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100% of this footage was shot with a GoPro Hero.

EARLY KAYAKING MOVIES – beginning in the early 80s and running through the early 90s – had a “wide world of sports” feel. There were typically documentary-style voice-overs narrating events and lots of cheesy music. Of course many of these films were classics in their own right, such Jim Snyder’s Fun Forever and Wayne Gentry’s Southern Fried Creeking, but as a genre, paddle films always seemed a few years behind surf and skate movies in terms of filming and editing and capturing the feel of being in the realm.

As paddling evolved in the mid 90s to shorter boats, new school playboating (or at least what was new school then), and bigger drops, the style of movies also changed. One of the first films to really look and feel different was Fallin Down, in 1996. Gone were the goofy attempts at humor (at least most of them), and slow, home-movie style editing. Fallin Down just focused on the crux of each drop, interwoven with lots of playboating. It was the first paddle movie that seemed to have any real attempt at a listenable soundtrack (although Jim Snyder’s Fun Forever earns points for just straight up DIY weirdness). It was the first movie that just seemed about getting you stoked to go boating.

From here, paddle films have continued to evolve as athletes such as Tao Berman, Rush Sturges, Tyler Bradt, and Pat Keller (among many others) have pushed the limits of what’s “runnable” to more and more ridiculous levels each year. Filmmakers such as Shon Bollock and Spencer Cooke have also begun taking deeper looks at the stories of paddlers themselves and the culture of the places they paddle.

In terms of how paddle films feel though, what’s really become a game changer over the last couple years is the GoPro. Simply put, there hasn’t been a way until this camera to capture the paddler’s perspective as he / she launches off drops or just charges downstream. The reel above from Matador athlete and young filmmaker Shon Bollock’s latest production Slippery When Wet gives some great examples of this.

Sponsored in part by Matador, Slippery When Wet introduces and highlights an amazing crew of kayakers as they explore lines all over the globe. The filming and editing took over two years, as Shon and his crew the Shasta Boyz adventured throughout Hawaii, Mexico, California, and Pacific Northwest. The process culminated in an expedition to Japan which was nearly called off due to the tsunami, but then undertaken as both a kayaking and relief volunteering mission.

Be sure to check out Shasta Boyz, and also GoPro. I used one for the first time on our recent film-making mission in Patagonia, and have never had so much fun playing with a camera.



About The Author

David Miller

David Miller is Senior Editor of Matador (winner of 2010 and 2011 Lowell Thomas awards for travel journalism) and Director of Curricula at MatadorU. Follow him @dahveed_miller.

  • dbaktx

    Awesome! Loved the song! Fits perfect. Who is it?

    • david miller

      it’s by deadmau5. also the opening track on art of flight, likely the biggest budget snowboarding movie of all time.

  • Zach

    That looks exhilirating. Really great video!

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