Reel NW

About the Film

About the Film

In “Paddle to Seattle” two friends build their own kayaks and paddle alone for 97 days in the wilderness. They travel an epic adventure that takes them over 1,300 miles from Alaska to Seattle and survive still able to talk about most of their experiences.

Josh Thomas and J.J. Kelley navigated the famous Inside Passage route, paddling between the islands of the Alexander Archipelago and the rainforest of the Tongass National Forest. Weeks of unrelenting rain were punctuated by unexpectedly surreal encounters with marine life, bears and other animal and human inhabitants of these northern climes. Caught on film, these interactions are threaded together by the adventurers’ friendship and unusual senses of humor.

“Paddle to Seattle” is the first time a kayak journey of the Inside Passage has been brought to the screen. Kelley and Thomas are no big expedition newbies: Together they have completed three different adventures each more than 1,000 miles in length. Their rules are simple: No motors allowed, but get there any other way you can.

The pair met on a 2,200-mile trek across the Appalachian Range and have have since developed a unique style of adventure film. Their films are memoirs that take audiences along on the duo’s cross-continental adventures.

Their freshman film “Pedal to the Midnight Sun” aired nationwide on PBS via National Geographic’s Wild Chronicles in August 2008. Their unique attitude to travel is reflected in the name of Kelley and Thomas’ production company, Dudes on Media.

Director's Statement

It is with great honor that we present this documentary. This film is the work of inspired filmmakers who had a passion to follow their hearts. We feel that the adventure that ensued closely depicts the ecosystem and inhabitants of the Inside Passage in addition to illustrating the effects of isolated travel in a vast wilderness. Our moments of humor are nothing less that the product of months of solitary exposure to one another; on some level perhaps the ideas we had would otherwise never have occurred. This is a film that we are deeply proud of; every moment of the project is tied to our experience as filmmakers and adventurers.

JJ Kelley

The Reel NW Connection

Reel NW focuses on the very best of independent film from the Northwest. Every week, Reel NW airs intriguing films from, or about, our own community. "Paddle to Seattle" explores the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest through the eyes of two adventurous filmmakers.

Paddle to Seattle


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This is indeed must have been a great experience for both of them. I was taken by surprise when I heard that they actually travelled from Alaska to Seattle and survive still able to talk about most of their experiences. Thanks for sharing the experience.
Omni Tech Support Review


This doco is great but my lady and i were just trying to watch it this evening and it cuts off at 31min. :(


Hello Kevin,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention! It has been corrected.

KCTS 9 Staff


Josh & JJ, I just watched your doc for first time, thought you were pretty funny. Only wish you had more film on passage through Vancouver Island & coast, heard that is pretty sceanic & lively. glad you made it through alive!


Are there any plans to air "Paddle to Seattle" on KCTS9 in Seattle again any time soon? I only saw about half of the film the last time it aired and my wife didn't see any of it. We did a 10 day kayak trip in S.E. Alaska in 2008 where we got up close and personal with some Humpbacks off Adolphus Point so we can really identify with a lot of the scenes. Awesome adventure!


Great movie, I really enjoyed it! Just caught this on TV, I have recently moved to the Puget Sound area and this just makes me want to Kayak again.



Wow - really enjoyed this documentary and I dont even kayak.

Though its something I would love to get into.

Anyone know how I can get a copy of this in Ireland?

Josh and JJ - Fair play lads, stuff of legends!



Sweet doc. Favourite moments: Rupert Club Crawl, Bad Ham Alert. You dudes are a laff riot. And one of you looks like Matt Damon. Shoulda done some kinda Bourne Identity Kayaker riff. Next time. Lates.


Hi. How can I get a copy or view this film?


Hi Don,

At the top of this page are links to two ways you can order the DVD and help KCTS 9 keep shows like this on the air. By making a donation at a qualifying level you can choose "Paddle to Seattle" on DVD as a thank-you gift. You can also buy the DVD by itself from and KCTS 9 will benefit from the profits on the sale. The choice is yours, but the donation benefits KCTS 9 and Reel NW the most. Either way, the filmmakers benefit from the sale.

You can also view the entire episode of "Paddle to Seattle" here

KCTS 9 Staff


My whole family enjoyed this film. Great camera work, good kayak shots ( inspried me even as it is snowing outside) and great humor. THese docs are why I donate to public television and frequent it so much. Thanks Josh and JJ and thank you KCTS. Hey, what is your next adventure? Ps, please do it in kayaks or sailing dinghies.


Thanks for checking out the film! Currently we're editing our next film, an adventure down the length of the Ganges. This one is going to be pretty wild.


I really enjoyed this film. I thur hiked the PCT southbound in 05 ( one of the few to actually make it that year) and totally get the long haul humor. I can't wait to get my boat together and check out BC for myself. Thank you showing the film.


I just finished the documentary and am so inspired.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me the name of the town in Canada where they stopped but didn't really elaborate on. There was a dog laying on the front porch and at first glance the town looked rather deserted, but it seems like a really cool place.


Butedale! It's a ghost town that was founded on Princess Royal Island, British Columbia as a fishing, mining and logging camp.


Great doc!! Makes me want to get out there tomorrow morning...


Hey, what kind of cameras did the kayakers use??

It looks really sharp and good!


Thanks! We used all Sony cameras: A1U, V1U, HC9, and Alpha 350. The media held up great for HD TV broadcast and in film festivals; we mastered the material to an HDCAM SR tape.

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