"This is the moment when I hold my position and close my eyes as I anticipate the impact," says extreme kayaker Erik Boomer of dropping over 80-foot Sahalie Falls on the frigid McKenzie River near Portland, Oregon. “All the work is done at this point; it is just time to enjoy the feeling of free fall.”
Boomer, who paddles over 20 to 40 waterfalls a year, is a true expert. But that doesn’t mean he can just go with the flow. “Waterfalls like this always have x factors that you have to deal with,” notes Boomer. “It is impossible to anticipate exactly what the water will do as you approach the lip. Waves, boils, and eddy lines are constantly surging, so you have to be prepared to react to the water the whole time.”
In 2011, Boomer and his expedition partner Jon Turk pulled off the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, a feat which made them two of our 2012 Adventurers of the Year.
Getting the Shot
"They say that Sahalie Falls is 100 feet tall. The pure drop after the first dip is about 80 feet. It’s an impressive sight by itself, never mind seeing somebody kayak off it," says photographer Tim Kemple. A recent snowstorm left the landscape highlighting vibrant blue and green hues. “The water was bright blue, the moss was electric green, and the snow juxtaposes everything perfectly,” says Kemple. The group waited for clouds to arrive, ensuring Kemple was photographing in even light.
To locate the best spot to photograph Boomer, Kemple knew he needed to head upstream and away from a classic tourist lookout for the falls. Kemple spent over an hour breaking trail through three feet of fresh snow. “By the time I was there, Boomer, who had simply paddled across the rapids, was ready to drop,” recalls Kemple. “What really blew me away was how easily and confidently Boomer paddled. He hit the bottom of the falls, popped out, and paddled to the take out. Like it was no big deal,” says Kemple.
To get this shot Kemple set up three separate Canon cameras with remote triggers. He fired a fourth camera, which got this shot, while teetering on the edge of the cliff.
For road cyclists in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, there’s nothing more motivating than the sonorous whine of a faraway train whistle. That’s the sound of their top competitor: the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The road biking race was born in the early 1970s, when beating the train to Silverton on a bicycle was deemed impossible—until cyclist Tom Mayer pulled it off in a bet with his brother, a train worker. Now, the race has expanded to a full weekend of festivities, including a kids’ race, mountain bike race, and the Cruiser Criterium, a cruiser-bike parade and costume contest held on Main Street.
The Silverton race is still the marquis event, with around 1,000 racers who compete in pro divisions and 1,500 amateurs, who race the train over a 50-mile course with two 10,000-foot passes and 6,650 feet of climbing. Though pros have sped through the course in as little as two hours, most riders take a more leisurely pace to enjoy the cheers of locals on the roadsides and ogle the views of 13,000-foot snowcapped peaks.
Race2Adventure may be the only race to ever factor laziness into the program. The brainchild of Merritt Hopper, a former logistics wrangler for Primal Quest and Eco Challenge, this eight-day travel-oriented event brings a hundred participants through the remote inner depths of its host country. After events in Costa Rica and Ecuador, racers are headed to Guatemala in 2012.
Each morning, runners tackle challenging trails between five and ten kilometers long, winning prizes each day and at the finish. After that, however, the competition ends and the fun begins. Afternoon excursions include rafting Class III rapids on the Rio Cahabón, swimming in waterfalls and hot springs, jumping off cliffs into Lake Atitlán, visiting a coffee plantation, and exploring Maya ruins—not to mention optional lounging and cocktail sipping.
By the time the pack reaches the final finish line on the black-sand beaches of the Pacific, winning seems overrated. Before the awards ceremony, racers meander off to surf, kayak, and play beach volleyball. Cerveza, anyone?
Creating stunning, cutting-edge adventure films hasn’t gotten any easier. There’s still plenty of sweat and swearing. It has gotten a little cheaper, and, with YouTube, a viral video is only a few clicks away. Filmmaker and adventurer Bryan Smith has been at the forefront of this grassroots movement
"On the highline my thoughts are simple and clear," says pioneering rock climber, BASE jumper, and wing suit flyer Dean Potter. “Fundamental needs shine through the mental clutter. I focus completely on my breath, my connection with the line, and making it safely to the other side.” This highline was set up on the summit of Cathedral Peak, in Yosemite National Park, at an elevation of 10,911 feet. Though Potter is untethered, he is in control. “I’ve always been a ‘free soloist.’ Whatever I do, I long to be untethered and free,” notes Potter. “I am completely confident with my ability to catch the line if I were to fall. I’ve practiced this catch move successfully for the past 19 years.”
This shot is just one spectacular scene from “The Man Who Can Fly,” an episode of Explorer airing Sunday, February 12, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel. The show captures Potter’s quest for true human flight, with first feats in free soloing and wing suit flying in Yosemite, California, and British Columbia, Canada. The episode examines Potter’s unique blend of daring, determination, and pursuit of the unknown.
Getting the Shot
“Hands down this was the most complicated photo I’ve ever taken,” says photographer Mikey Schaefer. “It started a year earlier with Dean [Potter] seeing the moon rise over Cathedral Peak and noticing that it would make a great shot.“ A bit skeptical, Schaefer used an app called The Photographer Ephemeris to locate where the moon would rise from a relative location. “I went out the night before the shoot with a GPS and lined everything up. Sure enough, the moon rose exactly where I thought it would,” says Schaefer.
In Tuolumne Meadows, Schaefer set himself on an adjacent ridge from Potter, about 1 and 1/4 miles away, and began shooting at 7:30 p.m. “Thankfully the light was absolutely perfect, as it was just ten minutes before the direct sunlight would be off of Dean. This allowed me to balance the exposure evenly between Dean and the moon, as there weren’t too many stops difference between the two,” recalls Schaefer.
Schaefer worked throughout the filming of the show, from rigging ropes to operating video cameras, all while shooting still images as well. The image of Potter against the moon stands out from the rest of the shoot. “The whole scenario seemed crazy,” Schaefer says. ”I was over a mile away from my subject, who was walking a tightrope with certain death consequences if he fell. I was running through the woods with $20,000 worth of camera gear, making the most unique photo of my career. I’m still a bit amazed that I managed to stick the shot.”
This image was captured using a Canon 5D Mark II and an 800mm, f/5.6 lens with a 2X doubler.
Ski Superpipe, 2012 Winter X Games, Aspen, Colorado
"It is very exciting to perform at a high level in front of a massive crowd like this," says freeskier Tucker Perkins, seen here completing a switch right-side cork 720 in the Men’s Ski Superpipe Finals at the Winter X Games on January 28, 2012. The sculpted superpipe, located on Aspen, Colorado’s Buttermilk Mountain, measures 22 feet in height. Perkins came in fifth place in a competition that was considered the most exciting men’s ski superpipe thus far, with epic performances, unexpected crashes, and some newcomers on the podium.
The spirit of pioneering, world champion freestyle skier Sarah Burke was felt throughout both the men’s and women’s events. In her lifetime, Burke won four golds at the Winter X Games and successfully lobbied to get the ski superpipe added to the 2014 Winter Olympics. She died on January 19, 2012, from injuries sustained during a training accident. “I knew Sarah Burke well,” notes Perkins. “It was an extremely unfortunate accident, but she would have wanted us to ski our hearts out at this event. We all did it for her.”