Reviewed by Shawn Baker
Wayne Horodowich's latest video, Beyond the Cockpit, features Derek Hutchinson and is a stimulating addition to the University of Sea Kayaking Instructional Series.
The first two videos presented some of the best rescue and recovery
information on video to date, but those techniques have also been thoroughly
covered in several recent books, as well as most quality course curricula.
Beyond the Cockpit offers a glimpse into some advanced edging and bracing skills that have eluded many previous books, videos, and course material; and practiced mostly by innovative self-taught paddler and instructors, or previous students of Derek's courses. The purpose of these techniques is, as Wayne quotes Derek, "The inexperienced become courageous, the experienced learn finesse."
I've never taken any classes with Derek, other than reading
a couple of his books and reading a few magazine articles, so I didn't know
what to expect of his teaching style. That did surprise me a little - he teaches
some excellent and innovative techniques, but I was taken aback by his "this
is how a beginner does it ... this is how an advanced kayaker does it,"
tone in some clips. It seems to me that we can share advanced skills without
deprecating those who aren't quite yet at the same level. But that's a small
bone to pick with an otherwise excellent video.
Derek's impression of a novice doing an emergency stop shows poor technique with good methods to make his point, but it's more comical than offensive.
While I choose to differ with his tone, his approach to getting paddlers to overcome their fears of leaning and edging is excellent.
The information presented is really "Beyond the Cockpit." Rather than focusing on balancing the boat upright, or J-leaning to keep the paddler's center of gravity over the boat's center of buoyancy, Derek encourages the student to use the paddle for support. In doing so the paddler is able to take advantage of the boat's tendency to turn much easier while on edge.
Derek also makes excellent points about not gripping the paddle tightly, and takes the time to demonstrate the difference between leaning and edging.
The video is interspersed with complementary clips by Wayne Horodowich about shoulder safety, blade angles, and techniques that help the student absorb the information with the help of an additional viewpoint.
I loved the climbing/diving blade angle demonstration. Reinforced by some great underwater footage, Derek comments, "leading edge high: surface; leading edge low: swimming. Happiness, unhappiness." By examining some small steps that most advanced paddlers take for granted, the video enables an ambitious paddler to be well on their way to practicing most of these new skills in an afternoon, a more reserved student in part of a season. In this manner, Derek relates important information to the viewer that he or she can easily assimilate without getting confused in a mass of technical jargon.
The slow pans and quiet, swift brace turns set to music were really beautiful, and fun and inspiring to watch. The How to Annoy Friends and Create Envy section will make you grin. Or groan.
The video's goals are to learn to edge one's kayak, to learn to get more support from your paddle, and to explore the relationship between body, kayak, paddle, and the water. All are admirably met.
Most of the techniques shown are facilitated by Hutchinson's Toksook paddle, but could be done almost as easily with any traditional or unfeathered paddle. Derek comments that the extended paddle position comes from the Greenland paddle, which it does, but his techniques with the Toksook are of more recent origin. Feathered paddle users would not be able to as instinctively enter the extended paddle position, but the techniques would work nearly as well with the paddle held in standard paddling position, or extended to the root of the blade. The use of a 90'-feathered paddle does involve significant wrist flexion and should be carefully evaluated before use by people with wrist problems.
The real beauty of this video is that it helps a paddler to learn to move the kayak with and as a part of his body, rather than a separate vessel.
Derek comments that, "Some of my best days in a kayak are spent going nowhere." What a great attitude toward practice and play. I am excited to see what future offerings Wayne Horodowich has in store.
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