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The Delmarva Dictionary

As Told By Dubside

The Delmarva Dictionary for 2018

Thank you for coming to the Delmarva Paddler's Retreat, our 30th year, and the 18th year it has focused exclusively on traditional paddling. Although the event has an impressive and sometimes intimidating amount of history associated with it, every year brings plenty of new participants. Whether this is your first or thirtieth Retreat you can consider yourself part of the Greenland-style paddling family. Here are some terms you may hear during this weekend, divided into four categories: Events/Organizations, Greenlandic stuff, People of Note, and Camp Arrowhead terminology.


Events and Organizations To the uninitiated the conversations at the Retreat tend to contain a variety of cryptic acronyms. Here's how to decipher them:

ACA – the American Canoe Association. A U.S. based paddling group that runs an extensive program including instruction, instructor training, lobbying and insurance providing. The ACA's curriculums cover whitewater, sea kayaking, canoeing, and standup paddleboards.

BCU – acronym for British Canoe Union, a UK based paddling organization that has been around for about a century and has an extensive program of certifications and curriculums. As proponents of the Euro style spoon-shaped paddle, many influential BCU coaches viewed Greenland blades with disdain for quite some time. Traditionalists often responded in kind with their own contempt for Euro blades. Fortunately the residue of this polarized state of affairs has largely dissipated, and the benefit of keeping an open mind towards all disciplines seems to have won out.

Greenland National Kayaking Championships – The annual celebration of kayaking heritage held in Greenland since 1987 and opened to foreigners in 2000. Usually held in July, the week-long contest consists of nine competitive events: a short race, a long race, race with portage, team relay race, an individual rolling contest, team rolling event, harpoon throwing for both distance and accuracy, and a ropes gymnastics competition.

HRGF – (pronounced "Her-Guff") acronym for Hudson River Greenland Festival, an annual event on the Hudson River about 45 minutes north of New York City that takes place in mid to late June. Of the four traditional events held on the eastern seaboard, HRGF is the second largest and second oldest, after the Delmarva Retreat.

Minnesota Gathering - an annual QajaqUSA event held in September. While rolling, the forward stroke, and the rope exercises are embraced, one of the Gathering's distinguishing features has been the keen interest in harpoon throwing.

QajaqUSA – (pronounced "Kayak U.S.A") The non-profit organization officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat as their U.S. affiliate. QajaqUSA was started around 2001 by a core of Delmarva regulars. See the very informative website If you aren't a QajaqUSA member, or if your membership has expired, now is a good time to fix that.

SSTIKS – (pronounced "sticks") acronym for the South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayaking Symposium, an annual event held in early June in the Seattle, Washington area. It was started in 2002 and inspired by Delmarva. One of the distinguishing characteristics of SSTIKS is its family-friendly orientation, including activities for children.

TIPS – Traditional Inuit Paddling Symposium, a QajaqUSA weekend event held during May in South Carolina. While the Delmarva Retreat's attendance runs anywhere for 75 to 125, TIPS has a much more intimate feel with usually 20 to 35 participants.

Training Camp a.k.a. Michigan Training Camp a.k.a. Qajaq Training Camp – an annual traditional kayaking event held for the last ten years in late August on the shore of Lake Michigan. One of the Michigan Training Camp's distinguishing features is the gourmet food featured at every meal. It is about half the size of Delmarva and registration often tends to fill up weeks beforehand.

TRAQS - Traditional Qajaqers of the South - an annual QajaqUSA event held near Orlando Florida in March. When other traditional event locations are still waiting to thaw out from the winter TRAQS is the first one up and running each year.


Greenlandic terms and techniques Admittedly, the language spoken in Greenland is inscrutably difficult to master. Yet a few terms have proven very useful among traditional paddlers. You can just fake it on the pronunciations. Everyone else does.


Akuilisaq – (ahh-kwee-lee-sahk) the Greenlandic version of a spray skirt, one that is made to fit the smaller cockpit of a traditional skin-on-frame kayak.

Avataq – (ahh-vaa-tock) an inflated bladder that a seal hunter would carry on the rear deck of the kayak. Also used sometimes for rolling instruction, and for one of the competition rolling maneuvers.

Canted Blade Stroke – a way of using the traditional paddle in which the top edge of the blade is tilted slightly forward as the paddle is pulled through the water.

Hand of God/Hand of Pavia – a rescue technique wherein an overturned kayak is righted by a second person in another kayak. "Hand of God" is a generally recognized term among all types of kayaking disciplines. "Hand of Pavia" refers to a version of the technique specifically oriented towards skin-on-frame kayaks that was developed by Pavia Lumholt, a Greenland guest of the Retreat from about 2002 to 2005.  

Masik – (mah-zeek) Greenlandic term for the piece of wood inside a kayak that holds up the front of the cockpit coaming and spans the width from gunwale to gunwale. Also the name of the QajaqUSA newsletter.

Norsaq – (nor-suhk) a narrow tapered piece of wood about the length of a forearm, used as part of a seal hunter's equipment to throw a harpoon. It also doubles as a rolling aid, if the paddle is dropped.

Palluussineq – (paa-SCHLU-sen-nuck) a kayak sculling maneuver done face down leaning into the water on one side. In English it is called the Chest Scull. Palluussineq is also the name of one of the easier rope gymnastic moves, also done starting in a face down position.

Qaannat Kattuffiat – (pronounced kahn-NAT kah-TWO-fee-at, which translates as "Greenland Kayaking Association") This is Greenland's national organization, founded in 1985, to preserve the cultural heritage of Greenland-style kayaking. They are responsible for the annual Greenland National Kayaking Championships.

The Qajaq Song – a ditty in the Greenlandic language that pays homage to the kayak and is sung frequently during the week of the Championships. Think of it as the paddler's Kumbaya.

Ropes or Allunaariaqattaarneq (ahh-shlu-NAH-ree-ahh-kah-TAR-nuck) – a series of gymnastics exercises done on horizontally suspended lines, which are part of the Inuit kayaking tradition and done as a scored event at the Championship games.

Shotgun Roll – neither a firearm nor a sushi variation, this is the English designation for one of the easier rolling maneuvers done in competition. Also called the armpit roll, the actual Greenlandic name is paatip kallua tuermillugu illuinnarmik, the pronunciation of which is tougher than the roll itself.

Skin-On-Frame – a kayak made the traditional way wherein a wooden framework is surrounded by a sewn-on canvas or nylon covering. The process allows the kayak to be custom sized to fit the owner. The Retreat is a great time to try one, but please follow proper etiquette, which is to ask the owner if it's okay, avoid dragging it on the ground, and try to keep sand out of the cockpit. QajaqUSA has an assortment of skin-on-frames at the beach that can be used without asking. They are marked with colored tape.

Smurf Gear – Aquilisaqs and tuiliks that are a vivid electric blue color. This identifies them as property of QajaqUSA. Feel free to try one but please don't hog it for the whole weekend.

Tuilik – (pronounced TOO-ee-leek or DO-ee-leek) the Greenlandic word for a loosely fitting paddling garment that covers the head, arms, and cockpit, being fastened tightly at the wrists, face, and coaming to form a watertight barrier.

Wet Exit – the process whereby a paddler gets out of an upside down kayak. Note: In the majority of conventional kayaks the cockpit is generally quite large, making a wet exit fairly easy, especially if a spray skirt is not worn. Skin-on-frame kayaks, by comparison, can have a very tight fit, making underwater entrapment a far greater concern. If you are going to try any kayaks at the Retreat we require that you DEMONSTRATE a wet exit.


People of Note Some of the names listed here you will meet. Others have long since attended their last Retreat but will forever be enshrined in our collective history, so their names will often come up in conversation.


Chris Beckman – The current chief Retreat organizer who spends the rest of the year coordinating countless loose ends so as to make the Retreat run smoothly. As past organizers have found, it is a tiring job that at some point begs to be turned over to a successor. Chris is about at that point. The successor could be you. The Retreat also welcomes new Assistant Organizers.

Chris Crowhurst – the current president of QajaqUSA,

Cindy Cole – the original organizer of the Delmarva Retreat, who ran it from 1988 to 1996. She was a great inspiration to anyone who ever witnessed one of her kayak dressage demonstrations in the pool. Cindy came to her last Retreat in 2007 shortly before her untimely passing.

Dave Sides a.k.a. Unkel Dave – One of the assistant organizers of the Retreat for the last several years and usually the main master of ceremonies in the dining hall.

Ed Zachowski – past president of QajaqUSA, from 2010 to 2012. Ed also ran the Retreat from 2005 to 2010.

Greg Stamer – QajaqUSA's first president, who served from the inception of the organization in 2001 until 2010. A native of Florida, Greg is the one to ask for the finer details of forward stroke technique and racing tips.

Harvey Golden – A native of Portland, Oregon, Harvey has become the U.S. expert on kayak design and construction. He has not only surveyed kayaks in museums all over the world, he has built over 100 full-scale replicas of them and written the definitive books on the subject.

Jim the Cook – the big guy in the kitchen who, for longer than the past one or two decades has been responsible for the great food, creative menu, and making vegetarians happy campers.

John Heath – a pioneer kayak historian who was instrumental in spreading interest and understanding of traditional Inuit kayak culture in the U.S. His first trip to Greenland was made in 1959. Although he is no longer with us, John was a regular attendee of the Retreat for many years.

Maligiaq (Muh-LEE-gee-yock) a.k.a. Maligiaq Padilla – a native Greenlander, born in 1982, who first came to the Retreat in 1998 at the age of 16 as our first guest from Greenland. Having won the Greenland championship title nine times he is widely regarded as Greenland's top kayaker. He lives in Alaska with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter and son.

Mike Hamilton – the Master Mentor coordinator who oversees Delmarva's rich tradition of excellent instruction in all facets of traditional paddling.

Peter Gengler – a regular attendee of the Retreat for at least the last 20 years. Peter has immortalized the phrase "Where are we?" uttered while holding up a GoPro camera.

Rick – The longtime director of Camp Arrowhead and one heck of a nice guy (bushy mustache, often seen in vicinity of kitchen). We would like to think that the Retreat weekend offers Rick a respite from the hordes of rambunctious kids who attend the camp all summer, but given our own level of crazy weirdness he might see it as the other way around.

Robin Snow – one of the past Retreat organizers who ran the event from 1996 to 2004. The original Retreat embraced all sea kayaking styles and paddle types. Robin took the dramatic initiative of making Delmarva an all-traditional Greenland event starting in 2001. She was also responsible for bringing Maligiaq Padilla to the Retreat in 1998.

Terry O'Malley – the most recent past president of QajaqUSA.


Camp Arrowhead locations and traditions 30 years in the same location has generated a rich history of folklore, legends, customs, jokes, and procedures which we add to annually.

Auction – the process by which money is raised to pay the travel costs for next year's featured instructors and speakers. At the Retreat, you will find an enticing variety of donated items in the live auction, silent auction, and raffle. If you sense that someone really wants an item, it's fun to bid them up. And if they call your bluff just remember it's all for a good cause.

Birdcage – a screened-in octagonal shelter located somewhere in the woods behind the dining hall, where the paddlemaking workshop is held. Refer to camp map.

Kampe Rule (pronounced Camp-ee) – a policy that forbids using the word "boat" when referring to a kayak, especially a skin-on-frame kayak. The rule was instituted in 2007 in deference to Kamp Absalonsen, one of the senior Greenland Competition officials who attended the Retreat that year. The Kampe Rule is enforced at the Retreat by requiring the offender to place one dollar in the Kampe cup for each offense. The final raffle ticket holder wins half the Kampe cup contents.

Mentors – the motley cast of characters here to help you improve your roll, adjust your forward stroke, find a kayak that fits, put on a tuilik, find the perfect paddle, or answer questions about kayak building, harpoon throwing, rope techniques, etc. The more times you come to the Retreat, the greater the likelihood you will become a mentor. That's how it works – what you learn you pass on to others.

Palo's Wedding – the name of a movie about Arctic life made in the 1930's. In the closing scene the star paddles off with his bride seated on the back deck of his kayak. This has provided the inspiration for the final leg of the Sunday relay race.

Peter's Shorts – videos of modest duration made by anyone with something to offer. The subject matter can be anything of interest to paddlers. They are compiled and presented by Peter Gengler, the Retreat's most rabid GoPro fanatic.

Quail's Nest – The comfortably modern two-story structure with balconies located next to the pool. It serves as an indoor meeting/gathering/morning yoga area.

Seal of Approval –a small plastic seal affixed to one's PFD to show that a wet exit has been done in a skin-on-frame kayak. (See also "Wet Exit" under Greenlandic Terms and Techniques.) The Retreat has instituted this procedure to spare you the potentially disastrous consequence of becoming stuck inside an overturned kayak. You must demonstrate a wet exit in a skin-on-frame kayak to earn a Seal of Approval. Wear it with pride.

Tower – the iconic multi-level structure down at the beach sporting the national flag of the countries represented each year.



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