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.

Published in DVD Reviews

I was super excited today to get an email from Simon Willis letting me know about the upcoming release for Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, Volume 3 DVD.

Picking up where Volume 2 left off, this version is made up of four separate films covering navigation, rolling, dealing with emergencies both on and off the water and finally, how to build a solid first aid kit.

I'm very interested in the emergency situations film which involves teams from the Coastguard using both helicopters and rescue boats. Let’s be honest, how cool would it be to be on the film shoot the day they brought out the helicopters?

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, Volume 3

The sea kayak navigation film also looks like it has a lot of promise as it is co-presented by Franco Ferrero. His book, Sea Kayak Navigation: A Practical Manual, Essential Knowledge for Finding Your Way at Sea is easily one of the best books navigation books out there.

For those who can’t wait until the end of October (when the DVD will be available), there will be four free short films filled with out-takes and behind the scenes clips available for download on September 1.

More info: seakayakwithgordonbrown.com


Published in General News

Simon Willis is the producer of the multi award winning Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown coaching films and the man behind SeaKayakPodcasts.com.  After years as a BBC reporter on TV and radio Simon started his business, Sunart Media. It produces videos for a variety of business clients and broadcast productions.

1) How long have you been in business and what got you started?

I worked for the BBC in News and Current Affairs for twenty-five years before I started Sunart Media in 2009.  Previously in TV, most people specialized in one particular role, whereas I tackled a range of jobs; presenting live TV and radio shows, reporting, producing other reporters and directing documentaries. Journalism was always the common theme.  I even had a parallel career travel writing and taking photos for specialist magazines and The Sunday Times.    

Nowadays it’s essential to be multi-skilled.  When TV cameras and computer-based editing became simple, I loved the freedom to plan, shoot and edit my own work.  The BBC was happy too, and for a year I had an open brief to bring stories to the screen.  The logical step was to take voluntary redundancy and use the skills to produce content for my own business.

Simon Willis with Gordon Brown

2) What’s the best part of your job?

The best part is that wonderful, special moment when I know what’s going into my camera is absolutely stunning.  As a reporter I’ve had it during interviews, when the guest drops their guard and answers from the heart.  Most recently, it happened during filming for Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 2 when Gordon started the swim-ashore sequence.  I simply couldn’t wait to play it back and check that I captured it all.

Running that feeling a close second are those times when I’m in Scotland’s mountains, shooting for The Adventure Show on BBC-2.  I’ll look around the peaks and think, “This is where I work... what a lucky bloke I am!”  I was a mountaineer and cyclist long before I was a climber, and once even considered a career as a guide.  All these years later to find myself earning part of my living in the great outdoors is fantastic.

3) What’s the most difficult aspect of the job?

Making money!  If Gordon Brown and I charged ourselves our normal hourly rate for filming I’m fairly sure our films would make a loss.  They are a great ‘shop-window’ for his kayak coaching business Skyak Adventures and Sunart Media but they make a lot of demands on our families, especially Gordon’s wife Morag who is heavily involved in the filming.  The real reason we all do them is for the love of this sport.

4) What are two tips you can give to somebody looking to start their own video production company?

Be born to rich parents.  I’m only half joking, as for the first few years you’ll probably work virtually for free.  I was always told, “Knock on lots of doors and when one opens, jam your foot in it”.  Get a camera and use it a lot to work out what you’re doing right and wrong.  Find people whose work you like and try anything (almost!) to hang out with them in a professional capacity.  They won’t pay you but they’ll love giving you advice.  And all the time, the culture of the crazy media industry will start to seep into you.  Looking forward it looks like a maze, but looking back you can always see a path.

Simon Willis filming in a double kayak.

5) What about your job do you think would most surprise people?

How little most people in broadcast TV now earn.  Big stars command big bucks, but a recent survey by an industry magazine found the average annual pay for an experienced TV director in the UK is £36,693 (about $58k).  That’s a less in actual terms (not just real terms) than twenty years ago.

6) If you could tell something to your 18 year-old self, what would it be?

Don’t get married.  Twice.  Wait until you meet a woman called Liz while climbing in Alaska... Oh sorry, you mean for work?  Well, at eighteen I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do but was having such a good time, I didn’t really care and probably wouldn’t listen to a balding fifty year old.  By then I’d adopted a philosophy I’ve clung to throughout life, although perhaps that sounds pompous, when really it’s a simple approach: before making a big decision, get all the facts, take time, walk up to the edge of the decision-cliff and pause; then when you step off you will have made the decision that’s right at that time.  You can never, ever have regrets because you know you made the right choice.  Oh, but it doesn’t work with weddings...

Published in People

Sea Kayak Podcasts Logo

I just read the sad news this morning over at Simon Willis’s blog, “Apple is dropping the system which allowed me to simply make and upload podcasts. So after six years, that seems like a cue to bring [SeaKayakPodcasts.com] to a close.”

I have been a big fan of his work pretty much since he started posting them and over the years Simon has amassed a huge collection of interviews with paddlers covering topics like destinations, kayak tips and techniques and the business of the outdoors.

If you haven’t listened before here is my list of top 5 podcasts to help get you started:

5) Turner Wilson -Greenlandstyle paddler, he teaches and runs kayak building workshops around the world.

4) Paddle to Seattle - Josh Thomas & JJ Kelley - inside story of their film ofCanada’sInside Passage.

3) Sponsorship - Bob Campbell - former PR man at P&H Sea Kayaks explains what he wants when sponsoring an expedition.

2) Coastguard on Kayakers - Bill Speirs - all the answers to the questions you wanted to ask the coastguard.

1) 5 Star Award - Doug Cooper - what it takes to achieve the BCU 5-star award.

I just heard back from Simon and it looks like the archives are going to stay online for the time being which is fantastic.

Published in Websites
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 23:07

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 2 DVD Review

Sea Kayak Gordon Brown Version 2 Cover

I will admit upfront that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to topics like kayak rescues and towing. Not sure why but I just find them more interesting to talk about and practice then boring topics like how to perfect the low brace or forward stroke. That’s why I was excited to check the the mail recently and discover a pre-release version of the upcoming DVD, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 2 by BCU senior sea kayak instructor, Gordon Brown.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD: Version 2 Capture

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 2 is the second in a three part series (look for the third volume to be released in 2012). This version take us into more advanced boat handing and covers topics such as Assisted and Self Rescues, Contact/Short and Long Distance Towing, Technical Landings and Rescue Scenarios. On paper that might not seem like a lot but trust me this DVD covers a huge pile of material in each chapter that will keep both intermediate and advanced paddlers happy.

What I really like is that for an instructional DVD, it’s actually interesting. Like version 1, the teaching elements are woven into the story of a group of paddlers who set out to explore St Kilda by kayak. St Kilda is a small cluster of beautiful and rugged islands 40 miles into the North Atlantic off the west coast of Scotland. I found the formula of mixing a good story with instruction throughout made watching the entire two hour production a pleasure.

As far as actual new stuff to learn, I was pleasantly surprised with how much material there was throughout the DVD. After watching a good many instructional DVD’s over the years, it’s sometimes hard for me to pick out exactly what new stuff I learned but in this case I didn’t have to wait to long to pick up some new ideas. For example, the long distance towing section had some great information on what to look for when buying a new tow system as well as clear instructions on how to dismantle then rebuild the whole thing as soon as you get home to eliminate the knotts and snag points. Watching Gordon explain all the different towing systems he uses is worth the price for admission alone.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD: Version 2 Capture

Compared to version 1, the production and editing of this video is greatly improved. Producer, Simon Willis invested new cameras and waterproof gear so version 2 was shot in entirely in HD. You might remember in version 1 that several of his waterproof cameras were not at the same resolution so the footage sometimes would show clips of lower quality footage. That’s been solved and they now make use of several cameras showing the same skill from different angles to make things very clear.

The other nice improvement this time round was a subtle change that to me made a huge improvement in all the instructional segments. This time Gordon is teaching actual students rather then teaching the the camera how to do the skill. It’s immediately clear that he is more comfortable talking to real students and more natural sounding. Instructors, you are going to want to pay close attention to how he teaches the skill to the group then steal all the good lines for your own lessons.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD: Version 2 Capture

Besides the teaching elements, I loved the groups trip out to St Kilda. Before watching the DVD I had never heard of St Kilda but after seeing the gorgeous abandoned islands with their massive cliffs and millions of sea birds; I now have another location added to my checklist of paddling locations to visit before I’m dead. Oh, did I mention that there is a sea cave that goes directly through the heart of one of the islands? Yep, on a calm day you can enter the west side of the island and come out the eastern side. Not quite the the same as going through the Mines of Moria from Lord of the Rings but pretty cool anyways.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown DVD: Version 2 Capture

One hidden gem buried in the middle of the DVD that I wasn’t expecting was a historical segment and interview of Hamish Gow who, along with his wife, were the first people to paddle by kayak the 63 km (40 miles) out from Scotland to St Kilda back in 1965. It’s a great little eight minute segment with home movies of the original crossing. The history buffs out there might be interested to know that the full interview has been turned into a 24 minute documentary which you will be able to download it at seakayakwithgordonbrown.com later this October.

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 2 will be available October 2011 at your local paddling shop or at seakayakwithgordonbrown.com. If you want to just sample a couple of the coaching sessions, you can rent them online for only $4.50.

All images captured from the DVD.

Published in DVD Reviews

Gordon Brown Video diary 2 Capture

BCU kayak coach and author, Gordon Brown is working on a new kayak skills DVD. Last time his DVD focused on general paddling skills so this time it’s all about rescues, rough water and staying safe.

Topics are going to include: rescues (assisted and self), technical landings, towing techniques (both contact and distance towing), and towing scenarios so you know there is a huge amount of material to work with.

Like volume 1, it’s being shot in Scotland but from what I have read it’s going to be slightly different then before in that Gordon is going to be teaching a group of students through the different techniques rather than just talking to the camera as in Volume 1. This is exciting for a couple of reasons. As a student, you get to learn the techniques but for instructors you can watch and see how he teaches a particular skill so it’s going to be a great resource.

Simon Willis is putting the whole thing together again. If you don’t know who Simon Willis he is the guy who put together that massive collection of very high quality sea kayak podcasts and interviews.

This time round Simon has been assembling short video diaries throughout the filming process. You can watch them below. The first video diary deals with towing so pay particular attention to all the little tips and gear tricks scattered throughout. Video diary 2 is some really cool balancing drills you can do with your students (or friends).

Can you tell how excited I am about this video coming out?

Published in General News
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 22:29

BCU 5* Training Diary

BCU 5* Training. Photo Credit: Simon WillisIf your goal is to one day sign-up for the BCU 5* training but unsure of what exactly it entails, head over to Simon Willis's blog and read for yourself as he recently participated in the traing with Gordon Brown and Ken Nicol from Skyak Adventures.

The posting is very choppy and it's almost like he only has three minutes to capture his thoughts to paper before his taskmasters have another lesson to teach him with their giant whips.

Sounds like a great time and it makes me want to jump onboard tomorrow.

Below is part of the entry for day three:

Published in Teaching
Tuesday, 22 May 2007 17:36

Clyde Coastguard Podcast

Clyde Coastguard If you haven't downloaded and listened yet, jump over to Simon Willis's blog and download his latest podcast. He does an amazing interview with Bill Spear, the watch manager at Clyde Coastguard.

Simon gets down and dirty to figure out what goes on there and how kayakers can make the Coast Guards lives a little easier.


Published in Websites

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