Thursday, February 26, 2009

The ultimate (kayak?) handbook

Strategically timed around Christmas last year was the edition of the “Handboek digitale fotografie” from Frans Barten: the most comprehensive work on Digital Photography available, a masterpiece of almost 750 pages, a book weighting 3,5 kg. It's part of the long tradition of handbooks of Focus-publishers that began with the handbooks of father Adriaan and son Dick de Boer in the first half of last century. Bartens' book is used as textbook in the education-path of professional photographers on Dutch photography academies.

In the NKB-courses for sea-kayak-instructors students often ask for a reader or a handbook that covers all relevant aspects of sea-kayak-coaching. Despite all the efforts made by several Dutch kayak-coaches there isn't one that is comprehensive and up to date. With a bit of envy (but above all: with great respect!) I look at our neighbors in Britain, where the BCU offers something that comes very close to the ultimate handbook on (sea-)kayak-coaching: the combination of the BCU Canoe and Kayak Handbook and the BCU Coaching Handbook. As the British approach comes close to our Dutch philosophy on teaching (sea)kayaking, these books are also great resources for our students. But I do realize English language is an issue for some of them.

Lacking the one and only "ultimate handbook" - we must look for other resources. And although this is (admittedly) motivated by the need, I think not relying on one big textbook is also an approach which fits better in a modern way of learning. Yes, 30 years ago - eager as I was as a young boy to learn the great art of B&W darkroom-work - I spelled the "Handboek Vergrooten" word for word. But today I can't imagine my kids doing so, learning in a similar way. New media - DVD's, articles and video's on the web, pictures in magazines, games are a welcome addition to wisdom from books - and changed the way of learning completely. Changes come so rapidly. I learned the B&W-skills out of a book given to me by my granddad. The book dates from 1940 and I used it in the early 70's. Despite the sometimes weird Old Dutch spelling - the content was still adequate at that time. The lifetime circle of Bartels' book will be a bit shorter, I suppose.

Still being part of the generation that is grown up with and still fascinated by printed media - I recognize my own style of learning has also changed. I still buy lots of handbooks, but I hardly read them from begin to end anymore. An kayak-related example is the way I learned (teaching) Greenland-style-rolling. It started with a book: I was reading the article of Greg Stamer in John Heaths' book Eastern Arctic Kayaks. Then I met Freya and did my first workshop with her. But the rest and the more advanced rolls I learned by watching the DVD's of Dubside, surfing the web - reading online-articles and watching videos on and (Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson) and a lot of little notes on a great number of kayakweblogs.

There is so much good and actual information available in this digital world - it would be a pity to focus on the one and only handbook… The NKB is working on getting more resources accessible for sea-kayak-students. You can find some resources on the download page of NKB-Zeevaren. But don't expect a new Handbook of us please - it will be more a kind of a guide to find your way.

Of course you don't learn (teaching) kayaking (or photography-work) only from a book. You don't learn kayaking or photography from the web either: skills come with practice, a lot of practice - which is actually the biggest part of the fun!

Said this, for those who want to continue learning about kayaking by reading books ;-) Pesda Press brings out a series of really good ones. The next one is soon to come: Sea kayak Handling by Doug Cooper. I am looking forward to it!

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