Big turnout for local premiere of ‘(People) of water’ |

Big turnout for local premiere of ‘(People) of water’

Robbie Prechtl, left, learning from legendary outrigger canoe expert “Uncle Bobby” in Hawaii.
Forest Woodward | Special to the Daily

EDWARDS – About 130 people turned out to see the men’s national rafting team at the Riverwalk Theater last night, where their new film, “(People) of water,” made its local debut.

The theater also showed a 2017 film which featured the team, along with “The Important Places,” a short film from 2015 which sparked the rafters’ interest in adventure film.

As it happens, the Riverwalk Theater’s new owner, Grant Smith, also has taken an interest in the genre.

After the screening, team captain John Mark Seelig explained why the film was so perfect for the Riverwalk Theater, and why seeing so many people there was important.

“A lot of people don’t know, the U.S. Men’s Rafting Team has been a part of this valley, this area between here and Summit County, for over 15 years,” Seelig said. “We wouldn’t be able to do any of this stuff without your support.”

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New adventure

Seelig said after winning a couple of national championships and traveling the world rafting, the team wanted to try and start capturing some of its adventures on film.

They were introduced to Forest Woodward and the film production company known as Gnarly Bay through one of the raft team’s sponsors, footware company Chaco. Chaco had urged the team to help them explore the idea of branded content, in which a company that sponsors the effort from the sidelines, not interfering in the creative process, presents the film to the audience.

Seelig told viewers at the Riverwalk that the rigorous process and planning Woodward and Gnarly Bay undertook on “(People) of water” was a sight to behold.

“The filmmakers did not know they were going to do this,” Seelig said. “Originally they were like, “We’re not gonna do another film for film festivals — we just wanna do some shorts for internet … ‘ and to share about their new shoes that were going out.”

Along the way, however, they got to know Robbie Prechtl. They felt some of his hopes and frustrations and captured a beautiful moment with him and “Uncle” Bobby Puakea, a native Hawaiian who makes outrigger canoes out of koa wood in a technique that’s been passed down for generations.

“They started looking at more and more footage that happened after the rest of us left, and the experience with Robbie, and they called him and were like ‘Hey, we want you to be a big piece of this,'” Seelig said.

Reluctant leader

If there were a word for Prechtl throughout the process, it would be reluctant, both to acknowledge his own skill in water — which becomes a theme of the film – and after the conclusion of its shooting, to accept the fact that his story provides an elegant narration.

On Tuesday, Prechtl was also reluctant to take the stage and answer questions, which Seelig summed up succinctly as he asked Prechtl to say a few words.

“Robbie hates this stuff,” Seelig said.

Of course, reluctant leaders can be the best leaders, and in seeing his likeness as the leading role of the short film, Prechtl said he came to understand the filmmakers’ choice in showing viewers the scenes they did.

“The cool part about these experiences that we all have as individuals,” Prechtl said, “as you go out and you have your own experience, a lot of that is facilitated by a team, by a community, by the people that you interact with from other places, and it’s those little moments of vulnerability and self reckoning, I would call it, where you only know it when you feel it. And maybe my thing is water, but maybe your thing is the mountains or something else about nature, and you should go out and find that.”

Learn more about “(People) of water” at

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