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Atlantic Canada — Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Symposiums

Posted by Greg on June 1, 2010

Linda Bartlett in new kayak at Terra Nova

Partner Linda Bartlett tries out her spanking new Impex Force 3 in Newfoundland’s Terra Nova National Park

I just returned from a whirlwind trip — teaching and speaking at the Atlantic Canadian Paddling Symposium in Nova Scotia before rushing off to Newfoundland to teach at the annual Kayak Labrador and Newfoundland (KNL) symposium.  This isn’t as crazy as it sounds — next year the Atlantic Canadian Symposium will be held in Newfoundland (in lieu of the KNL event).

I should be accustomed to it by now, but it still feels silly to pack a suitcase full of winter clothes and gear, including a drysuit, and heavy wool insulation, when the mercury outside my Florida home is topping at a sweltering 90 degrees (32 C).  I first experienced this disparity in 2000 when I traveled in summer to Greenland to compete in the 2000 championship. Flying from Baffin to Greenland I was shocked into reality as I gazed at the brilliant ice pans below that glistened in the sun. A chill went through me. “You’re not in Kansas any more”.  Now, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia aren’t as cold as Greenland, but it did snow briefly in Newfoundland when I arrived!

It was great to visit both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland during the same trip. Although they are geographically close, they have very different personalities and cultures.

I circumnavigated Newfoundland in 2008 and have returned many times since then to visit my long-distance partner Linda Bartlett. We met at the conclusion of my circumnavigation. Visiting Nova Scotia this year was a first for me. Where Newfoundland is stark and rugged and has thin, rocky soil due to glacial scouring, Nova Scotia is more gentle with deep lush soil. It felt familiar — reminding me of the rich, rolling hills of the Midwest where I was raised. Both provinces are uniquely beautiful, although in different ways. The people here are wonderful. I’d rate the folks in Atlantic Canada as among the most generous and hospitable in the world.

Atlantic Canada symposium — Nova Scotia

The Atlantic Canada symposium was held oResettlement -- moving a house n the Eastern Shore, about 45 minutes outside of Halifax. I taught Greenland-style kayaking to very enthusiastic students. Most of them had never held a Greenland paddle before.  For the keynote address I discussed expedition kayaking against the backdrop of my Newfoundland circumnavigation. I originally wondered if talking about Newfoundland would be old news but I was surprised at the cultural distance between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland — for example some people in the audience were not aware of “resettlement”, a government sponsored relocation during the 1950’s – 1970’s where Newfoundlanders in the “outports” were moved from small villages into larger towns. Some intrepid people moved their homes over water or ice.  I find the entire story amazing (as well as heartbreaking).

The schedule included time to allow instructors to take classes (thanks Chris!) and I jumped at the chance to learn canoe poling from Kevin Silliker and Tim Humes. Both men are as entertaining as they knowledgeable. It’s good to be humbled with the challenge of a new skill (although a canoe pole IS a skinny stick after all…)  At the end of their session I was able to pole a canoe in wind and navigate very mild whitewater. I plan to use these new skills for fishing in nearby Mosquito Lagoon — standing in my kayak or canoe.

I enjoyed the diversity of the event. Canoes as well as kayaks were highlighted.

KNL Annual Symposum — Newfoundland

I hopped a plane for Newfoundland to visit Linda Bartlett and to teach private lessons, prior to coaching Greenland skills at Terra Nova National Park. This is a beautiful area where long fingers of forested, rocky land touch the North Atlantic. It felt like a homecoming, I had first visited and taught in the park in 2007, prior to paddling around Iceland.

KNL has a very unique teaching structure; classes are rotated between instructors. That gives each student the ability to sample everything on the menu (kind of like having tapas rather than a single heavy meal). What I find very unique about this event is the overlap between different disciplines. Unlike many events that have become highly specialized, here you will find cars with both whitewater kayaks and sea kayaks on the same roof and kayakers who love both activities. The KNL event emphasizes whitewater one year and sea kayaking the next. Brenna Kelly was on hand to coach whitewater skills this year.

It was very satisfying to see that Greenland-style paddling has been embraced in Newfoundland. I saw very few Greenland paddles in 2007, and they were fairly common this year.

Many thanks to Christopher Lockyer and Craig Moores of KNL for help with trip logistics, and everyone for their hospitality. I look forward to returning to Atlantic Canada soon!

— I need help with names in the photo essay below. Please send me a note and I’ll update the captions!

Atlantic Canadian Symposum — held at “Memory Lane”

Nova Scotia – the event was held at “memory lane” a living museum






The Greenland-style paddling classes were well attended.


The joy of hitting an effortless “balance brace”!


Canoes, Kayaks, and Surf Skis (Oh My!)


Geneviève Langevin. Like many students she sampled a diversity of classes


That’s me, front-left, trying an even skinnier stick than usual… Photo courtesy Wayne Feindel


Nothing has the warmth of wood canoes…


Getting ready to try poling for the first time…


Kevin Silliker shows us how it’s done


Alan Goodridge (Newfoundland) and Amy Samson (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Fellow students in the canoe poling class.


Linda Bartlett demonstrates how to stay warm in Newfoundland– a “Rosie-scarf”! warm and fashionable :^)

olym20100522_151.jpgKNL event; getting ready for the group paddle

olym20100522_173.jpgThe group trips at the KNL event were very well attended


I noticed many more Greenland paddles this year…

  1. Craig Moores Said,

    Thanks Greg for all your help at the KNL Retreat. I have received great feedback on the Clinic you ran for us at Sandy Pond and all the helpful tips given to folks on the group paddle. People are still talking about your presentation on Saturday evening. It seems you have lit a fire under some to do a few longer paddles.
    I do have a KNL T-shirt here for you. I forgot to give it to you before you left. If you seen me your mailing address, I will forward it to you.
    I hope you will be able to return to Newfoundland soon. As you know you are always welcome.


    Craig Moores

  2. Greg Said,

    Thanks Craig for your remarks and for your help with logistics and planning! I’m happy to hear the clinic/presentation was well-received. I certainly enjoyed doing them! The group paddle was fun — many thanks to Linda for inviting me to act as “sweep”. It was great to be in Newfoundland again.

  3. Alex McGruer Said,

    I love the post’s
    Thank you for coming to KNL’s Retreat.
    You presentation on the circumnavigation of Newfoundland was great including that photo of the quiet paddle on the Southern Shore. We all had a chuckle at that.
    All the key players wetre there at that presentation too.

    Thank you again Greg: It was a great presentation and instruction was superb.
    Alex McGruer
    President, Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador

  4. Greg Said,

    Alex, many thanks for your comments, I know that you, Linda, Craig, Neil and many others worked hard to bring this all together. My apologies to those folks whose name goes unmentioned!

    I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the presentation. I guess that means that I didn’t botch the pronunciation of the placenames too badly… :^) I do hope that more people consider doing the “big trip” (or large chunks of it). Newfoundland is a sea kayaker’s paradise.

  5. Malcolm Rowe Said,

    Greg is the Godfather of Greenland paddling in Newfoundland. Three years ago, when he first attended the Kayak Newfoundland and Labrador annual symposium, there was just one paddler who had been using a Greenland paddle and another who was just starting (me). Greg planted the seed such that now there is a strong minority of Greenland paddlers in eastern Newfoundland and in central Newfoundland almost all paddlers use a Greenland paddle. Many thanks to Greg for showing us that the Greenland paddle is not just for rolling nor is an simply artefact of Inuit life. Rather, it is a viable alternative for paddling in all conditions. I love my Greenland paddle!

  6. avital from www.optimist.co Said,

    It looks sooooo good!

  7. Greg Said,

    Godfather! Does that mean I need to carry around my GP in a violin case? I had better find a 6-piece take-apart version 🙂

    Jokes aside, thanks for the kind words. I’m sure that Greenland-style kayaking in Newfoundland was bound to grow through the efforts of dedicated paddlers like yourself, but I’m happy to have played a small part in that process (and hope to continue).

  8. Greg Said,

    Thanks Avital!