PL Q&A Exclusive: Filmmaker Scott Blankenfeld Releases New Vid of Cali’s South Silver First Descent

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First run in the late ‘90s, California’s South Silver drains the Sierra Nevada in a torrent of cascades, creating one of the best granite-lined, Class V whitewater kayak runs in the state. Filmmaker Scott Blakenfeld recently produced a video on its first descent, compiling its older first descent footage into a compelling storyline straight from the Sierra. PaddlingLife caught up with Blankenfeld for his take on making the flick and the current state of whitewater films.

Check out video of South Silver First Decent:

PL: How hard was it to roundup all the archive footage and put something like this together way after it was done?

Blankenfeld: Pulling the archival footage wasn’t too difficult, but it did pose some challenges. Most of it came from Hi-8 tapes that Jared Noceti had organized and labeled. So it was just a matter of digitizing the tapes into an editable format. This footage was used for the “Kayaking in the 90s” and the “Running The Teacups” segments. The original Hi-8 footage of the full first descent was lost. We actually pulled it off from an old video project that was edited in 2001, which is why a few of the shots look like they are running in fast forward.

At the time, was it a pretty big deal? 

The South Silver was found during a period when most of the well-known kayaking runs had already been discovered. So, to find a section of river that is so steep and runnable at the same time was something really special. For the years following this first descent, the South Silver became a proving ground for paddlers to strut their stuff.

Scott Blankenfeld kayaking South Silver River
Practicing what he preaches: Filmmaker Scott Blankenfeld.

How popular is that run now? 

The South Silver runs during the spring runoff when the snow melts from the Sierra Nevada. During this time, you can find several groups of kayakers running the rapids and waterfalls any day of the week. These paddlers are not just locals, but out-of-state and foreign travelers as well. California has become a world-class destination for its whitewater, and the South Silver is among the top ranks for paddling destinations. It’s not the biggest, nor the hardest, but it’s amongst the steepest and it’s an easy day trip for any Class V kayaker traveling through California.

Andrew Boucher at the South Silver’s Autobahn.

How has making paddling films changed over the years?

The technology and distribution is the biggest change in paddling films through the years. These days, we have access to cinema quality cameras and lenses and computers that can handle the data. The Internet and social media sites provide the ability to self publish. Twenty years ago, the videos were all analog.

Who are the big kayaking filmmakers to watch for now?

There are several filmmakers making paddling films these days, but I’d keep and eye on Rush Sturges and Scott Lindgren with a feature length film in the works.

Kayaker kayaking South Silver
Robby Hogg on the South Silver’s Sky Scraper Rapid.

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