Looking Out

By Greg Dennis | Documentary
A woman suffers two traumatic accidents that leaves her with a limp and a brain injury. So her husband buys two sea kayaks.

As the result of two accidents in the last 11 years, Philippa “Pa” Arding has a permanent limp and a brain injury that makes speaking and reading very difficult for her.

But that doesn’t quell her spirit — or her love of outdoor adventure. Through sheer tenacity, greatness of spirit and strength of heart, Pa has defied the odds and blasted through obstacle to maintain her love of water sports like kayaking, and even leads marine conservation initiatives.

Documentarian Greg Dennis’s short character portrait of Pa captures a brave, powerful woman grappling with the after-effects of two life-threatening accidents. In 2007, she was trapped underneath a bale for five hours, spending at least a week in intensive care and spent more time relearning skills like walking.

A little over three years later, she had a skiing accident, where she sustained brain injuries and lost the ability to move the right side of her body. Through intensive therapy, she regained movement and some speech, but it’s still a struggle for Pa to speak.

But though she struggles with her frustrations — and the loneliness at not being able to be understood — she finds strength and purpose in paddling in the water, kayaking in the sea. In a sea kayak, she had balance and felt competent, and she also loved being in the ocean environment, among the water and sea fowls.

Despite still struggling with language, she still finds a way to give back to the sport and environment that gives her such a strong sense of autonomy. She and her husband Nick now put together fundraisers to raise awareness about clean beaches in the U.K., seeking to preserve the beauty of beaches in places like Cornwall.

“Looking Out” combines perceptive interviews with stunning footage of Pa in her environment. The bright, luminous photography showcases the beauty of Pa paddling in the ocean, with its clear blue waters and stunning coastlines. It’s not hard to see why Pa loves oceans and beaches, and to understand why she works so hard to keep them pristine.

But even more inspiring, the film captures Pa’s humility, resilience, positive spirit and sense of giving. Though she admits to her frustrations, she doesn’t let them get in the way as she pursues fulfillment, community and purpose, and viewers will come away feeling inspired about how they can give back in their own lives — and how giving back in itself is a powerful way to bring meaning to our lives.

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