Canoe Cinema: This Is Canoeing and The Canoe Movie
By Joe Carberry
Photography by Janusz Wrobel
Paddling filmmakers Will Lyons and Justine Curgenven couldn’t be more opposite. Lyons is a dirtbag C-1 boater from Asheville, N.C., who thrives on the Green River Narrows and is part of the Lunch Video Magazine staff. Curgenven is a sea kayaker from Wales whose achievements include impressive circumnavigations of New Zealand’s South Island and Tasmania, in addition to four groundbreaking sea kayaking DVDs. But they are bound by one thing in particular: Each is debuting a feature-length film this summer headlined by the sport of canoeing, something that hasn’t happened in recent years. “There aren’t a lot of options out there in terms of DVDs,” says Curgenven, whose film, This is Canoeing is on sale now. Lyons’ film The Canoe Movie premieres in August at the summer Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City. Here’s what they had to say about the sport, their movies and each other.
Curgenven: I decided to make This is Canoeing for a few different reasons. I’ve done four sea kayaking DVDs and I was getting a bit tired of it. Also my enjoyment in filmmaking is lifestyle. I never thought I’d get rich. I like going on trips. And I wanted to cut through the middle of these places in the film at a good price.
Lyons: The idea with The Canoe Movie was to see what it is that makes people so passionate about canoeing. We saw that when we went to Louie Fest. There were tons of people of all ages from 19 to 60 getting the shit kicked out of them, swimming boney rapids. I wanted to know what it is about this terrifying experience that doesn’t bother them.
Curgenven: A lot of sea kayakers think canoeing is really boring, and I’d like to think This is Canoeing will increase excitement like This is The Sea did. I’ve seen the preview of The Canoe Movie, and I think having both films out there will help the sport.
Lyons: I haven’t watched Justine’s movie yet. I wanted to wait until I’m done with mine, because I didn’t want to watch hers and think, ‘I need some of that in mine.’
Curgenven: Long trips like the Mountain River appealed to me. And steep whitewater on the Moose. Karen Knight and her ballet. There’s so many different people from different aspects of canoeing. I tried to get as many people involved as possible.
Lyons: The Canoe Movie is all whitewater. I didn’t delve into flatwater or tripping or ballet. It’s a lot of action. We have footage from four or five different rivers and all sorts of paddlers from Class V to timid Class II. We went to Mexico with Eli Helbert, Dooley Tombras and Jim Coffey. There was a couple of 30-plus-foot waterfalls. Pretty impressive to watch open canoes run those big drops.
Curgenven: Once I started making the movie, I had to prove myself to canoeists. They just wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. Then it steamrolled. Becky Mason said, ‘You should contact my brother, Paul.’ Then Paul was like, ‘You should film Mark Scriver. We go to the Moose River every October.’
Lyons: For 10 years I paddled C-1 – you know, the bastardization of kayaking and open boating. Some people just seem to find the canoe paddle more natural. It’s just what they’re used to. It’s some sort of redneck gene that goes deep.
Curgenven: I was impressed with how friendly everyone was. At an open canoe slalom event, I started filming and put my tent up next to everyone. Kevin Callan, who’s done 13 books and is pretty high-profile in the sport, couldn’t have been more friendly.
Lyons: I’m stoked on the future. There’s a group of Boy Scouts from middle Tennessee in the Cookeville area. Michael “Louie” Lewis saw them out on the river a couple of times last year and gave them the name The Lost Tribe. Their sole mission is to take younger, less experienced canoeists down the Hiwassee. People have said that canoeing is done. But canoeing is not going to die. There are still kids really fired up on it and learning. I just don’t know how stoked they’ll be on the old footage in The Canoe Movie of dudes in Pro-Tecs and big moustaches from the late ’80s.