Monday, 27 October 2014

An Fheis Mhor - Scotland's Festival of Paddlesport

Each year the Scottish Canoe Association organise a weekend of films, talks, workshops and retail stands in Perth. Occurring simultaneously on the Saturday, dozens of people take part in the River Tay Descent in a variety of craft. For the first time this year the show also had a pool organised for folk to come and try paddling, watch canoe polo matches or slalom.
I was pleased to be asked to contribute a demonstration of Greenland rolling to the activities in the pool.

It was great to be able to bring a flavour of the 'roots' of the wider sport to the big show in Perth. Though a bit of a daunting prospect, Rhiannon and I decided that we would make it clear that we are enthusiasts, and not experts, and try our best to be good ambassadors for traditional skills. 

After a practice in the pool on Saturday with a few onlookers from the balcony, I was acclimatised to being indoors again. Thanks to Nick I had a Tahe Greenland kayak exactly like my own to use.
On Sunday our audience was at the poolside with Rhiannon providing the commentary and describing what I was demonstrating.  We made sure to articulate our respect for the cultural origins of our sport, and acknowledge how the Greenland Games is helping to perpetuate this intangible cultural heritage. 

I worked my way through a progression of foundation skills which provide the basis for layback rolls, then demonstrated a few of these rolls starting with the avataq in a balance brace position and ending with hands only. Then I demonstrated a few of the layback rolls finishing off with elbow and brick roll.  We repeated a similar progression for forward finishing rolls, starting with static brace 'face down' and recovering on to the front deck. I deliberately stuck to a range of rolls which I know I can do reasonably well, omitting those which are in my zone of proximal development!

'Mummy! Mummy! She's stuck!'  (heard on the balcony)
In the audience there were a few familiar faces, including Duncan Winning, which added a little to the pressure felt by this demonstrator.

Duncan, inspired by the original kayak brought to Scotland from Greenland by Ken Taylor in 1960, was involved in the designing and building of kayaks that many of our modern sea kayak designs originate from, so it felt like we were part of squaring the circle at this Scottish celebration of paddlesport. Nice to be part of it!


  1. I'm glad to have been in to watch you. You have the knack of making this all look so easy.

  2. Thanks Sarah, I've just been doing it for a while that's all - and its a lovely kayak to roll too, its made for the job. Nice to catch up with everyone sooth, if only briefly.