DELMARVA Paddling Retreat???

I am familiar with this event, but can’t really find much information about what actually goes on here.

I have been to the website and did not find it to be very helpful either.

What is this event exactly? Is it a symposium with classes that you sign up for (like a BCU symposium)?

How much does it cost to register for the event? I could not find that on the website either.

I am not a Greenland type but am dabbling a bit with the GP and would like to learn more about how to use it more effectively.




Hi Matt,

All Greenland, with heavy emphasis on traditional kayaks (lots of SOFs)and on rolling skills. There are no paid instructors–the zeitgeist is that we are all each others teachers–but there is a lot of world-class instruction where those more skilled help those less skilled. Lots of opportunities to try different kayaks. You can build your own paddle–might be fun. My experience is that this a really friendly bunch–you’ll have a good experience personally. Given your love of the technical side of paddling, my guess is that you’d take to the Greenland roll progression and, who knows, maybe even toss a harpoon or two. Unfortunately, they scheduled the retreat late this year, so I won’t be able to attend.




– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 12:51 PM EST –

Quite a number of years ago, when I was new and trying to decide on which direction to take in kayaking, I attempted to go to this event. I emailed the organizer and was then told, rather coldly, that I did not have the "right boat" to be invited to go (I had a rotomolded sea kayak). The following year I got a fiberglass sea kayak (Current Designs Solstice SS) and was still very much thinking of getting into Greenland style paddling. I wrote the organizers again and was told, in a very snotty manner, that I did not have the right boat (it wasn't a Greenland boat) to be with this group. Well, exactly how is one to determine if an investment in a Greenland boat is right if one cannot go learn about Greenland paddling first? I was polite, enthusastic, and willing, but twice was turned down because I wasn't already a Greenland paddler. That is definitely not what I'd consider to be a friendly group! Thus my impression of the Delmarva Retreat is definitely not one of a friendly group but one of a very unwelcoming group and very insular and inbred, it sure didn't welcome anyone new with a genuine interest in learning about Greenland paddling!! Since that time I've come to know a few of the people who attend this event, and they are indeed nice people, but the fact that a few of the attendees are nice friendly people will not ever erase the extremely cold and uninviting emails I got from the organizers when I was trying to learn about Greenland paddling! The lack of reception and snotty tone to the emails I got two years in a row turned me off to that event for good,and I surely would not recommend it to anyone else either.


I still don’t get it
I’m glad Matt asked.

I was looking at this last week and can’t quite figure it out.

Assume I sign up for the weekend and Friday paddle making and check off several areas I want to work on. Friday I can envision. Saturday & Sunday aren’t as clear. Are there classes, groups, a schedule? How does it work?

This looks like something that, once you have done it once, makes perfect sense – but I ain’t done it yet.


Based on your website,
I know somebody you should meet. His username is “envyabull.”

You might want to add this to your list of quotes: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”

So what you’re saying is

– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 12:54 PM EST –

I don't get it, but is what you're saying that you'd be perfect for the Delmarva Retreat group that I encountered?


My apologies
Sorry for not making myself clear. What I meant was, I get tired of negative posts that put other people down, and I thought maybe you and envyabull, since you are both obviously superior beings, could keep each other occupied and leave us common mortals in peace.



Got it!
Excellent, I got it, you are perfect for that group I encountered those years ago. Enjoy! Call my comments “negative” if you wish, but Robin Snow herself will verify what she said to me, as well as many others who saw the emails she sent. Your idea of “negative” or not, it is the truth.


Times change
Susan - I went to the Hudson River Greenland Festival this summer, which includes many of the same participants. They welcomed all comers, and there were extra Greenland boats, tuiliks, paddles, etc. to borrow during instruction. It’s true that there are some Greenland snobs, but it wasn’t too bad. My issue was that there was only minimal strokes instruction - most activity was focused on rolling, rolling, rolling. It was a free form event, so if I had been more demanding about getting more strokes instruction, it probably would have worked out better. Myself, I prefer a little more structure, I guess. Anyway, I think the tone has changed for the better since your initial bad experience - at least you shouldn’t scare away others based on something that happened years ago.

Maybe I’ll get in touch with them. Would you write me a letter of reference?

I hardly think I’m scary, LOL! I would think that pretty much anyone reading my post will see that I was clear it happened years ago. As I recall it was 2004 and 2005. I fail to see, however, why I shouldn’t post my experience just because it was less than glowing or wasn’t two weeks ago. I’m not sure why people are getting themselves in a wad over it. It is what it is, it happened, didn’t just only happen to me, and people should know about it. Note that I don’t post anonymously, I’m not afraid to put my name and website on my posts, where you can easily find me, unlike 99% of everyone else here. That should tell you that I firmly stand behind what I say. I am very glad to hear things have changed, if they have, and good for them for being more welcoming now if they are. That certainly is good news for Greenland paddling.


to be fair
I have attended Delmarva in 2006 and 2007. Am still undecided about this year but the allure of meeting Maligiaq Padilla is pretty strong…

I am very sorry regarding what Ladyjustice may have experienced. I know that this is not the intent or the goal at Delmarva. There is certainly some exclusivity among the participants but it is not generally elitist. I am sorry that the reaction she got was so negative and I can’t say for sure if the event was tailored differently in 2004 and 2005 about composite boats. I can say that the event does focus primarily on Greenland techniques, history, and boat styles. However, in the last two years I have seen Tempests, Outer islands, Night herons, Avocets, Anas Acutas, some CD boats and others as well as the (more common to this event) traditional skin on frame greenland boats.

I never heard any elitist comments about anyones composite boats (lots of varied and sometimes heated opinions about peoples skin on frames though), and I did hear a couple of good natured comments about people who were paddling with euro paddles to get a “real paddle” but that was all in good fun.

Ed Zachowski is the event organizer and I can assure you it would never even occur to him to differentiate or single out any paddler with non traditional (meaning non Greenland style) gear. Greg Stamer, QAJAQUSA president is one of the nicest guys around with an impressive history in kayaking and I have never heard him even suggest any kind of superiority or exclusivity within QAJAQUSA or Delmarva. Its just not in his nature and certainly not in the message QAJAQUSA conveys.

I even remember in 2006, when the weather was really shitty, that Shawn Baker and others found some little sit on top plastic kayaks from somewhere and went and played in the waves. (Talk about non traditional!) And during that weather event, the guides were all over the place helping us to deal with low volume boats in wind and waves as most of us had only used them on flat water for rolling. Great fun and very eye opening and humbling!

2007 was a calmer weather year. I made my second paddle in two years, first with Don Beale and second with Chris Rabb with Tuktu paddles (who will be there this year again), Peter Strand reskinned my sof and he will be there again doing a skinning demonstration. Many many guides including Kampe who is one of the judges of Greenland competition rolling in Greenland as well as Adam Hansen who i believe will be there again this year. (He showed me how to throw a harpoon and kampe showed me how to tie the leather thongs to hold the harpoon tip to the rest of the shaft)

Lots of presentations in the evening in the communal hall, I can remember some very informative ones including Harvey Golden, Greg Stamer, Freya Hoffmeister, Alison Sigethy, and who can forget Dubside with his rolling and rope skills? So much to see and learn, all in a low key environment. Training and learning is non traditional and different guides or more experienced paddlers form different groups along the beachfront on the water and you can paddle from one to the other to work on different rolls or techniques. Some stay at the pool and work with people trying specific rolls also. Please take a look as the galleries on the Delmarva paddlers retreat site.

Delmarva is not for everyone and maybe not everyone is interested in the origins of kayaking, or how they enabled a culture to survive in the most brutal of conditions, how innovative and downright brilliant some of their tools and hunting equipment were, and what an incredibly friendly and open people they truly are. For a few short days, Delmarva allows you to sink deep into this rich culture and incredible history and gain a real appreciation for the boat you paddle now. Because as sure as God made little green apples, you wouldn’t be on the water enjoying your time in a kayak if it wasn’t for the Greenlandic culture and qajaqs.

I sincerely hope that ladyjustice, or anyone else that may have any interest in traditional Greenland qajaqs or delving a bit deeper into this culture, consider visiting Delmarva or any other QAJAQUSA sponsored event.



When I inquired about attending in 2005 Robin Snow was quite helpful and answered all my questions. You may have caught her on a bad day; We all have them. As a first time attendee I found the people at Delmarva very welcoming. One guide (instructor), Will Bigalow, patiently taught me to roll that year while working around the badly injured shoulder I came with.

The event is very Greenland oriented, but I found the people open minded and accepting of where you are at. All three years I have attended I brought a composite kayak (NDK Explorer).


On Sat and Sun there will be 20-30 guides (instructors) at the beach area for morning sessions and then afternoon sessions. They take you 1:1 or 1:2 ratio and work on what you want to learn. There is stroke instruction offered (Greenland paddle) but most paddlers focus on rolls. One thing that’s fantastic is that if what you are trying to learn is not clicking with one guide (for whatever reason) you can just slide over to another as there are a number of guides at most levels. It took me five guides, with each giving me another piece of the picture, to get my old stiff body to side skull one year.

There are always different things happening each year, some unplanned. None of us who attended last year will forget the kayak wedding. If you’re interested in Greenland skills and culture, Delmarva is the place to be.


what paul said
My guess is if Matt went to Delmarva, he might get hooked by the technical aspects of Greenland rolling and we’d see the search for the perfect rolling SOF with the same devotion to technique and equipment platform that he showed for rough water paddling. Be delightful to see. Who knows, with his dedication, he might be one of those few to get the straitjacket roll

"Hana ka hoe, pa’a ka waha"
Good for you.

Snobbery should be outed at every opportunity.

hope to see you there again!

I’m mentoring at Delmarva again this year so maybe I’ll see you this year. I’m definitely looking forward to meeting Maligiaq as well as the rest of the Greenlanders.


Sounds a lot like…
… somebody’s psyching himself up for 2008.

Although I am only a part time twigger
I have found the Qaqaq community to be quite open and pretty darn friendly. Thought about SSTIKS cominng off deployment in 2002 and had offers to be picked up at the airport. Have not been to a Greenland event (yet) but I am pretty interested in going and checking out the scene.

2005 Attendee, I felt no malice
I didn’t ask, just filled out the form and sent them my registration. I brought a glass boat and a euro paddle. Nobody tried to make me feel like an outcast.

I made a paddle on Friday and went to some of the clinics on Saturday and Sunday. I took a stroke clinic, using my newly made GL paddle. And I think that may have been the only on-water clinic I took. I made some mittens and did some outfitting with foam.

I decided the Delmarva, or Greenland-fest, was not my cup of tea. I found the people to be friendly enough, it was exposure to a culture and breed of paddlers with which I was not familiar, and in general a good experience. But if I have three days to spend on kayaking/camping, I’d rather take off and go paddling and camping. I have some friends that drive hundreds or a thousand miles to attend Delmarva, year after year. Different strokes for different folks. And the way to tell if its for you, is …

Have fun, and whenever anybody says anything about Greenland or how they do it in Greenland, listen intently, nod, and say “ahh, Greenland, tell me about it,” and you will fit in fine. Lots to learn. Knowledgeable people anxious to share. It really is fascinating.