Paddle to Seattle - Review & Video

Paddle To Seattle is the multi-award-winning story of two guys, Josh Thomas and JJ Kelley.

Together they sea kayak the Inside Passage, from Skagway, Alaska to Seattle in Washington State.

They paddle home-made wooden Pygmy kayaks.

The journey of 1,300 miles takes them ninety-seven days and, for most of the time, they’re alone.

Except for the bears, whales and almost constant rain.

How on earth their cameras coped with the climate is beyond me - it's bad enough filming in Scotland.

This exchange form the transcript of the film sets the tone.

JJ Kelley: “Honestly, I didn't think it'd be this rainy in

the rain forest.”

Josh Thomas: “Yeah, it's funny we didn't see that one coming”.

J.J. Kelley: “It is North America's only rain forest. It's the wettest place on our entire continent, and I didn't think it would be this rainy”.

This is absolutely not traditional observational documentary making. It is a doco for the YouTube generation. Horizons aren’t level, faces are often too dark against the light sky, the auto-focus hunts, and the jump cuts would give old-school film editors apoplexy. None of this matters.

A huge contribution is made by the invisible team member, the editor Ben Gottfried, who pulled all this material into such good shape.

The film draws its energy from the personalities of JJ, Josh, and their interaction with the biggest character of all – the amazing wild environment of the Pacific North West.

It’s not their first film. In 2006 these two friends filmed their 1,200 mile cycle ride from Seward, on the southern coast of Alaska, to the northern coast of that massive state. The resulting DVD, Pedal to the Midnight Sun costs $16 through Amazon.

The pair met each other while hiking the Appalachian Trail. While Josh is a carpenter in Seward, JJ is a media professional, working at National Geographic Television and living in Washington DC.

On screen, that partnership is everything.

The credits show we only meet eight other people in this eighty six minute long film, so the rest of the time we spend in the company of the floating double act that is JJ and Josh.

They’re not comedians, but their light-hearted take on the world is refreshingly honest and genuinely engaging.

Their effervescence only runs a little flat when they’re both sick with a stomach ailment which had them evacuating at both ends. JJ reveals his Mom used to call this, 'the burning turkey squirts'. Lovely.

Although there are plenty of shots of the pair paddling, this is not strictly a kayaking film.

It’s more like an exceptionally well-made video-diary of a challenging expedition through superb, wild scenery. In days gone by, people who did this sort of thing wrote a book. With the democratization of media, they now make a film.

I confidently predict it will be enjoyed by everyone, not only kayakers. But, I suspect they’ll watch it only once. Twice at most.

Which left me wondering – are they as bouncy as this all the time? Surely they can’t turn it on just for the camera or we’d see cracks in the masks? No, I’m pretty sure these are two, kayaking Tiggers.

Paddle to Seattle costs $19.95.

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