Review of “Anyone Can Kayak – River Running” DVD
Last week I received a copy of the newest DVD – “River Running” – produced by the father-son team of Greg and Tim Parker at AnybodyCanKayak.com from Verona, Wis. They previously teamed up to produce other instructional DVDs including Basic Playboating (2009), Rolling (2010) and Advanced Hole Tricks (2011).
The newest DVD, “River Running,” is all about going downriver in a whitewater boat. It packs four hours worth of instruction onto two disks. That’s right, FOUR hours. At the retail price of $29.95 that equates to 12 cents per minute. A great value when you consider what you can learn.
Topics include: wet exit, power and control, keeping upright, eddy out, peal out, S-turns, ferry, backferry, waves, holes ledges, pre-turning and cross-current momentum, stuck in a hole, rocks and other obstacles, rolling, swimming and rescues, and putting it all together.
On their website, the Parkers describe the DVD this way:
“It not only teaches you skills such as eddying out and punching a hole, but it also spends a great deal of time showing you how to read a river, pick a route, assess the risks of that route, and then mentally prepare for a successful run. It’s two disks and four hours of hard core instruction. Most topics are explained in class 2 whitewater, then demonstrated in class 3, 4 and 5. Much of it’s in slow motion or stop action, with plenty of graphics so you can understand exactly what’s going on.”
Not only are they the producers, Greg and Tim also write the scripts, narrate, shoot the video (with occasional assistance from Tim’s wife), edit, create the computer graphics, design the package, market and distribute the DVDs. And oh yeah, they’re also the paddlers you see in the video doing the ferries, S-turns and peal outs. The Parkers took two years to create this latest release. They shot footage on rivers in Wisconsin, Colorado and Canada. I immediately recognized a few of the locations, including the dam drop at Wausau Whitewater Park.
The combination of detailed explanations, easily understood terms, humor, simple graphics and stirring on-the-water footage adds up to solid kayaking instruction.
I asked Tim how the two of them got into kayaking. He told me he started paddling in 1995 at age 42. Greg started the following year at age eight “the first day he saw a kayak appear on the roof of our car in Wisconsin and was immediately addicted,” according to Tim. “In 2000, Greg was 13 and we started taking trips throughout the U.S. and Canada. After a few years we realized we always have the most fun in Colorado and spent most of our time there. Greg worked for six summers as an instructor in Salida, Colorado. When he graduated from college he moved to Denver where he teaches pre-K-through-8 physical education.”
One aspect I find especially helpful about this DVD is that the Parkers use a land-based camera; not one onboard the kayak. This lets you better see the body position of the paddler along with the kayak’s movement through water. Helmet-mounted GoPro videos may be fun to watch but they don’t give you a complete picture of how the paddler is controlling the boat.
Much of the appeal of all “Anybody Can Kayak” productions lies in how they deliver the narration. With their rich Wisconsin accents, father and son kid each other as they explain and demonstrate the finer points of whitewater kayaking. Some of the jokes are a bit cornball. But for me, down-home humor adds to the charm. I’ve never known a kayak instructor who doesn’t like to toss in a corny joke to keep things fun. It also helps lighten the tension some students feel, especially when an instructor tells them it’s time to step up to the next challenge such as their first wet exit.
It’s possible my glowing impression of “River Running” is the result of me being the perfect audience for this DVD. I’ve been a sea kayaker for 12 years but when it comes to whitewater boating, my skills hover somewhere between beginner and intermediate. For me it’s exciting and sometimes painful to see beginner mistakes depicted in the video because I recognize myself and my own boneheaded moves. After showing what can happen when you do something wrong, the video follows up by showing the correct method.
Now that spring runoff season is finally here and the rivers are running at decent levels, I look forward to applying what I’m learning from this fun and inspiring video.
Trailer for “Anybody Can Kayak: River Running”