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Destination 3 Degrees

An Interview with Christopher Aguilar


Director Christopher Aguilar captures the journey of two of the world’s elite female paddle boarders as they cross all nine channels that connect the Hawaiian Islands, which are considered by some to be the world’s most dangerous waters. Paddling at virtually every hour in the day, Jenny Kalmbach and Morgan Hoestery set out on a six-week quest between eight islands in Destination 3 Degrees.

Where did the idea for Destination Three Degrees come from?

Morgan and I met at the Travel Channel Academy, where we became close friends. Just eight months after she began paddle boarding, Morgan completed the Molokai Paddleboard race. This time, she said “Let’s do something different. Let’s see the islands in a completely different way, without having to be competing in a race.” She’s always wanted to cross all the channels. So she asked some pros how they would cross these channels and I said, “Let’s go for it.”

Where did your passion for stand up come from?

I took my first stand up paddle boarding lesson with Jack Gillen on my honeymoon in 2009. From then, I was hooked to the sport. Those envelopes you get when you get married – those are the best. So we took all the cash gifts we received from our wedding and bought two boards. It ‘s a different way of seeing the water. For me and my wife, it gave us an ocean activity we could do together. It’s a sport where everyone’s invited.

How long and how hard was it to raise the $30,000 to create this film?

It took us almost a year to raise the funds. We knocked on virtually every door. The reoccurring theme was you should have came to us three years ago when the economy was good. Without the help of Horny Toad and Brazen Hazen Coffee, this wouldn’t have been possible.

The biggest challenge in making this documentary?

The biggest challenge filmmaking wise was that we didn’t know what we were going to do. This whole movie was filmed unscripted. What the ocean gave us is what we had to deal with. We just had to go with whatever conditions God gave us.

Hardest part about shooting this film?

The hardest thing for me was literally being that fly on the wall and separating myself emotionally. These girls are my friends and it was difficult for me to see them suffer in some of these conditions.

Was there any point during the making of this film where you said “Damn, these girls are crazy”?

Definitely. Especially when we did the Oahu to Kauai crossing (the Ka ‘ie ‘ie Waho Channel, which took 16 hours). During the night crossing, Morgan was falling off these boards a lot. It was hard to catch on film. These girls were battling ten to twelve foot swells. Morgan described the swells as hearing freight trains coming at her. You could see how disheartening it was for these girls falling off these boards. It’s cold, it’s wet, and who knows how much longer these girls could handle it?

How long did it take to shoot?

Six weeks.

How many hours of footage did you have to edit?

One-hundred plus.

This film also highlighted the heavy amounts of pollution in gorgeous places such as the Hawaiian Islands. Elaborate.

We really wanted to focus on the plastic bag situation. The most internally shocking part was to be on remote beaches on Molokai. There was so much marine debris and rubbish from fishing boats. Just seeing all the balloons, nets and buoys… Even plastic bottles and bags are old issues but the problem of marine debris needs to be seriously addressed in the near future.

When did your passion for film making begin?

My dad was an avid photographer. I grew up in that. I was always a shutter bug. Then I hurt my back surfing going over the falls and hit a rock. While I was injured, I’d sit on the beach and shoot surfers. I just started making these little surf videos on my own. Worked on a Travel Channel piece “Big Wednesday”, which they bought. Since then, I always knew I wanted to make an ocean film.

How does it feel to direct the first full-length feature for Soul Surf Media?

This is actually the first full-length documentary I’ve EVER directed. It’s been a lot of work. Getting the movie made was a lot of work. It came from a village of people. From bands contributing music, to my brother helping me edit, to Morgan and I coming up with the story line. After everyone was asleep, I was literally attached to my editing machine. Since the movie has been released, we’ve all expressed so much gratitude toward each other just getting this finished. And to be part of this film festival… I’m just trying to soak it all in because who knows if I’ll be here again.

What’s next?

We’re going to take the film on the road, and get it on DVD. I plan to go out to the Pacific Gyres and work alongside Algalita to produce some more content for them.

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