Director: Russ Sturges & Tyler Bradt
Forget what you know about most extreme athletes. A new breed is stepping up and delivering some of the most amazing, mind-bending performances the world of sports has ever seen. The film’s creators, Russ Sturges and Tyler Bradt, take the viewer on a journey through the expanding territory of whitewater kayaking and deliver a visceral experience that commands attention. Both Sturges and Bradt have had successful careers in the sport, but making the transition from athlete to filmmaker has proved to be as challenging as it has been exciting.
Throughout the film, the theme of dreaming big and following those dreams is paramount, and the resulting video sequences are absolutely astounding. From plunging down torrential rivers to torpedoing off massive waterfalls, the crew of paddlers thrills and surprises the audience by stepping over the boundaries of sanity. In order to practice their craft and explore unfamiliar waterways, the team travels around the globe to find the most remote regions and dive into the mysterious. Pilgrimages to the Stikine River in British Columbia offer unparalleled opportunities to test their skills and progress their style. Perhaps one of the most beautiful areas the crew visits is Iceland. Known as the next frontier of boating, Iceland’s volcanically active terrain shapes the tiny landmass and produces an impressive array of gnarly river systems. Watching the athletes paddle through the Basalt-laden landscape is visually intoxicating and the point-of-view shots from their helmet and boat mounted cameras is incredible.
Pioneering these rivers has been instrumental in the progression of whitewater kayaking, and it has pushed the sport in a new direction. “We are always attempting to make new ground, and sometimes you just have to buck up and huck it,” says veteran kayaker Steve Fisher. Fisher, who is also delving into the role of filmmaking with his own creation Halo Effect, has had a profound influence on the sport, and together with Sturges and Bradt, the team brings kayaking to unbelievable heights, literally.
In addition to first descents in Europe, Sturges and Bradt follow other paddlers like the Garcia brothers, Patrick Camblin and Lane Jacobs into the far reaches of Chile to discover the untapped and fearsome beauty of South America. Witnessing how far the athletes are willing to take their dirtbag-ness is entertaining, and it is amazing the lengths they go to in order to make their dreams a reality. “We didn’t get into the sport to earn money,” said Sturges. Instead, their reward is one of innumerable quantity. The spiritual aspect to front flipping off a 50-foot waterfall, or running a tight Class V train of rapids in the middle of nowhere seems vastly rewarding, and I can only imagine what must go through their heads as they continue on their quests for the seemingly unattainable.
As the film comes to a close, the final sequence depicts Bradt’s world-record waterfall attempt at Palouse Falls in Washington. Imagine a twenty-story building, and then imagine sending it off the top into a cavernous maw of whitewater at the bottom. Welcome to Palouse Falls. Bradt truly “bucks up and hucks it” as he plummets from the tongue of the waterfall and dives head first for the next 186 feet. I’m not sure what possess humans to try the impossible, but the pioneering spirit portrayed in the film is more than admirable.
Following the film, Sturges graced the audience with a live version of “Dream Result.” This original composition by the River Roots crew was excellent, and his creative prowess transcends his kayaking abilities and manifests itself in very clever written word set to smooth hip-hop inspired beats. I can’t wait till next year’s film!