Self taught skills
Times have changed and some of the people who are currently filming this sport are now sometimes called upon to help with shooting high quality productions for National Geographic and other major broadcasters. Their self taught skills at obtaining cinematic shots in remote places has value. They are mostly all self taught amateurs, and originally had virtually no knowledge of "broadcast standards" or "the right way to do things".
In terms of the guys who produce regularly for the web many of them don't make any money from what they do. They have a passion, whitewater kayaking, and they follow it, filming it as they go. Similar things have happened with mountain biking and virtually all other adventure sports too. Some sports developed faster than others, particularly in the skiing community, helped in no small way by the fact that white powder has always had money associated with it!
The adventure sports filmmaker grew up. Now I see many people giving themselves this title, as well they might. It describes what they do well, but are they professional filmmakers? I believe that there is a new breed of filmmaker. Many of these current productions may have been made by people who are not full time video producers, but they do often have a commercial purpose.
When it comes to adventure sport documentary Warren Miller lead the way since the 60’s with ski documentaries, always shooting on film to a high standard. He even produced some pretty cool whitewater kayaking segments as a distraction too. Miller made money from his work, something that not many others have managed to do in this niche segment of film making. However Miller was an exception.
In more recent times more cash strapped adventure sports filmmakers generally shot with whatever gear they could get their hands on. Hi-8 etc gradually migrated to GoPro's, and has now advanced so far that gyro stabilised drones are being used, along with sliders, jibs, Red cameras, you name it. There is now very little separation between what determined expert amateurs can do and what professionals can do. Right down to cinematic composition, sound, and editing.