Sea Kayak Safety
Review by Gary Lai
It's one thing to show kayakers what to do in an emergency; it's
quite another to show them what to expect.
To paddle safely, sea kayakers must learn and regularly practice
on-water rescue skills. The best way to train students for rough
water is to conduct classes in challenging conditions while at a
safe location. To prepare them for what to expect, Sea Kayak Safety,
a DVD by Leo Hoare and Olly Sanders, is a great re-source to show
these students. Unlike almost all other instructional kayak safety
DVDs and videos on the market, which demonstrate rescues only in
mill-pond-smooth conditions, this DVD contains extensive footage of
sea kayak rescues performed in rough water.
Sea Kayak Safety covers not only rescues (both assisted and
self-rescues), but also towing, safety equipment and interacting
with rescue agencies. Leo and Olly, both BCU Level 5 coaches, shot
all of the footage along the spectacular coastline of North Wales.
In the segments covering rescues, the program demonstrates each
technique three times. First, the program introduces a rescue
technique by slowly talking through its steps in calm water. Then,
the presenters demonstrate the rescue in rough conditions on open
seas, filming from support boats or from other kayaks using
deck-mounted cameras. Finally, the program replays footage of the
rough water demonstration, pausing at key points to highlight each
Many of the rescues demonstrated presume paddlers have British-style
kayaks. For example, the program demonstrates variations of the
"ladder" rescue, where in the paddler goes to the stern end of the
kayak, straddles it and gradually inches up the deck of the kayak.
While this works for kayaks without rudders, it's a bit more
difficult to do on a kayak that has one. Also, many of the
demonstrations instruct the viewer to grab onto perimeter deck
rigging running along gunwales, another common feature in
British-style kayaks that is absent on some North American kayaks.
The segment on towing demonstrates several innovative methods,
including the tandem tow (one paddler towing two kayaks); the fan
tow (two kayaks towing one paddler) and the line tow (three or more
paddlers towing each other in single file). Again, some of these
techniques are demonstrated in rough water, which shows that these
techniques can be effective in adverse conditions.
The DVD also includes presentations by a Coast Guard watch officer
and a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Although
the latter brief segment is primarily relevant for paddlers in
Britain, the talk by the Coast Guard officer is useful for American
and Canadian paddlers alike. The officer describes the function of
the Coast Guard, how to file a float plan, how to make a VHF radio
call and how to use signaling devices. Following in the spirit of
rough-water demonstrations, the program includes footage of an
aerial rescue of a paddler by a Coast Guard helicopter, as well as a
lifeboat rescue of a paddler in rough seas.
Sea Kayak Safety is a worthwhile DVD for paddlers of all experience
levels to watch. It's both informative and enjoyable - an uncommon
mix. The demonstrations of rescues in challenging conditions likely
to cause capsize in the first place will sober viewers, while at the
same time reassuring them that the techniques can work in real-world
Gary Lai is an aerospace engineer and part-time freelance writer
living in Seattle, Washington.
Sea Kayaker | June 2006