To really put Gordon Brown’s video into context you have to watch a few other instructional videos. There have been few standout sea kayaking instructional videos. Nigel Foster’s DVD Training videos is one of the standouts. Nigel Foster’s video series is one of the seminal instructional videos out there for new, intermediate, and advanced paddlers alike. There are six DVD’s in the series with a little something for everyone. I recommend that every sea kayaker watch and learn from Foster’s 3rd Video in the series titled directional control.
Wayne Horodowich’s USK Series is another ubiquitous video series. I liked Wayne’s series, his content is great, but lacks the elegance and simplicity of Foster’s series. I don’t want to pick on Wayne’s videos or his efforts because the breadth of the content covered means that someone new to paddling who picked it up would get a lot of good information. The other standout video from USK is Derek Hutchinson’s Beyond the Cockpit with Derek Hutchinson. Beyond the Cockpit is a great video to watch and shows Derek at his best.
With those two in mind, where does Gordon Brown’s new video fit in?
Well, sort of in the middle.
The video footage covers two areas, some kayaking strokes, and a journey.
The Journey is mesmerizing in its beauty, the footage is excellent. All of the Scottish island scenery made me want to buy a plane ticket immediately. Lots of sea stacks, caves, and resplendent misty views that sea kayakers oogle over. Gordon and the crew with their mixed experience make for an interesting ride. They build the story of the journey with the varied topography and a bit of background on those involved. My only criticism is that the final day where the discussion of the weather and how gnarly it was going to be was not shown on film, I felt sort of cheated in not seeing it.
Clearly a lot has been said about Gordon’s talent for singing a capella in sea caves. I won’t lie to you, the singing is worth the price of the DVD. The acoustics were (for the star trek dorks out there) … favorable.
The instructional section of the video is where I am left a little puzzled. I am not sure what audience this is aimed for, beginners, intermediates, instructors, advanced paddlers? Because this is a single DVD and not a series, I am sure they had to make some choices on what skills to shoot. I think some sort of a mission statement in the beginning might have helped.
The skills that Gordon demonstrated in the environment were the most fun to watch, and this is where he pulled away from both Nigel Foster and Derek Hutchinson. In the video Gordon demonstrates, sideslips, bow draws, bow rudders, and stern ruddering around some rocks in slow, repeatable, and easily modeled way. The criticism I have of the Nigel Foster series is that it is a bit dry, and that he performs most of his maneuvers in a coastal lagoon in Florida. I know that Nigel Foster can perform these maneuvers in moving water, and that the point of the video was to provide a visual model. For me, it would have punched up the Foster Video series to see see sideslips, bow rudders, and draws in some sort of sea state conditions. Plus Gordon Brown’s voice seemed to fluctuate more and punch up the demonstrations, which makes it more watchable on repeat viewings.
The one nice to see was the video inside the cockpit that showed the body contact with the kayak, I’ve never seen this done and it is so critical for beginners to see, because they have no experience with boat/body fit. It was inspired genius, despite the akwardness of seeing an area normally covered by a kilt on a middle-aged drysuited Scot.
None of the other Sea Kayaking instructional DVDs attempted this split format of instruction, journey. I thought it was inventive and fun to watch. My small criticisms over audience ambiguity not withstanding, I would recommend buying it, and a trip to Scotland to hear Gordon sing in a sea cave.
Here is the promotional video trailer for Gordon Brown’s Sea Kayaking DVD
Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown trailer from Simon Willis on Vimeo.
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Thanks for such a thoughtful and constructive review. People can watch more video clips and order at
You might not have noticed on the box this DVD is 'Volume' 1. Your analysis, and criticisms from others, will all be helpful when we plan and shoot Volume 2. We hope to do over the next two years and it will involve venturing into much bigger water, so more of the sequences you like.
Incidentally, you might like to know we deliberately did not specify who the DVD is aimed at, for one reason – we can ALL learn. Intermediates might be put off watching if they were told it was a 'beginners' DVD and vice versa. I know some advanced paddlers who have found it helpful too.
For example, I'd consider myself an intermediate paddler. With a few long trips under my hull, I might assume I didn't have much to learn about forward paddling. I'd be wrong. I learnt a huge amount just from filming and editing Gordon's forward paddling explanation.
If pushed, I'd say the DVD is designed to set beginners on the right track and help intermediate paddlers improve their techniques.
Thanks again for sharing your review and keep a look out for Volume 2 – information will be posted on my blog:
All the best for 2010
Hey Simon, as I was working from a review copy, it didn't say volume one, duly noted, and glad to hear there will be more.
Things to add to some future book of Great Paddling Quotations: "It was inspired genius, despite the awkwardness of seeing an area normally covered by a kilt on a middle-aged drysuited Scot."
Nice review, Keith!