Books, Videos, and MoviesReviews

Review: Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3

rescuing a hurt sea kayaker

I’ve been a big fan of the Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown videos. I thought that the first volume was innovative in its approach in that it intermingled the instructional aspects of the video with a journey narrative. The approach kept the instructional components fresh and although you could watch each section separately, it was fun to watch them together. Volume 2 took the same approach and applied it to rescues and towing. I thought Volume 2 was a big improvement over an already great volume 1. In Volume 3, Simon Willis and Gordon Brown take the series a different direction; the journey narrative is gone and the instructional components no longer cover a specific set of skills, instead we have four different and mostly unrelated films. The films are:

  • Handling Emergency Situations
  • Sea Kayak Navigation
  • Rolling Clinic
  • First Aid Kits

sea kayak with gordon brown video coverAlthough all were good, out of the four films the Handling Emergency Situations felt like the highlight, because it plays like a gripping documentary mixed with an instructional film. It uses scenarios based on real emergencies carried out by rescue services to educate you about what to expect during an emergency that requires an outside rescue. The video uses a mix of action cam footage, helicopter footage and kayak or boat based footage, which really makes it feel like you’re in the midst of the action. The action cuts at points to the coast guard office and into the cockpits of emergency response vehicles, which gives you a different perspective and narrative about how the rescue is proceeding. The combination of all the different scenes and parallel narratives not only educates you about the big picture, but if for some reason you were to end up in one of the situations, I think after watching this film that it would make the situation more bearable because you’ll know what is happening behind the scenes as the rescue proceeds. You’ll want to see the entire version of the film, but there’s a short version available here.

The amount of work that must have went into making this film feels like it was considerably more than the previous volumes. During the first viewing, because the action is so gripping, I felt like I was watching a Discovery Channel reality show, such as the Deadliest Catch. The Handling Emergency Situations film makes the DVD worth its price alone.

kayakers looking at chartsMy second favorite film was the Sea Kayak Navigation, which covered the basics of navigation, such as compass use, ferrying, piloting, ranges, aiming off, etc… While you can learn this from a book — the main star of this film, Franco Ferrero, wrote a book about it called Sea Kayak Navigation: The Black Art Demystified — I think you’ll learn it faster using a combination of the book and the video (or better yet take a sea kayak navigation course). The section of tides is well done and explains the whys of tides in just enough detail to inform but not confuse. I found the tidal stream/currents section well done and it explained the rules of thumbs, such as the 50 – 90 rule, which is the speed of the flow after each hour, and the rule of thirds, which is about how far you’ll drift based on speed of the flow.

kayaker rolling a kayakI felt that the rolling clinic film was innovative, because it broke the instruction down into different sections that the watcher should practice before moving on to the next section. It also included a diagnostic section that requires the student to videotape himself and then compare what the student is doing to a “Common mistakes” chapter to figure out what is going wrong. In the right situation where a DVD player is available in the pool, I could see this being useful for paddlers that don’t have access to a rolling instructor.  I’m a little skeptical that many people will use the film as it’s designed, but as an instructor, I found it valuable, because it showed the common mistakes from many different angles — ones that we don’t usually see because we’re standing in the water next to the paddler.

The First Aid Kit film covers some common injuries and what to carry in your first aid kit to handle those injuries. It goes over medical kits in detail, and some of the suggestions are different than what Wilderness First Responder training that I’ve attended suggest in the US. In the first aid kits, I like the suggestion of using electric tape instead of duct tape for blisters and small cuts. And there was a TARDIS reference in the film! The one surprise that I had from the film was that there was no mention of cohesive vet wrap, which is a breathable compression wrap that sticks to itself. Last week, I had to dress a cut on someone’s foot that later required seven stitches, and I used non-adherent gauze and vet wrap to dress the wound for the paddle back to town. Vet wrap is so much faster than elastic wraps that require a pin to hold in place. If you’re interested, this is what I carry in my lightweight first aid kit. Compared to the other three films, the first aid film fell short. I would have like to see it expanded with more scenarios. This may have just been me, because I’ve had WFR training.

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Final Verdict

Volume 3 of Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown steps outside the mold of the first two volumes, and manages to reinvent the series successfully. I’ve watched the Handling Emergency Situations film several times and it still feels as gripping as the first time I watched it. Like I said previously, the Handling Emergency Situations film makes the DVD worth its price alone. The Sea Kayak Navigation film not only brings in the guy who wrote the book, but it also manages to explain complicated skills in a simple and understandable way. For kayakers just learning navigation, this film is a must watch. I can imagine using some of it in courses to illustrate concepts such as ferrying. The rolling film felt innovative, but I’m skeptical that many will use it as intended. I’d like to be surprised about that. The first aid kit film may help someone put together a first aid kit, but it felt like it could have been expanded — but I’ll admit that that might be because I’ve had first responder training that used lots of scenarios.

Overall, this is another excellent addition to the Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown series. I suggest that you pick up a copy. You won’t regret it.

You can preorder the film here: Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown Volume 3.


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