KOKATAT Ambassador TEAM MEMBER | Sea Kayaking

Helen Wilson

Age: 42 years old website

“You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Once upon a time, in a land called Arcata, California, Helen Wilson needed a way to reach the middle of the fantastic lagoons, so she bought her first kayak. It didn’t take long before she realized that the ocean was where she truly wanted to be, so she traded it in for a second, more seaworthy, kayak. “Everything felt right… except my paddle (which I really didn’t like). A local paddler handed me a Greenland paddle to try, and I was immediately hooked.”

Soon she was traveling to traditional skills symposiums and learning everything she could about the history and culture of Greenland kayaking. It wasn’t long before she built her first skin-on-frame kayak and made her way through the competition rolling list. Through a local fundraising effort called ‘Greenland or Bust’ the community (including Kokatat) sent Helen to compete in the Greenland National Kayaking Championship. She did well, and people started asking her to speak at their symposiums about her experiences there. “This was about the time that I realized that I enjoyed teaching even more than I enjoyed competing. I especially loved teaching rolling, because the excitement that comes from learning a new roll is unlike the excitement of learning any other kayak-related skill,” Helen recalls.

As time went on, she left her job at a newspaper and turned Greenland or Bust into a business. In 2011 she met Mark Tozer, and a year later, they were married. Helen and Mark have each traveled to Greenland four times for the Greenland National Kayaking Championship and to guide expeditions. Helen’s philosophy is to, make friends, have fun, laugh a lot, and enjoy it all. Together with husband Mark they run classes and teach at symposiums worldwide. Her main goal is to keep traveling, having fun and enjoying life. “I want to keep working with students and learning from them, as they learn from me. I can’t see this lifestyle changing any time soon, but eventually I’d like to retire with three very large dogs.”