Capturing Whitewater | The Art of River SUP Film
Waterlust filmer Patrick Rynne gets a crash course in river SUP videography
A few days back, SUP released a river edit by a company called Waterlust. That film featured world-class river SUP athletes Dan Gavere and Corran Addison, and was so well constructed and aesthetically alluring, it may or may not have blown your socks off (depending on whether or not you were wearing any). It’s as good a river edit as we at SUPthemag.com have seen in recent eons, setting a bar for the rest of you river rippers to match in terms of production quality and performance level. We’d like to see more of these, many more. So, we gave filmer Patrick Rynne of Waterlust a soapbox to explain his experience filming two of the river’s top SUP athletes in hopes that it’d breed more where this came from. What we found is, this top-tier river edit was Rynne’s first river edit, like, ever. So while the bar is set high, matching it is totally feasible. Yet another testimony to the progressive adolescence of whitewater SUP. Enjoy—MM
Image hurling yourself down a river through icy water. The air is crisp and clean, prompting deep inhales that remind you that up here, the stresses of daily life are as scarce as the cell phone reception. Besides the constant and hypnotizing rumble of the river, there is silence. It's just you, the river, and your paddleboard.
In 2011 I started a project called Waterlust. I was knee-deep into my PhD at the time and searching for an outlet that would combine my love of the aquatic environment with my desire to study and preserve it. At its core, Waterlust seeks to tell stories through film and photography that capture how humans interact with water. It was through this pursuit that I had the great privilege to meet Dan Gavere and Corran Addison.
I had never heard of whitewater SUP when my buddy Adam Cumming from Imagine Surf started describing it to me over a beer a few years back. He described the madness as a unique blend of exploration, surfing, and kayaking that was unlike any other sport I had experienced. He also stressed that it was dangerous and challenging. I was immediately intrigued.
It wasn't until a year or so later that I pulled into Hood River with Fiona Graham, my partner for Waterlust, armed with cameras and an assortment of filming toys, that I finally got the chance to document it. Here we met Dan and Corran for the first time, both world-class kayakers turned standup paddlers that have led the charge down the rapids. In many ways they are like the odd couple, Dan is quiet and focused while Corran cannot help but let forth one attention grabbing anecdote after another.
The whitewater SUP experience goes something like this. First you leave a car somewhere downstream so you don't end up hitchhiking home wet and cold. Second, you drive uphill along your run with similar enthusiasm to a surfer skipping down the beach towards the shoreline. We chose sections where the road snaked along with the river, allowing Fiona and I to follow the riders down, filming them with big lenses and the occasional drone flight along the way. Having an experienced local is critical for safety. Running a river without knowing what is coming around the bend would be like sprinting blindfolded into one of those automated car washes behind your local gas station. You might get lucky and come out the other end a little soggy and unscathed. Or, more likely, you'll run headfirst into something unexpected. It cannot be emphasized enough, don't run a river without scoping it out on foot ahead of time or better yet in the company of an experienced local to guide you.
The energy of the water pulses like waves breaking in a surf lineup. There are periods of calm that allow you to step back mentally and soak in the immense landscape that slowly passes by. These peaceful moments are accompanied by a lingering anticipation of what lies ahead, the river equivalent to a set of waves bearing down on you at any moment. Inevitably the metaphorical waves come, sections of river that produce churning whitewater, turbulence, and standing waves. The collective experience offers the best of what SUP has to offer: flatwater serenity, the innate adventure of exploration, and adrenaline filled moments of complete focus.
From a filmmaking perspective, capturing these guys do their thing required some creative solutions. Equipping the riders upstream with their own cameras and then racing down alongside them in a car kept us on edge the entire weekend! We relied heavily on our trusty quiver of GoPros to get a variety of immersive shots, and combined them with pulled back views that displayed the breathtaking wilderness that Oregon and Washington are famous for. A highlight for us came from using a customized line camera system built from drone components and kitesurfing line. This approach allowed us to get ultra close-up views that a quad copter simply cannot acquire safely.
Our goal with the film was to capture an amazing sport in a way that does it justice and inspires others to give it a try. As with everything, what you see on a screen will never be as special as what you feel when you do it, so you'll just have to get out there and try it yourself! You won't regret it. —Patrick Rynne
Full edit of River Walkers