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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir


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Climbing

Nov 07, 2017

Reel Rock 12 is Flat-Out Awesome

Want to win free tickets to Reel Rock 12? Read our review of the film, the best installment in several years, and check out the details at the bottom for your chance to win free tickets to a Reel Rock 12 showing near you.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

The Reel Rock Film Tour is a major event in climbing each year. It is more than just a movie: it is both a barometer to gauge the general feelings of the climbing community and a yardstick by which to measure the progress (in more than just grades) that has been made.

Here are our thoughts on the four mini-features that comprise Reel Rock 12.

Chris Sharma, Malloca, Spain. Photo: Adam Clark.

Above the Sea

Sharma is the quintessential climber for a whole generation who grew up with his amazing first ascents of sport routes like Biographie and Dreamcatcher. Compared to the gangly Adam Ondra’s and Dave Graham’s of the climbing world, Sharma was muscled, his climbing as dynamic as could be.

It’s been a few years since Sharma graced the Reel Rock screen with his own mini-feature. In Reel Rock 7, he and Ondra faced off in “La Dura Dura,” a chronicle of their attempts to establish the first 9b+ (5.15c); and then in Reel Rock 8 there was “La Dura Complete,” a cut of both of their eventual sends. The story from these two shorts signaled a passing of the torch: Ondra’s rise has since continued unabated, while Sharma has seemed content to focus on personal projects like opening a climbing gym and settled into his role as a representative of the new old-guard. He still makes headlines and graces covers and cranks out impressive first ascents, but his role has changed.

Chris Sharma, Malloca, Spain. Photo: Adam Clark.

So when Reel Rock 12 opens with “Above the Sea,” a feature about Chris Sharma’s years deep water soloing on the coastlines of Mallorca and climbs he’s established there, it’s straight out of yesteryear.  The absurd number of psats that issue from his mouth, the needless feet-cuts and campus moves tens of feet above the crashing waves evoke a warm nostalgia. You can’t help but smile.

The cinematography and shots are stunning. The story is innocuous and nice: Sharma has settled down and has a family now, but is still driven to explore the cliffs above the thunderous ocean. It is a delight to watch, through and through.

Yet the story is tired. Has little enough happened in climbing in the past five years that Sharma is still the biggest draw around just because of his pseudo-bodybuilder physique and golden locks? This is nothing against Chris Sharma; rather it’s a question about the climbing community.

And to answer that question for us, Reel Rock 12 film turns up the volume, the stakes and and awesomeness full-tilt with the second mini-feature.

Margo Hayes on La Rambla. Photo: Greg Mionske.

Break on Through

The narrative move here is perfect: we transition from Chris Sharma to the first woman to climb his standard-setting route, Biographie, and even get some interview footage with him. Just as La Dura Dura represented Ondra taking over center stage from Sharma, “Break on Through” does the same for women. In this Reel Rock, Chris Sharma is merely prelude. (Reel Rock has had features about women before, notably the excellent Spice Girl about British crusher Hazel Findlay, but “Break on Through” feels different.)

“Break on Through” profiles American climber Margo Hayes and her quest to become the first woman to climb 9a+ (5.15a). Hayes is portrayed as having a laser-focus, but also as a kook who will have fun no matter how serious the objective. In between tries on several of the hardest climbs in the world, she makes goofy faces at the camera.

Margo Hayes. Photo: Greg Mionske.

First up is Hayes’ battle with La Rambla (9a+), in Siurana, Spain. The line is one of the most storied in hard sport-climbing, with ascents by Ramon Julian Puigblanque, Sharma, Adam Ondra, Alex Megos, and roughly a dozen other crushers.

The best moment in “Break on Through” (and in our opinion the best in all of Reel Rock 12), happens when Hayes is working La Rambla. In interview voiceovers as she climbs, American climbers Matty Hong and Jon Cardwell talk about how flexible Hayes is and how she is capable of doing moves and sequences that they would probably never even consider. Next we see Hayes with an improbably high foot, virtually next to her head, before cutting to a gaggle of onlooking male climbers, mouths agape, in awe. The comedy is self-deprecating on behalf of the men behind the camera and on screen, but their reverence for Hayes’ skill is dead-serious and mirrors that of the audience; Hayes is absolutely mind-blowing to watch on the rock.   

The film later follows her attempts on Chris Sharma’s Biographie (9a+), in Céüse, France. We won’t give anything else away except to say that “Break on Through” ends with  descriptions splashed across the screen of other massive barriers shattered by women in climbing this year. The audience howled with approval.

Brad Gobright. Photo: Dan Krauss.

Safety Third

“Safety Third” is wildly entertaining and offers the biggest laughs of all four films in Reel Rock 12. Directed by Cedar Wright, “Safety Third” follows Brad Gobright, an American climber dubbed “the next great free soloist” by Outside. Gobright is not what you would expect out of a preeminent free soloist: no rippling Sharma muscles, no Dean Potter platitudes about the beauty and art of ropeless climbing. The short-in-stature Gobright is decidedly ridiculous. In one scene, he shows up to try one of Eldorado Canyon’s hardest and boldest traditional lines (with a rope), but realizes he forgot his shorts. So he climbs it in his skivvies. At another point, the nails-hard climbing above him is the furthest thing from his mind; instead he is preoccupied with where he left his glazed croissant that morning.

Brad Gobright. Photo: Cedar Wright.

Of course, these moments are all played up for comedic effect. In between laughs, are sequences of super-uncomfortable-to-watch and simultaneously brilliant free soloing. The feature builds up to Gobright’s solo of Hairstyles and Attitudes, an insecure pitch of face climbing high up on the north face of the Bastille, a tower in Eldorado Canyon.

2017 was a big year for free soloists. While we love watching Gobright “wow”on the big screen, we hope he tones it down a bit and bumps safety up to second, at least sometimes.

 

Maureen Beck. Photo: Cedar Wright.

Stumped

A great finale for the best slate of Reel Rock films in a few years. Another Cedar Wright flick, “Stumped” follows one-armed American climber Maureen Beck.

Beck wants to climb 5.12. As she says, she doesn’t want to be seen as a good one-armed climber; she wants to be seen as just a good climber. Full stop. From the description on the Reel Rock website: Beck “is not here to be your inspiration. ‘People say, ‘Look, a one-armed climber, now I have no excuses.’ I’m like, dude, you never had any excuses in the first place.’”

The candor is refreshing and Beck’s journey towards 5.12 is familiar to anyone who has aspired to the grade. Failure, failure, failure. And then bits of progress. Glimmers of possibility.

Beck is a perfect character with which to end Reel Rock 12. Her stoke, determination, ability and goofiness remind us of the best qualities of all the prior segments, and bring them together in one short feature. 

Check out the trailer below and read on for more details about how to win free tickets to a Reel Rock showing near you!

LOVE THE OUTDOORS? LOVE GOOD CINEMA? WE’RE GIVING YOU AND A FRIEND THE CHANCE TO GET FREE TICKETS!*

Step 1: Subscribe to our newsletter here.

Step 2: Share this Facebook post from The Outdoor Journal!

Step 3 – Join The Outdoor Voyagers Facebook group.

Step 4 – Like the REEL ROCK Facebook page

Good Luck!

*Competition Rules & Guidelines:

  • Entrants must follow The Outdoor Journal’s Facebook Page and publicly share the competition post on their profile. Entrants must also subscribe to The Outdoor Journal’s email newsletter, and request access to the Facebook group “The Outdoor Voyagers,” and like the REEL ROCK Facebook page.
  • Entrants must clearly enter their complete name and email address on the subscription form. Incomplete or inaccurate entries will be rejected.
  • Only one entry per person. All eligible competition entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
  • The winners will be randomly selected. Two attempts will be made within 24-hours to contact the selected winners via the provided email. If at the end of the 24-hour period the winner has not replied, another winner will be contacted and the process will repeat until winners are selected.
  • The winner must present a valid form of identification in order to collect the passes at the screening of their choice.
  • Winners may choose from any of the following shows:
  • San Francisco, CA, 11/10, Castro Theatre
  • Los Angeles, CA, 11/10, LA Live
  • Santa Cruz, CA, 11/10, The Rio Theater
  • Austin, TX, 11/11, Crux Climbing Center
  • Mountain View, CA, 11/13, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
  • Durango, CO, 11/13, Fort Lewis College
  • Nashville, TN, 11/16, Climb Nashville
  • Nashville, TN, 11/16, Climb Nashville
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/28, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/29, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Anchorage, AK, 11/30, Bear Tooth Theatrepub
  • Portland, OR, 12/13, Revolution Hall
  • Portland, OR, 12/14, Revolution Hall
  • The Outdoor Journal does not accept liability for any lost, stolen, unclaimed or expired prizes. Any unclaimed or expired prizes will be retained by The Outdoor Journal. The winner agrees to allow The Outdoor Journal to publicly use their name and likeness in association with the competition and agrees to present The Outdoor Journal, REEL ROCK and any other partners in a positive light in any interviews, social media posts or other public communication now and in perpetuity.

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Events

Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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