Interview: Paul Basagoitia on His Upcoming Film, Rehab & the Future

Mar 7, 2019 at 12:36
by Sarah Moore  


It's been over three years since Paul Basagoitia’s life-changing crash at Red Bull Rampage. This weekend, the Red Bull Media House documentary that showcases his journey post-injury, 'Any One of Us', makes its world premiere at SXSW. We reached out to Paul to find out more about the upcoming film and how his life has changed after his spinal cord injury. The film will come out worldwide this fall.


When did you decide to start documenting your day to day progress after your spinal cord injury?


I started documenting my whole progress when I was still in the ICU. I was in a hospital bed looking at the popcorn ceiling and super depressed, not knowing what to do. I looked to the side of my bed and there was a camera. I had bought this camera literally a week before I got injured. So I thought, “what better way to learn how to operate this camera then when here I am in ICU?”


Why did that feel important at the time?


It didn't really feel important at the time. It was literally just something to do when I was in the hospital. I was so bored and felt so lost. I just wanted to document something and I wanted to learn how to operate that camera, so I started using it. Next thing you know, I was shooting footage every single day as a way to kill time until I was able to get out of the hospital.


What was the first thing you filmed?


The very first thing I filmed was pointing the camera straight to my face and talking about my situation, about what was going on, and what I thought my future was going to be like.


Paul Bas dropping into his picturesque berm and his run was looking on fire.


How much of this film did you record yourself?


I ended up filming about half of the film, by myself. Everything from the hospital to even the earliest stages at the house when I got home, was all shot on my camera. I would set the camera up on a tripod and hit record then do my day-to-day things. My fiance works a nine-to-five, so I was pretty lonely here at the house and I would just capture everything that I was doing. The footage also served as a tool. I wanted to see my progress, so I would always film my exercises and trying to take steps. Then I would literally, look at the footage to see if I could notice any improvements in my recovery.


When did you get a dedicated filmer?


About one year after my injury Red Bull Media House reached out to me about joining forces on this project. They knew that I was filming my recovery and they came on board to help tell the story. It was really awesome that they were willing to do that. This is definitely not an action sports film, so for them to be involved and to bring awareness to spinal cord injuries is a true honor. I don't think I could have tackled something this big on my own, that's for sure.


When did Red Bull Media House come on board and how did ‘Any One Of Us’ become a feature-length film? 


I never thought about this as a full-on documentary when I was working on my own. I was thinking that this footage could become a short film to raise funds for all the medical bills I was dealing with, or something. When Red Bull Media House came on board it was a huge relief. Never in a million years did I think it was going to be a feature film.


One ballsy pilot to land in the dust storm in order to transport Paul Bas off the Rampage site. Everyone from Pinkbike wishes Paul a speedy recovery.


What was it like to work with Director Fernando Villena and the rest of the Red Bull Media House team on showcasing such a personal story?


With something like this you have got to trust your team to document the worst situation of your life. When you are at very, very rock bottom and you have a film crew documenting you on a day-to-day basis, you have got to trust the crew and you have to get along with them. I couldn't have asked for a better crew to work with, from Fernando, the director, to the main filmer, Twoner. Twoner essentially lived with me for a few months and he never told me what to do. He would just sit in a corner and have the cameras rolling on my day-to-day life. I couldn't think of a better crew to work with.


How big of a role did you have in deciding what would be shown and the storyline?


I had 100 percent control over everything. If I didn't feel comfortable putting it out to the world, then it wasn't going to go in the film. I came in as an executive producer and helped with the creative side of things. I filmed a lot of it and I was heavily involved even on the edit side of things. I was hands-on pretty much from the beginning of this documentary to the very end, and now here I am about to go out and share it in person with the world.




Who are the other people in the film and how were they chosen?


The director and producers found a bunch of people with spinal cord injuries, who volunteered to share their stories in the film. This was really a blessing because most of the people that are in the film didn’t know who I was, or my story. So it was really an honor for them to be a part of it and to have them speak so freely about their situation.


As a professional athlete, you give fans a glimpse into your personal life via videos, social media and interviews. How was this different?


I'm actually quite boring on social media and I'm not very active. I don't really talk about my life and personal things on there. With this film, you will know everything about me from my childhood growing up, to all the complications that I had to deal with around this injury. Basically, you'll know everything about me: Good and bad.


What was it like when you and Nichole watched the film for the first time?


I don't think that we have sat down and watched it together. So SXSW, we’ll be the first time that we watch the entire film together. We've seen bits and pieces together, but we have yet to see it together fully from the beginning to the end.


Credit: Red Bull Media House/Any One of Us


What are you most nervous about with sharing this film for the first time?


Oh man, a lot of things. A lot of things. I can't even pinpoint one thing because there's so many embarrassing moments that I had to go through with this injury that were documented. I look back and I can't believe that I filmed everything, but at the same time, I'm so happy that I recorded it because that stuff does need to be shared to fully educate people about spinal cord injuries.

Then, on the personal side, I’m nervous to share the parts of the film about all of the stuff that I had to deal with growing up.

And I'm hopeful that we have the message correct. The whole purpose of this film is to bring awareness to this injury and to educate the people that don’t know much about it. And my grand hope is that there will be a kid, who will watch this film, and be inspired to become a scientist and find a cure for paralysis.



What do you hope people take away from watching the film?


Every one of us has some kind of challenge in our life regardless of our situation. Hopefully people who watch this film will leave feeling good about themselves, and inspired to overcome their own challenges, whatever those are. If I can do it, I think anybody can do it, no matter what the challenge is.


When did filming for ‘Any One Of Us’ end? 


Filming officially wrapped on my second return to Red Bull Rampage following my injury in October 2017. But we ended up filming more to clean up some sections and capture voiceovers. So, field production completely wrapped two and a half years after my injury, and then we went fully into the edit.


Credit: Red Bull Media House/Any One of Us


What is your day to day like now? 


Day-to-day, I’m continuing to do rehab. I have a gym here at the house and I, literally, spend an hour and a half every day in that gym still trying to get better. My main focus remains trying to recover as much as possible, so I spend a lot of time in the gym every morning. Then, if the weather's nice, depending on what time of year it is, I'm out riding my bike as much as possible.


What are your hopes for the future?


That’s a broad question, so I’ll break it into a few sections. My hope for this film, is that it brings so much awareness and funding for spinal cord injury research that we find a cure one day. If we can find a cure for spinal cord injuries that would be so awesome and maybe my sharing my story can help to create a movement toward that. Along those lines, all of the proceeds from this film will go to the non-profit Wings for Life, which funds research and clinical trials aimed at healing spinal cord injuries.

Personally, I would just want to continue living life to the fullest and to be happy. Whether it's going on a bike ride or going to the beach with my girlfriend; I just want to be happy. That's my goal for the future, just to continue to be happy and of course to avoid any more injuries.


44 Comments

  • + 52
 Stuff like this really puts things into perspective. Keep up the great work!
  • + 7
 @keatonistheguy : I've always wondered if guys like Paul Basagoitia and Martyn Ashton would choose a leatt brace if they could go back in time? There has been so much debate about whether they actually work. I have to wonder what guys who have been in this horrible situation think?

Side note broke my leatt in a crash this weekend and debating if its worth it to buy another (insert thought below!)

Side Side note: STOKED Paul is walking!! stay strong!
  • + 5
 @rockchomper: I took a header off a 40 foot drop. The brace wouldn't have helped me. It happened very fast, split my helmet in two. This was in 2005. I now have spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. When I turn my head certain ways, my arms light up fire like the are attached to a car battery.
  • + 7
 @rockchomper: I don't think either of them had neck injuries. Google says T9-T12 area for both of them, which is mid-back.
  • + 3
 @dthomp325: Hmmm i wonder if they had a spine pad ?
  • + 22
 @rockchomper: I ended up breaking my back not my neck. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do with a back injury. I even had a back brace on when I crashed.
  • + 5
 @PBass775: dang! Well glad your doing better! And thanks for clarifying can't wait to see the film!
  • + 3
 @rockchomper: a neck brace will only help reduce risk to the C section of your spine (neck). A lot of spinal injury’s come from actually compressing the spine crushing the vertebrae causing damage to the spinal cord.
  • + 1
 @PBass775: do you suffering with nerve pain? Be interested to hear what you do/take for it dude.

Also amazing to see your recovery and can’t wait to watch the film dude.
  • + 1
 @rockchomper: I think Paul landed on his tailbone and his spine either got compressed or bent too far if I remember correctly. I don't think he hit his back. A spine protector would probably not have done anything.
  • + 1
 @CantQuitCartel: I remember reading this was Alpinestar's conclusion from testing cadavers, and that their braces are intended to prevent compression (in addition to excessive flex).

I think a brace would help in some circumstances (lawn-dart crash) but not others, and it also depends on body type/fit... i.e. guys with short, thick necks and big chests may not fit, a brace will limit ROM too much. In the end it's gotta be a personal choice, hopefully based on the understanding risk is always going to be a factor. Just my $.02...
  • + 1
 @rockchomper: As far as I know Paul and Martyn broke there backs, a leatt brace is more for neck injuries, speaking as someone who has broken my neck and also my back I am pretty damn sure both of those guys wish they were wearing a back protector at the time of there accident, an item of protection not too many people wear unfortunately. if riding rough downhill trails I always wear a back protector, i have never worn a neck brace though.
my spinal injuries were through a motorcycle accident not mountain biking
  • + 15
 I registered to comment on this.

Adversity hits us all. This comes at a particularly good time for me personally. It is nothing short of inspirational, and obviously puts things into perspective in a flash.

I have been following Paul’s progress since the date of the accident. Paul - wow. You are an incredible person. Superhuman.

And a HUGE shout out to Nichole. I have friends who have not been so fortunate having their better half stick with them in times of adversity. Nichole - you have shown your true colours. Equally inspirational. A super couple.

Best of luck to both of you in all your future glory and Paul - congrats on the new position. You must be so excited to move forward into the next chapter of your life.

Awesome.

*I doubt Paul will see this but damn, that felt so good to type...
  • + 8
 Everyone in the industry needs to watch that movie. Everyone that walks the earth needs to watch that movie. Too many people go through life so focused on what has to happen every minute of the day that we forget to enjoy life and that at any moment something can be taken away from us. A loved one. A treasured car. Your ability to walk, talk or see. Life itself. I was talking to my daughter about this the other day. How fragile life can be yet how strong we and our bodies can be at the same time. Paul you're the man. Congrats on the new gig too.
  • + 8
 I've had many surgeries that have had me off the bike, long periods of time for recovery and very tough rehab in each situation. None as bad as Paul's though. I can definitely level with the feelings he is going through. That depression after a serious injury is real. I may be different than others but I tend to hermit after a surgery and just want to be alone, hit the gym and PT as hard as I can, and recover.

It's critical to dig deep in those situations and find your passions and the things you can look forward to after recovery. Those things keep you pushing to get better and come out of a situation with positive outlook.

I remember the NWD days, that's what originally got me to buy my first DH/Freeride bike (RM7) and I have never looked back. I feel so grateful that I've been able to come back to DH each season and ride and progress despite injuries.

Paul, glad to see the progress you're making and really excited to check out this film. Your attitude and drive should be an inspiration to all. Looking forward to seeing you again on 2 wheels. Thank you for sharing your story with us as well, that's an incredibly hard thing to do! \m/ \m/
  • + 10
 User name checks out.
  • + 8
 “And my grand hope is that there will be a kid, who will watch this film, and be inspired to become a scientist and find a cure for paralysis.”
  • + 1
 I was JUST about to quote that! Amazing.
  • + 6
 I took a light spinal cord hit when I destroyed a couple of vertebrae in an MX crash. I had a full physical recovery but I'll never be mentally the same. I guess I have PTSD or something cause I envision myself in a wheelchair every darn time before I ride, but once I began it goes away thankfully.

These are just the worst injuries, you take youthful people that are really living their lives fully and thrive on that, and essentially take everything away. Not nearly enough money goes in to research for a cure because their aren't a bunch of elderly people that have deep pockets willing to pay for a cure.

As far as the neck brace argument goes, the results are in and they positively have some significant positive efficacy. EMS, a private ambulatory service that is contracted for amateur motorsports gathered evidence of 10 years of responses to motorcycle accidents and they documented whether or not the injured were wearing a neck brace or not, and the results are pretty stunning. To summarize (adjusted for the actual number of people wearing a neck brace or not) you are 89% more likely to have critical spinal injury with out a neck brace, 69% more likely to die, 75% more likely to have a non critical cervical injury, and 45% more likely to break a clavicle without a neck brace. If you subscribe to the idea that neck braces are safer then you recognize that there were neck brace wearers that didn't require medical care that might have w/o a neck brace that aren't even in those numbers.
  • + 3
 I can relate to the mental part of having an injury, I shattered t4,t5 c6and c7 vertebrae, and compression fractured 7 vertebrae mid to lower back area, the surgeon said i'm a walking miracle, but I also occasionally have mental blocks on blind drop offs or big jumps, sometimes I can do them no problem and the next time I will come up to the same drop or jump and just bottle out on it, it makes me annoyed with myself and very pissed off, my son and mates say its just self preservation taking over and not to let it get to me, but it still gets me down, then I just think how lucky I am to be riding a bike at all and just try and enjoy life every day
  • + 4
 Saw this trailer before either Dawn Wall or Free Solo, can't recall but a number of people were in tears just from that. Heavy stuff and we're lucky Paul is open to sharing his story as deeply as he is. I'm eager to see this.
  • + 6
 I'm so happy to see this guy doing well. He is a true legend if the sport. Loved his parts in NWD movies
  • + 2
 I remember him landing riders left and knowing he was going to crash. Then out of nowhere he pulls it together and stomps a tail whip to win Crankworx. I didn’t know anything about Paul but was an instant fan. It was mind blowing live. Looking forward to the documentary. Someone must have a link for that. Thanks
  • + 4
 My kids and I loved watching you ride. You gave 100% every time. Everything has changed for you except that; you still give 100%.
  • + 4
 True strength. Nice work Paul!
  • + 3
 Life as we know it is fragile. Easy to forget.
  • + 0
 Did redbull pay his medical bills?

He gets hurt at a redbull event making them money,

Then they decide they want a part of his recovery story too?

Sorry for my ignorance dont have time to read/watch
  • + 2
 Red bull fund wings for life a charity setup to help find a cure for spinal cord injury
  • + 1
 Whether they're mtb fans, extreme sport fans or just paying attention to the internet, I think this is huge of them and I'm sure Paul is hyped. Even though it's a company some might talk shit about they have so many dedicated people working for them and on they're paybook in all forms of sport. Some real legends, like Paul!
  • + 3
 Keep a positive attitude my brotha!
  • + 2
 Good work on the documentary. Now lets see Paul B shred on a ebike!
  • + 2
 So mad to see his journey, even a glimpse
  • + 1
 Was so great to see that photo of Paul riding in that recent shoe promotion/news. Stay Savage!!
  • + 1
 I was cheering for you then, and I'm cheering for you now bro! Determination is taking charge of your situation, and you certainly know how to do that.
  • + 2
 F*cking inspirational, simple as!
  • + 2
 When will it be available for purchase?
  • + 2
 Can't wait to see it... keep at it.
  • + 2
 Paul you are and always will be a legend and inspiration!
  • + 2
 I remember Paul since the good old Disorders!..
  • + 1
 This is awesome, can’t wait to watch it. Would love to see a collab with Paul and Scotty
  • + 2
 I been waiting for this comeback!! Stoked to see you back man
  • + 2
 We love you, Paul.
  • + 2
 Never forgot that name!!
  • + 1
 Legend!

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