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  • Radford Bean

Review of the PDX Kayakers Film Fest

One of the purposes of Canoe & Kayak Oregon and this blog is to provide unbiased views of paddling events around Oregon. Only by providing such views can readers be adequately informed about paddling news and events in Oregon. With this in mind, I feel it only right to give my unbiased opinion of the PDX Kayaker Film Festival I attended last night.

I joined other paddlers at the Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge in downtown Portland for the PDX Kayaker Film Festival sponsored by Next Adventure. It was an opportunity for kayakers to showcase videos they shot while paddling some of this nation’s wildest rivers.

Now from the title of the event, PDX Kayaker Film Festival, one would think the festival would show films of all aspects of kayaking. However, the film festival title was somewhat of a misnomer. From the few films I was able to watch in the time allotted me, it was clear the focus of the films was on whitewater paddling.

While whitewater paddling is exciting, and I used to do some whitewater canoeing in my younger days, there is more to kayaking, canoeing, and paddling in general than careening off waterfalls in play boats, shooting rapids, and playing around in eddies and standing waves. Kayakers and canoeists also paddle to take in the scenic beauty and wildlife prevalent around rivers, bays, lakes, and creeks.

I will say that going into the event, I was under no illusion that the film festival would be anything but a visual display of whitewater antics based on information Next Adventure posted on their website. And in truthfulness, I went partly to meet up with my paddling friends and make new paddling friends.

First, parking was awful. There was a small parking lot that by the time I arrived at the film festival was already full. The parking lot was ill equipped to handle the number of vehicles the film festival would bring. On-street parking was a nightmare—I overheard some say they had trouble finding parking.

The venue itself was extremely loud. My voice became so hoarse talking to friends within just a couple of feet from me because the music and noise was extreme, and much of the time I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The noise was so loud you couldn’t even hear the films. I heard from others who voiced similar complaints. What would one expect? Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge is, after all, a bowling alley that serves food and libations, so noise comes with the territory. A bowling alley just isn’t a suitable location for a film festival.

Film festivals should be intimate affairs where people can sit and enjoy the films if they want and socialize with likeminded individuals. That was impossible to do at Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge. The event was held on the second floor of the bowling alley in the game room. There were few places to sit, and the area was so crowded it was hard to mingle or meet new people. It was also hard to know who was there for the film festival, who was there from Portland Kayak—a group I belong to—who paddled, and who was simply there to drink, shoot pool, and play arcade games.

Next Adventure invited everyone to meet at their paddle store at 6 p.m. The intent was they would partake of some drinks, then at around 6:30 p.m. move to Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge just two blocks away.

The film festival itself was sceduled to start at 8 p.m. My question is this, why so late of a start on showing the films? First, the festival was held on a Wednesday evening. Most people, including myself, have to be to work the next day and can’t stay out too late. If you’re having people gather at your store at 6 p.m., wouldn’t it have been better to start the film festival at seven? The film festival’s late start is the main reason I was unable to hang around to watch more of the films, and I wasn’t the only one who had to leave early and miss the films because of the need to get up the following morning to go to work.

Next Adventure could have easily hosted the film festival at their paddle shop. They have a meeting room where people could have watched the films without all the loud noise drowning out the films. People could have mingled in the store area, and they might have even been tempted, and caved in, to buying some paddling accessories.

Because it was so crowded at Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge, I was only able to meet up with a few friends from Kayak Portland. I don’t know how many from Kayak Portland were there because I couldn’t find them in such a large crowd. Holding the event at Next Adventure would have made it easier for paddlers to meet.

Parking isn’t that great at Next Adventure, but it isn’t any worse than the parking at Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge.

Next Adventure should rethink where they host the event, an event that has been going on since 2001. Perhaps they have held it at other venues in the past—this was my first time attending the film festival. The choice of holding it at Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge was a poor decision. In the future, I would recommend starting the film festival at 7 p.m. to give more of us a chance to see the films and meet new paddlers. And who knows, Next Adventure might even be able to make a few bucks off of us from the sale of a new boat or paddling gear if they hold the film festival at their paddle shop.

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