September 2009

The CPA is host to many styles of events. Two weekends ago, I helped to host a slightly different day on and off the water. This time is was focused on paid ‘professional’ instruction and Greenland Style kayaking. While this style is not for everyone, the enjoyment that was shared on that day made me feel that a common thread had been spun into the greater picture of the club. Share with me these memorable descriptions on that day, and perhaps our thoughts will help you recall some times you shared with the club this season or in seasons past.

— Dave Biss

CPA Greenland Day with Dubside and Alison Sigethy

Dubside sporting his new Greenland Sunglasses
Dubside sporting his new Greenland Sunglasses

Planning an event can sometimes feel like it requires more effort than is needed during the event itself. For the CPA Greenland Day, I played the part of organizer. It is always rewarding to know that you helped to make an event successful, but this day was especially rewarding, because it just simply worked out so well. Let me tell you about a few things that I think went well, and then maybe some of the other people there can tell you about the things I missed.

So it all started when Alison and I were talking about how the club does not bring in ‘professional’ instruction very often. By professional, I mean instruction that is paid. You all know that we have great club members who volunteer time by offering free clinics to other members. Sometimes it is worth spicing things up by bringing in outside voices to add new skill concepts to our paddler’s repertoires.

So I decided to hire Dubside; probably the best male Greenland Style paddler in the US. Well the response was overwhelming and fast in coming. Soon I decided I had to add either another day to the event or another instructor. I asked Alison if she would like to teach a couple of clinics on that day as well. We all know Alison as a friendly face at some of the club events, but did you know she is internationally known for her Greenland Style paddling? And that she teaches at paddling symposiums nationwide? So, she joined Dubside as a paid professional instructor for the day.

Now that I had ‘who’ for the Greenland Day, I needed where and when. ‘When’ is always a guess, and a hope that weather and tides will cooperate. ‘Where’ can also be a challenge. Since people were going to be rolling and standing in the water to help others, we needed a space that could accommodate this and have no jelly fish, boat traffic, a good launch, a good place to gather on land and more. I am convinced that the perfect ‘where’ does not exist, but Mason Neck State Park was a pretty good choice. As the day came closer, I was also afraid that the tides would be wrong for those who were doing rolling, and that the predicted thunderstorms would spoil things. But as the day dawned, and the sun eventually appeared, and even the tides cooperated, we had a perfect weather day.

I was very pleased at how all worked out well, and I was even more pleased to see how happy everyone seemed to be. I could only hope that they all got as much out of the clinics as I got out of the satisfaction of a day that came together for all.

– Dave Biss

Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park

I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to gain instruction and insight into many aspects of Greenlandic kayaking through fabulous instructors. Alison Sigethy and Dubside are two of these amazing people who have tremendously helped me on my journey to push past my “discomfort” zone and move towards truly enjoying the rolling experience. Watching them roll with tremendous grace and skill has only increased the desire to learn this important skill which leads to more confident and improved paddling.

As instructors, they are so keenly aware of all your body and paddle movements and are able to pick up on your strengths and problem areas. They are comforting and nurturing in their teaching styles, standing in the water and spotting you every step of the way. With the standard Greenland layback roll, Alison reinforced the importance of slowing down the progression…giving me time to orient myself and the paddle correctly. She helped me to progress to rolling on the “other” side by starting with the side scull and balance brace. She took time to properly fit me in a kayak which helped lead to success. Dubside really stressed the importance of flexibility and has totally put the “fun” into rolling. He saw that I was comfortable with a balance brace and said, “OK, you can balance brace, I think you can do a shotgun roll.” With a guiding hand placed on mine, putting it in the correct place on the back deck, I did it, and then did it again and again by myself. Wow. I think the combination of words and touch really helped to create a body memory when learning these rolls. I had tried a reverse sweep roll previously and was unsuccessful. His slight correction on the set up, leaning backwards towards the stern and arching my back, made all the difference. I capsized completely and came around to finish out with the final elements of the chest scull. Again, with the skill level and teaching abilities that Dubside and Alison possess, they are able to tune in to these slight body adjustments which can produce positive results.

When I feel more comfortable with my rolling, my hips loosen up….my “Little Fram 176” skin on frame doesn’t feel like a “tipperina” and that makes me smile. Thank you Alison and Dubside.

– Laura Ventura


Last week, I read about a study that showed that competitive swimmers who associated socially with champion swimmers improved their own performances. The mindsets and habits of the champions were picked up by the non-champions. Spending a day with Dubside and Alison, along with other paddlers of high skill levels, made me think about that study.

For me, the value of the day was not only in the training sessions, but also in the interaction with other paddlers. It’s one thing to see exceptional athletes like Alison or Dubside do their thing; they’re inspiring, but few of us have any expectation of achieving their level of skill. But when someone you see every month or two at a mellow paddle suddenly whips out a norsaaq and starts a continuous roll, well… that sheds a new light on the accessibility of the skill.

– Jay Gitomer

Nelson Watching Dubside's Clinic
Nelson Watching Dubside’s Clinic

For me, it was very useful simply to have Alison critique my forward paddle stroke. It is the most basic of skills, but learning to do it properly has the greatest impact on a touring kayaker. I have trouble with a tendon in my right elbow and in the clinic we determined that this problem flares up when my paddling form degrades. (From here on out, I’ll call my elbow problem a training tool rather than an injury.) This means less arm action and more rotation, rotation, rotation. We all THINK we do it, but Alison’s training drills showed us how much more we could do. We practiced both “Franken-paddling” and paddling with our arms stretched as far across the paddle as we could reach, making rotation necessary in order to get the paddle in the water at all. Alison highly recommended that we use one or the other of these drills each time we start and end our paddles in order to make torso rotation second nature. I hear you, Alison, and will make this part of my routine along with stretching before getting on the water.

– Jennifer Bine

Dubside's Clinic heading out onto the water
Dubside’s Clinic heading out onto the water

The magic of Dubside’s teaching is that he’s extremely perceptive, and therefore quick to find your limitations and help you overcome them. I was in his afternoon rolling session. First he interviewed the four of us (Laura Ventura, Jay Gitomer, Steve Betten, and myself) and found we were pretty well matched as far as skill level, all having at least one fairly reliable roll and wanting to add more to our repertoires. Then he got us into our kayaks and put us through our paces. Within probably 15 minutes of getting the class together, he knew what we could do (and whether we had under- or overstated our abilities!) and had assessed our ambitions for learning more. First we worked on a drill designed to teach us forward-finishing rolls. We partnered up and, with a paddle across the decks of two boats, each person would practice the storm roll maneuver. Once we were tired of that, we paddled over to a sandy spot on the shoreline and took turns working with Dubside spotting us individually. With each student, he found that one Greenland roll that was close-but-not-quite and worked on it until it was solid. He made us repeat it several times, so it would be burned into our muscle memory and not easily forgotten. And because many of the Greenland competition rolls are so similar in movement, he challenged us with additional rolls where that skill we had just acquired would be directly applicable. The result was, after a few hours, all four of his students had at least one “Aha moment” and several new rolls checked off our lists. By the time we landed and got out of our kayaks, there were squeals of delight, high-fives, and a smiling sense of achievement all around.

My personal highlight of the day happened in a parking lot. Dubside had talked to our class a lot about yoga and stretching, and how flexibility can make all the difference between success and failure in Greenland rolling. We had done some warm-up stretches before we got on the water. Later though, after we’d loaded our kayaks and met up at the agreed-upon spot for dinner, Dubside stopped us before going into the restaurant. He suggested that now would be the perfect time to practice yoga, before we ate a big dinner; trying to do yoga on a full stomach is a bad idea. So we found a flat and vacant section of pavement, then Dubside looked at me: “Well, you’re the yoga teacher, you lead!” So I improvised a 15-20 minute series of standing poses, twists, and stretches to undo the surprising amount of tension and muscle soreness that had resulted from several hours of rolling practice. Commando Yoga goes right along with Commando Kayaking!

– Gina Cicotello

Laura Ventura Tuning up her paddle
Laura Ventura Tuning up her paddle

I had a wonderful time at the Greenland clinic, especially in Alison’s afternoon rolling session. Alison was very patient with our group of four, including me, Mitch Grunes, Steve Meister, and Debbie Schmiel. Alison was also very good at demonstrating all the parts of a sweep roll in a way I hadn’t seen before. In my case, I wanted to work on my offside sweep roll and my butterfly roll, which had both been inconsistent. By the end of the afternoon, after a bit of practice with a paddle float in my hand, I was balance bracing with ease on both sides, making my butterfly better. In addition, while working on my offside roll, I realized that my onside roll could also use some tweaking. Both sides looked much better by the end of the day.

Finally, I did my first successful cowboy reentry during the afternoon (after an unfortunate multiple failed butterfly roll attempt), using a tip I’d learned from classmate Jay during the morning! (She suggested putting the paddle under my front bungees and out of the way instead of using it as an outrigger, then trying to climb over it on the way to my cockpit). Wet exiting in the afternoon turned out to be a good thing!

I felt very pleased (and very tired) at the end of the day.

Alison Sigethy enjoying all the Great Company
Alison Sigethy enjoying all the Great Company

Remember that if you have a day that brings to mind memories as we did, we would all like to share it with you. Consider writing down your experiences and sending them to our CPA Newsletter Editor to be experienced in the next edition.

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