Last week, after some very hot days on trail, I took advantage of an evening indoors at the Reel Paddling Film Festival.
The Film Festival was hosted by The Wild Center in collaboration with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and Raquette River Outfitters in Tupper Lake. The festival screens paddling films, several of which are this year’s award winners in their respective categories.
The festival opener was a quick, stop-action piece called “The Barron Canyon,” made by a band of light-hearted campers who had a lot of fun one Halloween with their paddles, boats and a Nikon D60.
Next up was a visit to the kingdom of waterfalls — Iceland. This crew of paddlers travels the world in search of vertical rather than horizontal water flow. They take a lot of time to prepare their approach and memorize the timing of each movement, but you can feel your own adrenaline surge when you see them go over the 20-meter drop at Aldeyjarfoss.
The third film was a stunning film called “Chasing Water.” As all paddlers have, National Geographic photojournalist Pete McBride grew up wondering where the water in his backyard ends up. His award-winning documentary follows the Colorado River from its source to the Sea of Cortez. Passing mountain streams to the Grand Canyon and then the Hoover Dam, the audience follows the timeline of millions of years. Sadly, the current point in time marks the outlet of the river where there is depleted supply, fouled water and shorelines cracking from drought.
With a quiet style, Becky Mason’s film on advanced solo canoeing techniques gave everyone in the audience a “how’d she do that?” look. She gracefully showed how to maneuver a cedar-and-canvas rig with the finesse and precision that is associated with far more technically designed boats. A second how-to film produced by Reel Water Productions showed sea kayak rescues in dynamic water. The water conditions resembled Lake Champlain on a big day and the instructors emphasized aligning body, boat and blade for a simple, effective rescue.
The film entitled “Standup 4 Greatbear” voiced the hope that every paddler feels. If people only experience and understand the beauty and importance of our waterways, surely they will protect them. Norm Hann traveled by stand-up board for 400 kilometers to highlight the marine environment that could be devastated by an oil tanker in the Great Bear Rainforest. His support from First Nations Communities strengthened his ability to complete this incredible journey.
For the festival’s second act, The Northern Forest Canoe Trail introduced Saranac Lake’s own Mike Lynch documenting his through paddle from Old Forge to Maine. Mike’s film journal shows the nitty gritty of the long journey but also shows the route’s allure with wildlife and beautiful skies over classic northern forest scenery.
Hosting the Reel Paddling Film Festival is an opportunity for organizations and small businesses to bring paddlers together for fun and to raise enthusiasm and awareness for water issues. Hosts can pre-screen the films and select those they feel will connect most to their audience. With each ticket purchased, Rapid Media, the Film Festival’s producer, offers a free one-year digital edition subscription to their four paddlesports magazines (Adventure Kayak, Kayak Angler, Canoeroots and Rapid, the Whitewater Magazine).
Elizabeth Lee is a licensed guide who lives in Westport. She leads recreational and educational programs focused in the Champlain Valley throughout the year. Contact her at email@example.com.