I hated summer. A season characterized by long days at work and long beads of sweat rolling down my back. It was always too hot and despite hosting the longest days of the year, there was never enough time to get anything done. I drank too much coffee, there were too many cars on the road. I rode my bike beyond excess and the rumble of a thousand bike park brake bumps echoed in my knuckles and lower back as I crawled from bed each morning, still wearing dusty tan lines from the night before.
But those were miscalculations of summers past. Now, seated in the front row of a rumored 5000 person audience and deep within the thralls of drink, I was breathing in the Whistler night and all the swirling lights. I was feeling better about summer and my changing heart could be blamed on the past three days I'd spent riding with Paul Stevens and Seb Kemp. Alongside these connoisseurs of the summer season I had taken part in the Deep Summer Photo Challenge as a member of Jon Hayward's team and the show was about to start.
If Jon's name sounds unfamiliar then you are sailing aboard the same ship as I was when Seb first invited me to participate. Jon is a Wire photographer of the Canadian Press who's greatest decorations come from hockey and politics. And although he is an avid mountain biker, Jon hadn't really shot mountain biking prior to the event. For that reason it seemed perhaps the largest of the risks I'd assume this season; dumping 3 days worth of everything I've got into a project without an expected outcome. Beginning the event we all knew we were taking part in something that would be very different. Upon the apparition of Jon's plans, "I want to create a slideshow that will show the world how fun I think mountain biking is," any of my doubts were a week to the wind. Where was the worry to be felt in delivering my best for an artist who was rich with the same intentions as my own?
With fun and excitement perched as high priorities, Jon would have been hard pressed to find a better crew of riders. Three riders motivated by the same desire to inspire. Three gentlemen seriously in love with riding bikes. And three dudes with an inability to take themselves - or anyone else for that matter - too seriously. All of these attributes were unleashed on the Whistler Valley over the three day course of Deep Summer as we explored new terrain and tested both our endurance and creativity against the violence of the sun.
Each of us have a distinct style on our bikes and naturally that means we all came to the table with our own unique wishlist of photos to capture. I desire to fly sideways over large jumps while Paul wishes to descend the scariest imaginable rock faces possible, and Seb seems to caress the most technical patches of trail with effortless style and flow. The diversity of our riding styles knitted tightly together as we explored a variety of terrain throughout the Valley. Seb has an excessive and intricate knowledge of his playground and this lead us from one stellar location to the next with greater efficiency than I would ever have expected. Everything I was exposed to was exciting new terrain and Seb dramatically increased my appreciation for the world of Whistler. With so many hidden gems outside of the park covering nearly every genre of the sport I was reaching an understanding of people who visit Whistler and forget to return home.
But of course we still let ourselves loose in the park. Some of the sketchier lines I have ever ridden were during Deep Summer. On two occasions Seb and I found ourselves joking about the humor that certain silly ideas could bring about, only to find ourselves actually dropping into them moments later. These included nose bonking Seb's head off of the GLC drop and sending a man-sized lip to lip transfer on Blue Velvet. Frightening feats indeed. But the real pinnacles of fear came for me on a nearly hourly bases as Paul continually dragged me to the top of massive slab lines. Forcing me to descend miles past my comfort zone alongside never-ending drop offs and jagged rock teeth extruding from the fiery depths of hell.
All bike related risks aside, I still knew the scariest moment of all would be the presentation of our show to this massive audience seated behind me.
Markewitz began the evening with stunning imagery and mellow beats followed by Zinger, who blew my mind with brilliant night photography and a Zola Jesus track that tingles up the spine. Our show was clearly going to be an entirely different pace than anything else in the contest and our whole team was deep in the tension of that knowledge. Finally hearing the crowd erupt in positive response to our shenanigans alleviated the stress of the evening and we congratulated ourselves. When all the shows had played it was Reuben Krabbe who waltzed away victorious, and I felt it rightfully so. It`s been a long time since I have seen a piece of mountain bike art as inspiring as Reuben's show was. Each and every image appeared as a gift from his imagination - a place much more calculated than many of our own - and I have to admit a soft spot for the downbeat music he chose. I was happy to see him walk away on top.
My show didn't win Deep Summer, but I don't think I would have been much happier if it did. Impressing the crowd, making people laugh and reminding the world how much fun they have riding their bikes were among the greatest feats I'd hoped to achieve that night. So I felt very successful after the show, and rather humbled too. I still don't feel a pressure to achieve large victories, and I hope I never do. It's all the small personal victories that I celebrate quietly to myself on long drives down lonesome highways that keep this train rolling.
By the end of my week in Whistler I'd garnered a wealth of knowledge about one of the greatest riding communities in the world. I found new ways to frighten myself. I made some amazing new friends and I'd developed an appreciation for a season that I had dismissed for years as over-rated and useless. However bold a claim it may be, I feel content claiming Deep Summer as the highlight event of my season. Thanks to my team of the two Pauls, Jon, Krista and especially Seb, I tripped and fell in love with summer.
Jon Hayward's Deep Summer Slide Show:
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