The 15th annual Paddling Film Festival premiered at The Royal Cinema in Toronto, Ontario on Feb 20, 2020. Hosted by The Complete Paddler, the evening featured a stellar selection of paddling films.

More than 75 paddling films were considered, however, the Paddling Film Festival committee narrowed down submissions to a shortlist of 25 films that will tour around the world to more than 135 cities as part of the 2020 Paddling Film Festival World Tour.


The 8 award-winning and 16 shortlisted films are now eligible for the Aqua-Bound People’s Choice Award. Click here for the current World Tour schedule to attend a screening and cast your vote for the best film of the year. No tour stop scheduled near you? Click here to learn more about bringing the World Tour to your town, theatre, club, shop or event.


Discover the 8 award-winning films and the 16 shortlisted films below.



doc2020For thousands of years, outrigger canoes have connected diverse cultures and people around the world. (people) of water follows the story of Rob Prechtl, a member of the U.S. Men’s Whitewater Raft team, as he embarks on a journey to learn the craft of outrigger paddling.

Director: Forest Woodward • Producer: GnarlyBay

A Kayaker’s Solo Adventure In India | with Nouria Newman

Kayaker Nouria Newman embarks on a solo, multiday descent on the raging waters of the Indus River in the Himalayas. Feeling challenged, blessed and vulnerable at the same time, Nouria shares her feelings with captivating honesty. From brutal close calls to moments of grace, the river delivers an intense experience shared in this gripping film.

Director: David Arnaud • Producer: Corinna Halloran

Balkan Rivers Tour 4 | Action for Wild Rivers


Balkan River Defence is a group of friends, kayakers, artists and activists working with locals throughout the Balkans to protect the last wild rivers in Europe from hydroelectric dams. Each year, they hit the road with kayaks, cameras and creativity to travel the Balkans and directly support locals fighting to save their rivers. During the fourth Balkan Rivers Tour in 2019, the crew visited Romania’s Basca Mare River, Slovenia’s Soča River and Bulgaria’s Struma River.

Directors: Matic Oblak, Mitja Legat, Tim Vrtnik • Producer: Balkan River Defence

Banking on Bailey


Banks, Idaho is home to 17 hearty residents, including Ryan Bailey, a whitewater kayaker, wildland firefighter, and the unofficial mayor of the town. Situated at the confluence of the North and South Fork of the Payette River, Banks is to kayakers what the North Shore of Hawaii is to surfers, and Yosemite is to climbers. The river terrified Ryan when he was growing up, but it kept calling to him. Twenty-one years after his first competition in Banks, he continues to live his life unapologetically. He’s not concerned about what’s next, but rather what’s right now.

Director: Tim Kemple

Broken Body of Water

This motivational film showcases the human spirit in the face of adversity. With a malfunctioning body but sharp mind undiminished, Andy Sutton desires to achieve something profound before the inevitable happens. This film captures Andy’s journey as a competitive sportsman with an inoperable spinal cord tumor that is causing him to slowly lose his mobility. He defies nature’s course to achieve greatness against all the odds. And though the journey isn’t easy, there is still much life to be lived.

Director & Producer: Chris Pavey

By Hand


To escape comfort, reconnect with the natural world and set a new bar for ocean adventure, twin brothers Casey and Ryan Higginbotham made a decision that would reshape their lives. On March 18, 2016, they embarked on a 2,200-mile journey from Alaska to Mexico with two 18-foot paddleboards. The brothers carried nothing more than two dry bags of gear each and a camera. No support boats, no paddles. Nothing like this had ever been done. Raised with a never-quit mentality, the expedition forces these arch-rivals to set aside their past and grow into a team.

Director & Producer: Kellen Keene

Can't Ski Vegas

According to the official story, the team in Can’t Ski Vegas went into the Tatshenshini River valley in search of the biggest ski lines of their lives. But the reality was, they had simply come to celebrate friendship. “To withdraw into the wild, to remove distractions and cell service and emails, and to invest purposeful time into being together. I guess that’s the real meaning of a bachelor party,” said the filmmaker. 

Directors: Joey Schusler, Ben Page, Thomas Woodson

Dagger Presents | Women Of Whitewater

Meet a few kick-ass Team Dagger female paddlers and take a closer look at the unique ways in which they inspire and empower other women, on and off the water.

Directors: Evan Lyendecker | Dagger Kayaks | Jess Daddio | Session Studios
Producer: Jess Daddio | Session Studios

Dave-the-Potter – Letting Go and Moving On

An artisan in northeastern Pennsylvania shifts his focus from pottery to paddling in a bid to expand his life’s horizon.

Director & Producer: Christopher King

Family Routes


In Family Routes, Leanne Robinson and Dwayne Wohlgemuth embark on a summer-long canoe trip across the Northwest Territories with their two sons, four-year-old Emile and one-year-old Aleksi. Together they face the challenges of living off the land and criticism from back home.

Director: Keith Robertson

Homecoming - A Boundary Waters Story

Homecoming is a paddling adventure raising awareness about the threat of proposed sulfide-ore copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota. In Homecoming, Joe Fairbanks travels through the same waters where he learned to paddle as a boy. Today, these are endangered waters. Joe reflects on the experience of being diagnosed with cancer and draws on his personal connection to the natural landscape for strength and healing to illustrate the importance of nature preservation. Learn more:

Director: Joe Fairbanks

Howe Sound

After being declared a dead zone from mining pollution, the waters of Howe Sound are undergoing a miraculous recovery. Follow Norm Hann as he takes you on a tour of his backyard waters and explores the current state of the Sound.

Director: Kelsey Thompson • Producer: Blackfish Paddles



Two people, two weeks, two kayaks. Sophie and Ewan took a self-supported journey via sea kayak to connect with an uninhabited land of ice and penguins. ICEolation takes the audience on their journey, from the preparations of planning such an expedition, through the challenges and the highs of Antarctica.

Directors: Sophie Ballagh & Ewan Blyth • Producer: Sophie Ballagh & Ewan Blyth, Mathew Farrell - Flowstate Photography

International Whitewater Hall of Fame Class of 2019

The International Whitewater Hall of Fame (IWHOF) recognizes and honors individuals who have made significant contributions to whitewater. Forty-seven honorees have been inducted into the Hall of Fame since 2005, and the three honored this year bring the total to 50. Honorees hail from more than a dozen countries around the world, and IWHOF is proud to honor their legacy as pioneers, explorers, world class athletes and advocates for the future health and enjoyment of our rivers.

Director & Producer: Chris Preperato

Lawaiʻa, A Family Fishing Fable


Hawaii means many things to many people. For Nick Wakida, his homeland of Maui is tied to community and that community is part of a larger family. Nick doesn't have the big boats and expensive gear to do the deep sea fishing the islands are known for, but his can-do attitude and a sea kayak enables him to fish the waters. Fishing for Nick is about more than reeling in a big one. It's about tapping into the cultural and spiritual history, and sharing his bounty with family and community.

Director: Jeff Thomas • Producer: Mat Jackson

Pull Of The North

In May 2016, a team of four adventurers began a three-month, 2,000-mile canoe journey from the source of the Yukon River in Canada to its mouth at the Bering Sea in Alaska. The expedition was made through the lands of the Athapaskan First Nation people who, more than 10,000 years ago, crossed the Bering land bridge from Asia. The paddlers explore the strength of this culture and its landscape, animals, ancestral knowledge and spiritual beliefs. The expedition is a journey of discovery into what being human means to the “people of the river”.

Director: Caroline Cote

Road to Water with Robert Field

In 2015, Robert Field ditched the 9 to 5 grind to pursue his passion for kayaking, fishing and videography. Now you can find Robert where the water meets the road, producing videos for his popular YouTube show Field Trips with Robert Field and living as a fulltime RVer in a Keystone Cougar trailer. His home on wheels affords him the ability to travel to new places, meet new people and, most importantly, catch new fish.

Directors & Producers: Aaron Hitchins, Matt White


Skooks explores one of the fastest tidal rapids on the planet through the eyes of professional kayaker Nick Troutman.

Director & Producer: Jason Mannings


Svaha tells the remarkable story of a 2,000-mile, three-month sea kayak expedition across the Caribbean Sea, from Grenada to Miami, through some of the world’s most treacherous waters. With just a single day of sea kayak experience, childhood friends, Will McCreadie and George Parry, take on the expedition to raise funds for their charity, the Get Exploring Trust. With remarkable footage of real life-and-death situations, the film is a tribute to tenacity and endurance.

Director & Producer: Will Parry

The Crossing

The Crossing is a visceral journey. It follows three American kayakers as they paddle across the Straits of Florida. Along the way, it juxtaposes their experience with the stories of four Cuban-American refugees to empathize with and examine the complex issues surrounding forced human migrations.

Director: Nate Davison • Producers: Johnie Gall, Andy Cochrane

The Great Route

This incredible SUP trip along the west coast of Greenland shows the effects of climate change in the high north. Standup paddler Michael Walther, photographer Daniell Bohnhof and filmmaker Maximilian Stolarow follow a route from Aasiaat to Ilulissat to discover life on the rough island in the past and present. In addition to icebergs, never-ending days and frigid temperatures, they meet Valdemar Petersen, an 84-year-old hunter and poet. The Great Route inspires action to protect this unique northern region.

Director: Maximilian Stolarow • Producer: Michael Walther

The Long River Home

The Long River Home is about overcoming the residual impacts of war through kayaking. Aaron Howell and Russell Davies are combat veterans who were injured in war and came together for another mission as they guide blind Navy veteran, Lonnie Bedwell, on his third trip through the Grand Canyon. Together, they learn negotiating the rapids of life is as simple as forming a team, kicking out in the current, and finding a line through the chaos.

Director: Seth Dahl • Producer: Sarah Leone & Executive Producer: Timmy O'Neill

The Rio Caqueta


Jules Domine and Tyler Bradt are addicted to whitewater adventure and make a plan to journey the long way, from the source of Rio Caqueta, to find an unreal, big-water canyon deep in the Colombian Amazon. This is the type of adventure that makes you glad you were not there. 

Director: Tyler Lee • Producer: Barry Barr

The Salad Days

Falling in love at a young age, Herm Hoops dedicated his life to Desolation Canyon. Retired from a professional career as a ranger, educator and interpreter in Dinosaur National Monument, Herm's affair with the Green River is as strong as ever, even as he battles life-threatening cancer.

Director & Producer: Cody M. Perry

Vitamin Sea


One woman's record-breaking standup paddleboarding journey, spans the entire length of the mainland U.K.—1,000 miles, from Land's End to John O'Groats. Vitamin Sea documents positive ways to tackle plastic pollution, and how crucial our connection to nature is in driving positive environmental change.

Director: James Appleton • Producer: Cal Major