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.
First Waves and the Benscreek Canoe Club is celebrating the 2015 success of First Waves Johnstown with an outdoor film screening of "River of Change" and FREE Paddleboarding and River Surfing lessons at the 2016 Stonycreek Rendezvous.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.