Pittsburgh

The Allegheny Front Features First Waves

The Allegheny Front Features First Waves

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.

SurfSUP Kon-O-Kwee

SurfSUP Kon-O-Kwee

Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer lies on the shores of what is arguably the finest venue for whitewater paddleboard instruction in Pennsylvania.  Connoquenessing Creek, known locally as “the Connie,” boasts miles of class I to III rapids, and a river wave as smooth as glass after a good rain.  The camp itself is a stunning sprawl of wooded acreage and beautiful log cabins.  While the whitewater and facilities are ideal, the Connie does have a darker side.  Not long ago, it was considered one of the most polluted waterways in the Country, and still faces many environmental challenges.  To illustrate the opportunities presented by the stream, along with solutions for conservation and education for youth, First Waves’ partnered with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh and Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer for an inaugural residency expedition to the creek.

ADVENTURE FILMMAKING

ADVENTURE FILMMAKING

At first glance, a group of teens yielding camera equipment and various electronics around water seems like a bad idea.  Now, incorporate the instability of standup paddleboards, whitewater rapids, and the goal of scooping up every piece of trash we float by!  “A recipe for catastrophe,” some will crow.  At First Waves, our eyes bulge and mouths water at this morsel of contrast, challenge, and adventure.

FIRST WAVES FLOOD MILLIONAIRE'S ROW

Creativity comes from within, except in places like the Scaife Building.  The Tudor revival mansion in Mellon Park, formerly known as “Millionaires Row,” garnishes thick walls that emit a fragrance like the most untouched shelves of an ancient library.  It is nostalgic, but in a way that encourages creation rather than reflection, like a disco ball.  This grand structure is not a museum.  It is a living, breathing studio where artifacts are made instead of stored; where future artists first put their hands on clay, or in the case of First Waves, make their first edits to an adventure film.

"It is nostalgic, but in a way that encourages creation rather than reflection, like a disco ball. "

"It is nostalgic, but in a way that encourages creation rather than reflection, like a disco ball."

After two intensive workshops of filmmaking, paddleboarding, and conservation, the First Waves group was here to collaborate and edit films that showcased their work and experiences over the summer. Filmmaking instructors Susan Howard and Louis Cappa of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Program provided a lecture about using Final Cut X, a professional grade editing software, and guided the team on their own personal edits of the interviews and video they shot throughout the program.

" There were inglorious crashes, interviews gone wrong, and plenty of awkward shots of instructors and students alike. "

"There were inglorious crashes, interviews gone wrong, and plenty of awkward shots of instructors and students alike."

You could have pulled off an eye examination as the students stared intently at their work, ears muffled by headphones and hands dancing across their keyboards.  Occasionally, Susan would highlight specific functions of the software by showing clips on a projector.  Some of the footage resulted in raucous laughter.  There were inglorious crashes, interviews gone wrong, and plenty of awkward shots of instructors and students alike.  In equal parts, however, were powerful scenes of pollution removal, hard work, and enjoyment.  It was immediately apparent that the team had achieved something special.

"Standing in front of a heaping pile of garbage that they removed from Pittsburgh’s riverbanks, they demonstrated what was possible using just a handful of kayaks, paddleboards, trash bags and cameras. "

"Standing in front of a heaping pile of garbage that they removed from Pittsburgh’s riverbanks, they demonstrated what was possible using just a handful of kayaks, paddleboards, trash bags and cameras."

They had shown how a group of strangers could be brought together through the enjoyment of paddling, surfing, and conservation.  Standing in front of a heaping pile of garbage that they removed from Pittsburgh’s riverbanks, they demonstrated what was possible using just a handful of kayaks, paddleboards, trash bags and cameras.  They didn’t preach about the work that needed done or complain about the river being too dirty.  Instead, they set aside their preconceptions, sought the truth from their own experience, and did something about it.  Asking for nothing in return, except maybe some hand sanitizer and pizza, these students created a model of watershed stewardship that our community can be inspired by.

As the final workshop of the First Waves program came to an end, participants left with a CD of their own personal film.  Their contributions and collaborative thoughts about the program will be culminated in a short film due to release at a screening in the winter of 2015.

To learn more about the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media Group, please go to: http://pfm.pittsburgharts.org/education/young_adult

This project supported in part by the Hive Fund for Connected Learning at The Sprout Fund.

The Conservation Workshop Results with the entire First Waves and Paddle Without Pollution Crew

The Conservation Workshop Results with the entire First Waves and Paddle Without Pollution Crew


Southside Shores Scoured by First Waves

The bustling streets of Pittsburgh’s South Side were a stark contrast from the previous First Waves Project on a rural section of the Stonycreek River. This time, instead of surfing river waves and running rapids on standup paddleboards (SUPs), First Waves participants would be utilizing their paddling skills to access difficult to reach sections of the Monongahela River in order to remove litter and pollutants.

David and Melissa Rohm of Paddle Without Pollution facilitated the conservation workshop and cleanup initiative. Paddle Without Pollution has found a way to not only rehabilitate our local waterways and shorelines, but to make the process fun. Teen participants and adult volunteers alike competed to see who could find the most interesting, shocking, and potentially disturbing items. Additionally, prizes were given out to the person that hauled the most garbage on their board or kayak. Utilizing their balance and paddling techniques learned at the whitewater workshop, the First Waves cleanup armada could be seen with piles of garbage bags, several tires, and a fully intact shopping cart atop their paddleboards.

In addition to removing trash, participants documented the experience under the guidance of Susan Howard and Louis Cappa of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Shore-breaking barge waves, messy conditions and shooting while wading in waist deep water were all part of the task, forcing First Waves to adapt their filmmaking plans. Despite the challenging conditions, the team was able to use dry-bags, waterproof POV cameras, and their paddling skills to ensure they were in position to get quality shots of the conservation efforts.

Through the tenacity and hard work of First Waves, the goal to remove at least 500 pounds of pollutants from the waterway was far exceeded. In total, the Paddle Without Pollution event amassed a heaping pile of trash in excess of 1 ton at the 18th Street Boat Launch at South Side Riverfront Park.

A special thanks to Evan Clark of the Tireless Project (A project of Allegheny Cleanways) for providing pontoon boat support for the First Waves crew. Additionally, we would like to thank Renee Rosensteel, David and Melissa Rohm, Jeff and Nick Devlin, and Melissa Rosenfeld for their incredible support in this project.  Moreover, thanks to SurfSUP Adventures for their contribution of paddleboards and instruction.  Lastly, thanks to Jan Glick, Cheryl Jones, Paul Sparico, Jon Potter, and the rest of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.

For more information about participating in a Paddle Without Pollution cleanup, visit:  www.paddlewithoutpollution.com

This project supported in part by the Hive Fund for Connected Learning at The Sprout Fund.