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.
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.
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.
The USS Requin is a floating museum of World War II era technology along the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore. While educating and enchanting hundreds of thousands of visitors about the life and science aboard a submarine, the ship often helps divulge a more sinister story about Pittsburgh’s waterways.
At First Waves, we have been dealt the opportunity to work with amazing partners and volunteers. The latest project in conjunction with VIP Sports was one of the most memorable. By working with Slippery Rock University volunteers and VIP Sports instructors, we were able to provide a standup paddleboarding experience to more than 60 youth participants that were blind or semi-blind. Here's a short film documenting the training process and the event itself! Enjoy!
The river wave at Greenhouse Park is little more than a pile of foam during the hot month of July in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Stonycreek River is the tamest version of itself and instead of whitewater enthusiasts, the park attracts sunbathers, tubers, and swimmers to its shores. What most have overlooked, however, is this wave’s potential as a training ground for the area’s youth to become river enthusiasts. When presented in the right way, the wave can capture the attention of teenagers better than the latest X-box and carve a path for outdoor recreation and education that is widely available but pervasively ignored. This is exactly what the First Waves Johnstown Program is able to provide to underserved youth in the area.
In 2015, The First Waves Johnstown Program was conceived thanks to support from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies in partnership with the Benscreek Canoe Club, Goodwill of Conemaugh Valley, the YMCA of Greater Johnstown, Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and SurfSUP Adventures. In the first year, the program accomplished the recruitment and certification (through Goodwill Goodguides) of 7 new mentors, completed 4-intensive workshops, removed hundreds of pounds litter from the Stonycreek River outside Johnstown, and produced a high-definition film documenting the experience through the eyes of youth participants as well as mentors, instructors, and community leaders.