The Call of the River


Special Extended Edition DVD (93 Minutes) is shipping daily!   Karma package includes that DVD, plus a shorter version DVD (and Good Karma).  Downloads and InstantView are the shorter, 68 minute version.  Arranging a public showing? Contact us for the 74 minute version, posters, and promotional materials.  Produced by Hall of Fame inductee Kent Ford.

A Hundred Years of Whitewater Adventure
Featuring vintage canoeing and kayaking footage, in-depth interviews with eclectic pioneers and captivating narrative, this documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires paddlers to answer the call of the river.

Whitewater’s history has as many twists and turns as the canyons its pioneers explored. Its story is a collage of unexpected influences, from building boats in friends’ basements to bribing damkeepers to release water. World champions defect from communist regimes and then utilize military by-products for boat materials. Curiosity, ingenuity and outright audacity thrived as paddlers started exploring virgin runs and experimenting with designs and materials to make the sport easier.

The film chronicles the world of whitewater from its early beginnings in Europe through its position as a major outdoor sport in the world today. From the inaugural FIBArk race on Colorado’s Arkansas River in 1949, to Grumman Aviation entering the aluminum canoe business, the sport’s history is riddled with watershed moments, all of which have been painstakingly documented through more than 100 sources of footage.

Learn how paddling exploded in the 1970s, spurred by the movie Deliverance, slalom’s inclusion in the 1972 Augsburg Olympics, and the advent of nearly indestructible plastic kayaks. Follow along as this cult-classic takes you from world champion defections from communist-occupied countries to the summer camps and clubs that fueled the sport’s early growth and continue to do so today. From early explorations in fragile wood and canvas boats to today’s multi-manufacturer line-up of creek, play and river-running kayaks, nowhere has the sport’s journey from obscurity to mainstream been so thoroughly unveiled.

Winner, Best Documentary  Reel Paddling Film Festival

  • Good Job- honestly nobody has ever done anything close! - Eric Jackson, Jackson Kayaks
  • We screened it in an opening-night double feature with Warren Miller Entertainment's Flow State, and so many audience members excitedly approached us afterwards to tell us they preferred your film. - Katherine Daly Lake Fork Conservation District
  • The movie was great, and I am not even a paddler!  Really enjoyed seeing it. - Richard Kolko
  • an amazing job of tracking down historical footage of the early days of the paddling sport- Yahoo Movies (see complete review)
  • I finally got to watch your film and loved it. I especially liked seeing guys like Roger Paris.  What a character. And the film really captured the incredibly evolution and human interest in going down rivers at, initially, almost any risk.  Auden Schendler, Author Getting Green Done, Aspen Skiing Company
  • Our club roster is quite a mix of paddling styles and preferences, and no matter what craft or style or favorite water, Kent Ford’s dvd, The Call of the River, is an excellent gift idea. This video is fun.  It is not repetitive and has far more than a series of crazy or extreme boaters.  Ford tells our history, then introduces the icons of our sport, and they invite us on the wild ride of whitewater history.  - Eric Herman, Poudre Paddlers
  • Absolutely Superb and Masterfully done.  We are proud paddlers!  - Stan Stutts, Ontario
  • I wanted to tell you we had a chance to watch "The Call of the River" this weekend and really enjoyed it. As I was watching I was trying to imagine the tremendous amount of work involved in the undertaking.  Nice job / thanks for sharing.  -Courtney Wilton
  • My passion for the sport and the rivers is as strong as ever.  That video brought a tear to my eye and put a smile on my face  Loved it!  - Scott Gerber
  • it is, your perspective on events was good, including the 1990's. No better way to tell that really than you did. Bravo. Really... very well done.  Corran Addison
  • Every generation of paddlesports eventually finds its Chief Story-teller and Historian.   In Kent, we've found ours.  Joe Jacobi, Director, US Canoe and Kayak
  • Thank you for doing this... too many people, even in our industry, have no idea who these people are. - Darren Bush, Rutabaga Paddlesports, Madison, WI
  • Fabulous accomplishment, What a project!  Amazing contribution to whitewater sport  - John Burton
  • Fantastic documentary. My favorite section? Seeing the women leading in early canoe camps. - Lisa Riblet
  • This is Friggin Awesome! - Woody Callaway Liquidlogic Kayaks
  • Fantastic job; You have captured the common thread of whitewater sport.  Superior work.- Tom Blue
  • Phenomenal Film--Every one who paddles should make a point to see this.- Matthew Urdan
  • What Riding Giants did for surfing, this does for paddling.- Mark Singleton, American Whitewater
  • The most in-depth, detailed piece on kayaking history I have ever seen......much needed for the sport and entertaining to watch as well. - Clay Wright
  • Wow! I am blown away. I was amazed at all the stuff/footage you pulled together. - Will Leverette
  • The Call Of the River is mesmerizing - Barry Grimes
  • I loved Roger Paris part in the film... the war... creating great rapids. Total Wow! - Joe Jacobi Olympic Gold Medalist
  • What a treat it was to see that old footage. It brought back vivid memories, all good! I feel ancient since I know everyone and recognize boats I paddled, etc., from Letteman/Prijon glass boats to River Chasers and Mirages and different C-boats. John Connelly, Manager L.L.Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools
  • Have to tell you how much I am enjoying your movie. I just watched it on my computer at lunch time.  I was gratified to see that you included Keewaydin (Canada) as a source. Keewaydin has been running canoeing expeditions from Lake Temagami since the 1890s including a great deal of exploratory trips and whitewater runs that were part of the canoe routes. Incidently - the first Fords at Keewaydin were in the 1890s, too.  They used local native guides and fur trappers as their guides who knew the lake canoe routes. Some of there historical trips are amazing stories and they covered huge distances. John Ford, NYC (no relation to the producer)

From Toro Rogenmoser    Der Beste Film über das Wildwasser-Paddeln. Aufnahmen von 1932-2007 erzählen die Entstehung unseres Sports.

Kent Ford hat schon viele Filme über's Paddeln gemacht, Geschichten wie Lehrfilme. Er gehört in den USA zu den besten Kennern des Paddelsports und so wundert es nicht, dass er mit The Call of the River  die bei weitem umfassendste und  spannendste Geschichte des modernen Paddelns erzählt.
Er beginnt bei den Ureinwohnern Amerikas mit ihren Birken-Kanus, die sich mit der Ankunft der Siedler zu Holz&Leinen- Kanus und später über Aluminium- zu modernen Kunststoffbooten entwickeln. Erst spät wird das in Europa bereits weit verbreitete, von den Eskimos stammende, Kajak auch in den USA Populär. Während sich das Material entwickelt, Fiberglas, Kevlar, Polyetylen, immer kürzere Bootsformen, entwickeln sich auch die Paddler, es entsteht eine Industrie, und immer neue Paddel-Disziplinen. Abfahrtsrennen, Slalom, Squirt, Freestyle, extremes Alpinpaddeln.
Viele überraschende Erkenntnisse erfährt man: Abfahrtswettkämpfe in Faltbooten erfordern gute Technik um den Steinen auszuweichen, also trainiert man um Slalomstangen. Es entsteht der Slalomsport. Nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg herrscht bei Flugzeugbauern Überkapazität, also beginnen sie, viele billigeAluminium-Kanus zu bauen, was dem Paddelsport den nächsten Schub bringt. Milo Duffek, Erfinder des Duffek-Schlags verliert in Italien absichtlich an der Slalom-WM, um mit Hilfe der schweizer Mannschaft trotz seinen tschechoslowakischen Bewachern in den Westen zu fliehen.

The Call of the River  ist die beste Geschichte über's Paddeln und gehört mit Sicherheit zu den besten Wildwasser-Filmen. Intensiv wie sonst nirgends wird die Geschichte und Faszination des Paddelns gezeigt.  Dem Ruf des Flusses zu folgen, das ist es, was Paddler tun. Was das genau ist, beschreibt The Call of the River .


1944 "Even World War II had its unintended bright side...a bridge was destroyed, but it created beautiful rapids."
-- French Kayaker Roger Paris

1958 "Those were the days when nobody wore lifejackets. I didn't even know what one was."
--Former Nantahala Outdoor Center President Bunny Johns

1964 "Whenever you saw someone on the river, you became fast friends--because just around the corner, you might need to be."
--Whitewater pioneer Jimmy Holcombe

1968 "People said we were brainless... but it looked okay to us!"
-- Early paddler Bert Hinkley

1976 "We all had long hair and none of us had two dimes to rub together."
-- Perception Kayaks founder Bill Masters

1984 "There were some long winters of eating Velveeta cheese and just hanging out with my boat after I stumbled into the three-dimensional aspect of paddling."
-- Squirt boat pioneer Jesse Whittemore

The Karma Package includes the Special Edition DVD, the Retail edition DVD (better length for showing friends), the poster, and the Directors Cut which identifies rivers, footage sources, and backstory on much of the film. Above all, it buys a hearty thanks from the producers for helping fund the project of telling the history of whitewater sport. Purchases in any amount are appreciated.

Length: 92 Minutes
Festival version: 80 minutes
Interviews: 50
Earliest footage: 1932
Coolest footage: Salida Fibark races 1952