International Paddling Film Festival coming to Chattanooga Friday night

International Paddling Film Festival coming to Chattanooga Friday night

May 25th, 2018 by Mark Pace in Local Regional News

Calen McKinney kayaks on the Ocoee River in Benton, Tenn., Monday, May 14, 2018. McKinney has been kayaking for about 3 years.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

A film festival aimed at showing the best paddling films in the world will be coming to Chattanooga Friday as part of a worldwide tour of more than 120 cities.

The International Paddling Film Festival is stopping in the Scenic City for the first time in its 13-year history. The event is being hosted at Rock/Creek's Riverside Drive location by The Gear Closet and the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club.

If you go

› What: International Paddling Film Festival

› Where: Rock/Creek,1530 Riverside Drive, Chattanooga, TN 37406

› When: Friday, May 25, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

› Cost: $10 TVCC members; $12 non members

For local organizers, the only surprise is that the event didn't happen in Chattanooga sooner.

"Think of all the paddling opportunities around Chattanooga. It makes perfect sense for us to have the paddling film festival here, too, as well as Lookout Wild [Film Festival]," said Mary Beth Sutton, executive director of the Caribbean Student Environmental Alliance, which oversees The Gear Closet. "I was so surprised that no one had already said, 'Yeah, let's do this' ... Chattanooga has so many different kinds of paddling around here."

Festival organizers have been trying to bring the event to Chattanooga for a number of years.

The region is renowned for its canoeing, whitewater paddling and kayaking. It consistently ranks as one of the top paddling destinations in the U.S. and brings in more visitors for paddling than almost all other American cities.

Justin Miller and MaryBeth Eastlick paddle around at Greenway Farm Monday, May 21, 2018 in Hixson, Tenn. The two had a kayak and a paddle board but hopped on the paddle board together for a few minutes. Eastlick said she got out of class early and that it was too pretty outside not to paddle. The two said they enjoy paddling at Greenway Farm because it's secluded, and they don't have to fight a lot of boat traffic.

Justin Miller and MaryBeth Eastlick paddle around at...

Photo by Erin O. Smith

"Chattanooga is important," event host coordinator Ray Bretzloff said. "We have locations all over the world, and Chattanooga is a major center. There is a paddling community already there. This is a fun evening of entertainment, and there are paddlers there who want to see these films."

The festival receives more than 90 paddling films annually, and judges whittled those down to a short list of about 20 films to tour each year. Local hosts then choose the films from that list they believe will be most appreciated by the local audience. Sutton isn't sure how many people will come tonight, but she's hoping the festival can become an annual event in Chattanooga.

Tickets can be purchased online at for $12. Tennessee Valley Canoe Club members get a $2 discount. Attendees receive a complimentary beer from Tap House, for those of age, along with a yearlong subscription to Paddling Magazine and the potential to win door prizes.

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoors.