New look Canoe Focus – and Four Borders report

Canoe focus is the BCU’s magazine and is free with BCU membership. It has started looking rather different the last few issues, and I’ve been meaning to write a review of it for a bit, because its quite an improvement.

Check out the main feature in the current issue, its a report on the Four Borders expedition we heard about from Lowri Davies, written by one of the other paddlers on the trip, Dave Burne.

Click to go to Canoe Focus Magazine

CF does get a certain amount of stick – can’t really please anyone on the access pages, too placatory for some, too excruciatingly boring for others – and some parts of it can have a “WI roundup” feel, which I actually find quite endearing as it does remind us that kayaking is made of clubs of hundreds of hard working volunteers. Of course, the range of articles CF can print depends hugely on what they get sent – its a free magazine, and they do not pay for articles unlike commercial magazines like “Paddles” etc. Usually the expedition articles are great, but some issues have hardly a one, and are instead just a catalogue of race results.

Well, from January, that seems to have changed quite a lot – each issue has had a good bunch of articles on exploration, whether that is whitewater or sea kayak, and at various levels, from first descents to stuff within reach of everyone. As well as that, theres more of a range of other articles.

The quality of the photos and layout has also improved – a lot less hard to read text-blocks-over-photos, and a lot more pretty pictures. BCU have obviously made a concerted effort to up the quality of the printing and to change the format of some of the sections to turn focus into a shinier sparklier item.

I always read the whole thing, but with these new ones, I truly enjoyed pretty much the whole thing and was really impressed with the breadth of articles and the improved editing.

Things which are new:

  •  Personal profiles of famous paddlers / BCU officials. The profiles of famous paddlers are great. As for the BCU middle-upper-intra-management, well, its good for playing jargon bingo, (I counted 8 “going forward”s), and its good that they are being transparent and informative about what they do.
  • Much better pics, including full page images on the front covers with dramatic scenes
  • Lots more articles about expeditions and trips – this is the bit we love!
  • More product info – CF does do this part fairly well, the pictures of new gear are very good. One gets the feeling that CF are very ready to listen to and print the manufacturers own comments about their products fairly unquestioningly, so they are really “new product listings” rather than “reviews” as such. However, thats fair enough, its not like they can pay a team of product testers, they are a free magazine.

Some things I really enjoyed:

  • Pictures in Chris Smith’s Madagascar article (previous issue)- there were more pictures than in his Winston Churchill report
  • An article about children with special needs being introduced to boating over a number of carefully planned sessions (previous issue) – this is something I have no experience of, and its not my area of paddling – the author kept the reader’s interest by focussing on the different stories of achievements the children, and by not dumbing down the technical language.
  • A report (latest issue) on the Four Borders Expedition – of course, we already heard about the trip from recent speaker and its great to get different views on the same trip.

All very nice.

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