AB: Tell us about your kayaking background
HP: I have to say that I have a great passion for outdoor life—kayaking, skiing, hiking, hunting and so on. But I haven't always been like that. I grew up in Oslo, the capital of Norway, the big city life. Being out in nature wasn't so cool and inspiring for a young kid.
After turning 19 I went to the military, one year of duty, in Northern Norway. A seed was starting to grow inside me, the passion for the outdoor life in the northern region. After the military I moved back to the big city (not Oslo, but Trondheim). It would take another eight years before the seed went into full bloom.
I quit my job as a store manager at Toys-R-Us and got a bachelor degree in Outdoor Life and Guiding. I felt more at home out in nature in Northern Norway. This study was partly in Alta, where I now live, and at Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. It was here I tried kayaking for the first time, and I became addicted!
AB: What do you love about kayaking?
HP: It is so fun to travel on water and have full control over both the kayak and the surroundings. It is unmotorized and I use my body to get around in a smooth and satisfying way!
I get close to wildlife and I can go places you can't travel with small boats. With a kayak you can travel with a lot of gear and equipment and it doesn't get so much harder or more exhausting (like with hiking). I simply have more energy to enjoy nature and the silence of the ocean.
I have a dream to go kayaking on the southwestern fjords of Greenland. I hope to fulfill this dream next August.
AB: Tell us about kayaking with a beluga whale
HP: This beluga whale is one of a kind. Rumours say the whale comes from a Russian children's center. It is more or less tame and is seeking contact with people. It had a harness with Russian characters when it first came to the city of Hammerfest, close to Alta.
I have met this whale, whose name is Hvaldimir, a couple of times. He swims against me when I do the Eskimo roll and wants to play. He is so playful and curious.
There are no other beluga whales in the area. But in the winter time we have humpback whales and some orcas in the other parts of Altafjord (November through January). They are feeding on the herring.
This winter I really want to go kayaking with these big mammals. The humpback whale can grow to 17meters long (54 feet). Hvaldimir is approximately 5 meters long.
The challenge with kayaking with the humpback whale is the distance to their feeding area, the cold winter temperatures, and lack of sunlight here in the dark winter period. So I need to plan this thing very well!
AB: How are you involved in the kayaking community?
HP: Now I work as a guide and guide manager for NORD Ekspedisjon. I also have worked as a teacher for the same bachelor program I followed, mostly with the topics of canoe, navigation and mountain first-aid.
I joined the local kayak club here in Alta when I first moved up here. Now I´m deputy head of the club and I organise 4-5 kayak courses every year. I also volunteer in the local Red Cross and children's outdoor club. So outdoor life and kayaking is my new life! The mastery and control I got after my first kayak trips made me hungry for more.
We have some guided kayak tours through NORD Ekspedisjon, but I always want to guide even more in my kayak, and also more expedition trips here in Northern Norway.
The courses I have with the kayak club are basic courses for both young people (12 years and up) and adults, and even some seniors (65 years and up). It’s all about giving them the same mastery and good feelings I got when I tried kayaking for the first time.
The young people are more eager to learn the eskimo roll and push the limits a bit further. And that’s often how you develop as a kayaker. I'm a Level 3 kayak instructor, with a total of five levels, according to the Norwegian Paddle Association. Next spring I'll go up another level.
Alta is a small community and kayaking is not a big thing here, yet. People here often go skiing, dogsledding and mountain biking. There are no kayak dealers in town, so all my equipment I order online. The nearest kayak dealers are in Tromsø, a 6-hour drive from Alta.
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