Semenuk and Stevie
The Sunshine Coast of BC is a 40-minute ferry ride away from Vancouver. The abundance of coastline and boats gives the place an island-like vibe (even though it’s actually part of the mainland). We are shooting with Brandon Semenuk and Stevie Smith plus the Coastal crew (Kyle Norbraten, Curtis Robinson and Dylan Dunkerton – the last two nsmb team riders) who are doing the building for the segment. Not only are the Coastal Crew some of the best trail builders around right now but they are also kickass riders. Brandon and the guys ride a lot together in their spare time and Stevie and Brandon are friends going back to their days racing junior together. Even though everyone worked crazy hard, the shoot had a nice laid back feel – must’ve been the ocean air.
Brandon Semenuk (left) and Steve Smith on the Sunshine Coast ferry. Photo ~ Sterling Lorence.
We’ve been looking forward to this segment because it puts two young riders together who represent two dramatically different sides of the sport. These guys are both at the top of their respective fields right now and we knew that having them ride together would yield some good footage. What we did not know is exactly what it takes to be a top level downhiller and slopebike rider in 2009. Having these two guys ride together made it quite clear what some of the differences are.
The Coastal crew built Brandon some custom lines. I am not going to try and describe them in detail – let’s just say you will enjoy them visually in HD all in due time. Brandon was attempting tricks he had not done before while riding with another rider. Bottom line there was a lot of spinning… to the left and to the right… off one drop and then seconds later off another drop.
Brandon spinning a drop. Photo ~ Sterling Lorence.
Let tell you what I learned about 360ing off a drop. To begin with the tough thing about 360ing off drop is that you will accelerate on landing. So when you land you take the impact of the landing and accelerate into whatever lies ahead on the trail (in this case another drop). When you watch a rider 360 a drop next time think of the entire line he is riding and consider the consequences – it is not as easy as they make it look. The other thing about 360s is that you will naturally be more comfortable spinning your bike either to the left or the right – a lot of guys only spin to their strong side.
Checking out a stunt built by the thre members of th Coastal Crew Kyle Norbraten and nsmb team riders Curtis Robinson and Dylan Dunkerton. Photo ~ Darren McCullough
At the end of the day if you want to be one of the best slopebike riders in 2009 the minimum requirements are: Be able to 360 a drop on a trail that accelerates you towards another drop on the trail where you will need to 360 in the opposite direction. Be able to do this over and over again because the film crew needs multiple takes to capture multiple angles. Don’t hurt yourself or the shoot is over. If you have never attempted spinning your opposite direction then be prepared to do so successfully for the first time out on the shoot. And do it all while following within a few feet of the guy in front of you. No problem!
Photo ~ Darren McCullough
Due to weather difficulties we were not able to work with Stevie on terrain that did justice to the full extent of his abilities – that will have to come later this fall. This was more of a negative for Stevie then for us because we would enjoy filming him riding down a sidewalk. This guy is driven. He is learning the game of World cup racing. He is fast and he is strong.
Photo ~ Darren McCullough
What did I learned about DH racing? For starters ride through berms instead of in them. The Anthill crew enjoys documenting the fundamental moments of mountain biking in epic settings in epic light. This situation presented itself on the Sunshine Coast shoot and there was excitement in the air. We had a beautiful deep-dished berm with a nice layer of loose dirt all over it. There was more then enough speed leading into it and the berm had lush green vegetation all around it. The evening light was firing right into it. Things were looking so good that I could have just kicked dirt over the edge of the berm and as the light hit the dust cloud Sterling could have snapped a cover shot for one of the fine print media publications out there. But why not let Stevie Smith hit the berm and make it all happen?
Why not? Well because he can’t. To do so is not the fastest line through that section of trail. And to not hit the fastest line does not make sense in Stevie Smiths’ world. I’m not making sense you say? Why not just brake a little bit, set up for the berm and slash it? The answer is that that is not what a World cup DH racer does. DH racers never take the slower line. That is irrational. Not logical. That is SLOW!
Photo ~ Sterling Lorence.
So how does Stevie Smith ride a berm? He goes straight through it. He works his front wheel up and over the end of the berm and then slams his rear wheel into it and carries on down the trail. When you ask him to try it again but this time SLASH the berm. He hikes back up the trail, sprints to get up to speed and rides right through the berm again… but even faster this time. Then he apologizes because he knows he did not deliver what we were looking for. But ultimately that’s our problem. We have to learn to shoot him differently. He rides differently and it is our job to document what he does best.