By Conor Mihell
Scottish sea kayaking outfitter and coach Gordon Brown's first DVD filled one void in instructional paddling videos and created another. Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown: Volume 1 received high praise from instructors and students alike for its unprecedented blend of point-of-view, wide-angle and close-up photography, as well as Brown's easy manner in front of the camera and polished coaching techniques.
The problem was, Volume 1 only covered paddle strokes and their application in flat water, current and around rocks. For the other aspects of sea kayaking—rescues and towing, for instance—Brown and producer Simon Willis forced their fans to wait for the second installment.
Good news: The wait is almost over. Brown and Willis' Volume 2 is due out in early October, with a pay-per-view sample and a free behind-the-scenes video diary from production of the DVD, subtitled "Rescues, Rough Water and Staying Safe," now available online at Brown’s website. In Volume 2, Brown, a senior British Canoe Union coach and owner of Skyak Adventures on Scotland's Isle of Skye, demonstrates assisted and self-rescues, short and long-distance towing, technical landings in rough water, and he discusses the elements of anticipation and reaction in the face of challenging scenarios. This time, the majority of Willis' photography is done in HD, with even better mastery of bow and stern-mounted point-of-view cameras to provide multiple angles.
David Johnston, a Toronto-based sea kayak instructor and blogger at paddlinginstructor.com, says the biggest improvement in Volume 2 is that Brown is actually instructing a group of students, not just talking to the camera. This builds on Brown's refined British mannerisms and "completely changes the dynamics of the teaching segments," says Johnston. "With Gordon working with real students he corrects their mistakes and it also highlights the most common mistakes that students make in real life. It’s a huge improvement in the stuffiness that many other teaching DVDs suffer from."
Just like Volume 1, instructional segments alternate with narrated scenes from a seven-day, mothership-supported sea kayak tour to St. Kilda, an archipelago located 40 miles off Scotland's west coast. The spectacular rock-hopping, paddling in sea caves and sneaking through "wee gaps" beneath the tallest sea stacks and cliffs in the British Isles easily holds viewers' attention—and will likely add a new destination to their respective bucket lists.
Gear heads will appreciate a segment on what to look for in a tow bag, and how to set up an efficient system that won't snag when you need it. What's more, filming was done in "real" conditions, capturing several unplanned scenarios that occurred while shooting. But just like Volume 1, Willis and Brown fail to address the inevitable outcomes of another stellar DVD: The letdown when it's over and the immediate desire for more.