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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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Reviews

Jul 03, 2019

Gear Review: Dark Peak NESSH Jacket

Buy one, give one. A Sheffield, UK-based startup outdoor brand brings the one-for-one business model to outdoor clothing.

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WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

Does the world really need another [insert new clothing or gear item]? After more than a decade as an outdoor journalist and having hit the floor of trade shows year after year, I found it impossible to show any kind of genuine excitement or interest over the latest [insert marketing-driven fancy-word-for-a-zip-or-waterproof-layer]. For years now I’ve been content with a few pieces I’ve acquired over the years that have proven their worth. A bomber Millet down jacket for hardcore use, an Arcteryx ultra-light shell for alpine climbing among others. The cold, hard truth is, apart from the invention of some very lightweight and strong fabrics, incrementally improved waterproof-breathable inserts and coatings; clothing technology has not significantly advanced in the last decade or so. Whatever we do, 99% of the consumer population who buy outdoor gear or clothing don’t need anything beyond what already exists and has existed for a while. Making and buying new stuff simply perpetuates a flawed economic model that encourages consumerism and is bad for the planet.

So what the world does need is a better business model.

When Dark Peak reached out to us to do a review of their Kickstarter-launched NESSH down jacket, we were, therefore, intrigued not because of the impressively complete tech specs of the product itself, nor the genuine credentials of the team – those were a given for any new product today – but by their mission and business model.

  1. A reasonably priced jacket that sells direct to consumers – unlike mainstream brands, built around a lot of marketing and distribution costs, requiring the company to sell even more simply to justify their model.
  2. Buy one, give one away to someone who really needs it. Just like well-known consumer brands Tom’s and Warby Parker, Dark Peak donates a new jacket (via homeless shelters) for every jacket sold on their website.
Press Photo

This model is not new, of course, given that Tom’s has been doing it since 2006. However, the outdoors industry – a USD 800+ billion behemoth – has, for the most part, refused to leverage its size to genuinely do good in the world. So it was a refreshing change to hear Dark Peak’s pitch and note their Kickstarter success.

Cut out the expensive retail spaces, middle-men, third-party licensing fees and so on, and you get a high-quality product (it is made in Asia, like all other major brands) at something like half the price.

The jacket they give away is not the same as the one you buy, of course. It’s non-branded and made with different, less performance-oriented but equally warm, weather-resistant materials. Given our own beliefs at The Outdoor Journal, we felt this deserved a real review.

Dark Peak launched the jacket on Kickstarter, blowing past their goal of £15,000 to eventually raise £107,084.

It took a little while to get my hands on the actual jacket – shipping couriers seemed to have some problem with my address in Helsinki, Finland, which is where I tested it over the winter. In other words, yes, the weather was cold.

I received a maroon colored, lightweight NESSH (UK S, US XS size) jacket that came with some very positive first impressions. The build quality and shape were almost better than I initially expected. But I was genuinely struck by the weight or lack thereof. A 340g winter jacket is very, very light indeed. It comes complete with details that are more common in the higher-end models of more mainstream and expensive brands. Integrated wrist gaiters with thumb loops? Check. Two-way YKK zips? Check. 10D Nylon shell inside and outside? Yep. 850 fill down with hydrophobic coating? Check. (The company says that the down is “responsibly sourced” and certified by Responsible Down Standard). You can also choose to get the same jacket with 3M synthetic insulation too, should you prefer that (or spend more of your outdoor time in wetter conditions).

The jacket is clearly made for outdoors people (in other words, shaped to fit your body, and not built like a rectangular sack, unlike many a brand. I find it almost impossible to fit in many other jackers, which, understandably, seem to be built for people who have bulging middles and larger waists than shoulders).

If you haven’t spent time in Helsinki, Finland, well, the weather in winter is a bit weird. It can go from -20 C to 0 C overnight – and then repeat the thermometer yoyo again and again. It was almost disconcerting to have such a lightweight jacket on while going about daily life, but it worked as long as it was not too deep in the negatives. More importantly, it worked while I was active, including a bit of skiing and ice-skating – in fact, it was a great deal more lightweight, athletic and comfortable than most of the major brand-name jackets I’ve used or own. That may relate to the fit and cut – in general, I fit better in the UK or European brands than US ones, which is a function of body type – but it felt like the Dark Peak team had made an effort to build a product that is genuinely for outdoor enthusiasts, and not the average retail consumer (think about it – bigger brands need to sell to the widest possible audience to maximize revenues and profitability). While I haven’t taken it on an all-day, multipitch climb yet, so far it really feels like this may soon become my favorite warm layer to have with me, assuming the jacket survives the shred. I’m really quite curious to put it through the serious beating in my pack and up a climb, later in the year.

Press Photo

Dark Peak’s jacket genuinely feels like a very high-quality, ultra-light high-end 850 down jacket, the kind you’d usually buy from a well-known brand like The North Face or similar and expect to pay nearly twice as much for. And the fact that they’ve indeed gone with the one-for-one business model, makes Dark Peak’s NESSH a jacket we’ll recommend without hesitation. Go buy yours on their website here.

Pros: A highly affordable, high-quality technical jacket backed by a purpose-driven business model.

Cons: The website feels incomplete and buggy. The athletic cut and shape and technical nature of the jacket may not be for everyone, or appropriate for business meetings!

Rating: 5/5.

Full Disclosure: The Outdoor Journal received one NESSH jacket for the purpose of this review.

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