Deception Pass Dash 2014

Deception Pass Dash 2014 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

I registered for the Deception Pass Dash as a racer, but just before the race I decided that I would rather not participate but instead watch from shore and record it on video. It is such a stunningly beautiful location that, as a racer, I have always envied the spectators and especially photographers who got to watch it from the top of one of the surrounding cliffs or the bridge.

There is so much going on during the race that it’s easy to loose focus trying to cover everything, so I just picked one spot along the shore to sit with my camera on a tripod. I hiked to a grassy clearing along the west entrance to the Pass with a view to the south. I was able to see the paddlers as they rounded Deception Island, went through the Pass and returned through Canoe Pass along shore. It turned out to be a perfectly clear but breezy day. In the meantime, Katya was shooting at Bowman Bay, capturing the spectacular start of the race and the paddlers as they crossed the finish line.

Just before the race, we did brief interviews with a few of the racers. I’ve been shooting with a Canon 7D II and I really love the ruggedness and slow motion capabilities of this camera. Slow motion gives you time as a viewer to really appreciate the image and motion. It just makes everything look cool! I predict that everyone will be using it for everything from now on, so try it while you can before people get tired of it and it becomes another passing fad, like time-lapse.

The idea behind this video was simplicity. Finishing it in black and white is part of that. Katya has extensive experience with black and white photography from the film era, so I relied on her for “color grading”. I like the monochrome effect for the on-the-water shots because it cancels out the overpowering bright blue of the water.

Special thanks go out to the paddlers who agreed to be interviewed: Michelle Sheffer, Jed Hawks, Barb and George Gronseth, David Price, Warren Williamson, David Cocker, and Minnie Fontenelle.

Greenland Week 2010: Interview with Kiliii Yu

Greenland Week 2010: Interview with Kiliii Yu from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Richard Lovering talks to primitive skills expert, skin-on-frame kayak builder and paddler Kiliii Yu about fishing and coastal foraging while guiding trips around Vancouver Island with his company Sea Wolf Kayak. Kiliii has written about his solo expedition along the Northwest Coast of Vancouver Island in an article titled "31 days of Rice, Butter and Lingcod", published in the December 2010 issue of Sea Kayaker Magazine.

Interviews from Greenland Week: Setsuko's Very Cool Kayak

Setsuko Cox talks to Richard Lovering about her Qaanaaq series kayak, manufactured by Water Field Kayaks in Japan. It's very low volume, an amazing rolling kayak and looks very Greenland Style. Check out how the back deck is awash with a larger paddler (Mr. Mike Jackson of Victoria, BC) in the cockpit. By the way, it's also a favorite of Freya Hoffmeister.

Setsuko's Qaanaaq Kayak at Greenland Week 2010 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Interviews from Kayak Academy's Greenland Week 2010

Dash Point Pirate TV arrived at Kayak Academy's Greenland Week 2010 Competition with cameras rolling! I was juggling shooting video with jumping in and out of my kayak to actually compete in the events!

This was the first attempt by Kayak Academy at putting on an event like this (actually, the first formal Greenland-style competition ever held in North America), and it was impressively well-organized. The events started on schedule and, as far as I know, the organizers didn't run into any major hiccups.

One of Dubside's goals was to design the events (ropes gymnastics, race, harpoon throwing, rolling) to be very spectator-friendly. One of the ways they did this was with real-time scoring: competitor's scores were displayed during the event on monitors. I thought this worked especially well during the rolling competition. Two evenly-matched competitors would roll simultaneously, and suspense would build as the crowd waited to see who would come out ahead as the clock ticked down.

I think some of our best video came from simply talking to a few of the competitors, coaches/judges or personalities who just showed up to watch. In our first interview, Duane Strosaker talks about being attacked by a great white shark in his kayak! In the second, Richard Lovering chats with Helen Wilson about rolling. I'm currently editing a series of these interviews that I'll post here.


Great White Shark vs Kayak- Interview with Duane Strosaker from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.


Helen Wilson at Greenland Week 2010 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Highlights from Kayak Academy’s Greenland Rolling Competition

Kayak Academy's Greenland Rolling Competition: Interview with Dubside from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.

Dash Point Pirate TV caught up with Dubside for a brief interview in the middle of Kayak Academy’s Greenland Rolling Competition at Lake Sammamish on August 23, 2009. Dubside discussed the importance of maintaining tradition by learning the Greenlandic names of the rolls, given the explosive popularity of Greenland Style and its adoption by “mainstream” sea kayaking in the United States.

Dubside also outlined plans for a much bigger competition on Lake Sammamish, based on the National Greenland Kayaking Championship, that will include rope gymnastics, races, rolling, and harpoon throwing. No other country other than Greenland holds a serious traditional kayaking competition, so hopefully Kayak Academy will be able to pull off this very ambitious project. The challenge of traveling and shipping kayaks and gear to Greenland discourages a lot of highly skilled American kayakers from competing in the Greenland games. I’m betting that these people will be crawling out of the woodwork to attend an event like this. When it happens, remember that you read it here first!


Kayaking legend Maligiaq Padilla also judged the event. In addition to teaching skin−on−frame building classes he has been building kayak models during his stay in the Pacific Northwest. Tom Sharp displayed one during the event −− an exquisitely crafted frame carved from yellow cedar, based on Maligiaq’s own racing kayak. It takes Maligiaq about the same amount of time to make one of these models as it does to make a full-size frame. They will sell for just as much, probably even more. Expect to see this work of art featured at the Inuit Gallery in Vancouver, BC. 


Oh, by the way, I guess I should mention that I won the highly coveted Golden Harpoon Head with a score of 165! Competition was stiff, and I was very lucky Warren Williamson didn’t show up (he was busy surfing his Illusion at the tidal race at Skooks). I had practiced norsamik masikkut, kingup apummaatigut, and ikusaannarmik niaqoq/pukusuk patillugu all month, but when the time came I didn’t score with these at all. Having to wear a bulky PFD (for insurance purposes) really hurt me. I think it’s time to get one of those small inflatables! Many thanks to George Gronseth and Barb Sherrill of Kayak Academy, Dubside, Maligiaq, John, KayakGrrl and all the other volunteers who put together such great event!

Quest for the Golden Harpoon Head!


Kayak Academy's "Greenland Week: Instruction with the Masters" is going to wrap up this weekend. George Gronseth and Barb Sherrill have been hosting Dubside, Helen Wilson, and Maligiaq Padilla this week for classes in rolling and paddling technique. There may still be some time to sign up for a last minute class if you are interested. I understand that Maligiaq will be here for another couple weeks or so holding Greenland skin on frame kayak building classes at the Skin Boat School.

One event not to be missed is Greenland Week's final rolling competition on Lake Sammamish State Park, Tibbetts Beach, this Sunday August 23rd between 10 AM and 4 PM. Registration is at 10 AM and the fee is $10. The competition will be judged by Dubside and Maligiaq, and the first prize is one of Maligiaq's golden harpoon head medals! This is one of the actual medals they give away during the National Kayaking Championship in Greenland! These things are so sought-after in Greenland that once an athlete wins one, they never, ever take it off again! (of course, Maligiaq probably personally owns something like 70 of them). 

This competition is likely to draw some highly skilled rollers, so it'll be interesting to see who shows up. It will be fun just to show up and compete. Participants also get a commemorative t-shirt! Contact Kayak Academy for more information.

Now excuse me while I go out and practice my rolls!

Sea Kayaking in Crescent Bay and the Salt Creek Recreation Area


Just some final pictures from Crescent Bay. After the tide went out later in the afternoon and the surf died down, Kayak Academy's George Gronseth led us on a trip east along the shore of the Salt Creek Recreation Area.  With a number of sea caves and arches, it’s probably one of the prettiest stretches along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's also home to some of the most exceptional tidepools in the Northwest. A touch of surge made for some fun rock garden paddling. I wasn’t too worried about sharp barnacles putting a hole in my skin boat, although after looking at some of the scratches on the hull afterwards maybe I should have been.

P3224039 P3224049

There were still some waves in Crescent Bay when we returned -- small but big enough to catch one last ride. From there we thanked George for a very enjoyable and instructive weekend and parted company. On the way home I stopped for dinner at the Port Townsend Public House. Can you see why I like this place? 


Ocean Surf Class with Kayak Academy: Part 2

Forks Coffee Shop. Looks like something right out of "Twin Peaks".
Forks Coffee Shop. Looks like something right out of "Twin Peaks".

Rain and winds up to 35 knots were forecast for the central Washington Coast for our second day of surf class. George Gronseth decided that instead of staying at Pacific Beach we should drive to Crescent Bay on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was a bit of a gamble because it meant that after leaving at 6:30 AM and driving two and a half hours to get there we might not find any waves at all. It wasn’t a mere guess though. George has a rule of thumb for determining whether there is going to be surf there: the swell in the coastal waters around Cape Flattery should be between 9 and 18 feet in a west to northwest direction, and the water level at Crescent Bay should be at least 5 ft, the higher the better.

Halfway to Crescent Bay we stopped for breakfast at the Forks Coffee Shop. Forks is a little logging town out in the far corner of the state recently made famous by the Twilight Saga, which was subsequently made into a hit movie. I heard that this diner (more likely a studio reproduction) was featured in the movie. Well, they don’t make them like this anymore! 

I don’t want to make it sound like the only places to eat on the Washington Coast are podunk taverns and cafes that look like they came right out of the David Lynch universe. The night before we had a fabulous dinner together at the Ocean Crest Resort in Moclips. This was a more upscale ocean−side restaurant that lighted the ocean from cliff at night to enhance the view of the waves from your table, and where the servers pronounced potatoes “po−TAH−toes”. Seriously! They had an extensive wine list.


Waiting for surf at Crescent Bay.
Waiting for surf at Crescent Bay.
Nice, regular lines of surf here.
Nice, regular lines of surf here.


I started to get a little discouraged driving along the shore to Crescent Bay. The water looked completely flat and I didn’t see any surf. But once we got within sight of the Bay you could see the waves come in −− long, clean lines. There were a few kayakers in surf−specific boats and board surfers already on the water. We didn’t waste any time getting on the water because we expected the waves to die down over the next few hours as the tide went out. Don’t be fooled: the pictures really don’t do justice to the size of the waves and the conditions there (I was too busy to take my hands off the paddle and use my camera when the waves rolled in).


My Greenland kayak is not the best surf boat but it sure looks cool!
My Greenland kayak is not the best surf boat but it sure looks cool!
Taken just before I got surfed backwards and pitchpoled.
Taken just before I got surfed backwards and pitchpoled.
Finally I got to try my skin−on−frame Greenland kayak in surf! I didn’t have great expectations for it, but I felt very comfortable sitting low in the water in its snug cockpit. The first thing I noticed is that the pointy bow really pierced through the green belly of the oncoming waves. This meant I took a lot of the wave in my chest.
The kayak did surprisingly well in the surf. It took a little more effort to catch a wave (because of drag from the skin?) and like any sea kayak tended to broach and turn up the wave face again, but there were a few times when I caught some long rides. While practicing surfing backwards I got pitchpoled. It’s strange to suddenly feel like you’re airborne, and then underwater upside down −− totally disorienting!

Ocean Surf Class with Kayak Academy: Part I

David Desertspring and George Gronseth at Pacific Beach.
David Desertspring and George Gronseth at Pacific Beach.

It had been quite a while since I played in the surf zone. Even though my previous experience in the surf was not that bad (I never had to wet exit), I am still haunted by memories of the first time I got pummeled by the waves at Neah Bay. I vividly remember the anxiety in those moments bobbing up and down in the swell outside of the surf zone, waiting for my turn to paddle back between the waves, attempting to make it to shore without getting totally thrashed. Somehow my timing was always off and before I knew it a big wave would pick me up, turn me sideways and throw me toward shore in a big pile of foam.

Well, I figured it was time to confront those fears again, so I signed up for a weekend ocean surf class with George Gronseth’s Kayak Academy. One of the best features about Kayak Academy classes is their small size. There were only two other students in our group and both had taken the same class before in the summer.


Heading out into the waves.
Heading out into the waves.
George Gronseth holds his classes at Pacific Beach. The gentle slope of this beach consistently produces friendly−sized waves close to shore no matter how big the ocean swell may be. Huge waves could be breaking a mile away from shore. They reform, break and reform again, producing smaller, manageable waves closer to shore.
George has you follow a progression to get the feel for handling a kayak in the surf. The first thing he wants you to do is swim and body surf with a paddle, PFD and helmet on. It gives you a good sense of the power of the waves and gets you used to the cold water -- important because you'’ll probably spend some time swimming, especially if your roll isn’t bomb proof. It’s hard work and you quickly realize how difficult it would be to swim any meaningful distance in those conditions.


Sit-on-top surf kayak. It has thigh straps but I couldn't stay in long enough to roll after a capsize.
Sit-on-top surf kayak. It has thigh straps but I couldn't stay in long enough to roll after a capsize.
The surf goes way out there.
The surf goes way out there.
Next he has you paddle a self−draining sit−on−top surf kayak. I tried a couple different sit−on−tops, a Wilderness Systems Kaos and a wider one. Both were equipped with thigh straps that gave you the ability to edge the kayak or even roll it. Whenever I capsized in them though I fell out immediately so I never rolled either one. It was easy enough to jump back on it and get surfing again anyway.
Once you become comfortable with the sit−on−tops you progress to a whitewater river kayak. The kayak I was in didn’t handle in the waves as well as the Wilderness Systems Koas did. It would catch a wave but I found it harder to keep it from spining around once it got to the bottom. 
By the end of the day I was sitting in a sea kayak. Of course you can’t expect a sea kayak to handle as well as the smaller boats in the surf. It's much more difficult to turn that thing around for one thing, especially when the waves were close together. My goal was to practice going out and back through the surf under control, timing my advance to avoid waves breaking on top of me, or getting surfed back in. At Pacific Beach there was actually no getting completely out of the surf zone for me. I only went out as far as I was comfortable before turning around.
Occasionally I would spot George out playing on the bigger waves. He shared with us some impressive stories about paddling in really big surf during the La Push Pummel one year. The waves were 25 ft high and he was one of only two kayakers who showed up for the event. He needed to paddle a mile out to get beyond the surf and would sit and wait in the huge swell until smaller sets would come in. Not only were these waves high but they had a lot of “back”, meaning they were very thick and carried a tremendous amount of power. Just imagine trying to paddle out against that, trying to avoid having a thousand of pounds of water crash down on you, knock the wind out of you, and surf you backwards and upside down at 20 mph.


The famous Aloha Tavern.
The famous Aloha Tavern.
We ended the day at the famous Aloha Tavern, a Pacific Beach landmark that dates back to the 1920s. I’m guessing it was started by some surfer, thus the name. This place is the real thing: friendly locals, dogs sleeping on the floor, pool tables, rustic tables made from slabs of fir, Christmas lights year-round, and posters of bikini−clad girls all over the ceiling. They serve beer in Mason jars. Honestly, I didn’t think places like this existed anymore. I assumed that the entire country had been Starbuckified by now. As I tried to sneak a picture of the painting of "The Clam Digger's Sweetheart" over the bar one of the locals asked me, “Hey, is that one of them new iPhones?” Not a place where I would normally hang out (latte−sipping, Prius−driving suburbanite that I am). After a Bud Lite though I felt right at home.


The Aloha Tavern. Painting on the left: "The Clam Digger's Sweetheart".
The Aloha Tavern. Painting on the left: "The Clam Digger's Sweetheart".

PRESS RELEASE: Maligiaq will be in Pacific Northwest in April 2009

Granite Falls, WA, February 1, 2009 -- 7 Seas Video Productions and The Skin Boat School are excited to announce the April 2009 visit by Maligiaq Padilla, seven-time Greenland National Kayaking Champion. During April 2009. Maligiaq will be conducting a ‘Greenland Skin on Frame Qayaq Design and Construction’ seminar. Maligiaq will give 2 sessions on the principles and techniques he was taught in Greenland, in addition to the design characteristics he looks for in his training/competition qayaq.

Maligiaq and Corey Freedman (SkinBoat School) will conduct classes together to prepare for the filming of the classes planned for August 2009. Tom Sharp ( 7 Seas Video Productions), will create a 2-hour documentary of the August building classes for DVD distribution and broadcast release of the video documentary series, "Greenland Qayaq Construction, with Maligiaq."

Maligiaq came to the USA in 1998 (with John Heath) as a Ambassador of Greenland Qayaqing and has become the most influential person in the Greenland Qayaq Community worldwide. Maligiaq won the Greenland National Kayaking Championship in 1998 at the age of 16. In addition, Maligiaq has won 7 of the last 10 Championships. In 2005, he was involved in the Arctic Peoples' Symposium at the Smithsonian in Washington DC where he built a Greenland Qayaq that is now in the Smithsonian's Collection.

Maligiaq has been traveling and teaching around the world for the past 10 years and returned to the USA in the summer of 2008. We are very fortunate to him for 30 days in April and in August for build classes, filming the Qayaq building sessions, and the Rolling and Stokes technique sessions in August through George Gronseth and the Kayak Academy in Issaquah, WA. (

For more information on Building Classes see April enrollment for the class starting on April 17th or the classes in August (documentary filming sessions) are now open. Build sessions will be held about 8 miles east of the Arlington, WA, exit off I-5 near Silvana WA. Heated indoor workshop space for icky weather and lovely outdoor space across the driveway at the shop for nice weather. (Directions and specifics available with enrollment.) Building Classes are $1700.00, all materials and tools supplied, plus lunch during class, (Deli/Pizza).

August Dates are available for Rolling, Strokes and Ropes Techniques through

Class sessions and personal appearance events are in the works, so stay tuned. This is a great opportunity to have fun and learn with a Qayaqman from Greenland.


Tom Sharp , President, 7 Seas Video

Email: [email protected]