Greenlandic Inuk competes in championship kayak race

For the first time ever, an Inuk has competed in the sport that uses the famous water-craft design that Inuit invented.


Special to Nunatsiaq News

HATLEY VILLAGE, Québec — For the first time ever Greenland kayakers entered in the World Championship Grande Traversée kayak race across the St Lawrence River from Forestville to Ste Luce.

The race was held August 8, 1999 and brought athletes from as far away as New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.

Five Inuit Greenlanders from the Nuuk Kayak Club brought three of their kayaks built in the traditional way with wooden frames covered with painted canvas skins.

These boats were used to give race spectators on shore a demonstration of a variety of rolling techniques. As well, they showed how to rescue a kayaker who was unable to roll his or her boat upright again.

Lastly, they provided the crowd with some funny demonstrations, such as paddling upside down and standing up in the very tippy boats in the manner used to look for seals and walrus while out hunting.

Maligiaq Padilla, the current kayaking champion of Greenland, a young man of 17, participated in the 60 km race across the St Lawrence.

He has entered several local races in Greenland, including the famous two-day Piitarsuaq’s Route Race of 120 kms between Paamiut and Narsalik, which he won last year.

The Traversée was his first attempt at a world championship race. When the day was done, Maligiaq placed seventh in a field of 29 paddlers, a very respectable finish indeed for the young Inuk.

Before he returns to Sisimiut, his home in Greenland, Maligiaq will visit several kayak clubs in the United States to demonstrate traditional kayak construction. He has already made 10 kayaks so far for himself and others.

He has also been asked by the tourism branch of La Fédération des Coopérative du Nouveau Québec in Nunavik to help introduce traditional kayak skills to a number of interested Inuit. Plans are being made to begin this project this fall.

Today kayaking is definitely seen in Greenland as a sporting activity based on traditional skills that gets people of all ages involved and challenged.

It is hoped that this initiative will spread to Nunavik and Nunavut, where more and more people can learn about kayaking and even begin to compete with each other and also in world events like Maligiaq has begun doing.

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