Tuesday, 10 September 2013 12:03

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 3 DVD Review

When it's your third full length sea kayaking instructional DVD what's left to cover? I'm sure that was going through Gordon Brown's head had when he sat down with producer, Simon Willis to plan out the third volume of their highly successful and award winning series, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown.

But really, what's left to cover? The first two DVD's covered off all the foundations skills of sea kayaking including paddling forward, corrective strokes, rock hopping, rescues, towing and looking competent in tidal races (to name a few).

Volume 3 takes us way beyond what would typically be expected from a kayaking instructional DVD and breaks away from just covering actual kayaking hard skills. Over the course of four short films, they cover more advanced topics such as navigation, first aid kits, handling emergency situations and kayak rolling.

The Handling Emergency Situations section was the real stand-out to me. In the film, Gordon teams up with both lifeboard and coastguard rescue professionals and examines what happens when you get in trouble and need outside help. The film walks you through and shows everything from the time you signal for help and emergency crews are dispatched to getting you back to shore safe and sound.

The rescue boats are coming!

What makes this unique is that the majority of this film is both shot and told from the perspective of the professional rescuers and it's filled with tips and simple things sea kayakers can do to, in the event of an emergency, to make the rescuers jobs easier and increase the chance of them finding you.

Over the years I've seen similar training videos (usually government produced) that talk about how to keep safe on the water. Generally speaking I found that they were either so simple that the message was lost or aimed at a different group (eg. sailing) so most of the information wasn't practical to me as a paddler. In this case most of the professionals highlighted are actually paddlers themselves so it comes across a lot more applicable and down to earth.

I will be honest with you; the thought that was running through the back of my head the entire time watching this film was, "why do they get to have so much fun and why can't I do that?" Don't laugh, you will do the exact same thing when you see all the toys they got to play with. I won't give it all away but expect to see rescue boats, flying helicopters and missing paddlers at night. 100% pure awesomeness.

Another gem hidden in this DVD is the second film focused on sea kayak navigation. This time Gordon pairs up with Franco Ferrero, the author of Sea Kayak Navigation, one of the best navigation books on the market. I enjoyed this film because it takes the potentially complex and daunting task of navigation and breaks it down with clear explanations and a smattering of animation thrown in to get the concept across.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown navigation lesson.

Before watching the navigation film I was wondering how they were going to make it interesting enough to keep me me watching the whole thing. I bore easily and I was worried I was going to get lectured at. To keep it interesting, Gordon and Franco each take unique roles. Gordon accompanies two paddlers on a day trip and explains basic navigation techniques including compass operation, piloting, deduced reckoning, aiming off,etc. Whenever they get to a complex topic that needs a more in-depth explanation, they jump over to the master, Franco who explains the concept in more detail. With the help of animation, Franco tackles tides, currents, tidal streams and shaping a course to name a few of the more advanced topics.

As a sea kayak instructor, watching the navigation film drastically changed my perspective of how to teach navigation and gave me a significant number of ideas I want to try for my next clinic. I can't wait.

I was disappointed with the Rolling Clinic film. Don't get me wrong, I think it was good but compared to the other films on the DVD, it is clear it isn't the strongest one in the lot. To me it felt like the progression and execution could have been thought out more and it seemed rushed.

What makes this rolling film unique compared to others is the emphasis on working with a friend who has a video camera so you can compare it to the DVD demonstrations. I think this idea is good on paper but the execution was off. For example, Gordon teaches a group of absolute beginners through a rolling clinic. While the idea to get beginners to clearly show beginner mistakes is great, I thought the final edit depended too much on them and I would rather watch Gordon (or a more intermediate paddler) demonstrate so there is a stronger emphasis on correct technique.

Rolling lesson with Gordon Brown.

Don't get me wrong, there is some really good material and activities throughout. I thought Gordon does a nice job of breaking the roll down down (in this case a C to C roll) and keeps you focused on the critical elements to make it successful.

The last film, hosted by Rowland Woollven of the Wilderness Emergency Medical Services Institute, covers first aid specifically for paddlers. They make it very clear at the beginning that it is not intended to be a replacement to actual first aid training but rather give you a taste to get you thinking about first aid and in particular why you should take a wilderness first aid course.

Talk to any first aider and they will offer to give you a tour of their first aid kit faster than a kid running to an ice cream truck and here Rowland is no different. Throughout the film, he gives a great walk-through of several kits of various sizes to give you on what to include in your own kit. My take-away learning was just how useful electrical tape is for binding cuts and blisters while on the water as it works way better than the typical bandage tape I've tried to use in the past.

Final verdict? Yes. The other two volumes of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown are fantastic and this is no different. I know that sea kayakers will be happy with this one given the huge amount of information presented. Plus it looks great and could easily be used on its own as an advertisement for kayaking in Scotland and North Wales.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 3 will be available via your local paddling shop at the end of October or you can pre-order it now at seakayakwithgordonbrown.com.

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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