Kayakyak review!

Simon Willis TITS4 reviewA 2 DVD set, This Is The Sea 4 contains almost 2.5 hours of Sea Kayaking footage from around the globe showcasing superb paddling destinations and a mixture of well known and less well known paddlers.

Following Justine’s previous DVD’s (This Is The Sea 1-3) and Bryan Smith’s Pacific Horizons, the standard for Sea Kayaking DVD’s has been set very high. Can This Is The Sea 4 deliver?

Well, in my humble opinion, yes it can. TITS 4 is one of the best value Sea Kayaking DVD’s on offer with 2.5 hours of material spread across 2 DVD’s.

The first DVD is similar in format to the previous DVD’s with a variety of material on destinations, trips and personalities. The second DVD contains 2 expedition films – the circumnavigation of Haida Gwai and the circumnavigation of New Zealands South Island.

Disc 1 begins with some excellent Rock Hopping footage in Baja, Mexico where a fleet of plastic Sea Kayaks (thank goodness given the seal launches!) are put through their paces among the rock gardens and sea caves of the coastline. A fantastic start to the DVD, this segment really wets your appetite and sets up the action to follow.

‘Dubside’ is the subject of the second segment. ‘Dubside’ is an american paddler who specialises in ‘commando kayaking’ and the art of greenland rolling. Armed with a greenland paddle, packable sea kayak (which can be set up in 12 minutes) a length of rope and enough change for the bus, ‘Dubside’ practises a different approach to sea kayaking and his rolling skills have to be seen.

Kayak fishing using sit on top kayaks is growing in popularity and I have seen a few craft out and about along the Solent Coast so in some respects it is no suprise to see it appear in a Sea Paddling DVD. However, this is one segment I am happy to skip past – you may feel differently.

Disc 1 continues with some superb footage of paddling in the Dead Sea, Lake Superior and the Ottawa River. The camera work and characters involved continue to delight and provide inspirational viewing on a cold winters night. In particular the stunning scenery of Norways Fjordland had me searching google for maps and ferry details.

However, despite it’s range of material, Disc 1 would not be my main reason for purchasing this DVD. Disc 2 would be. It contains 2 expedition films which I feel are up there with the best. Circumnavigating Haida Gwai (Queen Charlotte Islands) and Circumnavigating New Zealand’s South Island. The South Island film is surely award winning material and provides a true insight into the highs and lows of a trip like this. Justine and Barry Shaw manage to keep the camera rolling at times where most of us would forget to press play and this provides a fantastic ‘fly on the wall’ look at the physical and mental demands of undertaking a major expedition.

To be honest, I would have been pretty happy parting with my hard earned cash just for Disc 2 however, as a package, This Is The Sea 4 delights, inspires and more than surpases the bar set by its forerunners. This DVD should be on all Sea Paddlers Christmas lists.



Over the course of two evenings, we watched This is the Sea 4. This is a generous package: one disk of shorter profiles of remarkable paddlers and locales; one disk with two longer expeditions.

Disk one follows Justine’s now-familiar approach of documenting outstanding kayakers who collectively define the sport. But whereas This is the Sea 1, 2 and 3 were like a kayaking Who’s Who and Where’s Where , This is the Sea 4 widens the lens to explore the variation and diversity of what can be done with sea kayaks themselves. We meet kayak fishermen off the California coast, whitewater paddlers tackling the Ottawa River in sea kayaks, and a Norwegian father-and-son team who hop around on the tops of their boats in the fjords. We also meet a woman who nurses injured wombats back to health, and see Hadas Feldman on her home turf. The message of disk one is something like, “All over the world, people are pushing the bounds of what they and their boats can do. Don’t be narrow-minded about what sea kayaking is about.”

Disk two contains two expedition narratives that, like her earlier ones, show why sea kayak trips are so enticing but don’t disguise how hard they can be. The Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) circumnavigation with Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme manages to be a loving portrait of a remarkable place, a profile of the whimsical and knowledgeable owners of Body Boat Blade, and a story all in one.

The circumnavigation of the south island of New Zealand with Barry Shaw is considerably more challenging. The two paddled 2,400 kilometers, many of them into stiff headwinds, with limited landing options that were further complicated by punishing surf. At one point, Justine develops an infection and has to be airlifted to a hospital. They often look exhausted and sometimes almost defeated, and share all of that in the footage. At some points, Justine is even too tired to laugh. It’s really a brutally honest documentary; she shares the tough decisions, the discouragement and the fear as well as the elation and excitement. That’s something we’ve always appreciated about Justine’s work, and it’s very much in evidence here.


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