What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

- Henry David Thoreau


Athletes & Explorers

Feb 27, 2019

Extreme Skier Kina Pickett Carves First Tracks in the Tech World

Obsessed over the process, Big Mountain Skier Kina Pickett launches a new content management platform to remove the chaos from the digital media pipeline.


Davey Braun

In today’s landscape of powerful phone technology, everyone is a content creator. Brand marketing is shifting from media houses to individuals, as consumers are becoming the voice of the brand. Tighter budgets mean brands must hunt for new efficiencies to streamline their media workflow. However, brand messages have become fragmented across multiple channels with more and more contributors; the result is a broken flow of communication and a bloated pipeline.

Kina Pickett is all too familiar with this pain-point that brands are struggling with. Over the past 20 years, Kina progressed from electrifying Big Mountain skier, traveling the world to star in Warren Miller films, to running his own media house – producing marketing films for brands like Leica, Red Bull, Vans and Yeti – to founding ZPPR, a content operating platform to help brands create, engage and move media smarter.

“We should treat content as if it’s alive.”

After recently closing a seed round of $1.2M, Kina is once again turning heads in the mountains. Sidestepping Silicon Valley, Kina chose to launch ZPPR in his home of Bozeman, Montana. Bozeman is a city in the southwestern corner of Montana that is not only a draw for outdoor enthusiasts – with Yellowstone National Park, bigtime skiing and challenging whitewater – but it has also become a booming hub for startups.

The Outdoor Journal connected with Kina to discuss the democratization of visual media, pursuing risk in the backcountry and in the boardroom, and the lost art of content production.

Kina Pickett catches big air in Zinal, Switzerland.


TOJ: How did you decide to pivot from production to building a tech platform?

“I became addicted to trying to understand the ecosystem.”

Kina Pickett: I’ll never forget, I was sitting at our conference table in our offices in Bozeman and it hit me like a lead weight in the head…it was the phone. Now if you take the fact that all marketing budgets are getting pinched year after year and content gets pinched the hardest – especially branded content – and then you mix that with the fact that phone technology is spiking, it’s really democratizing the process of being a content creator. And when I saw the creator ecosystem exploding and influencer marketing on the rise, I could tell that things were going to change pretty quick.

Brands started to hunt for efficiencies and there was really no platform to meet the demand. If you think about the life cycle of a piece of content from ingest to publish, brands are using 15 to 20 platforms to do that process, which is: ingest, curate, organize workflow, approval workflow all the way through distribution to people, and then publishing to channels, and then analyzing the results, and then rinsing and repeating. So that’s the entire process that we are trying to tackle with ZPPR, to give brands, publishers, agencies and content creators a simple connection tool, and then one system of record, to take a piece of media from ingest to publish and analyze on one platform, instead of buckling together 25 platforms that inherently are unconnected.

Learn more at zppr.io

TOJ: You discussed how smartphones have democratized content creation. On the flip side, there’s been increased content saturation. What advice can you share with content creators and brands on how to gain consumer attention?

Kina Pickett: What becomes the best way to reach your consumer in a completely saturated market? Creative, better storytelling. Authentic storytelling. That daily drip. Constantly being in front of your audience all the time. Everyday. Content should be alive. We should treat content as if it’s alive. We don’t have to put so much emphasis on making sure it’s perfect. It just has got to be relevant and it has to bring value to your audience and if you can do that on the daily, you will crush it. There is no barrier to entry. For brands, we’re at this crossroads right now where intentional content is something that brands are trying to create, which is entertainment. It’s really not advertising anymore. Look at Red Bull. Red Bull went from selling soft drinks to selling content.

TOJ: What’s the importance behind the name ZPPR?

Kina Pickett: ZPPR came from zipping up a jacket. When you zip something up, you’re connecting both sides in a very nice way, right? So you’re bringing two things together and connecting. We are infrastructure underneath an organization that gives you connectivity, communication, content push and pull, cloud storage, archiving and workflow around assets.

TOJ: You’ve traveled all over the world. What are the benefits of launching a startup in Bozeman, Montana compared to one of the more established startup scenes that you could have chosen like Silicon Valley?

Kina Pickett: I grew up in Vermont and I’m a mountain kid at heart. There’s a thriving startup scene here. It’s one of the best towns in America to have a startup. We’re starting to see this push away from Silicon Valley to other cities like Austin, Salt Lake and Boston. And I did not want to be in the city, I really wanted to be in the mountains.

Kina Pickett skiing in Chamonix, France.


TOJ: How did you develop an interest in art and filmmaking?

Kina Pickett: I was an art major at Bates College. I did a lot of traditional print. I started off painting and drawing, but I fell in love with printmaking because there’s a long process to it. You don’t just throw something up on the wall and go. You have to take a plate and dip it in acid resistant wash, and then you take steel wool to it, and then you get to see the final image and it’s backward, which is really interesting. So I fell in love with the process, more so than the actual outcome because it was just so detailed and in-depth. And I think that’s why filmmaking became an interest because I think the process of watching a film come to life is remarkably similar.

TOJ: The power of our phones and digital photography is taking away from those hands-on photography experiences such as darkroom development. Does that hurt the art?

“My style was calculated risk-taking in a way that I was set up for success on my first attempt.”

Kina Pickett: That’s one of the reasons why I got out of production actually was because I would read all the time about trends and facts and I started to notice that the phone was going to change everything. And in production, we haven’t even scratched the surface. With the next generation of phones that companies like Leica and Apple are developing, you’re just going to continue to be able to do things that you can’t even comprehend right now. But I feel that there is a lost art to how things were done because there’s no process work. With filters and stabilization, it’s going to be a lot easier for everybody to be a creator, which is what’s happening.


TOJ: As the Content Manager for The Outdoor Journal, I’m working with a remote team around the globe and we’re all trying to coordinate around visual media. I feel like I’m like I’m living in the pain-point that you are targeting with the ZPPR content management platform.

“The biggest thing that’s changed in the last five years is that visual content is the center point for messaging.”

Kina Pickett: What you’ve described is the exact use case of why we built what we built. ZPPR gives you the ability to communicate. So if you have specific people in specific locations that either need to use the assets or they’re creating assets, you are all now in one project in the cloud and there’s full communication and an approval workflow around the media that’s coming in. So as long as someone has WIFI, they can push everything and when it comes via our platform it will come directly into that project, instead of just kind of being a link that you have to download media.

TOJ: Zipper delivers “content collaboration without the chaos.” Can you describe some of the moments of chaos that you experienced first-hand with your own production company, Helio Collective?

Kina Pickett: When I started Helio, I met this guy named Chris Murphy, an incredibly talented creative director. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as talented as this guy. About six or seven years in, we were working with big brands like Red Bull and Nike, but I started to realize that there were pretty severe inefficiencies in the ability to move media through a cycle and then approve that media.


Kina Pickett skiing in Chamonix, France.

TOJ: How has your inclination is an artist had an impact on your style of skiing?

“People are short-sighted when they look at future trends in technology because they’re not looking at mass adoption, they get distracted by shiny objects.”

Kina Pickett: That’s an interesting question. You don’t see a lot of artists-athletes. My mom was an artist. From a young age, I had a lot of push in that direction. But I was also an athlete, I played soccer very competitively and skied at the highest level. Skiing is a singular sport that is all about expression. Everyone has their own style. Everyone looks at lines in different ways. But art was what I wanted to pursue. When I graduated at Bates, I applied to Rhode Island School of Design to get my Masters. Not as a way to make money. I wasn’t thinking like that. I really wanted to be an artist.

Kina started skiing at one and half years old, and ski raced throughout his youth before transition to big mountain skiing.

I was definitely a thinker in the backcountry. I would really study things. Very rarely would I go ski things cold. I would really do some homework on the snow depth and the terrain of each line. My style was calculated risk-taking in a way that I was set up for success so I could clean it on my first attempt and not crash 25 times while wasting everyone’s time. I had an eye for risk management and proficiency. So what I took from my background in art was the study of the process.

TOJ: Are you able to get in the same type of flow sensation when you’re skiing as when you’re processing a screen print?

Kina Pickett: People ask me what’s it like to be in that moment where you are in the middle of something that inherently could end your life. It’s the same feeling as getting lost in a moment of creating something. You lose sense of time and everything else disappears around you because you’re so laser-focused on the task at hand. Everything goes dead quiet. You can’t remember or hear anything. The most stressful times in skiing were the 15 minutes before you skied your line because in the calm before the storm, you’re thinking about the storm. That’s the dangerous part. Once you’re in it, you’re in it and it’s actually calmer than people would even think. Even if things are going south (laughs), and you’re flipping and tumbling, it’s remarkably calm because I feel like the stress of wondering what’s going to happen is over.

TOJ: You’re not worried about outcomes anymore. You’re just experiencing.

Kina Pickett: Exactly. Whether or not you like the final outcome, the journey of creating or skiing is relatively similar. There’s joy in that middle phase, even if the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.

TOJ: From a bird’s eye perspective, the journey from extreme skier to startup entrepreneur is not an obvious trajectory. But when you look back on it now, do you feel that your career in ski racing and big mountain extreme skiing has somehow prepared you for your role as a CEO of a startup?

Kina Pickett: I went to a private ski academy which we skied for the majority of the time and then it was on us to make sure that we could then get our work done in the time allotted. During ski season we were constantly on the road, so I learned a lot about time management and goal setting. That, mixed with the ability to take risks – which inherently comes from being a professional athlete – has prepared me more so for entrepreneurship than anything else. I feel like those two things combined prepared me for being able to take the risks that a lot of people wouldn’t take, while making sure that the risks were relatively calculated.

TOJ: When you were on camera, filming ski content for Warren Miller films, what did you learn about the behind-the-scenes of film production?

“Brand content gets outperformed by social at an alarming rate.”

Kina Pickett: My foray into production happened when I met Chris Patterson, who is now one of my best friends. He also lives in Bozeman, Montana and still is Director of Photography for Warren Miller. He discovered me. He called me. I started my whole career with him. I was absolutely fascinated, once again, by the process of how he was doing things. We traveled all over the world together on projects so we became really close. We were shooting everything on film. I was fascinated to watch him go through the process of doing a mag change in a black bag at 15,000 feet up on the side of a mountain in a snowstorm where it’s blowing 80 miles an hour. He introduced me to filmmaking in a traditional sense and that really was what hooked me to get into production.

Watch Kina charge some epic chutes and airs.

Kina Pickett reel from Kina Pickett on Vimeo.


TOJ: One of ZPPR’s main focus is establishing one system of record for assets. Why is it so important to keep a system of record for visual content?

Kina Pickett: The biggest thing that’s changed in the last five years is that visual content is the center point for messaging. Video and photography are how we communicate. Now with what we’re building, you can track your media from its creation, track your team’s performances, track their media’s performance in our platform then also track the media to see a lifecycle of that content.

Kina Pickett hitting air in Grimentz, Switzerland.

TOJ: What makes you so adept and confident in trend spotting? What percentage of your time are you spending reading and researching and thinking about what’s going to happen in the future?

Kina Pickett: A lot. Probably too much. Chris Murphy, my old business partner at Helio was the one who really started to push me to do that. I became addicted to trying to understand the ecosystem. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what is potentially going to work and what’s not going to work. I feel like people are short-sighted when they look at future trends in technology because they’re not looking at mass adoption, they get distracted by shiny objects.

TOJ: It seems like the ZPPR “network effect” was designed to create more pathways so that multiple different types of contributors can add to a project and also so that you could generate engagement. How did your vision of the “network effect” came about?

“People don’t trust brands anymore. They trust people.”

Kina Pickett: It came about from the realization that everybody’s going to be a content creator and noticing the fact that brand content gets outperformed by social at an alarming rate. Those were the things that really drove me to start to think about the movement of media and the network effect in a more scalable manner. So if we take a brand like Yeti or Red Bull, they have a lot of athletes, ambassadors, and a massive community. That community’s content is more valuable than the brand’s because it’s trusted in the social environment. People don’t trust brands anymore. They trust people. That’s why reviews are so important. So in a human ecosystem where you have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of authentic content creators surrounding your brand, wouldn’t it makes sense to have pipes to all of them?

ZPPR delivers “content collaboration without the chaos.” It allows brands to create, publish, and measure visual content all from one platform. Below is a 1-minute product overview.

ZPPR Promo from ZPPR on Vimeo.

To learn more about ZPPR, visit their website.

Images by Kina Pickett.

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Athletes & Explorers

Nov 12, 2019

Slopestyle Lifestyle with Cam McCaul

A true innovator on two wheels, freeride mountain biker Cam McCaul earns his wings in a high-flying sport with his wild ability to focus and his unwavering desire to push himself to new heights.



Davey Braun

In the McCaul family, speed is a family business. Before he was born, Cam McCaul’s father earned his living by racing motorcycles around an indoor track (he retired for a “safer” career as a firefighter). As kids, Cam and his younger brother dusted off an old pit bike from their father’s garage and pushed it higher and higher up the hill in their backyard to see who could go faster down the hill. Cam first started riding BMX at age 13, and both he and his brother Tyler would go on to enjoy seemingly unlikely longevity in a sport that involves high-speed aerial maneuvers over desert terrain, where heavy crashes are inevitable. (Listen to the full podcast episode with Cam here).

Any young fan of mainstream sports today can look to stars like Zion Williamson for inspiration. But for Cam, the sport he made a career competing in did not even exist when he was a teenager. Freeride mountain biking was then and still is, a sport on the edge. As a pioneer in slopestyle riding, Cam was inspired by the generation of racers before him who would express their showmanship by tricking the last jump of the race. While the sport of slopestyle developed its own standalone competition circuit, Cam drew from other sports like motocross and even snowboarding to create his own array of tricks. In 2013, he was a central focus in the first mountain bike Slopestyle competition in X Games history in Munich. On a slopestyle course, a rider must navigate the terrain as well as obstacles like ramps, banks, and steep drop-offs while performing a variety of tricks like double tail-whips, no-handed 360’s and step-down backflips.

Cam McCaul performs during the Red Bull Joyride event in Whistler, Canada on August 17th, 2013.

When he’s not building kickers in the deserts of Utah, Cam lives in Bend, Oregon with his wife and two daughters. Even though his trophy case is full of awards from Crankworx and Red Bull Rampage, you’ll still find Cam at competitions sharing his insider knowledge from the broadcast booth. You can also see him on his Youtube channel where he shares behind the scenes access to his slopestyle lifestyle. Cam is also featured in the new feature-length film Chasing the Yeti where he travels to Bhutan, a country known for its mountain monasteries, to free ride on trails that have never been ridden before. (Did Cam find the elusive beast? You’ll have to watch the film to find out). As an ambassador for Plus CBD, Cam credits his longevity in the sport, and the acute ability to maintain concentration both on and off the bike, on CBD’s natural healing properties.

The Outdoor Journal connected with Cam to discuss how he pursued a new style of BMX free-riding even when a competition circuit did not exist yet, whether the “speed gene” exists in the nature versus nurture debate, the mental gymnastics a rider must endure to compete at the highest level, and the benefits of CBD on not only focus and clarity as a rider but also staying present as a father of two. (Listen to the full interview).

TOJ: Many of our readers know about outdoor sports in general. Some of them are runners, some of them are paddleboarders, but maybe not all of them know exactly about freestyle mountain biking and slopestyle in particular. Can you start off with a quick description of what you do?

“You can’t just put a blanket statement over all of these different disciplines within the sport.”

McCaul: It’s always funny categorizing and deciding what label to put on what it is that I do because mountain biking is one of those sports. We’ve always tried to push a little bit more into the actual mainstream and a little bit more into the outdoor mainstream, but it’s always been a little bit outside. It gets confusing for people who are outside of it as well because you can’t just put a blanket statement over all of these different disciplines within the sport. So I’ll break down what it is that I do and what I’ve been doing for the last couple of decades. Free ride mountain biking is an expressive form of mountain biking where it’s about interpreting terrain. It’s about pushing yourself to learn new tricks. There’s a bunch of different facets within Freeride. Slopestyle is a form of competition. It’s super similar to ski and snowboard slopestyle contest where the riders take one lap down the hill and they’re judged. That sport has changed a lot, but that’s where I made my name, cut my teeth in the industry alongside filming video projects, which is more focused on going and exploring the terrain and interpreting that train and then applying the tricks that you learn in slopestyle to that terrain.

Read Next on TOJ: A New Home for Mountain Biking in India

TOJ: I grew up watching X games BMX athletes like Matt Hoffman, Ryan Nyquist, Jay Mirron and Dave Mirra. Who is the guy that you looked up to that inspired your passion for the sport?

McCaul: I also watched X games a lot and I was really influenced by the things that I would watch from BMX and motocross and mountain biking around the same time and there wasn’t really a competitive discipline for the kind of stuff that I was inspired to do. There were maybe a couple of dirt jump contests a year. So in terms of people that I was looking up to, the sport hadn’t really happened yet. So I was really looking up to you guys who were downhill racers, like Aaron Chase, the ones who would be tricking the finish line jump during the race. That was the stuff that was really inspiring to me. And I would just daydream about hopefully someday there would be a competition for what these guys do and then expand upon that. Hopefully, I will figure out how to do the things that these guys are doing. And then, videos were coming out showing that type of riding like New World Disorder. And they were showing guys like John Cowan who was doing Superman seat grabs. And to me that was really appealing because it was similar to what I’d seen on BMX bikes and freestyle motocross bikes but people are now finally starting to do them on mountain bikes. And that’s what I was trying to do behind the scenes just as a kid at home. Although there wasn’t a competition series laid out for it yet, those guys inspired me to pursue it.

Cam McCaul competes during the finals of Red Bull Rampage in Virgin, UT, USA on 13 October, 2013.


TOJ: Your father was involved in motorcycle racing before you were born. And both you and your brother have had really great success in terms of longevity for your careers. I’m wondering if you believe that there’s such a thing as a speed gene and whether or not you have it?

McCaul: Oh man, that’s such a rad question because I often think about that, especially now that I’m raising my two daughters. It goes back to the whole question of nature versus nurture. My dad was done racing motorcycles before he had kids. He was a firefighter since I was born. But there were always pictures on the walls of our grandparents’ house of flat track motorcycle racing. With the nature aspect, maybe there’s something deep inside that makes you predisposed to being interested in things like that. There are accounts and siblings being separated at birth and then pursuing the same stuff. But with nurture, just suggestively being surrounded by things that subliminally inspire you, looking at pictures of motorcycles racing and wondering if that freeze-frame wasn’t a freeze-frame, but 30 frames per second, what would that look like? My brother and I dug out an old pit bike that he had because he didn’t even have a motorcycle when we were growing up. My brother and I would get that thing in neutral and we would push it up the hill in our backyard, hop on it and ride down it. Now thinking back, it’s so funny because that’s free ride mountain biking. I got my daughters these little electric motorcycles. And, my three-year-old, she gets his crazy look on her face and she pulls the throttle all the way back. And I’m like, “Oh my God! I didn’t teach her how to do that.” She gets all intense about going full throttle and I’m like, “That’s grandpa right there.”

TOJ: It sounds like your dad played a huge part in building self-confidence in you and your brother to pursue your passion even at the time when a true career trajectory wasn’t really visible. And your parents even allowed you to create this massive ramp into your backyard pool that would give my mom a panic attack just looking at it. What’s a lesson that your dad or your mom has taught you that you want to pass down to your children about pursuing your path?

McCaul: I think my brother and I are insanely lucky – especially now that I’ve learned more about what kind of decisions you are faced with when you’re raising kids – that our parents allowed us to pursue things that maybe don’t have the prospects of career longevity or career period. We were always encouraged to pursue things that we enjoyed. My dad used to say, “If you dedicate yourself enough to anything you can figure out how to how to make it a career.”

“Of course I’m going to be looking for any open land and build jumps in the neighborhood that I live in, that’s the way I operate.”

TOJ: With the success of your career, you’ve been able to establish a home that is the dreamland for any slopestyle rider in that you’ve carved out a backyard slopestyle course in the common area of your development. How is it that the homeowners association has not kicked you out yet?

McCaul: Just the fact that we ended up in this neighborhood was so by chance that it trips me out now. I crashed in my last Crankworks slopestyle contest in Whistler and lacerated my kidney. I was in the hospital in Vancouver just racking up this crazy hospital bill. The doctors said, “We will let you sign yourself out, but you can’t drive all the way home from Vancouver to Santa Cruz. You have to stop halfway somewhere and visit a urology clinic cause you’re not necessarily stable.” So we stopped in Bend, Oregon, where my wife’s mom and stepdad live, and while we were stuck here, having to check in with that urology clinic for a few days, we went and looked at a bunch of houses and we found one that we just fell in love with. And because I was injured, I wasn’t able to walk around and go for a little hike behind the neighborhood to see what kind of potential there was there. And of course I’m going to be looking for any open land and build jumps in the neighborhood that I live in, that’s the way I operate. And so when we got home and looked at the satellite view and I saw all this open space, I’m like, “No way!” So now I’m making Youtube videos that include my own custom loop that I created in my backyard and I’m looking for my channel to be a place where we can entertain people and hopefully make them laugh a little bit.

Read Next on TOJ: A Tipping Point for Freeride Mountain Biking


TOJ: So if someone was really passionate about swimming or climbing and they wanted to make it to the top levels of those sports, a trainer would look for certain body types, attributes, and personality to see if that person was going to be able to succeed. When it comes to slopestyle, what are the requisite skills and attributes that would make someone go very quickly from being a beginner to being a top-level rider?

“You see a lot of talented riders fizzle away and the ones that rise to the surface are the ones that have it going on between the ears.”

McCaul: These days, it’s discipline and dedication. Taller riders tend to do well. But this 2019 season, what it takes to be a slopestyle rider is straight-up dedication, discipline and an ability to perform under pressure. You can watch tons of riders who are super physically gifted and talented and tricks come easy to them but it’s about being able to do them under pressure, and you see a lot of talented riders fizzle away and the ones that rise to the surface are the ones that have it going on between the ears.

Cam McCaul jumps during practice at Red Bull Rampage, in Virgin, UT, USA, on X October, 2013.

There is one thing about slopestyle that’s a little bit difficult for me now. When slopestyle started, it was about expression and creativity and there was always the element of curiosity – the crowd didn’t really know what to expect from a slopestyle contest and the riders were just basically there to entertain the crowd. And just like any competitive discipline, it gets more serious. It gets more streamlined and focused. And I think we can all be super proud of where slopestyle is now because it’s such a legitimate form of competition. It has almost taken over for BMX dirt. You don’t see so many BMX dirt competitions, but you see a ton of slopestyle competitions in an organized world tour.

TOJ: Speaking of mentality, you’ve talked about two mental zones that you’ve experienced through your career. One is where you just don’t care about the consequences. And then there’s a second one where you feel more clairvoyant, where you can see the whole run in advance, which I would describe as “Flow.” Did you evolve from the first one to the second one or do you feel like you still make take advantage of both of those mental states?

“When you’re shooting a film, sometimes the light and the weather only cooperate with you for a tiny little moment and you have to capitalize on those moments.”

McCaul: I think that quote probably comes from the movie Seasons where I was probably 21. I was really just figuring my stuff out. I knew I loved mountain biking. I knew I was excited about these competitions existing, but I was trying to figure out how to harness these two different zones that I identified within my personality, and I was trying to balance between those and settle into the right mental state at the right time. That was probably my biggest challenge with competing – when it was time to go, being in that right state of mind. You only get a couple of chances in a slopestyle competition. You’re balancing pressure, your awareness of what the consequences are and how much you’re willing to gamble on this. I’m 33 now and I’m learning what some of the cues are for the kind of a situation where you want to be in flow state – which is an amazing place that you can, if you can get there on purpose – and then other situations where it’s time to not take this too seriously, where you’re better off just enjoying the process and in enjoying living this moment. I think that’s a lesson that takes a whole lifetime to learn. Even outside of competitions, working on a film shoot with a big production company where there’s a lot of money being put into this production and you’ve spent a lot of time building features and working on tricks to be able to perform but sometimes the light and the weather only cooperate with you for a tiny little moment and you have to capitalize on those moments.

Even when I’m not on the bike, if I’m doing a broadcast for something that’s super important, like Red Bull Rampage, you better be on point, man. You don’t want to be daydreaming. These very important moments in the sport of free ride are only happening once and, as a broadcaster, your reaction to those moments live on forever. That’s one area where I’ve been really fortunate to be put in touch with Plus CBD which has helped me maintain focus and clarity in those moments that you know are special.

Cam McCaul jumps during the Red Bull Joyride event in Whistler BC on July 23, 2011


TOJ: How did you first get started experimenting with CBD?

“With CBD, there’s something sitting in the toiletry bag that’s going to like make the shoot happen the next day.”

McCaul: I got put in touch with Plus CBD right when I was going through rehab with my most recent shoulder surgery. So that was a little over a year ago. I had already dabbled a little bit with CBD, just from living up here in Oregon, where there’s a lot of products available. The first thing I noticed with using CBD in general, as an alternative to arnica and over the counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen was that I saw noticeable benefits without worrying about wrecking my organs just for the sake of being able to get back on the bike as soon as possible. There’s no guilt that comes along with CBD. There’s no limit to how much you should have on a daily basis. If you have a rolled ankle that is purple and swollen, just completely drench that thing in CBD cream and you don’t have to worry about an unsafe dosage.

As an ambassador for Plus CBD, Cam credits his longevity in the sport and his ability to focus both on and off the bike, to CBD’s natural healing properties.

It’s naturally getting rid of that inflammation and allowing your body to heal the way it wants to. If I’m out on a shoot and I know that I’ve got to perform the next day, but I just had a shoulder tweak or an ankle tweak or something like that, I feel like there’s something sitting in the toiletry bag that’s going to like make the shoot happen the next day and there’s not really a consequence of that. And so that’s why I’ve been such a big fan.

TOJ: How much have you looked into the science of how CBD works with one’s natural endocannabinoid system versus observationally monitoring how it makes you feel?

McCaul: I tried first test my first-person experience without getting influenced by the literature of exactly how CBD works with our natural receptors. For action sports athletes, we are in a very special time now, because CBD products help you with the two things that are most important in action sports – remedying the injuries that you’re going to put yourself through and allowing your brain to fire on all cylinders when the pressure is on.

Cam McCaul rides during practice at Red Bull Rampage, in Virgin, UT, USA on 6 October 2012

TOJ: We’ve been talking about how a CBD can alleviate soreness for nagging injuries, but you’ve also described the mental aspects and benefits to CBD as “a catalyst for clearing your mind” in that it allows you to be present-minded and take care of your kids without feeling intoxicated (as you might with a substance that includes THC). What are the mood-altering benefits of CBD that are not intoxicating?

“CBD is great for somebody whose brain is working overtime for no apparent reason and trying to remedy that.”

McCaul: I got interested in meditation before I was introduced to Plus CBD because I recognized the amount of distraction that I am prone to, call it ADHD or what have you. It’s challenging. But I also feel like there’s a lot of benefits to having an overactive brain. There’s creativity in there if you’re able to harness it. There is an insane ability to focus if you can harness it. Getting interested in meditation has helped me to realize that the most important thing in life is to be present. Raising my kids is the most important thing in my life. If I were to daze out and miss something, I’d kick myself. And with Plus CBD, I’ve found that it really helps me to be present with my kids in listening to what they’re saying and being attentive to their needs. The last thing I want is to miss moments because they grow up so fast.

TOJ: I think one of the issues with CBD right now is that there’s been this huge influx of products into the market and not all of them are consistently regulated. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed a difference in efficacy between different brands, and for someone who’s never tried it, how do they know what exactly to look for to know that the product is something that they can trust.

“It would be easy to get confused and maybe end up in a situation where you’re wrong place, wrong time, wrong product over the wrong border.”

McCaul: You want to go with a big company like Plus CBD who isn’t the new kid on the block. Because their products are completely hemp-derived, you don’t have to worry about traveling with it. If you’re a competitor in a UCI discipline where you’re going to be getting drug tested, you better pay attention. If you’re using the right brand, you don’t have to worry. Right now the regulations are behind the circulation, so it would be easy to get confused and maybe end up in a situation where you’re wrong place, wrong time, wrong product over the wrong border.

Cam performs a Superman Can-Can at Blacksage Fest 2019. Photo: @trevorlyden.


TOJ: You were just bringing up the responsibilities of fatherhood. One of the things that really has struck me about watching a lot of freestyle BMX content is that the riders are not afraid of getting hurt. They know that it’s a part of the sport. They’re certainly not afraid of broken bones. But, what they are afraid of is not being able to ride again. And then it seems like there’s this transition where when you become a father, you have to weigh in the fear of not being able to be a present and capable dad. But you’ve also said that you’re not having fun unless you’re pushing yourself. So how do you reconcile your responsibilities with your passion to ride and push yourself?

“I started really analyzing my risk-taking when I had kids for more reasons than just I want to be able to ride tomorrow.”

McCaul: That’s exactly the word right there – how do you “reconcile” the stakes for anybody in action sports who’s going to keep evolving their life? We have riding goals to advance in our sport that require us to push ourselves on our bike and it’s all you’ve ever known in your life. But having kids is the best thing I’ve ever experienced. There is a polarizing type of situation where you’ve completed for so long and you always know what was at stake and that is still at stake, but now there’s something that you care about more that is also at stake. I started really analyzing my risk-taking when I had kids for more reasons than just I want to be able to ride tomorrow.


TOJ: Most people are familiar with the five stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (under the Kübler-Ross model). But I thought it was interesting in the film Reverence, the Journey into Fear, when you laid out the four stages of fear, which as you said, are “Fear, Acceptance, Thrill, and Celebration.” Is that reward system addictive? Because several times after you land a huge trick, you’ll immediately say, “Now what?” Or “What’s next?”

“It’s a hard thing for people in action sports to feel like you’re worth something after you’re done risking your life on a regular basis.”

McCaul: For sure. And then it’s gotta be something bigger and harder. You just went through the whole scenario of what it would be like to not land that and the consequences – the months of rehab or worse – if things go awry. That’s like what somebody who’s gambling is thinking about. That’s why they’re so excited to put down that high stakes bet knowing if this doesn’t go my way, it’s going to be devastating. And so that eruption of excitement and positive emotion when you escape that risk is the same as reaping the rewards of it for a gambler. Now you get the first reward of that massive shot of adrenaline, that chemical release of endorphins, which is something that is harder to get now because you’ve been pursuing it your whole life. You have to up the stakes to get that same amount of excitement. That’s why there is often times a darker part of the conversation when it comes to people who had a career in action sports when athletes pursue things to get a similar quick rush that maybe isn’t as healthy. It’s a hard thing for people in action sports to figure out how to apply themselves and feel accomplished – to get that gratification and feel like you’re worth something – after you’re done risking your life on a regular basis. It’s a real conversation.

Cam catches air at Blacksage Fest 2019. Photo: @calgeophotos.

TOJ: You’ve filmed many BMX free riding film spots on location around the world, do you have any more film projects coming up?

McCaul: There’s a movie coming out tomorrow. It’s called Chasing the Yeti. We went to the country called Bhutan in the Himalayas and we did an eight-day expedition by camping that was just the adventure of a lifetime. It’s a mountain bike adventure through the country of Bhutan. We’re trying to find the Yeti, which is a tall task. But even if you don’t find the Yeti, riding trails that have never been ridden by bike and exploring areas that not too many people see because there aren’t roads that go there, that was something I’m so glad I got a chance to do.

You can follow Cam on social media, and find a link to his latest film here.

Cam McCaul’s YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/cammccaul
Chasing The Yeti:  https://chasingtheyeti.co

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