Qajaq Harpooning

Here is Minnesota we are luck enough to hold an annual Gathering of traditional paddlers. Ostensibly organized by the Northern Lights Qajaq Society, this event is kept alive by the passions of a few dedicated local paddling enthusiasts. I was lucky enough to attend the event for the first time last year as a mentor. I am returning again this year to enjoy the camaraderie of the local traditional paddling enthusiasts. The event provides the opportunity for people to focus on many aspects of traditional paddling, including rolling, strokes, maneuvers, qajaq building, paddle making and last but by no means least harpoon throwing. This is the only Qajaq USA sanctioned event held in Minnesota, and this year we are fortunate that one of the organizers is transporting the Qajaq USA collection of kayaks and equipment to the event for us all to use.


Last weekend I dug out my harpoon and norsaq to get in some practice prior to the Gathering. I used my skin on frame qajaq as it seemed more in keeping with the days activities. Much to the amusement of my neighbors I spent some time afloat learning how to get the harpoon to fly straight and far.
The setup seems key. Extending the throwing arm backwards. Leaning back far. Using the paddle as a balance aid. Ensuring the harpoon is pointing straight.


The launch is really helped by using your abs to pull your torso forward, then following through with a straight arm. Releasing the harpoon from the extended norsaq in front.


As with most throwing, the follow through seems to really help with aim, as does the initial angle of the harpoon. I have a long way to go to perfect my throw but it felt great to be out afloat and enjoying the beautiful evening sunset while practicing the ancient hunting skill.

You can read about my experiences last year at the gathering here.
One surprise I had was rolling the SOF. For some reason I was able to perform forward finishing norsaq rolls far easier than lay-back norsaq and hand rolls. I am going to have to video my body motions to understand what was going on.

I came across this video of Maligiaq Padilla throwing a harpoon, it is good inspiration!

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