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

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 diving paddle in the sweep.

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who watched the video and his only negative feedback of the film was that watching it from end-to-end, its a massive pile of information to retain when heading over to the pool to practice. Thought I would agree with him that yes, this is pretty much the equivalent of a kayak rolling encyclopedia, my suggestion is to focus on one roll at a time and master it before focusing on the next one on the DVD. While watching, take some notes of the key points so you remember later.

Though nothing replaces one-on-one instruction at the hands of a good teacher, I think that This is the Roll is for sure one of the better rolling instructional DVD’s out there on the market. Pick this one up. It's great.


Rolls/skills covered:

  • Standard Greenland Roll (Both Greenland and Euroblade)
  • Balance Brace and Sculling for Support
  • Reverse Sweep Roll (Both Greenland and Euroblade)
  • Storm Roll (Both Greenland and Euroblade)
  • Kayak and Equipment Primer
  • Stretches for Rolling

Running Time: 2.5 Hours

More info: cackletv.com

Published in DVD Reviews

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.

Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing

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 around on a very small lake in the early morning. The water is like glass and there is still a hint of morning mist hovering over the water. That scene in your head is pretty much 80% of the film. You are going to love watching it just for that.

Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing - Overhead Shot

I could keep going on about nerdy things like the excellent sound editing and the subtle sounds of the canoe moving through the water or the great selection of overhead and underwater shots to tie it all together but this is clearly a film the you need to see for yourself.

A couple of extra treats do come with the DVD including a full copy of her first instructional film, Classic Solo Canoeing as well as a beautiful canoe dance video set to the music of Ian Tamblym.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Advanced Classic Solo Canoeing won a bunch of awards at both the Reel Paddling Film Festival and the Waterwalker Film Festival? Yes it did.

You should be able to get this DVD at your local paddling shop or from Becky Mason directly via redcanoes.ca. For a limited time canoe and kayak instructors can get a 20% discount. You just need need to be a paid-up member of your local or national paddling body. Here are all the the details.

Published in DVD Reviews

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.

Travelling through India in a Rickshaw.
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.

Rowing down the Ganges River.

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 say that in all the canoe and kayak trips I have taken in my life there has been no place so far that I didn’t want to actually touch the water. Until you have seen Go Ganges! you really have no idea what dirty water looks like.

The final cut of the DVD is complete and it should be available soon. Keep an eye on their facebook page for screenings in your neighbourhood.

Go Ganges! runs for 1 hour and 22 minutes and was produced by Dudes on Media.

Images credits: Dudes on Media

Published in DVD Reviews
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

Capture: Sea Kayak Essentials Volume 1

BCU Level 3 Coach, Nick Cunliffe and Matt Giblin recently released their second instructional DVD in the Sea Kayak Essentials series. Last time they focused on foundation kayak skills aimed at beginner and intermediate paddlers but this time they are stopping it up a notch as they focus on intermediate and advanced boat handling skills.

Sea Kayak Essentials covers a wide range of topics including open water forward paddling, moving water skills, tide race paddling, rock hopping and surfing skills.

The paddling nerd in me really liked this video. Be warned that in some areas it’s very technical which could turn of casual paddlers looking for pure entertainment. That being said; they do a fantastic job breaking down some very technical skills (eg. tidal race paddling) and present it in easy to digest chunks.

If you are the self learning type of paddler then this DVD will appeal to you. You know who you are; you read info in books or watch a DVD then go out and practice yourself and figure it out. This DVD will be right up your alley.

One thing that I do really appreciate is that the producers have also written 40 pages of technical notes to go along with the DVD allowing you to get even more detail out of the video. It’s a great resource for students but I believe it will also be a fantastic resource for instructors who are looking to increase their technical knowledge for rough water paddling skills. You can grab a copy of it on their website.

Except for Jennifer Lopez’s masterpiece Gigli, no film is perfect. One thing that I do wish Nick and Matt did was to spend more time explaining some techniques from a boat. Nick does a great job as host and instructor but I sometimes noticed the editing formula would be to introduce the skill and explain the key concepts while standing on a rock then cut to a boater in rough water doing it with nice background music. There was a couple times where I was longing for a voice over or specific graphics so I knew what to look for. As somebody who easily got distracted by the amazing rough water footage and scenery, it would help snap out of dreaming mode and back into learning mode. Of course didn’t happen all the time but it was a noticeable point to me.

Final verdict? If you are looking for a solid video textbook to get you going I found it for you.

You can grab your copy for £19.95 if you live in the UK or £21.95 if you are living anywhere else in the world. Sea Kayak Essentials is available in both PAL and NTSC formats.

Published in DVD Reviews
Saturday, 05 January 2008 20:28

DVD Review: Pacific Horizons

Pacific Horizons Cover

Pacific Horizons is the latest film released to the growing trend of big water sea kayaking. Filmed and produced by Bryan Smith, it is entirely shot in the Pacific Northwest.


Even before its release, Pacific Horizons was generating a significant amount of buzz. Bryan had to rush a pre-release version of it so it would be ready in time for its headline debut at the 2007 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium. The biggest news came when it was chosen as a finalist for the famed 2007 Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Clocking at 60 minutes, it takes the viewer through many different aspects of sea kayaking including placid flatwater paddling, tripping, surfing and Greenland rolling.
Published in DVD Reviews

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