The 17 Best Kayaking Movies And Documentaries Of All Time

Kayaking is a super exciting adventure in nature, and it gets even more thrilling when you watch it in movies and documentaries. These films let you feel like you’re right there with the kayakers as they go on amazing journeys through beautiful waters, challenging rapids, and the wonders of nature.

These movies make kayaking look awesome, showing how fun and tough it can be and how gorgeous the places they paddle in are. Even if you’re nowhere near a river or ocean, you can still feel the excitement of kayaking just by watching.

So, in this exploration of kayaking movies and documentaries, we’re going to go on a movie adventure. We’ll see kayakers going through fast rapids, calm lakes, and faraway places on expeditions. We’ll show you “The 17 Best Kayaking Movies and Documentaries of All Time.” These films will take you on thrilling adventures and soothing paddles, showing you the many cool sides of kayaking.

So, let’s get started and have a blast exploring the world of kayaking on the big screen!

kayaking movies and documentaries

The 17 Best Kayaking Movies and Documentaries

Get ready for an adrenaline-filled list of the best kayaking films ever made. Get set to dive into some really cool movies and documentaries about kayaking. You’ll feel the thrill of paddling in tricky waters, finding stunning places, and seeing incredible stuff, all without leaving your home. These are the best choices for you.

#1. Deliverance (1972)

“Deliverance,” directed by John Boorman, is a famous adventure movie that guides you through an exciting adventure in the wild outdoors. It’s about a group of friends who go on a canoeing trip down a wild river. Along the way, they face both the dangers and the excitement of river paddling.

The intense and iconic whitewater rapids scene on the Cahulawassee River.

In “Deliverance,” the exciting part is how they show kayaking and canoeing. The movie has exciting scenes with turbulent, fast water that makes your heart race. It makes you feel as if you’re in the kayak with the characters, going through all the action and excitement.

Experience one of cinema’s most iconic kayak scenes in this must-watch movie.

In the movie, there’s a scene that you will remember. Burt Reynolds, one of the characters, takes on a tough journey down a fast and wild river. This part is really popular with folks who enjoy kayaking, and many say it’s one of the most famous kayak scenes in movies.

#2. The River Wild (1994)

The River Wild

“Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon star in “The River Wild” a really exciting movie. It’s all about a family who goes on a whitewater rafting adventure, but things get super dangerous when they meet some bad guys during the trip. It’s full of action and keeps you on the edge of your seat.”

In this exciting movie, Meryl Streep plays a character named Gail, who is a tough and clever mom. She has to guide her family through tough river rapids to keep them safe. You can see how determined and skilled she is in the intense kayaking scenes, where she’s up against the strong forces of nature.

“The River Wild” was filmed in two beautiful places: the Kootenai River in Montana and the Salmon River in Idaho. The amazing natural scenery in the movie makes it even more exciting. The wild and stunning background gives you a feeling of adventure and risk as the characters deal with both fast rapids and encounters with wild animals and the untamed wilderness.

A great part of this movie is how it shows river kayaking as both a super exciting sport and a way to stay safe. The Fast River scenes are really well done, and they make you feel like you’re right there in the action. You get to see Gail trying to outsmart the bad guys while she’s kayaking through these wild rivers, and it’s really intense.

#3. Paddle to the Sea (1966)

In “Paddle to the Sea,” we follow the adventure of a little wooden kayak as it travels through different Canadian waters. This short film is perfect for families and is based on a popular children’s book by Holling C. Holling. It’s all about exploring and getting close to nature.

This movie lets us go on an exciting trip with a little wooden canoe. It travels all the way from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean. We see all the cool things it does and the people it meets along the way. It goes through fast rivers and peaceful lakes, showing us Canada’s many different waterways in a special way.

“Paddle to the Sea” is a movie that is both fun to watch and teaches us about taking care of the environment. It does this by showing a kayak traveling through different waterways. This movie tells us how important it is to protect our natural resources. It also shows how all these water systems are connected and why it’s really important to keep them safe for the people who come after us.

At its core, “Paddle to the Sea” is a heartwarming story that captures the essence of nature and exploration.

#4. The Call of the River (2004)

“The Call of the River” is an exciting documentary that brings you into the world of professional kayaking. It gives you a special look at the lives and adventures of top kayakers as they tackle the toughest, wild river rapids all over the world.

Immerse yourself in stunning visuals as professional kayakers tackle treacherous rivers worldwide. From rushing rapids to towering waterfalls, this documentary captures it all in high-definition cinematography. You’ll witness jaw-dropping stunts and extreme maneuvers that will leave you breathless.

“The Call of the River” goes deep into the tough challenges that these courageous people face when they follow their passion for whitewater kayaking. It looks at the physical effort and mental strength they need to go through dangerous courses.

  • Discover how these kayakers overcome obstacles such as strong currents, submerged rocks, and unpredictable weather conditions.
  • Learn about their strong commitment and determination as they practice really hard to become experts in what they do.
  • Learn about the risks involved in navigating hydroelectric projects and how these athletes adapt to ever-changing river conditions.

#5. Riding Giants (2004)

“Riding Giants” is mainly about big-wave surfing, but it also talks about the history and love for extreme water sports, like kayaking. It’s made by Stacy Peralta, who is famous for skateboarding documentaries. This movie gives a really interesting look at the history of big wave surfing and how it’s related to kayaking.

“Riding Giants” showcases the evolution of extreme water sports and their cultural impact. The movie shows amazing scenes of people riding huge waves, and it’s really exciting. It also talks about kayaking. It looks at the people who were the first to ride these giant waves on surfboards and kayaks and how they helped make these sports what they are today.

This documentary shows us how big wave surfing has changed over time. It starts by going back to really old Polynesian cultures where riding waves was a big deal. Then, it goes to Hawaii in the 1950s, when surfers started to be more daring by riding even bigger and harder waves.

“Riding Giants” reveals that kayaking played a significant role in the early days of big-wave surfing.

#6. Into the Tsangpo Gorge (2002)

In this documentary, we join a group of kayakers led by famous kayaker Scott Lindgren. They’re on an exciting adventure to conquer the challenging Tsangpo River in Tibet. These adventurers test their limits as they tackle dangerous rapids, huge waterfalls, and remote places.

“Into the Tsangpo Gorge” is a documentary about kayakers dealing with tough situations on one of the world’s hardest rivers. The film puts you right in the thrilling action as they battle strong currents and big obstacles. They have to steer through tight gorges and avoid huge boulders. Every twist and turn is a new test of their skill and determination.

In this documentary, the kayakers encounter not just tough physical hurdles but also nature’s challenges on their trip. The Tsangpo River goes through far-off areas in Tibet, like places no one has explored much. They have to be flexible and smart because they handle weather that can suddenly change, limited supplies, and they’re in a very remote location.

#7. Kayaking the Aleutians (2013)

This documentary is about an amazing sea kayaking trip in the far-off Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It’s like a mesmerizing adventure that shows the stunning beauty of the islands and the animals in the Alaskan wilderness.

The Aleutian Islands are famous for their tough weather, and this makes the kayak expedition really hard. The adventurers have to deal with winds that can change quickly, strong currents, and rough seas as they paddle through this rugged group of islands.

When you watch this, you’ll see amazing views, like really tall volcanic mountains and super clean, beautiful beaches that seem to go on forever. And you’ll also get to spot awesome animals like seals, sea otters, whales, and seabirds during your virtual trip.

#8. Expedition: Africa (2009)

This TV show is about a bunch of adventurers who go on a risky journey down the Lualaba River in Africa in kayaks and canoes. They’re trying to make the same trip that Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone did a long time ago. During their exciting trip, they see beautiful landscapes, get really close to wildlife, and learn about the local cultures.

One of the most captivating segments of Expedition: Africa is the team’s kayaking journey along the historic Lualaba River. This segment showcases both the beauty and challenges of African waterways. As viewers, we get to witness firsthand how kayaking becomes an integral part of this exploration.

In the expedition, they’re copying what Henry Morton Stanley did, but they’re making it adventurous by using kayaks. This mixes history and today’s challenges. They use kayaks to travel, and it shows how determined they are to explore new places.

When we look at the new expedition and Henry Morton Stanley’s old trip, we see that kayaking was important in both.

#9. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014)

It is a documentary that covers an extreme adventure race, which includes a kayaking segment.

This documentary is not only about kayaking. It’s mostly about a super tough adventure race called the Barkley Marathons. This race is so hard that many people think it’s one of the toughest races in the world. It’s also tricky to apply for, and the start time is a surprise. The people in the race are pushed to their limits both in their minds and their bodies as they go through really tough terrain and deal with scary challenges.

The Barkley Marathons are different from the usual marathons you see. It’s a really tough event that lasts for several days, and it takes place in the wilds of Tennessee. One cool thing about this race is that it’s a mix of running on trails and kayaking through rough river rapids. People who compete in this race have to show they’re good both on land and in the water, and that’s what makes it so special and unique.

Participants in the Barkley Marathons endure unimaginable physical and mental challenges throughout the course of the race. They face steep climbs, dense forests, unpredictable weather conditions, and treacherous river crossings.

#10. Nelo (2019)

A documentary profiling renowned kayak designer Manuel Ramos and his quest to create the fastest racing kayak.

The movie “Nelo” is about competitive kayaking, and it focuses on Manuel Ramos, a famous kayak designer. It shows how they make racing kayaks, which is something you don’t see in movies very often. They talk to Ramos and show his cool kayak designs, so you get to learn about the hard work and clever ideas that go into making these super-fast kayaks.

Crafted as a profile piece on Manuel Ramos, “Nelo” delves into his contributions to the world of competitive kayaking. His expertise and dedication have made him one of the most respected figures in the industry. In the documentary, you can see how much Ramos loves making faster and better racing kayaks. He comes up with new designs and tries them out in real situations to make sure they work well.

A great part of “Nelo” is when it shows Olympic-level kayak racing with Portuguese athlete Fernando Pimenta. As you watch Pimenta’s story, you get to understand how hard he trains, how dedicated he is, and how he tries to be the best in his sport.

#11. Chasing Niagara (2016)

In the exciting movie “Chasing Niagara,” we join the brave kayaker Rafa Ortiz on an amazing journey to conquer Niagara Falls in a kayak. This crazy adventure pushes the limits of extreme sports and shows how determined, skilled, and bold Ortiz is.

Come along with pro kayaker Rafa Ortiz as he tries to tackle one of nature’s famous spots: Niagara Falls. The movie shows stunning pictures and tells a personal story about how determined Ortiz is to overcome this huge challenge.

In “Chasing Niagara,” we learn about the really tough physical and mental challenges that Ortiz faces on his journey. He trains for a long time and deals with dangerous river currents. With each step, he gets closer to his daring goal. We get to see how he gets ready in both his body and mind for this amazing accomplishment.

“Chasing Niagara” allows us to experience the awe-inspiring power of Niagara Falls through Ortiz’s eyes. As he navigates its thunderous waters, we are immersed in a world where adrenaline meets nature’s raw beauty.

#12. Dream Result (2019)

A documentary that explores the journey of extreme kayakers chasing their dreams and conquering challenging rivers.

“Dream Result” is an exciting movie about extreme kayakers who love the sport. The movie tells their stories and shows the adventures they go on to make their dreams come true. They deal with tough river currents and huge waterfalls, and it’s about more than just their physical skills but also how determined they are to do things in kayaking that nobody thought were possible.

This movie really looks into why extreme kayakers love to take on such tough challenges. It’s all about what drives them to find new places to kayak and do things that seem impossible. Some want to see how far they can go and prove their abilities to themselves. Others just really enjoy the excitement of conquering tough natural forces. But no matter why they do it, it’s clear they all really want to live life on the edge and have amazing adventures.

#13. Paddle to Seattle: Journey Through the Inside Passage (2009)

In the documentary “Paddle to Seattle: Journey Through the Inside Passage,” we watch two friends go on an amazing adventure. They kayak from Alaska to Seattle, traveling through the beautiful Inside Passage. This journey is about 1,300 miles long and took them four months. It shows us how wonderful the coastal area is in this part of the world.

While these brave adventurers kayak, they see amazing views that will amaze you. The Inside Passage is famous for its big mountains, thick forests, and really clear water. As our kayakers go along the coast, they see huge glaciers, steep cliffs, and peaceful fjords. The sheer beauty of these natural wonders is truly a sight to behold.

But what really grabs their focus isn’t just the scenery; it’s the amazing wildlife moments that make this trip so special. During their journey, our kayakers get up close to incredible animals like humpback whales leaping in the distance or curious seals coming up near their boats. They also see bald eagles flying above and playful sea otters having fun in the water.

#14. Facing Waves (2011-2018)

It’s a TV series where really good kayakers go to some of the most amazing places in the world to kayak. They show us different beautiful places where you can kayak, from really cold ones near the Arctic to warm and sunny spots, to show that kayaking can be done in lots of different places.

Dive into this TV series that showcases incredible paddling destinations around the world. In every episode, you get to go on an adventure with amazing videos of kayakers going through really cool waterways. They go from fast rivers to calm lakes, and it shows you what kayaking is all about.

While you watch these episodes, you’ll see beautiful places and also find out about the people who live there and what it’s like to be in those places. The series isn’t just about kayaking; it also tells us about the history, traditions, and how people live in the places they visit. You’ll gain a deeper appreciation for different cultures while experiencing thrilling kayak journeys.

The captivating episodes featured in Facing Waves will undoubtedly inspire you to plan your own kayaking trips.

#15. Liquid Logic (2001)

It’s not only the beautiful views that catch their eye but also the amazing animals they meet that make this trip unforgettable. As they paddle along, our kayakers get to see cool creatures like humpback whales jumping in the distance or friendly seals coming up close to their boats. They also see bald eagles flying above and cute sea otters playing in the water.

Liquid Logic is a famous company that makes really good kayaks that are known for being innovative and high-quality. Their designs have changed the way people kayak on rough rivers because they keep trying to make them work even better.

The company is really good at making kayaks. They pay close attention to the small things use fancy materials, and the latest technology. They know it’s important to focus when going through rough waters, so they make kayaks that are stable, easy to control, and can be moved around easily.

Liquid Logic has added cool stuff to make whitewater kayaking better. One cool feature is their “Bad Ass Outfitting” system. It helps you make your kayak seat super comfy and supportive when you’re paddling for a long time.

Another cool thing is their “Planing Hull Design.” It makes the kayak more stable by spreading the weight evenly across the bottom of the kayak.

#16. WildWater: A Love Story (2017)  

There’s a documentary about Wildwater racing in kayaking. It’s a really exciting type of kayaking where athletes go through tough, rapid-filled courses. The film gives a special look at this part of the sport that many people don’t know much about, but it’s just as interesting.

The documentary provides historical context about wild water racing, shedding light on the origins and evolution of this exciting discipline. Viewers get a glimpse into the early days of competitive kayaking and how it has grown over time. They learn about the pioneers who pushed the boundaries and laid the foundation for modern-day wild water racing.

One of the highlights of “WildWater: A Love Story” is watching athletes take on really tough water courses. The movie is like a thrilling adventure as these skilled kayakers go through dangerous rapids, showing how quick and strong they are and how determined they can be. You’ll be captivated by their skillful maneuvers and heart-pounding descents down roaring rivers.

In addition to exploring the world of wild water racing, “WildWater: A Love Story” also weaves in a touching love story.

#17. Paddling Film Festival World Tour (Annual)

The Paddling Film Festival World Tour is a special yearly event. It’s not just one movie; it’s a collection of the best kayaking films from the year. People from all over the world who love kayaking and adventure films come together to enjoy the beauty and excitement of paddling. Each year, they show new and exciting films about kayaking adventures and stories.

The Paddling Film Festival World Tour shows lots of different kayaking adventures and movies from all around the world. It’s a chance for you to watch various types of films with different stories and ways of telling them. There’s stuff for everyone, like exciting whitewater kayaking and peaceful trips along the coast, so you’ll definitely find something you like.

Going to the Paddling Film Festival World Tour means you can really get into the world of paddling and meet other people who love it, too. It’s a time to talk about your kayaking hobby and hear stories from people who enjoy it just like you. This festival makes you feel like you’re part of a group where everyone loves paddlesports, and you all have a great time celebrating it together. 

Final Words

To sum it up, kayaking movies and documentaries are like exciting journeys that bring the thrill and beauty of kayaking to your screen. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker reliving your adventures or just curious about kayaking, these films make you feel like you’re part of the action.

These movies and documentaries feature various kayaking adventures, from heart-pounding expeditions to peaceful paddles. They let us experience the fun and challenges of kayaking and take us on trips to explore the wonders of nature. So, as you begin watching these films, may they inspire and amaze you and deepen your love for the exciting sport of kayaking.

About Ronin D. Sullivan

"Flow with the currents, embrace the adventure, and let the river be your guide."

- I am a kayak instructor and proud co-founder of PaddleWiggle. With a passion for paddling and a wealth of experience in the field, I've dedicated my life to sharing the joy and art of kayaking with others. Being a co-founder of PaddleWiggle is a dream come true. Together with my fellow founders, we've built a platform that serves as a premier destination for kayaking enthusiasts.

Connect with me on FacebookPinterest, and Reddit.

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