Connecting with the wilderness, mainly by sea kayak, but not solely.

Archive for November, 2009

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown, a review

It’s a travel video (aka a journey), no it’s an instructional video (aka coaching) — stop you’re both right! Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown is indeed both. It is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best sea kayak instructional video produced to date. Besides Brown being one of the top coaches in the United Kingdom, the camera work and editing by Simon Willis is superb! There’s close ups, there’s wide shots, there’s shots from different angles, there’s actual speed, there’s stop action, there’s slow-motion. To accompany the great video work, Brown and Willis have an uncanny ability to describe what we are seeing. They are so effective that even though I was sitting on the couch or in a chair during my viewings, and not my kayak, I found myself moving my body as though I was in the kayak. The sound quality is excellent throughout–often on-water videos have a lot of wind noise, or just poor voice quality. Neither are issues with this production. The progression of initially teaching the strokes in calm water, then showing how they are put to use in more lumpy conditions is very effective.

The journey is fun too. The group of 9, covers the usual wide range of experience levels one gets on such a trip.  They explore the shore of the west coast of the Isle of Skye, Brown’s home waters. I’ve been all over most of Scotland, but never to the Isle of Skye, so this is certainly a treat for me. And, who can argue with a campfire complete with local music and Talisker single malt whisky?  These are a few of my favorite things!  The only nit that I have is that I would like to have seen some coaching of those on the journey by coach Brown.  On the other hand, that could have pushed the production beyond the limits of watchability; but I do enjoy, and learn much, from watching other instructors and coaches do their thing.

Within the past week (mid-November) the NTSC version (this is the US version that will play on DVD players in the United States, as well as certain other countries) has arrived in the warehouse in the US. While distribution is starting out slowly, I’m certain that it will be available soon at your favorite paddle shop. Can’t wait? I couldn’t either, so I contacted the US distributor directly and they shipped my copy directly to me. I’m told that Sea Kayak should be available to order from the distributor very soon.  In the mean time, if you are in the “can’t wait category”, send an email to sales@helipress.com and order directly.

You should already own the book Sea Kayak A Manual for Intermediate and Advanced Sea Kayakers, by Gordon Brown (Pesda Press, 2006), now get the video.  However, be warned that the video only covers a small portion of the book, and we are told that there will be future videos produced to compliment the book.  I can hardly wait, but guess I have no choice to do so!

Finally, for a preview, click the image of Gordon in the tidal race:

DVD Trailer
DVD Trailer

Sea Kayak Handling, a book review

This is a MUST HAVE book for the sea kayaker looking to improve, and for every instructor/coach!  Now that you know how I feel . . .

As the name implies, Sea Kayak Handling by Doug Cooper is about strokes and maneuvers—not about seamanship, rescues and all the other things related to sea kayaking.  Rather Sea Kayak Handling (SKH) is about moving a sea kayak through the water efficiently, effectively, and safely (as it relates to injury prevention).  While the “subtitle” says it is “Essential Knowledge for Beginner and Intermediate Paddlers”, I’ll bet those who consider themselves beyond the intermediate level will learn a few things from studying this manual (you don’t simply read a book like this, rather you study it).  I know I did, and continue to do so! 

SKH is very detailed in the description of each stroke and maneuver, and is supported by clear photographs of what is written—after all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  The publisher (Pesda Press) has further supported SKH by posting on their website video clips of Cooper performing the strokes and maneuvers.  So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, the video is priceless.  Ah, the marvels of technology! Furthermore, the videos are there for the viewing even if you don’t buy the book—something for free, how wonderful is that???

I remember back many moon ago (many, many, many moons ago actually) when I had one of my first in-depth sea kayak strokes and maneuvers lessons.  Scott Williams (Sweetwater Kayaks in Sarasota Florida) came to Milwaukee to conduct a class for the local sea kayakers—this was at a time when I personally knew all by name (but I digress).  After the lesson, and over dinner with some good beer, Scott and I were talking and he suggested developing bullet points for all of the strokes and maneuvers.  It was during this class and the ensuing discussions with Scott that the whole concept of boat, body and blade really began to jell in my mind.  The next morning, as I prepared breakfast, Scott sat at my kitchen counter and “scratched” out the key points for each stroke/maneuver that we had covered the previous couple of days in the boat, body, blade format.  And, I still refer to a subsequent edition of this document.

Doug Cooper has used a similar format, added exceptional photographs, and it all comes together with the video.  Further, Cooper adds valuable sidebars on equipment and environmental considerations, as well as valuable “Top Tips” for the reader.  If you are an instructor/coach, the “Top Tips” will add to your instruction kit.

Warning:  Do not be tempted to jump directly to the first stroke presented (high angle forward) without first reading the preceding pages as they cover all the basic information forming  the basis of all the strokes and maneuvers.   Posture, connectivity with the boat, power transfer from the body through the boat and paddle, and developing the “feel” for the boat—these are the all important “foundation skills”.

While the first stroke presented is the high angle forward, the second is the low angle forward.  This lends credence to the value of both depending on the environment and the equipment.

If your local shop doesn’t have it, Amazon.com has the book listed as $12.27 add shipping ($4.00) and it will be one of the best sea kayak reference books in your collection for less than $20.00!  I ordered my copy directly from the publisher in Wales and paid about $22.00 with shipping, and I received it in under a week from across the pond!

By the way, for seamanship and other things related to sea kayaking, I highly recommend Gordon Brown’s Sea Kayaking, A Manual for Intermediate & Advanced Sea Kayakers (Pesda Press, 2006), and watch for the soon to be released in the US DVD featuring Gordon Brown—I’ve seen clips and it is GREAT!  To view clips for yourself check-out Ocean Paddler Magazine’s website.