A still frame from Frontier of Firsts, one of the dozen films that will be shown at the Kenai River Paddling Film Festival on May 18, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Steve Cothran)

A still frame from Frontier of Firsts, one of the dozen films that will be shown at the Kenai River Paddling Film Festival on May 18, 2019, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo provided by Steve Cothran)

Paddling film festival makes return to Soldotna

The Kenai paddling fest is featuring films from the Paddling Film Festival World Tour

After a successful debut in 2018, the Kenai River Paddling Film Festival is returning next weekend in a big way.

Slated for a Saturday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, the festival will showcase top films from some of the most talented filmmakers in the world of adventure paddling. Saturday’s showing will feature 12 of the year’s best paddling films, including locally made films and nine award winners from the Paddling Film Festival World Tour.

Event organizers Steve Cothran and Chris Walker helped bring the festival back to Soldotna after a successful first year, and Cothran said he expects an even better round of adventure films.

“There’s a wide variety of films about paddling,” Cothran said. “Some celebrate the high levels of adventure, others the resiliency of the human spirit. There are family-oriented films. There’s a whole range of movies that I think will interest everyone.

“I’m excited to see the whole (range of) films myself.”

Walker said after a great turnout last year, the decision to host the film festival again wasn’t hard to make.

“It’s a great way to bring people together at the beginning of the season and get excited for summer,” Walker said.

Cothran said the Kenai paddling fest is featuring films from the Paddling Film Festival World Tour — a change from 2018 when he and Walker brought in films from a different film tour, the National Paddling Film Festival.

“We felt the quality of films would be a little bit better,” he said.

Since 2006, the World Tour fest has showcased the love and passion for the world of paddling, whether it be the gnashing white-water rapids or relaxed, sauntering rivers around the globe. The list includes films shot in Alaska, Greenland, Nepal and South Africa.

The 2019 World Tour fest includes more than 100 stops across North America, Europe and Australia, as well as the first one ever held in Japan. The only other stop in Alaska was in Fairbanks on Friday.

“It’s one of the largest paddling events in the world in terms of number of people,” Cothran said.

There will also be a gear swap to benefit the Kenai Watershed Forum. The gear swap is a chance not only for paddlers, but also bikers, skiers and campers alike to drop off unused outdoor equipment or to pick out new stuff. Gear can be dropped off from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Sports Complex, with the swap taking place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Food will also be provided by Yo Tacos.

Cothran estimated about 80 people showed up for last year’s inaugural showing, when his love for white-water paddling combined with Walker’s ambition to bring the world tour to Soldotna, and hopes that this weekend’s event will pull in 100 or more.

Cothran said all proceeds will go towards river conservation and to support paddling on the peninsula, noting that some of that support will go to the American Canoe Association, which is looking to start a club chapter on the peninsula.

The Kenai River Paddling Film Festival is scheduled for Saturday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance at Peninsula Power Sports, and $15 on the day of the show, and admission includes a free digital subscription to Paddling Magazine.

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