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Qaannat Kattuffiat

Qaannat Kattuffiat (the Greenland Kayaking Association) is a Greenlandic organization that is dedicated to keeping the traditional kayaking skills alive. These skills include rolling, paddling techniques, kayak building, tuilik making and other aspects of the Greenland kayaking culture. Qaannat Kattuffiat holds regular training camps where this knowledge is taught and practiced, as well as an annual championship. Today there are approximately 25 local Greenland "qajaq" clubs affiliated with Qaannat Kattuffiat (the logos above represent only a small sample of affiliated clubs). There are also officially recognized chapters outside of Greenland in Copenhagen, USA and Japan.

QAANNAT KATTUFFIAT and the Greenland Kayaking Renaissance

"For many centuries, Greenland was essentially a land of kayakers. The seal was the mainstay of the Inuit economy, and the kayak was a silent means of getting a hunter within harpooning range of seals and other marine mammals. A man was judged primarily according to hunting ability and skill as a kayaker.

Then, in about 1920, the sea temperature along the coast of Greenland became warmer.  Kayak hunting became less important, and fishing in power boats became more important. A whole generation grew up with almost no knowledge of kayaking.

In 1983, three ancient Greenland kayaks from the Netherlands were loaned to the Museum of Greenland at Nuuk. Some young Greenlanders saw these on exhibit and were impressed that their ancestors of 1600 to 1700 had such sleek craft and the skill to use them. These young men then decided to form a club in order to preserve their kayaking heritage. They called it the QAJAQ Club, and soon tee shirts began to appear with the slogan "QAJAQ-ATOQQILERPARPUT" (Kayak-we are starting to use it again). From the beginning in 1984, the club had reached a membership of 1,000 by late 1985.

The club enlisted the aid of veteran kayakers to teach them how to build and use kayaks." 

-John Heath (late kayak historian who helped with the creation of Qajaq USA).

Qaannat Kattuffiat Logo

The Qaannat Kattuffiatt logo owes its distinctive shape to the avataq, the inflated seal-skin float that is used for hunting. If you look closely, you can see a second avataq in the logo artwork, lashed in its normal position just aft of the kayaker.

Qaannat Kattuffiat

Qaannat Kattuffiat was instrumental in the kayaking renaissance in Greenland. Not very long ago the ancient Greenlandic kayaking skills were in serious danger of being lost forever. In fact many of the techniques were lost but to one man, Manasse Mathaeussen, the dean of Greenland kayaking.

Although in his seventies, Manasse was able to teach and amazingly, still perform the full repertoire of ancient maneuvers. Thankfully the club was able to bring together the veteran seal catchers with an eager band of students and the knowledge was passed on to a new generation.

Today, many West Greenland towns sport their own affiliated kayak club and promote the ancient skills of kayak building and capsize recovery as well as fostering self-respect, pride of their ancestors and awareness of Greenland's cultural contributions to the world.

What's In A Name?

The word "qaannat" is the plural of qajaq (kayaks) and Kattuffiat means "club or organization". Therefore the term Qaannat Kattuffiat literally means the kayaks' club