The events of the First Waves Johnstown program in July of 2018 imbued a sense of urgency and amplified passion for everyone in attendance. A pollution event upstream of the program site resulted in water that was too tarnished to proceed with the paddleboarding and whitewater activities for local teens. Students that wouldn’t otherwise have the means or opportunities to experience the river were on deck for their first paddling experiences. Instead, they focused on the other aspect of the First Waves workshop – filmmaking. They learned to document what they were experiencing and create a film that could influence others to take an interest in watershed conservation. Their film, Upstream, does exactly that.
When it comes to reporting on environmental topics in Western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Front radio show is the frontrunner. Naturally, we were ecstatic when digital editor, Andy Kubis, came to cover a First Waves river surfing and filmmaking workshop last July. What she witnessed, however, was a foreboding account of why watershed protection is so vital. As the river turned black before our eyes, there was only one thing for us to do – document the event to instill the urgency of action needed.
Attention Pittsburgh surfers, paddlers, water enthusiasts and adventurers - First Waves and SurfSUP Adventures will be partnering with Patagonia Pittsburgh as they host a Never Town Film Screening with professional surfer, Dan Ross, on Tuesday, October 23! There will be refreshments, food, raffles and more that will all benefit the First Waves program to engage underserved youth in river surfing, watershed conservation and filmmaking! We hope to see you all there!
There’s something about outdoor film festivals that makes you question what you’re capable of. The combination of immaculately captured places, harrowing adventures, and a cast of characters only conjured by sports involving leaps from cliffs, vertical climbs, or skate boards hurdling down mountain roads at 70-mph. But why are these festivals so moving?
The New River Gorge Adventure SUP Race has become the epicenter of whitewater standup paddleboard racing in the Eastern US, but not because of a cash purse (there isn’t one!) or fantastical prizes. Instead, this race has ingrained itself in the hearts of a community that it has helped to grow since its inception in 2011. This year, First Waves has partnered up with Active Southern West Virginia to bring the first Youth SUP race to the Gorge.
Nestled in the urban sprawl of Pittsburgh’s East End, The Mount Ararat Community Activity Center provides innovative programs and experiential learning to the area’s families and youth. Earlier this summer, the Center debuted a new program for a select group of students, part of which involved teaching them to surf in whitewater rivers. While surfing might be the last thing many think of in this landlocked region of Pittsburgh, that is exactly what Mentorship Director, Dr. Charles Howell, has brought to the Center through partnership with a local organization called, First Waves.
The youth participants of First Waves are not passive tourists enjoying a day on the river. They are active citizens shaping the way our society views watersheds and its impact on our daily lives. They are demonstrating how to be involved in cleaning up our rivers, and how to enjoy them. They are setting an example of cleaning up litter instead of perpetuating single-use plastic and its careless disposal. They are the first waves of hope for cleaner water for our communities. Filmed and edited in part by First Waves students, this film tells a small part of their story.
A tremendous thanks to our supporting partners, volunteers, mentors, and instructors. This program would not exist without your dedication to the mission of educating and inspiring our youth to care about our watersheds. Your work ripples on into the future as they take these lessons, skills, confidence, and self-esteem with them.
WPXI’s, "Proud to be from Pittsburgh," is a program designed to highlight people who are doing good in our communities.” SurfSUP Adventures and First Waves founder, Ian Smith, worked with Channel-11 News Anchor, Peggy Finnegan, to document a First Waves event on the Pittsburgh Riverfront for the segment earlier this year.