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Submitted: 11-24-2009 by harlingford
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This DVD consists of alternating "journey" and "coaching" segments. The journey is footage from a 4-day trip by a group of 7 or 8 paddlers along the coast of Skye, led by Gordon Brown. The coaching segments are Gordon Brown demonstrating strokes and techniques, filmed on the ocean.

I found the "journey" travelogue segments only mildly interesting. It gives you some feeling for the coast of Skye, which looks bleakly beautiful. But there is no integration of the journey segments with the coaching segments - you rarely see the paddlers doing anything particularly interesting or instructive, even though several of them are introduced as being fairly experienced paddlers. In fact, probably less than half the footage in the "journey" segments is of actual paddling. It's mostly footage of people talking during breaks on land. The trip looks like it was fun for those doing it, but it's not that interesting to watch. There is close to zero instructional value in the journey segments, even in terms of planning and executing a trip, with the single exception of Brown explaining near the beginning that it's better to pack gear in many small dry bags than a few big ones.

On the other hand, the coaching segments are excellent. I will watch some of them dozens of times. There is a particularly good segment on boat control around rocks, and another on breaking into and out of eddies in tide races. Brown is obviously a superb paddler, and he's also a good teacher who explains things clearly.

There aren't nearly enough of the coaching segments for this to be a comprehensive introduction to strokes for a beginning sea kayaker - for a concise and comprehensive introduction to strokes, "Sea Kayaking: The Ultimate Guide" by Ken Whiting is much better, and for detailed breakdown and illustration of advanced strokes like the bow-rudder, the Nigel Foster "Directional Control" DVD is better and more complete. However, what is included is excellent and very well-done. It's perfect for an intermediate paddler who already knows the basics and is interested in tackling tidal races and rocky coasts. There's nothing better than seeing an excellent paddler demonstrate the techniques and explain what he's doing and why. Brown is excellent at both doing and explaining.

Overall, I would have much preferred a full-length DVD of Gordon Brown illustrating strokes and techniques. I would love to see footage of him launching and landing in surf, turning in wind, taking advantage of waves paddling down-wind, etc, with a voice-over explaining what he is doing and why. Obviously, the filming and production of the coaching segments were far more demanding and time-consuming than the journey segments, and my guess is that this is the real reason for the mixed format of the DVD. (A "bonus" segment shows how the filming, by Simon Willis, was done, and gives an idea of how hard it is to film demonstrations on the ocean. The quality of the filming and production of the coaching segments is superb.) I hope it sells well enough to justify a second one focused on coaching.
Rating: 10 for coaching segments, 6 for journey segments.

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