Garett Buehler is deeply introspective. In the dark hours of the night, when worries creep unbidden to the front of the brain, he wonders: what am I doing? Why am I risking my blood and bones for a job with no pension, no safety net? Should I be in school? Am I missing out on other, richer, life experiences? It’s a delicate question to answer, and one that provokes a ‘’stop whining, you have the best job in the world!’’- type gut level response from weekend warriors. But riding this close to The Edge comes with severe consequences; one needs to be calculated in order to stay healthy and keep riding at this level. If you’re hitting big moves with no regard for your own safety, you won’t be a professional rider for long. Doubt is necessary for self-preservation. Riders like Buehler are confident, not madmen.
| Nelson is unique in a lot of ways, it's pretty far away from any major centres, so it's a bit out of the way for most tourists. It's a small town so you get to know your neighbours and almost everyone is outdoorsy. The riding and sledding is awesome, so there's fun stuff to do all year round. |
Nelson, British Columbia is synonymous with freeride mountain biking. It’s where riders like Robbie Bourdon, Mike Kinrade, Joe Schwartz, Sam Brown, Kurt Sorge, and Buehler, among others, have grown up and made their mark on the sport. The trails, woodwork, and rock slabs littering the mountains nearby have graced the pages of countless magazines and were seared into our eyeballs through the pioneering film work of Freeride Entertainment’s New World Disorder series. But why is Nelson such a hotbed for talent? There are several towns in BC with comparable terrain and population, but you’ve probably never heard of them.
Nelson is a small town by most standards - population 10,230 approximately - and it serves as a case study into how dedicated trail builders can singlehandedly turn a place into a bike riding mecca. Mark Holt, owner of The Sacred Ride bike shop, is one of the most important trail builders in the world, even if you’ve never heard his name. Holt has built over 40 trails in Nelson since he first put shovel to dirt on Kutcorners, back in 1994. Today, many of these lines are Kootenay classics, trails like The Paper Bag, Vein, Oil Can, Bed Frame, Slabalanche, and Placenta, all were built by Holt’s hands.
Ernst Buehler’s cabin is across the lake from Nelson and overlooks Garett’s jumps. Ernst, Garett’s father, was a legendary ski guide for Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), a heli-ski operation with lodges all over BC. A plaque from a CMH guest reads, ‘’If you can’t f*cking ski, don’t f*cking come - Ernst Buehler.’’ That same quote applies for riding a bike in Nelson. The trails here are so steep, rugged, and technical that young riders just assume this is how everyone learns. On an average day you’re liable to see a Red Bull Rampage veteran on the patio of Oso Negro or behind the wheel of a shuttle truck headed up for another lap.
Garett Buehler is 23 years old. His first movie segment, in Kranked 7, premiered way back in 2007, and he was already 360’ing huge drops and backflipping his downhill bike as a teen. Now, he’s an established name in freeride and can focus on riding year round (with a break for skiing and surf trips in the winter). Buehler is a small town blue-collar guy, he’s kind and hard-working, with an easygoing California surf bum demeanour. He is funny and gregarious when surrounded by friends. He rotates though coffee shops for breakfast but gravitates toward Sidewinder, and Oso Negro where he knows most of the staff by name (a defining small town trait, although it probably helps he went to school with them or their siblings). He also listens to a lot of reggae, Damien Marley is a favourite; the speakers in his truck, which is pockmarked from shuttling and reeks of gasoline, are constantly cranked. If he’s not on the road Buehler will rotate through riding partners, but his most frequent companion is Kurt Sorge. Sorge is three years older and you can see how a young Buehler would have pushed himself to keep up with his seniors Sorge, Mike Kinrade, and Robbie Bourdon.
| Filming for the movie was great! It was pretty tough dealing with weather as we had a ton of rain this fall (and even some snow), plus everything was super saturated from being freshly built. We got it done though, and had lots of good laughs in the process. |
Buehler passed the spring and summer of 2014 working on his trail ‘Girl Talk’ for Builder. He spent hundreds of hours in the woods with Alex Volokhov, a 20 year old Nelsonite (who probably had a beard at age 12), building a trail which embodies what he loves to ride on a bike. Unlike most film segment lines, which tend to be a collection of stand alone stunts, aka ‘’one hit wonders,’’ Girl Talk is an actual trail with massive jumps and bike park sized berms. Like any new trail, there were growing pains: the corners were too soft to carry speed, huge puddles gathered in certain sections, and a landing had to be moved back. We began filming in July and captured the final shot in October after waiting for snow to melt off the trail.
|Bourdo, Kinrade, Sorge, Buehler, all these guys have been a huge inspiration for me. Ever since I can remember they've been building and riding the biggest, most unique, and just plain badass stuff. They make me want to ride my big bike and build rad shit! |
Buehler’s friendship with Volokhov mirrors that which he shares with Sorge, the young upstart learning from the older brother figure and pushing to progress, not necessarily past the other person, but rather alongside them. Buehler, Sorge, and Volokhov, don’t ride many contests because it’s more fun to stay home and build and ride huge jumps with your friends. Maybe that’s why the Nelson scene has produced so many great riders: there’s a real sense of community in town, and when you get to ride with your idols, these accessible, genuinely nice human beings, on some of the most challenging trails in the world, then you get the kind of town which produces some of the best freeriders in the sport.
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