It's become an annual summer holiday ritual for me as both a photographer and rider, simply because there's nothing like it anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. Both the riding and scenery are world-class, and combined with the relaxed atmosphere of the town and locals, it's like a little slice of heaven. At the start of January this year I flew there again, to escape the constant 40C heat of a flat, dry Perth.
The first couple of days after my arrival were a little wet and dismal, so exploring the town and chilling with mates seemed to be the best option. Eventually, the rain cleared up, just in time for the second round of the QTMBC Queenstown Downhill Series at the Remarkables downhill track.
Amazing terrain and views, combined with a fast, fun track, made the race a truly memorable experience. QTMBC did a great job of organising the event, with the entry fee of only $20 including shuttles.
Allan Birkett didn't have the best race run, looping out on a jump and performing a barrel roll on the fastest section of the track. It's a miracle he managed to walk away with only some whiplash and grazes. And a broken D3.
In the end, British enduro weapon James Shirley took the win from Isaac Luoni and Deon Baker, with the top 3 times being within 0.4 seconds. Kepler Rek (above) took out the whip/style/huck contest after he had a small crash at the start of his run.
I eventually got to do some riding myself, exploring the vast amount of trails around town. The legendary Gorge Road dirt jumps were in pristine condition as usual.
Full-time Aussie and part-time Queenstown local, Kepler Rek, shreds some berms in the Skyline bike park. We also rode and shot with other Australian pinners, Deon Baker, Rowan Saunders, and Josh Johnston.
After shredding steep and gnarly downhill for an afternoon, we decided to head over to the Wynyard Freeride Park.
Maintained by QTMBC, Wynyard is home to the legendary Dream Track, a set of big jumps that've previously been featured in NWD5. The riders warmed up on the Mini Dream track before scoping out and launching the big set.
Rowan sending the final step-down on the last run of the day. Everyone went home stoked, and many beers were consumed.
We decided to shoot some of the world cup track in the bike park. This section of track, Hobbit, is probably the gnarliest part of the hill. Kep had a massive crash before the shoot so he took a back seat and decided to simply roll the rest of the track.
I spent my last day in Queenstown shooting with a well-known local, Andy Weeding. To put it simply, this guy's skill on a bike is insane.
It'd been suggested that I should shoot Andy riding on a hidden track, known only to a few select locals. Himself and a group of local elite riders built the track with the goal of making the steepest, gnarliest, and most natural track on the hill. Needless to say, they succeeded.
The word "steep" doesn't even begin to describe some parts of this track. Pushing up for some run-ins took upwards of 10 minutes.
The legendary Jedi quarterpipe. I'd been told stories of this feature, a vertical entrance through a tunnel of trees before launching vertically into a natural clearing in the forest. Andy went balls out, sending it with a dash of style; the results were spectacular.