Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Paddles up!

Justine Curgenven. (Photo courtesy of Justine Curgenven.)

Over the course of two evenings, we watched This is the Sea 4. This is a generous package: one disk of shorter profiles of remarkable paddlers and locales; one disk with two longer expeditions.
Disk one follows Justine's now-familiar approach of documenting outstanding kayakers who collectively define the sport. But whereas This is the Sea 1, 2 and 3 were like a kayaking Who's Who and Where's Where , This is the Sea 4 widens the lens to explore the variation and diversity of what can be done with sea kayaks themselves. We meet kayak fishermen off the California coast, whitewater paddlers tackling the Ottawa River in sea kayaks, and a Norwegian father-and-son team who hop around on the tops of their boats in the fjords. We also meet a woman who nurses injured wombats back to health, and see Hadas Feldman on her home turf. The message of disk one is something like, "All over the world, people are pushing the bounds of what they and their boats can do. Don't be narrow-minded about what sea kayaking is about."
Disk two contains two expedition narratives that, like her earlier ones, show why sea kayak trips are so enticing but don't disguise how hard they can be. The Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) circumnavigation with Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme manages to be a loving portrait of a remarkable place, a profile of the whimsical and knowledgeable owners of Body Boat Blade, and a story all in one. (Those of us who met Shawna and Leon at the West Michigan Coastal Kayakers Association symposium last year got a preview of this trip.)

Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme. (Photo by Justine Curgenven.)

The circumnavigation of the south island of New Zealand with Barry Shaw is considerably more challenging. The two paddled 2,400 kilometers, many of them into stiff headwinds, with limited landing options that were further complicated by punishing surf. At one point, Justine develops an infection and has to be airlifted to a hospital. They often look exhausted and sometimes almost defeated, and share all of that in the footage. At some points, Justine is even too tired to laugh. It's really a brutally honest documentary; she shares the tough decisions, the discouragement and the fear as well as the elation and excitement. That's something we've always appreciated about Justine's work, and it's very much in evidence here.

Barry Shaw landing through surf. (Photo by Justine Curgenven.)

We've found, over the years, that we return to each of the This is the Sea DVDs to review segments we love. The same will be true with this one.
Justine and Barry will be showing a one-hour condensed version of This is the Sea 4 and talking about their circumnavigation on Friday, November 14 in St. Charles, IL. Admission is $10, half of which goes to support Chicago Adventure Therapy. There will be an after-party nearby. For tickets or more information, visit Geneva Kayak Center or call 630.232.0320.

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