Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sea Kayaking with Gordon Brown Volume 3 review

Gordon Brown is one of Scotland’s premier instructors. He has the highest achievable certification from the British Canoe Union, and is the only American Canoe Association certified coach in Scotland. He has also been a guest instructor at the last 2 Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposiums (and will be at the next GGSKS next weekend). Gordon owns and operates Skyak Adventures on the Isle of Skye.

Sea Kayaking with Gordon Brown Volume 3 is the third and last video in a 3 part series. Sea Kayaking with Gordon Brown Volume 1 video covers the foundations of sea kayaking – paddling, turning, steering, edging, etc. California Kayaker reviewed the first video on our blog at
Sea Kayaking with Gordon Brown Volume 2 moves to more advanced materials, covering assisted and self rescues, tows, technical landings and launches, and anticipating/avoiding troubles.  This DVD was reviewed in the Spring 2012 issue of California Kayaker Magazine, which can be read online at

Volume 3 continues to move to more advanced content.  It has 4 sections:
  1. Handling Emergency Situations
  2. Sea Kayak Navigation
  3. Rolling Clinic
  4. First Aid Kits
Preview for the Volume 3 video:

Volume 3, Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown from Simon Willis on Vimeo.

Here are our thoughts looking at each section:

Handling Emergency Situations
The video uses a mock rescue to present safety planning, how to deal with an emergency, and what to expect if rescue services are contacted. The big picture main points of the segment apply to all paddlers: be prepared with signaling equipment, training and practice; paddlers should be prepared to address emergencies themselves until help is available; equipment for contacting emergency services, what it does, how to use it, and the limitations; making yourself visible to searchers. The video also discusses complications such as being unfamiliar with rescue equipment and working with cold hands.
We thought about this hard and feel that the US Coast Guard rescue procedures are similar to Her Majesty's Coast Guard and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but a US paddler might not want to rely too heavily on some of the details presented just in case there are differences. 

Sea Kayak Navigation
This segment is less location-specific than the first, but does talk about OS Maps, which seem to be the UK equivalent to Topo maps. The graphics were very helpful in explaining tides and correcting bearing for tide flow. A bonus is the explanation of why the most extreme tide periods are called spring tides even though they occur every 14 days. The presenter gives several rules of thumb to use in predicting tidal action. The night navigation is worth watching because, as the video points out, paddlers risk finding themselves paddling at night no matter what their float plan is.

Rolling Clinic
Rolling seems to be one of the most difficult kayak skills to present on a video, and the video points out that rolling cannot be learned by watching a video, but has to be learned in a boat. Gordon's video is one of the best because it is filmed in clear pool water with multiple camera angles (including what one reviewer called the "crotch view") showing the same move.
There were a couple of methods Gordon used that I would try, either while practicing my roll or helping someone. The video shows how a coach can assist the paddler while sitting on the side of the pool. When a paddler completed his first roll, instead of immediately making another attempt, Gordon suggested he get out of the boat, sit with his eyes closed, and think about what was happening during the roll.

I am not so sure video feedback would be as useful, and even Gordon says it can be difficult to find one correction to concentrate on when the video may show the paddler making several mistakes.  

First Aid Kits
First Aid kits are like tow ropes - everyone should have one, but if you put 5 kayakers together, you will get 6 opinions on what you should use. Still, there is useful information in this segment, with the key points being the importance of training for how to respond to an emergency and how to use the items in the kit; consider carrying a minimal kit close at hand and larger kit in a hold; and items to carry in the first aid kits.

You do not need to watch any of the prior volumes to get benefit from the other volumes.  

Who should buy Volume 3?  We thought about this a bit.  Volume 1 would be good for any sea kayaker (and even for people who paddle other types of kayaks).  The second gets more specific for sea kayakers, and in some cases specific for group coastal paddling, yet still is generally useful.  This video, volume 3, gets very specific to some areas of sea kayaking, and has a bit more limited market.  There definitely are skills to be gained for anyone paddling a  sea kayak, even if paddling on protected lakes, but the topics covered are best for people who do expeditions, paddle in areas with currents, and in groups. If you fall into one of these categories, get it.  But if not and you don't have an extra $30 in your pocket, maybe hold off on this one (or spend it on volume 1 or 2, if you don't have those).

This DVD has 2.5 hours worth of content.  It costs $29.95 and is available for purchase from your local paddlesports shop or online from

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