Every time my phone rings and the caller ID reads “Mike Redding” (my Fox Head team manager) I know that he has a unique opportunity for me. It usually consists of a really crunched timeline and a lot of work, but in the end it’s always worth it.
In this case, it was a call about a potential shoot that he wanted to pull off in my area. He asked me if I had any downhill trails nearby that weren’t surrounded by trees, and that could be filmed with a helicopter. My response was that Santa Cruz is full of giant redwoods, and that none of the trails we have here are visible from a bird’s eye view. He asked me to start searching because Teton Gravity Research had just bought a new camera setup for their helicopter and were going to be in the area at the end of the week to film.
I immediately hopped in my truck and drove up and down the coast. I drove for hours in search of something new that would not only look cool and be fun to ride, but would also be exposed to the sky. This turned out to be quite the task. I brought my trail bike with me and was riding about 20 or 30 miles a day on top of unfamiliar mountain tops along the coast in search of something worthy.
A couple days later I got another call from Mike saying that he had plane tickets for himself, Kirt Voreis, and Nic Genovese to fly in at the end of the week. He also reminded me that TGR would be flying in that weekend with their new camera strapped to the front of a helicopter and ready to shoot. At this point I still hadn’t even found a trail, and I was starting to get a little worried that I wouldn’t have anything ready in time.
I continued to search however and the next day I got lucky. I found a trail with a lot of potential, but it needed A LOT of work. I drove home that night and called up a few buddies to see if they were down to help me put in a full day of work on the trail. Luckily they were, and we drove up the next day loaded with an arsenal of tools to clear boulders, trim bushes, build berms, and fill in some un-rideable rain ruts. It started to rain as soon as we got there and we worked for about 8 hours through the sporadic downpours in order to get the trail rideable. Kirt, Nic, and Mike were all flying in the next day, and I was stoked to show them what I had found.
We all headed to the trail first thing in the morning in order get some of the ground shots out of the way and it must’ve already been about 85 degrees out. The dirt had already soaked up the much-needed rain from the day before like a sponge, and the trail was perfect. We didn’t have much time for this shoot so we were forced to jump right into filming without taking any test runs down the trail. As soon as we started riding Kirt and I agreed that it was one of the most dangerous trails that we had ever ridden, and in a way, that just made it that much more enjoyable. It was high speed, rocky, skinny, and felt like a luge course perched on top of a rocky, knife-edged cliff.
We started bagging shots right away and were having an insane amount of fun while doing so. I had never worked with Nic before, but I’ve always been a huge fan of his videos, and Kirt has been a childhood hero of mine since I was about 9 years old, so it was pretty surreal to be working with the two of them. It ended up taking about two days to get all the ground shots done and we finished just in time for the heli to arrive the next day.
We woke up to foggy skies and the chances of the TGR guys being able to follow us down the mountain in their chopper were looking slim to none. They were already on their way over though and there was nothing we could do except cross our fingers and hope that the fog would burn off in time. We were huddled up on top of the trail when we heard the rotor blades of the heli coming in, and like the flick of a switch, the fog pulled back out and unveiled the trail. The TGR guys had already filmed some stuff on their way to meet up with us and were running low on fuel, so we really only had one chance to get the shot. They gave us the “go ahead” over the radio and Kirt and I dropped in for our most rewarding run of the weekend, which also brought this shoot to an end.
Being chased down a trail by a helicopter while being followed by your childhood hero has to be one of the coolest feelings ever, and it definitely made this shoot a memorable one for me. It was a lot of work over a short period of time for all involved, but I’m happy that I have a company like Fox to push me to do these challenging projects, because in the end it’s always worth it. Especially at this stage when I get to sit back on my recliner with my laptop in hand, press the play button, and watch the edit for the first time from a shoot that I thought would never even come together…
Hope you all enjoy it!