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Independent DVD Review: Kayak Essentials

kayak-essentials-dvd Kayak Essentials is an instructional DVD that focuses on fundamental kayak skills. Balancing, forward paddling, moving sideways, steering and turning skills are covered in separate chapters that can be watched individually. These skills are applied on flat water, white water, sea and surf and in long and short boats. Kayak Essentials is aimed at all levels of paddlers: beginners, intermediates, and advanced paddlers. Coaches will find this DVD a useful resource.


It’s forcing an open door: you don’t learn kayaking from reading a book, and you won’t learn it from watching a DVD either. It’s the (good) practice which makes perfect. For getting this practice right this DVD is one of the best resources you can get. Integrate it in your learning route and it will surely help improving your paddling.

Two respected BCU Kayak Coaches, Nick Cunlliffe and Matt Giblin, and freestyle kayaker Lynsey Evans explain and demonstrate different kayaking skills. The way this is done, sets a standard for instructional kayak-DVD’s. The filming is perfect, the explanation exceptionally clear. Individual aspects of the skills are highlighted, frozen and when needed, shown from different perspectives. Even the tiniest details are paid attention to in the camerawork. By demonstrating the skills in clear water, even the underwater movements of the paddle blade are made visible on crucial moments. What makes the DVD absolutely brilliant is the modular concept, combined with a clever use of the DVD-format. Each (part of a) skill is explained in a separate chapter and all these chapters are logical clustered. A clear DVD-menu makes every single chapter easily accessible. Which is essential because you are not supposed to watch this DVD from the beginning to the end. Depending on what technique you want to focus on, you watch 2 or 3 chapters before a paddling session (or afterwards to review your session).


The DVD contains 3 overall chapters in addition to the 14 chapters dedicated to individual skills: “Kayak fundamentals” focuses on the principles of active posture, connectivity and feel for your kayak. “Stroke linking” explains how the individual skills are linked together. The third chapter, “Using this DVD”, gives advice on how to use the coaching content of the DVD. Unlike the other chapters, which stand alone, these 3 chapters are meant to be watched in combination with the chapters of the individual skills.

The contents of the DVD are relevant for kayakers of all disciplines, whether they are paddling on flat or moving water, in long or short kayaks. When a different boat type needs a special approach, it’s shown. Some chapters are dedicated for specific boat types (long/short), but in most chapters all kayaks are covered. In every chapter the skills are first shown on flat water, followed by a demonstration in more challenging environments like fast moving water or surf. “Coaching tips” and “essential challenges” with a lot of variations and exercises to get a step further, are included in every chapter. Variety is the spice of practice!


Some paddlers refer to the type of skills covered in this DVD as “basic”, or “just flat water-techniques”: the makers of the DVD call them “foundation skills”, which is a much better term. The focus on the fundamentals doesn’t mean that the DVD is only suited for beginners. In the contrary. A solid foundation is essential for every paddler. As long as we admit there is room for improvement, we will improve. Few of us will be able to demonstrate the skills as perfect as Matt and Nick do in this DVD. For beginners the DVD will help with the first experiences, and for advanced paddlers it will help in perfecting the skills or applying them in more challenging circumstances. By showing the usefulness of the same skills in rougher water, the DVD persuades to cross borders and to experiment with techniques from flat water, to white water and sea paddling. For coaches the DVD offers a lot of useful tips to make their own lessons more varied.

Nick Cunnlife and Matt Giblin did a great job sharing their knowledge, acting as “your virtual kayak coach”. In the 90 minutes of the DVD a vast amount of coaching is presented: enough content to fill at least a multiple month kayaking course. It’s a pity it’s “one way traffic”: the DVD can’t provide you any feedback yet (and I am happy that how good it is: it still can’t replace a real life coach!). You will have noticed I am very excited about this DVD. Before I am getting too lyrical with this review, let me give a few critical notes: I found the chapter about forward paddling a bit (too) compact. I do realize this must be a deliberate choice, and I am sure Matt and Nick could have easily filled a complete DVD alone with the issues of “forward paddling”, but they preferred to make is a DVD about the fundamentals (a wise choice!). In the chapters about turning and moving sideways I would have liked some more attention on how to include edging in this skills. But this is a consequence of the modular concept of the DVD – edging is covered in a separate chapter to which in the other chapters is referred. Last issue: I didn’t like the artificial background music in some parts of the chapters: a dull electronic tune. Sorry, I start nagging!


This DVD is highly recommended to every kayaker that wants to invest in improving his skills. For kayak-coaches it’s essential: a “must have” to expand the coaching toolbox!

Kayak Essentials Cover
Kayak Essentials is a Bubble Film Production

Reviewed for Playak,
by Hans Heupink, NKB Seakayak Coach



PS This review is based on a pre-production copy of the Kayak Essentials DVD. In the pre-production DVD the menu-structure wasn't operational yet. In every sold DVD it should be fully operational.

See full product details in the Playak Buyers Guide



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