With Nick Cunliffe and Matt Giblins recent release of the free iBook to accompany the Sea Kayak Essentials DVD and ability to download individual chapters from the Sea Kayak Essentials DVD, I thought it was an opportune time to post up the review I wrote for Ocean Paddler Magazine.


Sea Kayak Essentials (S.K.E.) is the new offering from Level 5 Sea Kayak Coach Nick Cunliffe and filmmaker and BCU Coach Matt Giblin. Following on from their first DVD ‘Kayak Essentials’ which focused on core skills for kayaking, S.K.E. is being promoted as an “…instructional DVD for sea kayakers of all abilities looking to develop their paddling skills in open water sea conditions.”


Sea Kayak Essentials is split into 15 chapters accessible from a single menu page. Nick and Matt describe these chapters as falling into two sets, foundation skills and applied skills. The chapters are:

  • Foundation Skills
  • 5 Essentials of Boat Speed, Angle and Trim; Body Position, Stroke Linking
  • Fundamentals of Posture, Connectivity, Feel and Power Transfer
  • Core skills of Forward paddling
  • Core skills of Balancing
  • Core skills of Turning
  • Use of the Skeg
  • Boat Awareness exercises
  • Applied skills
  • Open Water Forward Paddling, in wind and waves
  • Moving Water Skills: crossing eddy lines, ferry gliding and using waves
  • Tide race paddling: effective paddling in bigger conditions
  • Rockhopping: applied skills and strategies in close quarters
  • Surfing skills: launching and landing techniques
  • Tide Race Paddling
  • Surfing Skills

The entire DVD runs to 1hr 49 minutes of content and is filmed in HD Widescreen with footage primarily being shot around the North Wales coastline.

Review Audience

I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Sea Kayak Essentials DVD having very much enjoyed the first DVD, Kayak Essentials. In particular I am at a stage in my own paddling where I am converting experience and Inland/Canoe coaching qualifications into Sea Kayak leadership and coaching qualifications. To that end I am spending a lot of time analysing stroke technique and practical application of strokes in order to improve my personal performance as well as improve my own coaching of Sea Kayaking.
To gather an alternative view, the review copy of the DVD was shown to some relatively novice paddlers who are beginning their involvement with Sea Kayaking.


Sea Kayak Essentials proved to be a very slick production. The HD widescreen footage is well shot throughout and provides clear views of all strokes and techniques discussed from a range of angles and heights. Audio quality is also excellent with obvious use of wireless microphones on Nick as he paddles to ensure we can hear his coaching clearly above the noise of the water.

Additional commentary is added throughout the DVD at strategic points along with the use of freeze frame and still images with annotations to describe or highlight specific points or recap a set of points. For example, when recapping the key points for a given technique, a nifty spiral bound notepad page appears in the top right corner of the screen and the points appear one by one as recapped by Nick’s commentary. Similarly, slow motion is used at certain points to allow for detailed observation of skills/techniques with key parts of body/boat/blade highlighted with overlays to accentuate learning points such as angle of body, points of contact within boat and so forth.

The menu provides easy access to any chosen chapter without the need to fast forward or rewind through the entire DVD to find a specific section. Title slides are clean and modern in styling and remain unobtrusive to the overall flow of the DVD.
Altogether, this leads to a very polished and professional aesthetic to the DVD.
Sea Kayak Essentials has been filmed in some cracking locations and care has obviously been taken to select suitable tidal, sea or wind conditions to illustrate skills demonstrated. Wherever appropriate, core skills are introduced and demonstrated on calm water before being progressed in more challenging conditions with additional commentary and discussion.

The pace of Sea Kayak Essentials was something felt to be excellent by all who viewed the DVD. There can be a tendency is paddle sports DVD’s to be fast paced affairs. At times this is effective and enhances the content. However, the slower pace of this DVD with time given to demonstrations enhances the viewers ability to take on board the wealth of information being imparted and observe skills carefully without an over reliance on the rewind button of the remote control. In particular Nick and Matt have not been afraid of periods of silence in the DVD whilst a stroke or skill is shown several times from different angles as opposed to filling the silence with unnecessary music or too much commentary.

A contributing factor to the relaxed pace and calm approach of Sea Kayak Essentials is Nick Cunliffe’s coaching commentary. He has a nice relaxed style and calm manner whilst remaining highly engaging when discussing technical content.
In terms of content, Sea Kayak Essentials fulfills its aim of covering the range of Intermediate and Advanced Boat Handling skills. Although very short and snappy, the initial chapters on the 5 essentials of Sea Kayaking (boat speed, angle, trim, body position and stroke linking) set up the remaining and longer chapters for both the foundation and applied skills sections of the DVD. Nick not only explains and demonstrates skills but sets challenges and tasks for paddlers to take away and try on their next paddle.

Sea Kayak Essentials does not teach the absolute basic paddling strokes – this is covered in the Kayak Essentials DVD. Instead there is an assumption that paddlers have the basic ability to paddle forwards, backwards, turn their kayak and move sideways. From this assumed start point, Sea Kayak Essentials was felt by all who viewed the DVD to have pitch the level and quantity of content pretty much perfectly moving skills from calm water to some nice challenging moving and rough water.


All paddlers who viewed Sea Kayak Essentials, agreed it was a must have DVD. Personally I have been extremely impressed with not only the quality of the DVD in terms of both content and production, but also impressed with how accessible Nick and Matt have made some quite technical content.

For the more novice Sea Kayaker there is a wealth of information to help develop boat handling skills. More seasoned paddler or those looking at progressing through coaching or leadership qualifications with find some fantastic examples of technique and top tips to help them improve technique as well as enhance their own coaching skills.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give Sea Kayak Essentials is that on first viewing I only managed to get through a third of the DVD before I had to stop it and head out for a couple of hours on the water to try out some of the coaching points I had picked up.

Useful Links

Kayak Essentials Website
Sea Kayak Essential iBook Download
Purchase individual chapters from Sea Kayak Essentials DVD