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River of dreams

Ashland residents, from left, Eric Seymour, Ben Stookesberry and Brent Buntyn, pose with the gear they use for their kayaking videos. / Roy Musitelli — — — River of dreams Ashland kayakers plunge into business by filming whitewater adventures

Brent Buntyn didn't want to get a real job when he finished college.

Eric Seymour wasn't crazy about sitting behind a desk, either.

Ditto for Ben Stookesberry.

All the three friends really wanted to do was paddle their kayaks. So they decided to try their hand at making videos of their kayak trips and selling them to other paddlers. The Ashland trio haven't written themselves any paychecks yet, but they're hoping their second video will put them in the black this year.

It's hard to find good jobs here, so we're trying to make our own, said Seymour, 25, who earned a business degree.

Kayaking videos have become increasingly popular in recent years, reflecting the growing interest in extreme sports. Paddlers often travel to exotic locales and film their passage down steep, rock-strewn rivers and waterfalls that would be inconceivable for all but the most skilled boaters.

Ordinary paddlers get a kick out of watching others do the impossible, Stookesberry said. Kayakers see them as just another movie, like something from Hollywood.

Most kayak videos feature the escapades of a small stable of celebrity paddlers who have gained fame in the whitewater world for their exploits in earlier videos. The Ashland trio played up their anonymity in the genre by titling their videos, No Big Names.

We'd like to take the rock-star image out of the sport, said Buntyn, 24, who earned a degree in geography. A lot of people are sick of that.

Our idea was to promote the other side of kayaking, said Stookesberry, 24, who studied mathematics and geology. We were trying to appeal to the construction worker or the banker who goes out on the weekend and runs the rivers, rather than do the egotistical glamorized thing.

They sold 2,000 copies of their first production through paddling shops and their Web site. The first No Big Names chronicles a paddling odyssey that took them to California, Colorado, New Zealand and Chile. Their new offering, which premieres Friday in Ashland, follows them down rivers in Oregon, California and Mexico.

Unlike the star productions, the No Names had no outside funding and little support from equipment suppliers.

To fund our Mexico trip, we worked construction, Stookesberry said.

Capturing extreme kayak action on video requires all the usual film production skills, but all the work happens in environments that are often slick and steep, and always damp.

Cameras have to be placed at the right positions to catch the boaters as they whisk by. At many sites, rescue crews station themselves where they can help the paddlers get out of the water if something goes dreadfully wrong.

One shot of a big drop can take over an hour just to get everybody in position, Buntyn said.

The final videos were edited from more than 20 hours of raw stock.

The hardest part is deciding what we want to put on the screen, combining three visions into one, Buntyn said. We spent lots of long nights discussing each specific sequence and how we wanted it to feel.

They'll take their video on the road after its world premiere in Ashland, showing it at 25 kayak shops around the western states and British Columbia over the next month.

Then they'll hatch a plan for a spring paddle trip that they hope will provide the fodder for No Big Names 3.

We're going to start filming in a month, Seymour said, in the California Sierras.

'No Big Names II' The world premiere of No Big Names II will be at 8 p.m. Friday at the Ashland Creek Bar, 92&

189; N. Main St. Admission will be &

36;1.

The No Big Names videos are available for &

36;24.95 from the Web site at:www.ashlandmine.com

Ashland residents, from left, Eric Seymour, Ben Stookesberry and Brent Buntyn, pose with the gear they use for their kayaking videos. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune images