Adventure Icon: Trip Jennings

River Lover

Mar 10, 2010
Outside Magazine

There's no road map that shows you how to make a living as a kayaker and filmmaker, but last December I knew I had done it when I paid my cell-phone bill on time. The idea behind my first film, Bigger Than Rodeo, was to blend environmental activism and cutting-edge whitewater. I drove around the country in a '96 Subaru Impreza and maxed out three credit cards while showing footage of a paddler running a 105-foot waterfall. It took three more films and two more credit cards to figure out a combination of adventure and activism that worked. You don't get an interesting job by filling out an application; you commit to your dream the same way you do a waterfall: pick your line and dive headfirst. I'm glad I did it. In the past two years, my filming expeditions to Papua New Guinea, China, the Congo, Bolivia, Canada, and Brazil have been paid for through a partnership with National Geographic and the International League of Conservation Photographers. In the next six months I'm scheduled to shoot one film about elephant poaching in the Congo and another about kayaking in Laos. I created my dream job. It all started because I spent a year living out of a moldy Subaru and poaching continental breakfasts at cheap motels.

In 2008, Jennings led a team down the rebel-infested lower Congo, the last of the world's great unrun rivers. His films for National Geographic TV use kayaks to access Class V rivers in the service of science.