NEWS: Nunavut August 05, 2014 - 8:09 am

Nunavut kayakers learn how to stay afloat, and alive on the water

Instructors visit Cambridge Bay to teach safety, kayak techniques


Special to Nunatsiaq News

Eight members of the Ikaluktutiak Paddling Association were out kayaking near Cambridge Bay July 31 despite cold rain and rough waters.

That’s because summer is short in the Arctic and sometimes you just have to seize the moment.

The club flew-up two professional kayaking instructors, Rachel Cluderay and Cathy Allooloo, to educate and certify its members in Cambridge Bay.

“We talk to them about hazards and how to identify them and how to respond to them,” said Allooloo, who owns an outdoor adventure store in Yellowknife. “Then we teach them proper strokes and maneuvers and how to rescue yourself along with how to rescue others.”

The first portion of the mini-boot camp is done in the classroom to learn kayaking theory.

“We first have to teach safety before we go on the water,” said Allooloo.

Participants are taught about the dangers of cold water, which can cause hypothermia, full-rescue procedures and precautions, trip planning, and proper equipment terminology.

During the two one-hour on-water sessions, the lessons continue. And they can be challenging.

Two groups, one of children and one of adults, are taught wet exits — tipping over their kayaks, getting out, flipping their kayaks right side up again on the water and finally getting back inside.

Participants also learn how to deal with hazards and how to paddle in different types of water.

“This week we have seen really calm water, but we’ve also seen white caps,” Allooloo said. “This bay has a variety of moods. The water is so changeable.”

Last week’s session in Cambridge Bay ran from July 28 until Aug. 1 and was host to three children and a maximum of eight adults.

Spots filled up fast and resulted in a waiting list for both adults and children.

“The kids were already asking [on Wednesday] if we would be back next year,” Allooloo said with a smile.

Allooloo has been flying to northern communities for the past three decades to offer similar training.

“Paddling can take you places that you can’t otherwise access,” she said.

And Allooloo loves teaching these kinds of kayaking boot camps because they give paddlers the necessary skills and knowledge to enjoy the sport with confidence.

“The most important thing to remember is to talk to a local before going out so you can learn about the conditions of the water,” she said. “And always, always, always wear a life-jacket.”