms”. Our communal living and eating together at the Lodge renewed connections, encouraged new friendships and even impromptu kayak instruction!
The event was a huge success, thanks to our great group of paddlers. As we lingered on the Lodge’s huge wraparound porch after dinner, the full harvest moon rose over the ocean. The conversation hushed as we watched the spectacle that moves the tides, drawing us into its circle.