“Extreme Sports” have quite the connotation, justified or not. Yeah, you get the Adderall-deficient alphas who mix in their “whoas” and “gnarleys” with BASE jumping off the Eiffel Tower and water skiing behind a Cessna. They do it all for a laugh, for YouTube views, and the occasional Red Bull sponsorship. But then? There are those who would do the extreme even if no one knew about it. Those few whose depths of determination run so deep it can be counted in light years. They have the passion and the drive. And their horizon is unending.
You get the big kahuna, Laird Hamilton.
And Scott Lindgren, one of the pioneers of kayaking.
Scott Lindgren initially got interested in the sport as a means of escape but it quickly became a way of life. A life that is beautifully documented in The River Runner. The documentary tracks his immersion as an early pioneer, to his ambition of paddling through the four great rivers of the Himalayas, and through his ultimate test of surviving a brain tumor. The River Runner is a movie of life and passion that is accessible to anyone who appreciates, even if not fully understands, that driving need to get to the next river. Or mountain. Or wave.
The documentary laps between Lindgren’s early family life in suburbia California, the start-up of his career and production studio, and into his personal traumas and health. Through it all, bridging sequences highlight Lindgren’s quest to kayak the four great rivers diverging from the Himalayas into Tibet, China, India, and Pakistan, all of which are insanely rough yet magnificent waters. The footage throughout is amazing. From spectacular full-frame vistas to intimate Gopro shots. Lindgren loves kayaking and wants that love to be on full display.
The River Runner is a mesmerizing movie that shows the majesty of nature and man’s attempt to conquer it, that is, at least a small part. This is not a gratuitous compilation of YouTube clips showing the wild and unhinged lifestyle of some kayaking brah. This is Scott Lindgren’s life and director Rush Sturges shows everything from adrenalized heroics to soggy undercarriages.
Sports, it is said, are society’s great equalizers. Every walk of life, no matter status, wealth, or heritage, can boast a team’s colors. Debate stats by the handful. Boo and cheer and high-five and complain about players and positions and teams. Aside from all of those great rivalries between cities and clubs, what makes the best competition is man against nature. And even if the man does not win, the quest is memorable and worthy. There are few that succeed in such quests. And those adventures might beat them down. But they rise again as a victor.
The River Runner is one of those victories.