Review of “Sea Kayak Rescue” DVD

by Sherri ~ February 23rd, 2012. Filed under: Paddling Safety, Rescues, Skill Development, Video How-to.

Sea Kayak Rescues DVDI recently purchased the DVD, Sea Kayak Rescues by Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin.  Somme and Franklin, owners of Body, Boat, Blade, are both excellent kayakers and instructors and I expected a DVD on rescues from them to be a great addition to my video library.  Unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed when I watched the disc.

The whole DVD is only about 30 minutes long.  I can’t imagine how any instructor could only come up with a mere 30 minutes of material on a topic as important to sea kayaking as rescues.  I paid $29.95 for the video. At about $1 per minute, this DVD is a complete waste of money.  The production quality of the video is very good, but I kept waiting for the meat of the instruction to start.  It never did.  Somme and Franklin demonstrated several rescues in calm, moving, and rough water conditions, but there was no real explanation of what the rescuer was doing or not doing.  As an instructor, I could figure it out, but I think most of what was going on would be a mystery to a less experienced kayaker looking to improve his/her knowledge and skills by watching a DVD before heading out to practice.  Somme and Franklin may have been working from the premise that “less is more”, but in this case I would say that less is just less.

I respect Somme/Franklin’s philosophy that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all rescue technique and that kayakers need to be flexible in their approach since each rescue will have its own unique requirements depending on the environment.  However,  in order to be flexible, you need to know (and have practiced) a lot of different techniques that you can draw on when faced with a real rescue situation.  A capsize in cold water and waves is no time to start brainstorming ideas on how to effect a quick, safe, and efficient rescue.  Less experienced sea kayakers, especially, need to be taught a few good basic rescue methods that they can then begin to experiment with during practice to find alternative techniques that may work better in specific situations.  This DVD never takes the time to address what the important points of a good basic rescue would be leaving the novice to try to sort that out for him/herself.  In other words, what constitutes a “safe” or “efficient” rescue?  A paddler with limited experience may not perceive all the possible risks involved  to the rescuer or the rescuee and so may unknowingly choose a technique that is inherently unsafe to one or all of the participants.

I’m hopeful that this DVD will turn out to be like the Forward Stroke DVD that was put out by Greg Barton and Oscar Chalupsky several years back.  The original Forward Stroke DVD was very poor despite being produced by such skilled paddlers.  Thankfully, Barton and Chalupsky apparently realized how poorly their first DVD was done and they went back and produced a second edition which continues to be one of the best forward stroke DVD’s on the market.  I certainly hope that Leon Somme and Shawna Franklin will take the video that they have shot so far and work on adding more substance to it.

I would like to see clear and detailed explanations of what is taking place in each rescue along with a discussion of the elements that MUST be in every rescue and those elements that can be altered to fit the specific rescue situation and environment.  There should be more discussion about what elements in each rescue pose potential risks to the paddlers involved and how those risks are being mitigated in the demonstrations shown.  I’d like to hear what the thought process was in each rescue regarding why they chose to do what they did, why they chose to not do certain things, and some possible alternatives that could have been tried if the rescue hadn’t worked as planned.  Some slow motion and stop motion segments of video along with judicious use of circles, arrow, and bullet points to highlight key parts of each rescue would be very helpful.  In teaching, it is considered good practice to demonstrate a skill, then break it down with explanations of the “parts” of the skill, and finish by showing the whole skill again with reinforcing key points.  This DVD has some good opening demonstrations of the skills, it needs to add the explanation of the “parts” and the reinforcing wrap-up for each rescue.

The “extras”  sections on edging, low brace turns, and stern draw/pry are much better than the main portion on rescues, but are much too short to make the DVD worth the price not to mention that you can view these video segments for free on the internet.

As it stands now, if you are looking for a DVD to learn solo and assisted rescue techniques and have $30 to spend, Gordon Brown’s new DVD on rescues is a much better option with over 2 hours of video, although some of it is about a kayak trip to the island of St. Kilda and not all of it involves coaching.  For only $10 more, you could get the University of Sea Kayaking Capsize Recoveries & Rescue Procedures Vol. 1 & 2 which would be my recommendation.  This DVD set includes 4 hours of in-depth instruction on solo and assisted recoveries including less common situations like having to rescue a capsized tandem kayak.

As far as Sea Kayak Rescues by Somme and Franklin, I would wait and hope that there will be a much better second edition coming out in the future.


4 Responses to Review of “Sea Kayak Rescue” DVD

  1. Haris

    100% agreement with this review except that the production quality of the video is better than ‘good.’

    As far content, detail, and learning from it are concerned–extremely disappointing. Like you, I was expecting something great from coaches with the reputation of Body Boat and Blade and the film maker the caliber of Bryan Smith. This video shows well below average on my meter.

    Maybe visual kayakers who only learn by observing the skills could benefit from this video. If one wants to understand the skills being demonstrated, there is really very little in the 30 minutes on this disk.

  2. Sherri

    You’re right on the production quality, Haris. It is better than just “good”. Although I wish they would have made the titles larger as they were too small for me to read quickly and they were only on screen for a very short time.

  3. Butler

    Wish I’d read this before canoecopia! I purchased the DVD because the session on rescues by Somme and Franklin was outstanding as they presented in depth instruction and provided insightful answers to audience questions. They shared excerpts from the DVD but did a still frame by frame analysis and explanation of rescues.

  4. Sherri

    If you haven’t opened the DVD yet, maybe you could still return it. I wish I could.

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