As close as two coats of paint

December 5, 2006

I found more information about Greendland kayaker Maligiaq (pronounced muh-LIG-ee-ahk) through Kayak Wisconsin – probably the best kayak blog in the world.

mali
Maligiaq was only 13 during the 1995 National Kayaking Championship meet, yet he won every event in his age group. In 1998, he became the Champion Kayaker of Greenland. At the age of 16, he had defeated all kayakers, even the best of the 20- to 34-year age group—the age group that usually produces the national champion—becoming the youngest Greenland kayaking champion ever.

Maligiaq’s heritage is deeply rooted in kayaking. His mother’s ancestors were from Vester Eyland, a small island near the mouth of Disko Bay that is noted for kayakers of exceptional skill. Living on a small island forces subsistence hunters to go out almost every day in all kinds of weather, or they face starvation. Kayak hunters either become skillful or die trying. Yet, no matter how skillful a kayaking seal catcher becomes, hunting large sea mammals from a kayak is a dangerous occupation. Maligiaq’s great-grandfather lost his life in 1929 when a seal he had harpooned dragged him and his kayak so forcefully that his back was broken.

Maligiaq’s grandfather, Peter Johnsen, now 73, is a retired seal catcher. When Maligiaq was a small boy, he was riding in a rowboat with his grandfather when his grandfather’s gun accidentally discharged. With his hand badly injured, Peter was unable to row the boat. Even though he was only four years old, Maligiaq managed to row the boat to shore. Maligiaq’s father says that ever since that incident, Maligiaq and Peter Johnsen have been “as close as two coats of paint.”

Over the years, Peter taught Maligiaq several special kayaking skills that he has added to those he learned in the Greenland National Kayak Association’s training program.

read more here

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