Born in 1960, Greg Stamer grew up paddling open canoes but was instantly captivated by sea kayaks and got his start in 1988. Home is wherever he happens to be, but central Florida is his home base.
Greg is the President and founder of Qajaq USA, the American Chapter of the Greenland Kayaking Association (Qaannat Kattuffiat).
Greg is perhaps best known for his study, teaching and writings of Greenland technique and culture. He has written articles for Sea Kayaker magazine and authored the chapter, “Using Greenland Paddles” in “Eastern Arctic Kayaks, History, Design, Technique” by John D. Heath and E. Y. Arima. Greg is a featured paddler in Justine Curgenven’s “This is the Sea” video, and is a guest-instructor in “Nigel Foster’s Sea Kayaking Series”.
Greg has enjoyed exploring kayaking for almost 20 years. Greg is a prolific writer of Greenland-style technique, and travels world-wide to teach. Although Greg is a very vocal proponent of the Greenland-style, he is careful to avoid proselytizing; “kayaking to me is all about freedom, and a large part of that freedom is picking the methods and skills that you enjoy, while giving others the same consideration and respect”.
Greg started learning Greenland-style skills in 1988 and credits the late kayak historian, John Heath, and six-time Greenland champion Maligiaq Padilla, as his primary mentors. At the time, instructors teaching these techniques outside of Greenland were few, and Greg learned the skills on his own from studying videos by John Heath. “I would draw the starting and finishing positions of the rolls on a waterproof tablet and work out the mechanics on the water. It wasn’t until I attended a week-long training camp in Greenland, in 2000, that I discovered that many of my techniques needed refinement. I had a lot of work to do, but it was amazing to learn from the Greenlanders in the strikingly beautiful fiords near Nuuk, the capital city”.
In 2000, when the Greenland kayaking championships were first opened to “outsiders”, Greg was among the first to participate. In Greenland he met fellow participant Harvey Golden, and the two have remained close friends. “The first competition was especially interesting because we weren’t 100% sure of the schedule or what would be demanded of us. It really took a leap of faith”. The Greenland competition lasts one week, is physically demanding, and covers many kayaking skills — much more than rolling. Greg won his overall age-group, including the individual rolling event for his age-group. Hehi returned to Greenland to compete successfully again in 2002 and looks forward to visiting again. “I have remarkable memories of the people, the culture, of going on a seal-hunt, of spectacular ice formations and of having whales surface close to my kayak. I would love to paddle a large portion of the SW Greenland coast, learning from kayakers, including old seal-catchers along the way”.
When asked what attracted him to traditional kayaking, Greg responds, “I’m a minimalist and love the Greenland philosophy of working with the water, using balance and finesse rather than force. Although I do consider Greenland-style kayaking to be a “wet sport”, there is much, much more to Greenland-style than just rolling or playing in the water. These elegant, sophisticated paddles are well-behaved and easy to control in even appalling wind conditions. Their shape is all about form, ergonomics and function. They are very powerful when used with good technique. I expect to see their popularity continue to grow among all skill levels, including for expedition use”.
“The fascinating culture and history behind traditional kayaking adds incredible richness and depth. Imagine a culture where, not so very long ago, someone was largely judged based on his or her kayaking ability. There is still a tremendous amount for sea kayakers today to learn from these “professional kayakers””. Greg really gets excited when he talks about cross-pollination of ideas among kayakers of all disciplines. “It’s fascinating to compare the Greenlander’s techniques and solutions, with what is normally taught mainstream. It’s very easy to overlook alternative solutions, particularly for things that we learned very early in our kayaking education. As a simple example, instead of “hanging a knee” to lean the kayak into the wind to combat weathercocking, the kayakers in Nuuk simply shift their weight toward the windward side of the gunwale to passively lean the kayak. This enables you to paddle in perfect comfort and symmetry. Brilliant, and so simple! There are many more such gems of information to be learned”.
Greg has recently taken a leave from his corporate job to pursue other interests, including longer trips. “The first few paddle-strokes at the start of a new trip quickly blend into the strokes from my last trip, as if there was no interruption in time between them. All trips become one continuous kayak journey.
In June 2007 Greg and Freya Hoffmeister circumnavigated Iceland (1,620 km) in 33 days (25 paddling days), a record. In June 2008 Greg circumnavigated Newfoundland solo (2,102 km) in 44 days (35 paddling days), a record.
Greg is featured in ‘This is the Sea’.