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Folsom-based 'Dangerous Waters' creator talks of Russian ordeal

Steven Moll promotes second season screening at Three Stages to raise funds for charity
By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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KNOW AND GO

What: “Dangerous Waters” second season advance screening

When: 7 p.m., Monday, March 11

Where: Three Stages, 10 College Parkway, Folsom

Benefits: The March of Dimes, Folsom schools

Cost: $10 per person

Info: Threestages.net

Ambition and determination is the fuel behind the task of a team of guys on jet skis who made waves last year by crossing the Bering Strait and landing on Russian shores – to be greeted at gunpoint.

The group made national and international headlines last year when they were detained by Russian authorities while filming the second season of their reality TV show, “Dangerous Waters.” They also came under fire for what many called a lack of planning.

The second season will get a Folsom advance screening at 7 p.m., March 11, at Three Stages.

Steven Moll, series creator and leader of the expedition, has called Folsom home for two decades. He bristles at the notion the team didn’t do its research before embarking on such a dangerous venture on Sea Doo personal watercraft.

“We did all of our homework. We worked with the Russian Embassy in San Francisco and had a special permit to land ashore (in the area we landed),” he said. “When we came ashore, we were greeted with a Russian military tank and Russian soldiers who detained us at gunpoint. We were detained for two days. They kept us in a beat up gymnasium while they did all the background checks on us. Finally, the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy got involved, including (now former) Rep. Dan Lungren’s office.”

He said it was a harrowing experience.

“In the end, the Russians turned us around. Even though we filed a ‘flight plan’ basically, with our Visa applications and plans, the Embassy didn’t know it was a military base and was not a ‘proper port of entry.’”

The reality shows airs on MAVTV, a cable network reaching 37 percent of homes in the U.S. It also airs in 80 countries around the world in seven languages, on networks such as National Geographic and Turner Broadcasting Network. The show is narrated by veteran actor Peter Coyote.

Aside from the snafu with the Russian authorities, what else can people expect to see in the second season?

“In Season Two, we leave out of Nome, Alaska, and in Season One we failed crossing the Bering Strait successfully. You can imagine, making it all the way to our destination and failing. There was a sense of disappointment,” Moll said. “We returned at the end of June 2012 and were going to make another attempt across the Bering Strait. … We planned to go on through Japan.”

The Russians sent them packing, effectively canceling their planned trip.

“They gave us a military escort to make sure we made it (back) across (the strait),” he said. “It is extremely dangerous what we’re doing.”

With the Russian incident and being turned back, they were left with a dilemma.

“Do we scrap the whole expedition or be resilient? We went back to Nome and we got some new gear and re-routed through the North West Passage,” he said. “We went all the way to Barrow to Prudo Bay. We ran into polar bears and all sorts of fun stuff. It was crazy. … We were up on the polar ice cap. It was surreal.”

The group is planning a second season screening at Three Stages as a benefit for local schools and March of Dimes. The said all proceeds will be donated to the charitable organizations.

“The reason for this fundraiser is because I’ve lived in Folsom almost 20 years and I’ve watched our little community grow up,” Moll said. “We’re really proud this production came out of Folsom. I wanted to give the city a little pride and what the town contributes to the film industry. … It’s about a sense of community pride.”

Some of the post-production work has been done at Three Stages in Folsom, he said.

How did his family fare during the incident in Russia?

He said his wife and four children, ranging in age from 9 to 19, were worried.

“When we first got detained, we were all in our water suits, and they confiscated our cameras. Once we unpacked, I got my hands on my cell phone (which had been in the Sea Doo),” he said. “I couldn’t believe my cell phone worked in this tiny village. I immediately put a tweet out to our media contacts saying we were detained by the military. We were there and we knew we were OK. Immediately, the media ran with that (tweet).”

He said the incident turned his quiet neighborhood upside down.

“There was news media parked out in front of the house for three days (back in Folsom). It was fairly odd for her and harder on the family,” Moll said. “There were a lot of tears and a lot of worry. I have a very strong wife as well who knows I’m extremely persistent and resilient. Like in anything, it’s the not knowing where were stand. We didn’t know for several days what was happening.”

For those who didn’t catch the first season, they will be offering it on DVD at the fundraiser March 11 for $22.

Moll said this endeavor proves it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

“At 40 years old, you can change your life,” he said.