Video Review "Beyond the Cockpit"
University of Sea Kayaking Instruction Video
"Beyond the Cockpit" - featuring Derek Hutchinson
by Wayne Horodowich
Let me say it right off: This video is worth watching! Just to see venerated sea kayak guru Derek Hutchinson strut his stuff makes it all worthwhile. Derek, author of half a dozen sea kayaking books, including his first, the classic Sea Canoeing (1976), inspired me to take up the ancient art of plying the sea in a very small boat. In the 40 years since Derek learned to kayak, untold thousands of paddlers owe their start to him. Today, he still looks like an Olympic figure skater when leaning "beyond the cockpit." The old seaman makes complex moving braces appear easy to learn and thanks to the video's step-by-step instruction, they are.
The third in a sea kayaking instructional video series produced by the University of Sea Kayaking (USK), Beyond the Cockpit, along with its sister videos, Capsize Recoveries and Rescue Procedures, follows a logical sequence in presenting detailed and accurate sea kayaking principles and techniques. As with the other USK videos, Beyond the Cockpit packs a lot of information into a short amount of time. Derek and producer Wayne Horodowich start by describing an elementary technique, show it enough times for the viewer to be able to perform it and move on to progressively more advanced skills. They don't bore their audience by depicting a paddle stroke repeatedly from every conceivable angle. Their precise lecturing and demonstrating instructs viewers on more than a dozen paddling skills and a score of associated principles packed into 86 minutes.
The video addresses the fear that many beginners have of leaning away from their boats, resulting in the dreaded capsize, and offers more advanced paddlers the encouragement and opportunity to brush up on bracing techniques they may have taken for granted. The video promises: "The inexperienced become courageous and the experienced learn finesse." It delivers what it promises.
Instruction begins with a demonstration of how to properly hold and use the paddle, especially while practicing low brace depth charging, a plunging low brace that makes an audible "sploosh" when the blade is pushed under water. Derek and Wayne offer words of technique-based wisdom, such as: "Keep your elbows down," "If you brace with your blade close to the boat, it doesn't offer much support," and "If the blade dives, you'll go down with it."
They discuss and demonstrate the "knee hang," a crucial part of leaning beyond the cockpit. It would have been helpful if they had included a cutaway view of a kayak interior, so we could see the proper body position when the knee hang is performed.
As you watch the video, you learn why it is important to lean out while kayaking-a kayak turns faster and more easily when on edge than when flat. Derek clearly and smoothly demonstrates the superiority of a properly executed lean while turning.
Some of the paddling techniques demonstrated in the video include: the scull, reverse sweep, extended paddle high brace, extended paddle high-brace forward-sweep turn, one hand high-brace forward-sweep turn-on-the-move, sculling braces and sculling draws, extended paddle high-brace reverse-sweep turn, windy day turns, high-brace reverse sweep turn-on-the-move combinations, and the entertaining hat-trick turn, which is a one-handed high-brace turn with your paddle behind your neck and your hat doffed with your free hand. Some techniques have long names that sound complicated but are actually simple. The benefit of the long descriptive labels is that the name of the stroke helps you remember it and reproduce it.
There is only one technique presented in the video that presents a safety concern-the one-hand high-brace reverse sweep turn-on-the-move. Because the paddle is placed behind the neck, the elbow on the shaft is placed in a high position, somewhat behind the shoulder, which puts a prying stress on the shoulder girdle. All the other strokes demonstrated are safe, graceful and useful.
Beyond the Cockpit is well scripted, appropriately paced and kept my interest throughout. The visual portion is very well done, with clear shots and proper angles for the best views of techniques. The video is well edited and produced and provides more than an hour of basic and advanced bracing techniques that beginning and experienced kayakers should go out and practice.
The last few minutes of the video include bonus footage of Derek telling sea stories that made me shudder with fear. I won't go into the stories here-you'll have to hear them for yourself.
Beyond the Cockpit is chock-full of useful information and definitely worth having. I could watch Derek do his hat trick all day, for he is truly a master of the paddle blade.
Eric Soares, Tsunami Ranger, co-author of the book, Extreme Sea Kayaking, and producer of sea kayaking videos, lives and paddles on the San Mateo coast in Northern California.
Visit the USK store to purchase your copy of "Beyond the Cockpit" - featuring Derek Hutchinson.