DVD Reviews

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.
Over the past couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of watching Justine Curgenven’s latest production, This is the Roll. Short Review: Learning to Roll? Pick this one up, it’s great. Longer Review: The is the Roll features Greenland rolling and instruction masters, Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson so you know right from the start that the quality of the instruction will be top notch. This is the Roll is filmed mainly from the perspective of Greenland-style rolling but don’t let that skinny wooden stick on the cover confuse you. Any student wanting to learn can apply the core techniques clearly outlined in the video and apply it to their paddle style. Tapping into the best of both worlds, everything first taught using a skinny stick then they go back over it again using a Euroblade highlighting the subtle differences between the two. What I really enjoyed about this video is the high quality of instruction. Listening to Cheri and Turner narrate the video, it’s clear that they have taught at least three million rolling clinics and applied all their knowledge here. They take a fairly complex skill like the Standard Greenland Roll and break it down into small bite-sized chunks emphasising the fundamental skills to make it successful. I appreciated the fact that they kept going back to the foundations and used them as a theme woven throughout tying all the skills together. The visual learner in me also appreciated that there are lots of repeating shots of the same roll from multiple angles, multiple boats and different types of people. This worked really well and allows the narrator to emphasise the key element without feeling that the video was rushed. One of the little hidden gems I discovered was the extensive troubleshoot sections throughout. At nearly 30 minutes throughout, this is no mini troubleshooting section added on at the end as an afterthought. It’s filled with solid tips and ideas to help battle against the most common problems new rollers encounter including how to keep from pulling down on the paddle, torso rotation problems or the dreaded…
I recently had the pleasure to watch Becky Mason’s new instructional DVD, Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing. Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing builds on the foundation strokes that were taught in her first DVD, Classic Solo Canoeing. This time round Becky covers a wide variety of intermediate and advanced strokes including the Canadian, Indian, Sculling Draw, and the Running Draw Slideslip. Most of them are practical but some like the Low Circle are only practical to impress your friends. That doesn’t mean you should learn it. In fact it should be moved to the top of your stroke list for that reason alone. Never underestimate the importance of impressing friends. From an instructional point of view I have got to say that this is easily one of the best I have seen. The narration shows right from the start that Becky has been teaching this stuff for a very long time. She has a great ability to take very complex maneuver and break it down to 3-4 key points making it easy to remember. It’s clear that a lot of planning went into the production of the video and the proof is that all throughout the film the narration describing the fine details of the stoke actually matches up with what you are seeing. It might sound simple but it’s actually very a tricky thing to do and requires a huge amount of pre-planning long before production starts. I think that Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing will be appealing to students as well as instructors and dreamers. If you are an instructor this is a good opportunity to watch a pro on the water teaching. Make notes of how she demonstrates the skills, steal the ideas and use it the next time you are teaching. You will be a better instructor for it guaranteed. Just don’t take all the credit. If you are a dreamer I think you will also enjoy this DVD. Yeah, it’s an instructional film but it’s easily the most beautiful thing you will watch this month. Picture your perfect day out canoeing on the water. It likely involves paddling…
The other night I had the pleasure of viewing the latest film from J.J. Kelley and Josh Thomas, Go Ganges! You probably remember these guys from their multi-award winning 2008 film, Paddle to Seattle. Go Ganges! is an adventure film that tells the story of their journey down the length of the Ganges River from the source to the sea (by any means possible). Due to several reasons (without giving the plot away) it’s extremely difficult and dangerous to paddle the entire length of the Ganges River so Josh and J.J. decide to make use of several different modes of transportation including a rickshaw, rowboat and finally a scooter along the 1,500 mile journey. If you get a chance to see or purchase this film make sure you do. It’s a great story that is both entertaining, very funny and includes all the elements of any good adventure film including near accidents in traffic chaos, numerous vehicle breakdowns, poor decisions made in the heat of the moment, leaky boats and lots of miscommunication with the locals. I loved the part where they get challenged by a group of kids to a bike race with the rickshaw and get totally destroyed. Those kids must have been 10 years old... Go Ganges! deals with a much more serious subject matter then their other films. The Ganges River is one of the most sacred rivers in the world and is worshiped as a God by the Hindus yet at the same time it is one of the most polluted rivers. To try to understand that paradox, J.J. and Josh spend time with spiritual leaders and local people working on the river to find out about the significance of the river in the lives of the people of India and what can possibly be done to help clean it up. If there is one thing that you will take away it is that you will develop a huge appreciation of the thousands of miles of pristine water we have access to for both drinking and recreation in North America. I think I can honestly…
Wednesday, 07 September 2011 23:07

Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 2 DVD Review

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: 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…
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