River Queens: Highlight My Strengths (2019)

  • 15min
  • Jeremy Lurgio
  • New Zealand, United States
  • 2019

A group of young female paddlers compete in the national sprint championships on the Whanganui river, and learn about team work, passion and heart from their coach and mentor who also provides them with a Māori world view.

At 76-years old, former New Zealand national coach and paddler Howard Hyland returns to his roots to start a competitive waka ama club for youth on the Whanganui River – the first river in the world to be granted legal personhood.

Hyland’s connection to the river is deep. His Māori tribe have a philosophy, “Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.” (I am the river, the river is me.)

The film, follows Hyland and his fledgling team from their three-week training camp to the national sprint championships, documenting the story of their relationships to each other, the sport and the river that provides them a unique training ground. In the process, they learn as much about paddling, as they do life.


Jeremy Lurgio