Water Sports in Documentary Film

Documentary films have explored a wide variety of activities that people participate in for recreation, and water-based sports are no exception.  Whether you have been swept away by the newer paddle board craze, prefer to raft down the winding rivers across the country, or are a long-time surfer, there has been at least one documentary made discussing your preferred form of activity.  Here is an examination of some documentaries that put these popular water sports in the forefront.

Paddle Boarding

In the grand scheme of water-based sports, paddle boarding is a newcomer to the scene.  Paddle boarding involves using a board that is similar in design to a surfboard, but often much larger when directly compared, and using a paddle to propel yourself through the water.  It has become popular as a form of entertainment and exercise on a variety of bodies of water including lakes and oceans.

The documentary film, A Stand Up Paddle Movie, follows a group of athletes that participate in three major categories of stand up paddle boarding sports; circuit racing, open water racing, and surfing (not to be confused with the traditional activity associate with the term).  The film is shot on location predominately in California and Hawaii, and includes footage from multiple competitions held throughout the paddle boarding community.

Water Sports in Documentary Film

River Rafting

While operating a paddle board is generally a single person activity, river rafting more often involves a small group navigating a particular stretch of river.  Some people prefer more laidback outings, focusing on the journey through the area or scenery, while others look to river rafting as a form of adventure by tackling rapids and other heart-pounding tasks.  Most river rafts, including the Intex Excursion 5, are designed to withstand the physical demands placed upon them, allowing them to scrape surfaces and impact most obstacles with a limited risk of damage to the vessel.

In 2008, a documentary, Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk, documented one parties 15-day journey down the Colorado River.  The purpose of the film was to draw attention to issues surrounding the water conservation effort while also providing a look at the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon area.


Ocean surfing has been popular across the globe for quite some time.  Whether done for pleasure or competition, surfing ocean waves is often considered an exhilarating experience.  Though the origins of the sport are connected to Hawaii, groups of surfers now exist almost everywhere that regularly has waves worth catching, including some areas that require the assistance of vehicles in order to catch the waves.

Step Into Liquid, a documentary film released in 2003, demonstrates the appeal of surfing across the world, including footage from locations as diverse as Hawaii and Ireland.  Information regarding the history of the sport is covered, as well as footage on some of the newer techniques and equipment being used by those looking to increase the thrill level beyond the norm, such as with tow-in surfing or using foil boards.

These are just a few of the documentaries that cover the various water sports that are considered popular across the world, and may be seen to just scratch the surface of the information that is available to those who are interested.  Additionally, new documentary films are in production every day, so the next water sport phenomenon may be just around the corner.

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