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- Henry David Thoreau


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Reviews

Nov 22, 2018

Film Review: Extreme Cliff Diving in The Outback

World champion cliff diver Rhiannan Iffland ventures into aboriginal territory in search of extreme cliffs and a deeper understanding of her home country’s heritage.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

At the age of 27, Australian Rhiannan Iffland has just established herself as the best female cliff diver in history. She’s had so many wins this year that her wikipedia page can’t keep up. Beyond her travel for competition, Rhiannan and her sponsor Red Bull have just released Diving Into The Australian Outback, a short film featuring Rhiannan’s extreme cliff diving adventure into the wild.

3 PEAT CHAMPION

From June through September of this year, Rhiannan competed in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, which took her from Texas to Spain, to the Azores, to Switzerland, Copenhagen, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the final stop in Polignano a Mare, Italy.

After skyrocketing to the top of her sport, Rhiannan returned home to Australia to explore her roots.

COMPETING ON THE WORLD STAGE

As the back to back champion in 2016 and 2017, Rhiannan had to defend her title over all seven stops to claim her third King Kahekili trophy in just 3 seasons on tour, becoming the first diver to do so ever. Diving from a height of 75 feet is a difficult mental hurdle and takes a tremendous toll on the body even with a perfect landing. The dive that secured the victory this year for Rhiannan was a new variation for her – a backwards triple somersault with a double twist.

Just weeks after earning the hat-trick on the Red Bull circuit, Rhiannan traveled to Abu Dhabi to compete at the FINA High Diving World Cup. One year after winning gold at the Worlds in 2017, Rhiannan needed to rank in the top 8 to compete in next year’s world championships. She dominated the competition over four rounds of diving.

FILM REVIEW – RHIANNAN’S RAINBOW DIVE

After skyrocketing to the top of her sport, Rhiannan returned home to Australia to explore her roots. With a small Red Bull filmmaking and safety crew, Rhiannan ventured into the Australian outback to a remote area called the Jawoyn lands.

In the film, she speaks with native aboriginal tribes people to learn about their culture, pastimes and rites of passage. With their blessing and guidance, Rhiannan explores the Nitmiluk gorge system, scouting out the best and most extreme cliff diving spots. She braves several narrow scrambles to reach picturesque, monolithic rock faces cropping out over black water below. After tossing down her sneakers to break the water, she performs a series of graceful dives between 52 and 78 feet, her highest dive to date, creating a spiritual connection with her surroundings.

In terms of production quality, Rhiannan’s Rainbow dive, shot in 4K, delivers the level that we’re used to seeing from Red Bull. The shot selection, grading and sound Red Bull achieves in this 14 minute sports documentary require talent and years of experience, much like what it takes to achieve Rhiannan’s elite diving skills. The opening shot of the film captures Rhiannan performing a massive layout gainer from over 70 feet, instantly hooking the audience. The low angle illustrates the extraordinary height in a scene that looks unreal. Taking such dives out of competition amplifies the daredevil aspect of the sport. In Rainbow dive, Rhiannan isn’t diving for a trophy or winner’s purse or even glory – she jumps to a connect with a sacred place.

Another highlight of the film is during the traditional ceremony – sand whips through the air as the musicians play an ancestral melody in a truly chills inducing experience. The film’s score departs from the lo-fi bass beats that you might expect from an action sports doc. More appropriately, the score reflects tribal voices like you might hear in the film Avatar.

Out of respect for aboriginal peoples, Red Bull’s production thoughtfully connected with a Jawoyn cultural advisor to guide the crew on their journey to some of the most dynamic cliff diving spots on the planet. Stripped down, Rainbow Dive plays out much like an episode of Adrenaline Addiction, where a group of untrained daredevils throw caution to the wind as they seek out extreme cliff spots in locations like Hawaii and Arizona. However, Rainbow Dive is enriched with layers of cultural significance as Rhiannan explores parts of her homeland that are not accessible to most of the population and listens to stories that have been passed down through oral tradition for thousands of years like the mythical story of the Rainbow Serpent, for whom the film is named after. “We feel very lucky. There’s not many people that get to experience this, and you’re welcoming us here, and it’s definitely a privilege,” Rhiannan shares.

To follow along the career and training of such a grounded champion performer, check out Rhiannan’s social media.

Instagram: @rhiannan_iffland
Facebook: @rhiannanathlete

 

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Athletes & Explorers

Dec 13, 2018

Steph Davis: Dreaming of Flying

What drives Steph, to free solo a mountain with nothing but her hands and feet, before base jumping? “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear."

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Presented byimage

In the coming days the Outdoor Journal will release an exclusive interview with Steph Davis, follow us via our social networks and stay tuned for more.

Do you have to be fearless to jump off a mountain? Meeting Steph Davis, you quickly realise: no, fearlessness is not what it takes. It’s not the search for thrills that drives her. She’s Mercedes travelled to Moab, Utah to find out what does – and to talk to Steph Davis about what it takes to climb the most challenging peaks and plunge from the highest mountaintops.

Steph Davis, getting ready to jump. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

At noon, when the sun is at its highest point above the deserts of southeastern Utah and when every stone cliff casts a sharp shadow, you get a sense of how harsh this area can be. Despite Utah’s barrenness, Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. But Steph is not here because of the natural spectacle. Here, in this area which is as beautiful as it is inhospitable, she can pursue her greatest passion: free solo climbing and BASE jumping.

Castleton Tower… Look closely. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Today, Steph wants to take us to Castleton Tower. We travel on gravel roads that are hardly recognizable, right into the middle of the desert. Gnarled bushes and conifers grow along what might be the side of the road. Other than that, the surrounding landscape lives up to its name: it is deserted. Steph loves the remoteness of the area. “One of my favourite places is a small octagonal cabin in the desert that I designed and built together with some of my closest friends. It’s not big and doesn’t have many amenities but it has everything you need: a bed, a bathroom, a small kitchenette … and eight windows allowing me to take in nature around me. That’s pretty much all I need.” Steph Davis cherishes the simple things. She has found her place, and she doesn’t let go.

No ropes, no safety net. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Castleton Tower is home turf for Steph. She has climbed the iconic red sandstone tower so many times she’s lost count. The iconic 120-metre obelisk on top of a 300-metre cone is popular among rock climbers as well as with BASE jumpers. Its isolated position makes it a perfect plunging point and it can easily be summited with little equipment – at least for experienced climbers like Steph Davis.

“It would be reckless not to be afraid. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.”

Steph is a free solo climber, which means she relies on her hands and feet only – not on ropes, hooks or harnesses. She loves to free solo, using only what’s absolutely necessary. She squeezes her hands into the tiniest cracks in the stone and her feet find support on the smallest outcroppings, where others would see only a smooth surface. Steph climbs walls that might be 100 metres tall – sometimes rising up 900 metres – with nothing below her but thin air and the ground far below. She knows that any mistake while climbing can be fatal.

Flying. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

The possibility of falling accompanies Steph whenever she climbs. Is she afraid? “Of course – it would be reckless not to be. But I don’t have to be paralysed by fear.” She has learned to transform it into power, prudence, and strength. “It’s up to us to stay in control.”

“You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

That’s what, according to her, free soloing and BASE jumping are all about: to be in control and to trust in one’s abilities. “It’s not about showing off how brave I am. It’s about trusting myself to be good enough not to fall. It takes a lot of strength, both physical and mental. You have to learn to face your fears and accept them for what they are.”

Touchdown. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

Steph Davis likes to laugh and she does so a lot. She chooses her words with care, and she doesn’t rush. Why would she? There’s no point in rushing when you’re hanging on a vertical wall, with nothing but your hands and feet. Just like climbing, she prefers to approach things carefully and analytically. That’s how she got as far as she did. “I didn’t grow up as an athlete, and started climbing when I was 18,” she smiles, shrugging. But her work ethic is meticulous and she knows how to improve herself. Whenever she prepares for an ascent, she does so for months, practising each section over and over again – on the wall and in her head – until she has internalised it all. She does the same before a BASE jump and practices the exact moves in her head until she knows the movement is consummate.

Steph loves the orange-gold landscape with its towers and elegantly curved arches of sandstone. Photo by Jan Vincent Kleine

“Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear.”

Would Steph consider herself brave? She says that she wouldn’t know how to answer that, you can see the small wrinkles around Steph’s eyes that always appear whenever she laughs. In any case, she doesn’t consider herself to be exceptional. “I’m not a heroine just because I jump off mountaintops,” Steph says she has weaknesses just like everyone else. But she might overcome them a little better than most of us do, just as she has learned to work with fear. “Bravery is not caused by the absence of fear. It is brave to accept fear for what it is, as a companion that you should sometimes listen to, but one you shouldn’t be obedient to.”

She slows the car down. We have reached Castleton Tower. It rises majestically in front of us while the sun has left its zenith. If Steph started walking now, she’d reach the top at the moment the sun went down, bathing the surrounding area in a golden light. She takes her shoes and the little parachute; all she needs today. Then she smiles again, says “see you in a bit”, and starts walking. Not fast, not hastily, but without hesitation.

All photos by Jan Vincent Kleine

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