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Songs of Experience

Posted Apr 27 2011 5:56am
Children of the future Age,
Reading this indignant page Know that in a former time,
Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime – blake

Yesterday I wrote about 10 sea kayaks that everyone should at least test paddle before they invest in a brand new sea kayak .  One reader commented that I should have included at least one of the great traditional or Greenland kayak in the group. I got his point. Today I’ll talk about that a bit and explain why no Greenland style kayaks made the list and tell you which ones would have if they, well, would have.. 

Why did I leave traditional kayaks off?  Well, for the same reason I left the best surf, racing or play boats off the list.  They’re specialists.  These are the kayaks for people who are looking to up the ante.  They are rarely your first composite kayak. Even more “friendly” hard chined kayaks tend to be a step up from more forgiving expedition boats.  Racing hulls, hard chines, Greenland rolling, boat building, whitewater, surf, etc.. are rarely our first boats, but are where we go when we realize we want to keep stretching out in the sport. Many paddlers never venture past the one old faithful kayak in the garage. As addicts we tend to forget that getting your hand-roll is not part of kayak mainstream.

That said, Let’s have a look at composite Greenland style kayaks. (Especially since I’m shopping for one myself!!)

1. The Anas Acuta by Valley Sea Kayaks is a great boat.  High performance, well made, nice roller.  If there was a “bridge” kayak between standard sea kayaks and true “Greenland” style boats, this is probably the one. I owned one for years and was really silly to have sold it in the first place. The Valley Anas Acuta is a great Greenland style composite kayak. When it comes to rolling however, the Acuta does have its limits.

2. Betsie Bay Kayaks in Michigan makes some fantastic traditional style boats.  You’d be hard pressed to do better than Betsie Bay. ‘Nuff said.

3. The Tahe Marine Greenland may be the most accessible, composite rolling kayak available today. Great reviews from all over the map.

4. Water Field Kayaks of Japan also offers a nice rolling boat.. but getting one?

5. Update 1: Arrow Ivalu is a Danish Greenland style boat.

6. Update 2: Sea Bird Designs Black Pearl – based on the classic….

To my knowledge these are the only quasi-mass produced kayaks that can respectably be called “Greenland” style. Did I miss one?

Sea Kayaking UK's Greenlander

Yeah, I know what your thinking… I left off some obvious choices right?  Well, it’s all personal opinion of course, but to me things start to get weedy from here: The Seakayaking UK Greenlander has the roots, but “high volume” is an understatement! Valley’s Q-Boat is a monster as well. Impex makes the Outer Island which is a sweet boat based on West Greenland elements. P&H offers some interesting twists with the Bahiya ( which I’ve reviewed by the way ) or Vela. CD would like to think the Caribou qualifies as “Greenland Style”. (Go fig..) There are many other mass produced, hard chined kayaks available, but to call them “traditional” would be a reach. More to the point, they are all specialists. Great boats, but for select users.

Skin Boats, Wood Boats & Homemade

This is where sea kayaking enters another world.  In the world of traditional rolling it’s almost a rite to build your own boat.  There are kit boats, skin boats and weekend classes.  If you want to build your own, there’s plenty of opportunity. Not everyone (like me) can do it, and there are builders out there to  do it for you. I envy someone who can build their own kayak.  What an amazing talent!  Rather dig too deeply here, I’ll simply send you off to QajaqUSA . From here you can learn more about every aspect of traditional Greenland paddling from strokes, to rolling to boat building. You may also enjoy Traditional Kayaks by Harvey Golden . His kayak Replicas section has lots of pictures of traditional handmade kayaks.

These days I see very little difference between “sea kayaking” and “traditional kayaking” in my world.  I keep blending everything I learn from every discipline. But that’s certainly not where things started.  Learning is little more than stumbling all night over bones of the dead”. Had I not bought a recreational boat, I’d not have bought a 17 foot expedition kayak. Without it, I’d never learned to roll.  Had I not learned to roll, I’d never thought seriously about Greenland style paddling…  The first time you buy a brand new composite sea kayak, you probably won’t have any idea where you’re headed.  But one thing is sure.. you’ll be committed.. :)

*Photo Tahe Marine Greenland

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