John lives in the Puget Sound area on the shores of Liberty Bay near Poulsbo, Washington with his wife Tess, their 5 wonderful children, and a Yellow Labrador retriever, all who enjoy playing on the water. The Doornink children are also aspiring Greenland Rope Gymnasts.
John Doornink began kayaking in 1997 when his brother gave him a couple of old fiberglass kayaks. His kayak fleet finally expanded in 2002 when he built a Greenland-style stitch & glue kayak; "kayaking suddenly became much more fun". This entry into the world of traditional kayaking was prompted both by an enjoyment of woodworking and also by economics (outfitting the family with commercial equipment would be cost prohibitive). However, there are many other aspects of traditional kayaking that led to his continued interest. “I enjoy building and using these traditional kayaks not only because they are capable craft that are fun to build, but also because they afford perhaps a vague glimpse into the realm of individuals whose ability to survive hinged on kayaking skills. I use a Greenland Paddle not only because one can be made from a $6 two by four, but also because I consider it to be a state of the art piece of kayaking equipment.” John firmly believes that traditional Greenland paddles and kayaks are not just interesting pieces of kayak esoterica, but are highly effective pieces of equipment with a place in today’s mainstream kayaking.
In addition to building kayaks and carving paddles, John also makes much of his own neoprene kayaking gear. His article on making a neoprene sprayskirt was published in the December 2005 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine.
John has been involved with SSTIKS since 2003 and has also worked as an instructor at many of the other Pacific Northwest kayak symposia. “These events have been great opportunities for cross-pollination. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot from the many local instructors, but also have had the opportunity to show them some of the unique aspects of traditional paddling. At least in this corner of the world, I have been seeing more and more Greenland paddles on the water.”
John is largely a self taught roller who enjoys working his way down the list of competition rolls. However, more recently John’s passion is finding the perfect stroke (and maybe beating Ralph Johnson in the next SSTIKS race). John mostly just enjoys the freedom of being on the water. "As a wise individual once said, there is nothing--absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”