Stoke for the Armchair Paddler
Most armchair thrill-ride videos make me glad I’m still in the armchair and not getting my sinuses flushed with seawater or my skull ground into a beach like a cigarette butt. As I get older, and increasingly injured, I find myself less interested in the wild moves of kayaks getting thrashed on tape than I am in the kayakers themselves. However, Justine Curgenven’s latest addition to the canon, This Is The Sea 2, is an excellent blend of both.
Following up on her success with This Is the Sea, Curgenven takes her on-board cameras and taping skills to some of the high places in the dreamscape of sea kayaking: with whales in Newfoundland; among beautiful barren islands of Norway; in the sublime of the Manitous of Lake Michigan; and on the ungodly tidal races of Wales. There are other high points as well, such as underwater rolling shots and segments on two epic circumnavigations.
What sets this piece apart is its respect for the pursuit of sea kayaking itself, as seen in the variety of craft, technique, and paddlers interviewed. There is an excellent introduction to Greenland techniques, nonintrusive meditations on reasons to paddle, and advice about paddling a surf ski—all very different, but all warmly welcomed here. Intent, desire, and spirit are given equal weight, and there is a refreshing lack of one-dimensional machismo mentality. In fairness to beginners, it would be hard to learn technique from what is shown here, but it’ll still make you go out and do it.
One of the best segments on the DVD is billed as a bonus feature: Curgenven’s circumnavigation of Tasmania with two other women, the first all-female team to do so. Along with excellent firsthand action footage are what I consider the most fascinating aspects of such trips: the logistics, the mistakes, the fatigue, and the drive it takes to overcome them. And the single greatest moment in this whole show is Gemma Rawlings capsizing in her fully loaded kayak while trying to punch through 8- to 10-foot surf, then rolling up in the froth and making it over the next wave. That one got me out of the armchair and into the garage to get my touring boat ready for summer.
Author’s note: C&K is one of seven sponsors that supported TITS2.