The Delmarva Dictionary

As told by Dubside


Thank you for coming to the Delmarva Paddler’s Retreat, our 27th year, and the 15th year it has been focused on traditional paddling. Although the event has an impressive and sometimes intimidating amount of history behind it, every year brings plenty of first timers. Whether this is your first or tweny seventh Retreat you can consider yourself part of the Greenland style paddling family. Here are some terms you may hear during this weekend as well as some background information for context.

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.

Alison Sigethy – the person who was in charge of the instruction/mentoring for many years.  Often  assisted by her partner Tom Milani and a host of others.

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.

Avataq – (ahh-va-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.

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. Proponents of the conventional or Euro style paddle, ten or twenty years ago the BCU didn’t give much respect to narrow bladed traditional paddle but this has begun to change for the better in recent times.

Bell or The Bell – the sound that rings through camp causing a parade of hungry kayakers to make their way to the dining hall for the next meal.

Birdcage – an enclosed shelter located somewhere in the woods behind the dining hall, where the paddlemaking workshop is held. Refer to camp map.

Bonfire – the nighttime beach gathering next to the tower, that usually begins after Saturday’s scheduled evening activities and continues into the wee hours.

Brian Schulz – a kayaker builder and hardcore skin-on-frame paddler from Oregon whose flamboyant personality and intense spirit has livened the Retreat for years.

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.

Chris Beckman – a veteran of many past Retreats whose organizational behind-the-scenes hard work throughout the year help make the Retreat a continuing success.

Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson – noteworthy Greenland-style paddlers and instructors now based in Maine who travel internationally full time teaching Greenland rolling, paddling, and kayak building.

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.

Clam Bake – The optional Sunday evening feast for those who don’t plan on driving until Monday morning. First organized by a contingent of New Yorkers, the original coals-in-sandpit method of baking clams, crabs, potatoes, etc. has been replaced lately with boiling and/or grilling. Ask around for who is making the food run and how much to pay them.

Dave Sides – One of the assistant organizers of the Retreat for the last several years and usually the main master of ceremonies in the dining hall. He’s the short, muscular guy standing on a chair, sometimes upside down.  You'll find him near the ropes rig.

Dressage or Kayak Dressage – a choreographed rolling routine set to music. Over ten years ago the Retreat pioneered this art form using the camp pool.

Dympna Haynes – organizer of Ontario Greenland Camp who is one our Canadian guests along with her partner James Roberts. Her personality could be accurately described as one lively ball of energy.

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

Eiichi Ito a kayaker from Japan and the major force behind Japanese interest in Greenland kayaking and techniques.

Games – on-water kayak fun for using your new kayak skills, which may include harpoon throwing for distance and accuracy, blindfolded paddling, speed rolling, contests of maneuverability, etc.

Greenland National Kayaking Championships – The annual celebration of kayak heritage held in Greenland since 1987 and open to foreigners in 2000. The 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.

Greg StamerQajaqUSA’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 book on the subject.

Helen Wilson – a noted traditional paddler from Arcata, California who travels worldwide teaching kayaking and is also a certified yoga instructor.

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.

Innaqatsineq – (in-NOCK-ahh-chin-nehk) The Greenlandic term for the side sculling maneuver and the first entry on the competition list. Literally translated it means ‘in a state of lying down on one’s back’.

Jim the Cook – the big guy in the kitchen responsible for the great food, creative menu, and making vegetarians happy campers, who has been in that position at Camp Arrowhead for many years.

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. Remembered fondly by all who knew him, John was a regular attendee of the Retreat for many years.

John Pedersen/John Peterson – the given name of three different important traditional kayaking personalities: 1) John Pedersen of Ilulissat was, along with his family, the driving force behind that town’s qajaq club for many years. John attended Delmarva in 2008 and 2009, and also went to SSTIKS in 2009. 2) John Peterson from Southern California has a reputation for building traditional kayaks with painstaking attention to aesthetic details. 3) John Pedersen of Nuuk, Greenland won four titles in the Championship competition between 1989 and 1995. He was featured in the documentary video “Amphibious Man” but has not been active in kayaking since that time.

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 “Kamp Rule” is enforced at the Retreat by requiring the offender to place one dollar in the Kamp cup. The final raffle ticket holder wins the Kamp cup contents.  BY popular request the contents will be a 50/50.  With half goingt ot teh winner and half going to help fund future Guests

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. His wife Elizabeth and their two-year-old daughter live in Alaska. They are expecting their first son any day now.

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.

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.

Mike Hamilton – Master Mentor, (chief herder of cats), Mike has taken over the duties of leading the instruction at Delmarva.  Probably the most important task of the event.  Delmarva has a rich tradition of excellant instruction and it couldn't be in better hands.

Moulton Avery – one of the old timers involved with the first few Retreats who disappeared for many years but recently resurfaced. Ask him about cold water shock and hypothermia.

Nerfallaallugit – (nah-fah-SHLA-shloo-hit is the best approximation, the double L syllable is not a sound used in English) The Greenlandic word for layback rolls.

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.

Ontario Greenland Camp or OGC ­­­– a weekend event held near Bracebridge, Canada about two hours north of Toronto during the early part of September, now in its fourth year.

Pallortillugit – (pah-SHLOR-ti-SHLOO-hit is the best approximation) The Greenlandic word for the category of forward ending rolls.

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 small duration assembled by Peter Gengler, the Retreat’s most rabid GoPro fanatic.

Qaannat Kattuffiat – (pronounced kahn-KNAT 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.

Qajaq JPN – A recognized Japanese affiliate of Qaannat Kattuffiat represented this year at the Retreat by Eiichi Ito.

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 and runs the very informative site If you haven’t signed up as a member, or if your membership has expired, now is a good time to fix that.

Qaqortoq – the name of a town in South Greenland where the kayaking competition has been held many times. It is scheduled to be there again in 2014.

Quail’s Nest – The camp’s designated name for the new two-story structure with balconies next to the pool.

Rick – The long time director of Camp Arrowhead, friend to Retreat attendees, and one heck of a nice guy (bushy mustache, often seen in vicinity of kitchen).

Robin Snow – the Retreat organizer who ran the event from 1996 to 2004 and has been part of the current organizing team since 2008. 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 to the Retreat in 1998.

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 (do not use the word “boat”), avoid dragging it on the ground, and try not to get sand into 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 GearAquilisaqs 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.

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.

Tahe – (pronounced TAH hee) The shortened name of a kayak manufacturer based in Estonia (Tahe Marine), which produces a Greenland style fiberglass/carbon fiber model that has become quite popular with rolling enthusiasts who often use the term to refer to the kayak as in, “Can I borrow your Tahe for the rolling demo?”

Terry O’Malley – most recent past president of QajaqUSA.

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

Training Camp a.k.a. Michigan Training Camp a.k.a. Qajaq T.C. – 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 tends to fill up very quickly.

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