Dick Rauh is 98 years old.
Barbara Rose is younger — she’s in her early 90s.
But both longtime Westport Weston Family YMCA members — and their equally veteran AquaFitness instructor, Patty Kondub — are about to become movie stars.
“Below Surface” — a documentary shot in and around the Y pool — debuted Friday at the Gasparilla Film Festival in Tampa.
The 20-minute production “reveals the extraordinary power of community through an unlikely subject: a YMCA Aquafit class.”
Her “students” skew older. But Kondub — a 1981 Staples High School graduate — melds them into a young-feeling, tight-knit group that fulfills the Y’s dual mission of promoting healthy living and creating community.
The 1981 Staples High School graduate — and proud University of Connecticut alum — has worked for the Westport Weston Family Y for over 30 years.
Nearly 40 years ago, she saw a sign at the front desk: “Free water aerobics class tonight.” She figured that was more fun than swimming laps.
The rest is history.
Members flock to her AquaFit classes. She works hard at researching and preparing lessons. But she always welcomes members with a smile, then makes every class fun. One day she’ll wear a costume; the next day she’ll announce a game.
When someone is sick, she brings a card for the class to sign. She sings “Happy Birthday” (a lot!). Whenever she sees a news story about a class member — a new book they’ve written, a promotion, or just a brief mention — she tells everyone (and posts its on the bulletin board).
When a new member joined Aquafit because of a stress fracture in her foot, Patty called her doctor, so she could design the best workout. If someone is laid up at home, Patty visits (and brings food)
For every class she picks out great music. (On Halloween it was “Monster Mash.” For the Olympics, elections and many other events, she finds something appropriate. St. Patrick’s Day features an Irish playlist — and an Irish quiz.)
Patty is no slouch. Her Aquafit students work hard. But she’s such a good teacher, they don’t even realize they’re getting a fantastic workout.
The idea for the documentary sprouted in July 2021. A newer member loved the community spirit she felt in the class, and thought there was a story to be told.
The entire class agreed. They were all in.
It was funded by an AquaFitness member. A film crew followed the class, and its members, from August of 2021 to February 2022. Post-production took nearly a year.
“Below Surface” includes moving stories of a multi-cultural, multi-generational Aquafit class. It shows how kindness and caring for others — combined with exercise — can be an antidote for grief, stress and physical illness.
The interviews are honest and heartwarming. The message is important, for all ages.
“You never know what’s going on in someone’s life,” Patty says. “That’s the title: ‘Below Surface.’
“So try not to judge. Just enjoy the moment.
“The power of belonging to a group or a cause can help you get through the ups and downs of life.”
But, she adds with a smile, “AquaFitness is more than that. You’re also getting exercise — and it’s fun!”
“Below Surface” producer Lukas Hauser has edited several HBO documentaries. “The Black List,” featuring Toni Morrison and Chris Rock, won an NAACP Image Award and screened at Sundance .
After Gasparilla, the movie heads to more festivals, including Sarasota, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, St. Petersburg, San Luis Obispo and the Berkshires.
Patty hopes it can be shown in Westport too. She is a star — in and out of the pool.
But she can’t wait for her Aquafit students — even those not yet 90 — to share the spotlight.
(Click here, then scroll down, for the “Below Surface” trailer. Want to see the whole documentary? It’s available for $10, on the Saratoga Film Festival site.)
(“06880” is proud to feature stories like these. If you enjoy this hyper-local blog, please support us with a contribution. Just click here — and thank you!)