Blind athlete rides the rapids in ‘The Weight of Water’

Mountain climber and expert kayaker Rob Raker is the special guest
Sun, 10/20/2019 - 1:45pm

Story Location:
185 Townsend Avenue
Boothbay Harbor  Maine  04538
United States

“The Weight of Water” is an award-winning documentary starring Erik Weihenmayer, a blind athlete who attempts to kayak down the rapids in the Colorado River as it winds its way through the Grand Canyon. Harbor Theater will show this film, with speaker and refreshments, on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 5 p.m.

Filmmaker, mountain climber and expert kayaker Rob Raker, featured in the documentary, is coming from Denver to introduce the film and stay after for Q & A.

Weihenmayer is no stranger to adventure – he has climbed the tallest peaks on each continent, including Mt. Everest. His latest undertaking – together with his friend Lonnie, who also happens to be blind – is kayaking Lava Falls, the toughest rapid in the Grand Canyon. “The Weight of Water” is an inspiring and genuine story about the struggles Erik faces in order to achieve his dreams. With support from expedition members – blindness doesn't hold him back.

Raker, Weihenmayer’s friend and vocal guide on the trip, will start off the evening with a short slide show and explanation of how the ride down the rapids evolved. He will explain how he met Erik and not only taught him to kayak, but also developed the systems necessary to guide him down the rapids and over the Lava Falls.

Boothbay resident Henry Barber will introduce Raker, his long-time friend. (Many may remember Barber, the expert free solo climber who spoke at a showing of the Oscar-winning film, “Free Solo” last fall.) Barber arranged for Raker to come to Boothbay Harbor for this event.

Raker started out as an environmental scientist, but has spent most of his life as a documentary filmmaker, shooting outdoor films around the world. He is also what his friend Weihenmayer calls an ‘adventure glutton,’ not only rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering and bouldering, but also skiing, bicycling, and kayaking, and attempting more exotic feats like elephant polo. Since illness caused him to retire from filmmaking, he has become a wildlife photographer specializing in birds.

On a shoot in Antarctica for the TV series NOVA, Raker met Weihenmayer, who was climbing the highest peak on that continent. The filmmaker discovered that he and Erik lived within 10 minutes of each other in Denver, and there began a friendship that ended in Raker teaching Weihenmayer how to kayak. Six years later, they decided they were ready to attempt a ride down the rapids of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, and “The Weight of Water” was born.

The film won the Grand Prize at the 2018 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival. “We selected the film that touched us most deeply,” said Rebecca Martin, a member of the 2018 jury. “The human achievement that was the focal point of this work gripped us…and we were immensely inspired. We were drawn into the story so intensely, we felt a part of the exhilaration of an unimaginably hard-won accomplishment.”

Director Michael Brown, filming amidst the glorious sheer cliffs of the Canyon, chronicles the trip as much more than an adventurous athlete notching another accomplishment in his belt. He captures the emotionally weighted journey, the teamwork and courage of Erik and his kayaking compatriots. Weihenmayer says that whitewater kayaking is different from any other sport. The current moves unpredictably, the rocks that make up the canyon walls are unforgiving, the roar cuts him off from his guide’s voice and violent waves threaten his kayak. As he and his compatriots paddle, they confront loss, fear and anxiety. They exemplify what people can achieve - and overcome - by working together. And they let the river unlock its priceless lessons. The result is a triumph of the human spirit.

There will be a pre-show reception by Eventide Specialties at 5 p.m. Raker speaks at 5:30, film at 6 p.m. (NR, 79 minutes). Because of our regular showing of a film at 2 p.m., doors will not be open before 4:45 p.m. Tickets are $10 ($8 for members).