Sometimes, you just have to trust the beta and jump in with two feet. Here’s what we knew on January 1, 2021: Inventory will be low, perhaps inexistent; It will be difficult to promote products that are on backorder; Trips that were postponed in 2020 may be postponed again, so stories and films may or may not be produced. Luckily, 2020 taught us how to read-and-run like never before, so we jumped in.
Where this year’s Best of List is lacking in product stories, we made up for with second seasons of two much-loved film series, three solid feature film releases and the written stories our audiences love. Plus, we introduce a new category—Commercials—because when you don’t have any product to sell, sometimes you have to get creative and sell the idea of paddling gear.
Hidden Wild | Behind the homes and freeways of suburban Palm Beach County, an incredible network of swamps, scrub, and waterways lie waiting to be discovered. Hidden Wild follows science educator Alex Freeze as she leads three South Florida students on an expedition through the wilderness hidden in their own backyards. Join Noah, Kiana, and Kourtez as they paddle down the Wild & Scenic Loxahatchee River, wade through ancient cypress swamps, and witness the life-giving power of fire in Florida scrub. It’s a tough journey, filled with mosquito bites and sore feet, but along the way, these students will discover a passion for Florida’s wildlands.
A Resilient Paradise: Florida Keys | Combining Caribbean vibes with easy access from the mainland, the Keys emit a unique energy from the bustling patios of Duval Street to the tranquil waters of the flats. The crystal clear waters give adventure anglers a rare opportunity to sight fish for some of the trickiest species—permit and bonefish, tarpon and barracuda. But like so many fishing paradises, hurricane season slams the Keys year after year. Local fishing guide Randy Morrow has lived through 13 storms. As he shares footage from Hurricane Irma’s wrath, he reflects on the damage and recovery of both the resilient locals and the fish.
Wood on Water | Established in 1893, Keewaydin is one of the oldest operating summer camps in North America. And while it looks much the same as it did in the early 1900s, merely 20 years ago something major changed: girls were allowed to go ‘tripping.’ As a filmmaker, Hannah Maia was interested in how something established more than a century ago to promote manliness and “roughing it in the woods” could be relevant for teenage girls today. And so, she did what any good filmmaker would do, she joined their expedition.
FLOWSTATE: Season Two | Flowstate Season 2 is a culmination of a decade of research, scout missions and failed expeditions in America’s Last Frontier. With a rotating cast of Class V kayakers and skilled bush plane pilots, Brendan Wells returns to Alaska for a season of first descents and second attempts with all the bushwhacking shenanigans and glacier margs we loved in season one.
Watch the full season on YouTube.
My Home Run: Season Two | Every paddler has a ‘home run.’ A favorite river section or a local creek that they know at every level, can paddle in any boat, in any condition. The My Home Run series follows paddlers from the Northeast to the Mid Atlantic and beyond and celebrates their favorite local runs. Episode one features kayaker Cat Hardman who first came to Columbus for a freestyle event in her early teens and later, researching colleges meant finding a school near whitewater. For now, Columbus is home and the Chattahoochee is where you’ll find Cat between—or sometimes during—classes.
Watch the full series on YouTube.
“Being a Good Boater Can Make You a Bad Boater” | As the saying goes, a good player doesn’t always make a great coach. The same can be said for good boaters… While you may work the sticks like they’re an extension of your own body and you can rig your boat in your sleep, remember what it felt like to not know how. Next time you invite the rookie who’s only been on a day trip, ditch the sarcastic answers to legitimate questions, and hand off the oars, not because you want to lounge on the bow and tan but because you want to help shape a lifetime boater.
“Six Questions to Ask a Trip Leader” | So, you didn’t pull a permit… but you found your way onto a river trip with strangers… For people who love being on the rivers, it’s unnatural to imagine turning down an invitation to go boating, but the wilderness can create strange boat-fellows, and not everyone’s expectations of a good time, or even a safe time, are the same. So, whether you’re a first-time boater or just looking for a new crew, don’t commit to a river trip before asking the Trip Leader these questions.
“Trip Report: The Grand Canyon and Sh*t Creek in 10 Days” | A trip report unlike you may have read before. When Eric Johnson put on at Lee’s Ferry, he expected nothing short of an iconic two+ weeks on the Colorado. Instead, he ended up on another creek he was less prepared for.
“Row Like a Girl: And Other Advice for Women on the River” | No one woman is an expert on all things river-tips-for-ladies, so Shaina Maytum reached out to some of the raddest, baddest, most stylish women on the river that she knows for answers. But, if you only follow one piece of advice, take it from Liz Hymans, one of the first women to guide in the Grand Canyon: “Wear pearls. Take a bottle of nail polish. It’s the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to get girly if you feel the need.” Even if pearls and nail polish aren’t your thing, her point is clear. You’re a woman on the river. Be your fabulous self!
“Ten Ways to Die on the Blue Nile River” | After a daily regimen of anti-malarial medication and driving hours through political unrest, the trip leader’s welcome speech was anything but comforting. Standing on the banks of Lake Tana, the TL listed off more ways the group could die than Scott Lacy could count on both hands. Pulling off the first successful, full descent of the Blue Nile from its source at Lake Tana to the Sahara desert on the South Sudanese border would be hard, but staying alive could prove to be harder.
Turns out, we never ran out of stock in NRS Straps, so we pushed them—a lot.
And then, when it came time for the holidays and our inventory was still slim,
we decided to make fun of ourselves and the situation, with some light, seasonal humor.