QAJAQ USA Logo Qajaq USA is a nonprofit membership organization that is officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat (The Greenland Kayaking Association). Qajaq USA is committed to supporting Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve, study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States

Who we are

Qajaq USA is the American Chapter of Qaannat Kattuffiat - the Greenland Kayak Association. We are a small, passionate group of volunteers. We average approximately two hundred and fifty paying members and have members world-wide. Qajaq USA is one of only two affiliated "qajaq" clubs outside of Greenland (the other is Qajaq Copenhagen). There are about twenty five qajaq clubs scattered among the small villages along the coast of West Greenland (and one in East Greenland). These clubs teach kayak building and pass along skills, and are a major impetus in keeping the local kayaking traditions alive.

We are proud to have had the late kayak historian John Heath as our first honorary member. John was a mentor and friend to many of us who founded Qajaq USA. Please read our tribute to John Heath in the Summer 2003 MASIK newsletter.

To stay current on what's happening in Qajaq USA, please subscribe to our MASIK newsletter.

Join Qajaq USA

Join Qajaq USA

Qajaq USA is comprised of volunteers, so your contribution goes entirely to help fund our mission. This includes the publication of our high-quality printed Qajaq Journal, translation costs for historical documents (some of which have never been printed in English before), funding this website and the forums, costs of organizing and holding events, and purchasing gear to be used at events. We recently purchased eight tuiliks, four aquilisaq (short skirts), three avataqs, two harpoons, three SOF (skin-on-frame kayaks) and six paddles, for use at Qajaq USA events. Also, in striving to keep Greenland the center of Greenland kayaking and to promote "learning from the source", we have sponsored prominent Greenland kayakers and officials to visit the United States. This includes past-president Kaleraq and Lone Bech, Maligiaq Padilla, Kamp Absalonsen (former main competition judge), Adam Hansen, John Petersen and other guests.

Qajaq USA Bylaws

Current Qajaq USA Bylaws.

Membership Questions

If you have any questions about Qajaq USA membership, please contact our membership coordinator. As a paid member you will receive the latest printed copy of the Qajaq Journal. Members are also subscribed to the Qajaq USA News Mailing List . This e-mail list will keep you informed of new editions of our electronic Newsletter, the MASIK, and other interesting developments. You may change your mailing list options or unsubscribe at any time.

Our History

Qajaq USA would not exist but for a renaissance of native kayaking skills and techniques that occurred within West Greenland in the 1980s . Although many people were influential to these developments, space permits the mention of only a few and we apologize to those whose name goes unmentioned. Among the most influential was seal catcher and kayak demonstrator Manasse Mathaeussen, though well into his seventies at the time, he was instrumental in keeping many East and West Greenland techniques alive by passing his skills on to a new generation of Greenland kayakers. Without his energy and efforts, the knowledge of many kayaking skills might well have perished. Likewise, H.C. Petersen’s writings, scholarship and interviews with an aging generation of kayak hunters saved much that might otherwise have been lost. Kaleraq Bech, the president of Qaannat Kattuffiat for many years, was among the young Greenlanders who were greatly moved by an exhibit of three old Greenland kayaks on loan from the Netherlands to West Greenland in 1984. Acting upon their feelings they went on to create Qaannat Kattuffiat in order to preserve and promote Greenland’s kayak traditions and to make sure that this knowledge survived to be passed on to future generations of Greenlanders. Finally, John Heath, who by reporting on Qaannat Kattuffiat, as well as writing and lecturing about Greenland technique, proved instrumental in effecting the growth of Greenland style kayaking outside of Greenland. John’s videotapes of Greenlanders performing traditional maneuvers have inspired a great many kayakers.

A pivotal moment for the development of Greenland kayaking in America occurred in 1998 when Greenland champion Maligiaq Padilla, sponsored by John Heath, embarked on a tour of the United States and Canada. Maligiaq started his tour at the Delmarva Retreat in Lewes Delaware, bringing with him a sealskin kayak and a sealskin tuilik (full kayak jacket). The following year Kaleraq and his wife Lone, visited Delmarva. Kaleraq was deeply moved to see scores of Greenland paddles on the water so far from his homeland, and announced before returning to Greenland that foreigners would, for the first time, be permitted to compete in the annual Greenland kayak championship.

In August 2000, Cindy Cole, Harvey Golden and Greg Stamer were among the first Americans who traveled to compete in the first “open” Greenland National Championship. During the competition, Kaleraq invited Greg to speak at a Qaannat Kattuffiat board meeting, concerning the state of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States and the possibility of creating an American paddling organization affiliated with the Qaannat Kattuffiat. The board was encouraged to hear news of growing outside interest in Greenland kayaking and a long discussion ensued. Later that summer Qaannat Kattuffiat approved the creation of an American chapter, thus paving the way for the formation of Qajaq USA.

In 2001 the Greenland kayak forum was launched and in 2002 Qajaq USA was incorporated as a non-profit organization and began accepting its first members later that spring.

Qajaq USA Staff, Board Members and Teams

Get to know the team behind Qajaq USA! Contact information, photos and biographies of the Qajaq USA staff and board members. Please contact us and let us know your ideas!


Our philosophy

We support Qaannat Kattuffiat while also promoting Greenland-style kayaking. We view Greenland as the center of Greenland kayaking, and acknowledge that there is still much to learn from the kayakers in Greenland and other areas of the arctic. We are under no pretense that we are the guardians of Greenlandic culture. That is something that only the Greenlanders can do. Out of respect to the Greenlanders we are careful not to instigate programs in Greenland without the consent of Qaannat Kattuffiat. The Greenlanders are a proud people and sometimes even well-meaning initiatives can be interpreted as charity, or otherwise misunderstood. Although Greenland-style kayaking is our emphasis, we don't limit our scope and are interested in all watercraft of the arctic.

In Greenland and elsewhere in the arctic, kayaking is learned by careful observation, by working with others, and by teaching others. Many Greenland kayak clubs hold organized "training camps". These training camps originally brought together aging yet skilled seal catchers such as Manasse Mathaeussen to act as mentors to pass along their skills. Mentoring is a powerful way to learn kayaking and it forms the basis of how instruction is taught at Qajaq USA events. We do not offer certification and have no plans to do so.

You are responsible for your own safety and your own kayaking education. Skills trump gimmicks and to become a safe kayaker you must develop both kayaking skills and sound judgment. This is not something you can buy or obtain without paying your dues. We view self rescue without leaving the kayak (rolling, sculling, bracing) as a basic skill. We view all forms of kayaking instruction as potentially worthwhile; the more you know, the safer you are. We are open to working together with the large kayaking organizations and to help improve their Greenland-style programs. However, we strongly believe that you should be allowed to extend a Greenland paddle and otherwise use it in the manner for which it was designed, in assessments by those organizations. We strive for the "cross-pollination" of ideas between Greenland-style and other kayaking disciplines and organizations.

Greenlanders of old, in their bitterly cold waters, largely practiced the " roll or die" philosophy. A kayak, combined with a tuilik (full kayak jacket) was considered a drysuit and PFD. That said, in our (usually) warmer waters we recommend that you dress prepared for immersion, and ensure that your kayak has adequate flotation backed-up with a seasock or bulkheads. Greenlanders developed scores of rolls in order to deal with the hazards of hunting in a narrow boat and using harpoon line. For example sculling rolls allow you to recover even if you are entangled in line and can't sweep your paddle. Many of the rolls are useful for specific forms of entanglement. Others allow you to recover if a hand or arm is injured or entangled, too numb to grip a paddle, or to enable you to hold onto a piece of valued gear. Learning these rolls will go far to help make you a safer kayaker (as will practicing in the surf, whitewater and other moving water). Of course, there is much more to safe kayaking than just rolling; having the skill, knowledge and judgment to prevent a roll (except in circumstances such as an "offensive" roll in surf), is much more important.

We use a Greenland paddle and Greenland gear, such as the tuilik, not because we are trying to romanticize the past, but because this gear works. And it works better than much so-called "modern" gear. Greenland gear and skills have always been evolving, always changing, and that trend continues today. Greenland equipment has been evolving for centuries. It is thoroughly "modern", and continues to be improved. Many Qajaq USA members make their own kayaks and gear. There is a power and joy to doing this, going much deeper than simple economics.

To a Greenlander a Kayak is NOT a boat

Keep in mind that by building or using a qajaq you are joining a tradition. Part of Qajaq USAs mission is to support Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve, study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland kayaking. Part of this relationship is understanding that in Greenland, a qajaq is a very special craft. John Pedersen from Greenland explains it well:

"Qajaq is qajaq, or kayak in your language, it is definitely not a boat in our terminology. For us boat is a vessel propelled by oars and has no cockpit, that is as simple as that. On land, when you are hunting, you use your legs to move around. You can not do that on water. To be able to walk on the water, hunters had to invent a new kind of an extension to their limbs, that made you amphibious. This device was called qajaq, you could now move around on the water, without using too much energy, just propelled by your arms.
Calling a qajaq a boat is offensive in Greenland, because we are trying to preserve a culture almost lost. I know that many members of QajaqUSA call their SOFs boats, even though it is replicas of old hunting qajaq's, you should not do that, or at least when Greenlanders are present.
When QajaqUSA became a member of Qaannat Kattuffiat, it was with preservation in mind. So, QajaqUSA: Please preserve the name also, or in your language kayak. Not boat. Because you are QajaqUSA and not boatUSA".

Lifetime Members and Patrons

Qajaq USA depends entirely on your support for our continued success. We wish to thank all of our members for their participation. A special acknowledgement goes to our Patron and Lifetime members for their "above and beyond" support to Qajaq USA. Patrons and Lifetime members are listed below and are also recognized in the MASIK newsletter. Become a Patron or Lifetime member by Joining Qajaq USA.

We are happy to exclude anyone from this page who wishes to remain anonymous; please contact us.

Qajaq USA Patron Members

Henry Davies
Au Train, MI
Ben Fuller
Cushing, ME
Peter Gengler
Rehoboth, MA
David Leventhal
Madison, CT
Michael H. Morris
Eureka, CA
Richard Nonas
New York City, NY
Jesse Tate
Greenville, SC

Qajaq USA Lifetime Members

Todd Angerhofer
Portland, ME
Keith Attenborough
Newburyport, MA
Don Beale
Forest Grove, OR
Jeffrey Bjorgo
New Hope, MN
Sharon Bustamante
Lake Leelanau, MI
Christopher Crowhurst
Savage, MN
Jacquelyn Crowhurst
Savage, United States
Renee DuFresne
Deerwood, MN
Chuck Ficca
Long Branch, NJ
Jeffrey Friedle
East Lansing, MI
Tim Gallaway
Grand Haven, MI
Leslie Hewett
Charleston, SC
Brian Lynch & Rebecca Landenberger Landenberger
Ithaca, NY
Donna McCready
Clements, CA
Maligiaq Padilla
Kotzebne, AK
Rita Romeu
Allentown, NJ
Gabriel Romeu
Allentown, NJ
William Silvis
Ann Arbor, MI
Greg Stamer
Altamonte Springs, FL
Lennert Thunberg
Alexandra, VA
James Tibensky
Wayne, IL
Jeffrey A. Wilde
Ithaca, NY

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