The Seven Films That Changed Paddling Forever

12:03 pm in At the Helm by Captain

The Seven Films That Changed Paddling Forever by Adventure Kayak Magazine 
These seven remarkable films have more than just paddling in common – they also all helped inspire, engage, and excite anyone who watched them.  Although some on our list are over 30 years old, they still stand the test of time and perhaps are even more relevant today.  Have you seen them all?

Waterwalker, This is the Sea, A Glorious Way to Die, Wildwater and the list continues!  These amazing films from filmmakers such as Bill Mason, Justine Curgenven, and Bryan Smith have gone above and beyond to help showcase what it is we do as paddlers and perhaps help non paddlers understand why we do it (and maybe convince some of them to give it a try).  How many of these films have you seen?

Dudh Kosi: Relentless River of Everest
Filmed by Leo Dickinson for British television and originally airing at prime time on Boxing Day, this epic expedition tale won over 50 international awards, was sold for broadcast in 25 countries and may well be the most watched paddling movie of all time.  The equipment is dates, but eh story of six kayakers driving a minibus 7,500 miles cross-country to Kathmandu, hiking 180 miles to Everest Base Camp, then kayaking for six weeks in the Himalaya is timeless.

Canoe films have progressed a long way in the last quarter century, but director Bill Mason’s well-loved magnum opus remains one of the genre’s most moving.  From the tranquil crackling of the campfire to Mason’s harrowing swim in the furious waters of Lake Superior, Waterwalker embodies the many moods of the canoe trip.

This is the Sea
Justine Curgenven reinvented the sea kayak film by mounting cameras on boats and turning her lens on rough water playgrounds and the paddlers who ply them.  TITS blew the sport’s conservative image out of the water and cemented sea kayaking in the adventure realm.  A commercial as well as creative success, it has so far spawned three sequels and two spin-offs.

A Glorious Way to Die
Aussie filmmaker Richard Dennison’s award-winning directorial debut documents the descents of Siberia’s wild Chulishman River by a Siberian team paying their respects to comrades lost on the river the previous year.  Riding bizarre, homemade catarafts cobbled together from felled trees and scavenged airplane and tractor parts, the ragtag men charge through rapids that would give today’s best boaters pause.  A Glorious Way to Die put Siberian whitewater on the map, but more than that, it offers one of the most honest, poignant answers to date of that oft-asked question, “Why?” 

Path of the Paddle
Many accomplished canoeists learned their craft from this definitive Bill Mason classic.  Mason’s affable instruction set the tone for every paddling primer thereafter and ushered such gems as, “I don’t know…looks pretty tricky” and “Holy mackerel, there’s a ledge ahead!” into paddlers’ lexicon.

Pacific Horizons: Exploring the Northwest Coast by Kayak
The first sea kayak DVD from acclaimed director Bryan Smith scooped awards (including Best Sea Kayaking Film at the Reel Paddling Film Festival) for its luscious cinematography and inspiring storytelling, and raised the bar for all paddling films to follow.

What do you get when you combine decades of filmmaking and kayaking expertise, a reverence for whitewater and a $25,000 camera with five times the resolution of HD video?  The answer is WhiteWater, a groundbreaking labor of love from director Anson Fogel and co-writer/producer Doug Ammons.  Featuring jaw dropping, 120 fps slow motion footage and intense, Hollywood-quality sound, the DVD is so immersive you’ll be checking the couch for puddles.

Contributed by Adventure Kayak Magazine writer Virginia Marshall.  Catch this year’s best paddling films at Rapid Media’s Reel Paddling Film Festival.  Visit for 2012 World Tour dates.