James Menke

Tradition key to kayaking competition for Langford paddler

Kayaking expert heading to Greenland for national championship

In the calm water of Langford Lake, which sits conveniently below his Goldstream Avenue home, James Manke runs through a series of rolls in his kayak.

A practitioner of the traditional Greenland kayaking style and a professional instructor in the discipline, Manke has spent the past few years honing his technique on each of 35 different rolls included on the list for competitors in the sport.

Why the need for so many different types of rolls, one might ask?

“As a hunter, if you went in the water, you were dead,” he said, referring to the frigid sea temperature that even in summer hovers a couple of degrees above freezing.

The ability to escape potentially deadly situations when out on the lonely sea was critical for hunters whose primary task was to bring back food for their families to last through winter, Manke said.

“Because these traditional hunters went out alone, their survival depended on it,” he said.

“They’re hunting who knows what – it could be a seal or it might be a narwhal, which is a big animal that could drag you a long way.”

In North America, Manke is one of relatively few experts in the kayaking style. Last winter he became the first person to kayak the length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, Greenland style – using the trademark skinny paddles and low-to-the-water kayak.

When he teaches Greenland kayaking at home and elsewhere, he not only instructs people on technique and safety, he gives his students background on the Inuit traditions.

“When I got into this, it inspired me to want to learn more and more about it,” he said. “There was no one around teaching this, so I would find videos of the Inuit doing this kind of stuff, videoing myself and comparing them.

“When I started to teach people, at first I taught them the basic technique of rowing. Later I started sharing the culture of rowing and sharing that passion. Now I see other people get excited about it.”

Manke, a former avid dirt biker who took up kayaking a few years ago as a way to face his fear of the water, appreciates being able to help preserve this part of the heritage of the Inuit people in Greenland.

For Greenlantian organization  Qaannat Kattuffiat, that preservation is their main focus and the reason they initiated the National Greenland Kayaking Championships.

Manke and friend James Roberts, who lives in southern Ontario, fly to Greenland in early July to compete in the 2014 championships in the waters off Qaqortoq, on the southern tip of the island.

While other Canadians have competed as individuals in past, Manke and Roberts will compete as the first-ever Team Canada in the event.

All of those entered tackle the various rolls, spear throwing and other challenges while seated in the tight confines of an ocean kayak. The Canadians will compete in handmade skin-on-frame kayaks manufactured specifically for the event. The plan is to turn them over to the local group to help promote Greenland kayaking among young people there, Manke said.

Hunting from kayaks has traditionally been the realm of the most brave souls in the towns that dot the south Greenland coast. “In Greenland there’s a huge fear of the water because of the cold temperature and the frigid waters,” Manke said.

As part of the experience, Manke and Roberts are making a documentary film of the trip and the competition. They’re fundraising to help defray the cost of the documentary and travel to the event, mainly through their website (greenland.qajaq.ca). The duo are more than halfway to their goal of $15,000 with a few weeks to go.

In the meantime, Manke continues to practise his rolls in the quiet of Langford Lake – it’s a kind of meditation, he said –  and at the pool at Pearson College in Metchosin.

“I’m good on 33 (of the 35), but I’m still working on my strait jacket roll and behind-the-back sculling. I’m working on my flexibility.”

Neither his lake or pool time will quite prepare him for the icy cold waters of Greenland, so he and Roberts plan to arrive a few days early to acclimatize themselves.

“As soon as you get into that water you start to seize up,” he said.

All the more reason to be up to par on his rolls.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Peace Walk fundraiser for hospice runs on Sunday

Take a walk, have a snack, and help donate to a local charity

City of Victoria joins national food waste reduction program

The City is partnering in the Love Food, Hate Waste Program

Thousands attend 31st TD Art Gallery Paint-In

Artists display their work along 20 blocks of Moss Street

Details scarce as union confirms probe underway involving Victoria care homes

Island Health, VicPD offer no comment on report of investigation into alleged sexual assaults

Swimmer set for double crossing of Georgia Strait

Jill Yoneda’s Aug. 3 swim will benefit Canuck Place

VIDEO: Victoria woman recounts driving past wildfire near Peachland

Jenna Smith compared the fire to an apocalypse movie

Brush fire breaks out west of Port Alberni

Fire forces partial closure of Highway 4 heading to Ucluelet and Tofino

Accident on Vancouver Island after artillery gun rolls down hill and damages taxi

Witness says accident happend about 1 p.m. Saturday; RCMP investigating

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

Most Read