Norsaq: Throwing stick

What is this, and do you use one?

I’m reading about it here and I still don’t get it.

We have one
and June uses it to discipline me.

I’Ve Seen That, And
I’ve seen that, and its not pretty…

More Seriously…

– Last Updated: Aug-29-06 7:33 PM EST –

The original purpose was to launch a harpoon for hunting Seals, etc. Some Greenland style boaters use them to roll with.

Similar to an Atal which is used to launch spears for hunting on land. There are some clubs that practice with them. I am surprised no one ever figured out a way to use them for spear fishing from kayaks. I think it might be fun, and it could be hell on jetskiiers.

nice spare
works great when you blow that hand roll. :slight_smile:

chuck… If it’s Jun’s then it’s a ping pong paddle. The rubber matted ones leave less bruising.


I think you mean "atlatl"
A norsaq is similar in function, but atlatls are typically longer and flexible to provide more spring to the throw.

Actually it is Xuan who abuses me
with a ping pong paddle. He has been playing with the Chinese grad students at UNR and spanks me real bad … I mean real bad!

Norsaq roll video

I now see how one could roll with it (why they would want to is another question altogether).

I can envision how TC could get spanked with it.

But spearig a seal with it? No comprendo.

is a tool that assists in throwing the harpoon, which is why it is sometimes called a throwing stick and why norsaq rolls are called throwing stick rolls. If you loose your paddle, rolling up with a norsaq is easier than performing a hand roll. See:

Norsaq or nuqaq
Oddly enough, I just got off the jet from Bethel( am in Anchorage on my way home to Juneau) and earlier today was speaking with people from the last part of the world that still use the atlatl, Yupik people from the Yukon Delta. I know these guys pretty well, and last year they let me interview them about the nuqaq, which they use for hunting from skiffs. A few people are using kayaks, and still fewer remember them from their youth, but everyone still uses the nuqaq.

I was given an Aleut throwing board and harpoon almost 30 years ago by Sergie Sovoroff, the last chief from Umnak Island and a man I was able to paddle with for a couple of short summers in the Aleutians.

Here are a few of the questions and responses from the interview. By the way, The World Atlatl Association (motto: Too long have I hunted Mamoth Alone) is a sort of post modern hunting society that some of you may be interested in. Email me for their address or for the rest of the interview. No big kayak information is included, but it is interesting to hear from folk who use our toys for what they were truly intended.

You hunt with a nuqaq or what I call an atlatl. Who taught you to use the nuqaq?

We learned from observation as young people, watching our dads and uncles hunt with the naqaq. As children we would watch great hunters catch seals while balancing on kayaks. Now days we use skiffs and sometimes hunt from shore.

Why do you think people here have not given up using the nuqaq?

The fresh water from the Yukon prevents the seal from floating so we need to have the harpoon. Hunting with a gun would result in the seal sinking. People farther along the Bering Coast use guns since there is less fresh water in the sea. When the seal is caught with the harpoon the head slips off and is kept attached to the shaft. The shaft may also have a float attached to it by a string. The harpoon keeps the seal from moving away.

Again, if you are interested in more, let me know. Also, I just noticed that Alaska Magazine has an article with one of men I interviewed last year. Cool pics.

We just got one
Jim picked one up off of Ebay or wherever, it arrived yesterday. PETA-approved version though - no holes for throwing spears or other projectiles.

We werr thinking of using it to help learn a Norsaq or eventually a hand roll, though from the above dialogue it may not be properly called that.

Yup’ik vs Inuktitut

– Last Updated: Aug-30-06 1:41 AM EST –

The atlatl has a different name in Yup'ik and in Inuktitut, the language spoken by the people who live in the eastern Canadian archipelago. Also different in the other groups along the north coast. They look different too. I think, though it is just my opinion -- reference to the skeg/rudder debate -- that the broader throwing boards were a sea based device. The Aleut atlatl is much broader than the Norton Sound/Yukon Delta device. Easier to use in a confined area and keeps the dart on the throwing board better than the narrower inland model.

I don't know if anyone is using them in Greenland other than to demo rolls. I tried with one once in Nuuk and was embarassed.

They do
One of the events in the Greenland national kayaking championships is harpoon throwing, so they at least still huck them around to practice for that.

But for the most part, guns have all but replaced harpoons and bird darts for hunting there, or so I’m told.


Good Lord!

Just kidding…

You got me

About using one
It’s a whole lot easier to stick under your deck rigging, and retrieve it, than half of a Euro paddle or a long GP. It could be extremely useful in a capsize if you lost your paddle. And having a Norsaq roll is much of the way to a hand roll. This is an area I need to work on this winter, but it has very practical application.

We had a not-dissimilar discussion about sculling on last night’s paddle, while waiting for a few folks who had decided to push their boats up into a section of a water course past a heron rookery where a machete might have been helpful. Most of us didn’t feel like going for that last section. One of the folks primarily whose primarily did WW or flat inland broader rivers asked what the functional value of a scull was in paddling. By the time we finished we had come up with at least three situations where a scull would be a critical part of the recovery. But all of them were in a bigger water environment, mostly ocean, where the paddler has time to do things more slowly and not worry about dashing their head against a rock in the next 7 seconds.

How about
a chees cutting board, cricket bat, or fraternity paddle?

Or Ping Pong Paddles

– Last Updated: Aug-30-06 1:35 PM EST –

Aack! Again in two days...

Hve been used to help get a hand roll. But they don't fit under the DECK rigging as nicely or have the coolness factor of an authentically carved piece of wood. A nice piece of driftwood if you are on the ocean isn't a bad choice though.

Cutting boards may be harder to hold onto...