I first got the call from Jeremy Leavelle (iWake.com founder) mid-winter about his idea of a team iWake.com shoot in Shasta. I’d been to Shasta once before a couple years ago and, although we encountered possibly the worst week of weather Shasta’s ever seen, it was an awesome trip. So, obviously, I was stoked to go back. I mean, anyone that’s been to Shasta knows what I’m talking about and anyone that hasn’t needs to experience it. Nothing feels more like good old wakeboarding as house boating on Shasta.
Shasta is Northern Cali’s piece of paradise. It has around 300 miles of winding shoreline, supplying perfect glass somewhere on the lake every day. And, as you can see from the photo gallery, the scenery can’t be beat. On top of that, the camaraderie of being on a houseboat pushing each other's riding cut off from the outside world (other than the needed 3G reception on our iPhones) makes the experience unforgettable.
As the winter progressed, so did Jeremy’s vision of the Shasta trip and of a much, much larger scale project. The pieces fell into place and our Shasta trip turned into more than a team shoot, but the first leg of numerous destinations for a wake DVD that has potential to showcase wakeboarding in a way never before seen. Unfortunately, I can’t talk much about the Momentum DVD other than the Shasta trip was the first destination and the rider list is looking to be pretty stacked with guys that have pushed, and continue to push, the limits of the sport. But more on that another time...back to Shasta.
As things came together, we got Big Spence, one of the industry's leading photographers, to join us on our trip and bring his X-Star to give us a wake comparable to any of Orlando’s finest. The riders for the trip consisted of Kyle Alberts, Rusty Malinoski, Chad Sharpe, Alex Brown, Joey Bradley, Austin Hair, Brad Smeele and myself. We had filmers Joey Arcisz and Ross Skrudland manning the Cannon 7D and RED cameras capturing angles that blew my mind...and almost killed Chad in the process! Also on the trip we had Zack, iWake.com’s right hand man, showing us all how to party and keep all the loose ends of the trip together. Perry Levell and Reagan Johnson came as our culinary masters! As you can tell, it was a packed houseboat, but iWake.com came through with a legit three-story boat complete with five bedrooms, a hot tub and an entertainment deck, so we were ready to go.
Upon arriving at Silverthorn Marina, nerves were high concerning our chase boat situation; mainly the fact that the boat we had topped out at 18 mph. Fortunately, things worked out as they always do and Wes became a part of the week with his ballin' pontoon boat! I’ve never chased with a patio boat before, and hope to never chase without one ever again. Not only did it eat up rollers, but it also had plush seating for all the media crew and a top-of-the-line captain’s chair for Joey Bradley, the designated drive-all!
Also, Wes happened to know the lake like the back of his hand and took us to every corner of it, allowing us to get some amazing shots that we wouldn’t have had any clue about otherwise! On this pontoon boat we were packing some major heat when it came to camera equipment. Set up on the boom we had a Cannon 7D and below it a RED, which takes amazing 138 frames per second video. I’d never shot with a RED, only knew that Mack Dawg and all the big snowboard movies shoot with them and they’re insane. As I suspected, the footage is crazy. It's definitely a step up in quality from anything I’ve ever seen!
As with any trip I’ve ever been on, the excitement really starts to kick in once the lake comes into view and we arrive at the destination. This was no exception. As our convoy rounded the bends down to Silverthorn Marina, almost every rider’s eyes fixated on the lake we’d be calling home for the next week. While unloading the massive amounts of food and supplies, it was apparent that everyone had a little extra hop in their step, as they knew what was in store.
That first night a couple of the boys and I finally had a chance to relax on the third floor hot tub overlooking the lake and talk about what the week was going to bring. Some might get a funny mental picture of a bunch of dudes in a hot tub looking out at the sunset, but anyone that’s been on a houseboat trip knows exactly the anticipation the first night brings. For me, it’s like Christmas Eve.
As we pushed off from Silverthorn Marina, the sun was setting and everyone was getting their boards and gear together for the morning shoot. What happened from this point out has become all a blur to me. Somewhat because of the incredible lack of sleep and long days in the sun. Or maybe from the constant food coma I had from the amazing food. Or because good times almost always fly by and the end of the week came before I knew what hit me. Luckily, still not lost in my head, are a few of the more memorable moments of the trip...
This was the first trip I’d been on with Rusty and I had a pretty good idea what to expect from his riding: massive crazy tricks that he seemed to always land clean and super consistent. I was pretty much dead on. I’m not discounting myself or the other riders on the trip, but riding at 6:00 AM tends to be tough on us as it is incredibly early and we’re all accustomed to sleeping in. Fortunately, Rusty took that time to not only ride, but smash massive double ups! Chad’s known in the industry for having one of the largest wakes and being able to drive perfect double ups that are feared and loved by many. We were in the boat watching Chad come around to the rollers, each one to the point it was almost curling, and we all just lit up in anticipation of what Rusty would throw. He didn’t disappoint, making 10’s and various tech tricks look easy and at least 20 feet up! He definitely stoked everyone out and made us all forget how early in the morning it was!
Icing has become a big part of the wakeboarding culture this year. Everywhere from the World Series to rider’s homes in Orlando, every rider has fallen victim to at least a dozen icing’s. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, a full definition can be found on the Urban Dictionary. Being stuck on a houseboat for a week with nine riders supplied for many entertaining icing opportunities. The most memorable one definitely fell upon Brad. He was told a rope was caught in the X-Star prop and, being the good guy he is, he dove in to take a look. Little did he know a Smirnoff Ice was taped to the prop waiting for him! Everyone got a good laugh at how far we’d taken the game!
Jeremy realized coming into the trip that none of us could cook and we would probably starve before learning, so he brought his wife, Perry, and her friend, Reagan, to be our chefs for the week! Every morning and night we were welcomed back from shooting with some new dish that topped the one before! They were the best meals any of us had had all summer and were definitely a welcome change from our otherwise fast food diets. Everything from chicken fried steak, quesadillas and breakfast casseroles to French toast was prepared for us! Definitely a lifesaver to us all.
The second to last night Big Spence set up a sunset flash set with Alex Brown and I to capture some epic pictures. The difficult part about flash shoots is the amount of teamwork it takes. We needed a driver, a chase driver, someone on the front tube holding a flash, someone on the back tube holding a flash, a rider and Spence on the chase getting the shot. During my ride I had Alex and Kyle on their tubes, 10 feet in front and 10 feet behind me, talking and laughing with me the whole time. Some of the shots turned out incredible and it was fun to ride with the boys on the tubes right there.
But the fun was only beginning. After the shoot, we decided to test our tubing skills back to the houseboat...in the dark. It's safe to say that none of us are bad tubers, but Joey Bradley just happens to be an exceptional boat/chase/car/motorcycle/anything driver and could have killed us with his double ups. Under the stars on our final whip from Joey, we saw the faint outline of a double up roller quickly approaching, so big it was curling over. After that everything was a blur of water as each of our bodies rag-dolled through the air! We all felt the double ups the next morning and instantly regretted our tubing decision.
Big Spence! He definitely is a relic in the wakeboard community. Not only does he party harder than the riders, but then he’ll wake up earlier than us, get the shot in the morning and then do it all again! His photography skills have to come way too natural for him because it seems like he’s just one of the guys hanging out until you look at the angles and shots he gets and it blows your mind. What amped me up the most was Spence’s wakeboarding skills. I’ve seen a lot of posts on discussion boards and heard talk about the bigger guys not being able to pop or ride. Well those guys should see Big Spence ride. With his true west coast style, he was landing wrapped 5’s, grabbed 3’s, off-axis 180 wings and almost landed a wrapped cab 5 for the first time! Definitely one of the more impressive points of the trip!
The shoot that stood out over the entire trip had to be the close-up chase footage Joey Arcisz was trying to get with his crane. He had me driving chase for Chad and Kyle’s sets while we were attempting it. We were pushing the limit during Chad’s ride, riding up the boats rooster tail almost right underneath the rider. At one point Chad had to bail out of his cut to save himself from slamming into the side of the chase. Needless to say, all of us were uneasy the whole set.
Kyle rode next and was definitely hesitant at the start of his ride. We were getting the shots down with one in particular turning out amazing. Kalberts cut in for an off-axis toe backside 180 and, after the handle pass during the grab, bonked the bottom of the camera on the crane! We had gotten as close to the rider as possible and, after looking at the footy, it was 100% worth it! I just hope next time I don’t have to be chase driver.
We started and ended each day with the sun, on the water shooting for the video for the full week. Each rider definitely killed it, but a few moments stood above the rest during the countless filming sets. They were:
- Joey Bradley Stomping a heel 9 off the dub cleaner than I can heelside 180
- Rusty spinning off the double up, so big and in complete control
- Chad’s massive glides that he shouldn’t have been able to tweak so much or stomp from so high
- Kalberts wrapped backside spins and his toe off one that tapped the chase camera
- Brad taking an “easy set” after dislocating his shoulder, which consisted of everything from mobe 5’s to 7’s
- Big Spence stomping a heel 5 and almost landing a cab 5, proving big guys can pop!
- Chad stomping every trick he knows under a bridge we posted up on in probably the tightest corner of the lake.
On our final day there were mixed emotions about ending the trip. It was such a good time that no one wanted it to be over. But after a week of sun and riding, every rider was walking around zombified from exhaustion. It was time to get back to reality and back to the busy summer of competitions and sitting in countless airports. The week, like any other in Shasta, was definitely memorable and, for most of us, the highlight of the summer.
I’d like to thank Spencer Smith for letting us use his X-Star all week, Wes for his pontoon boat for chase and showing us around the lake, iWake.com for supporting us all, Joey Arcisz and Ross Skrudland for shooting, Perry and Reagan for keeping us alive with great food all week and, especially, Jeremy for being the man behind it all! Check out the photo gallery for the shots I grabbed during the week.