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10.03.07

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From the film '2nd Base', johnnyb@onheading.com
Leapin' wizards: BASE jumpers regularly challenge the laws of physics and reason.

Radical Reels Film Festival

UCSC hosts a night of adrenaline-pumped footage of extreme mountain sports.

By Steve Hahn


Upon seeing the 60-foot crack running up the middle of Utah's famous "Tombstone" sheer-drop sandstone formation, Dean Potter has only one thought: How to climb it so he can leap off the top. He falls numerous times, the sharp rocks cutting up his fingers and legs, but he doesn't rest until he's reached his goal and launched himself off it head first.

"I find a heightened sense of awareness through putting myself in moments of extreme danger," says Potter in the film First Ascent, playing this weekend at UCSC as part of the Radical Reels Film Festival.

This mind-set exemplifies the way extreme sports athletes approach life. If there's a mountain, river, or building that can be ascended at a painstakingly slow pace and then descended with near-breakneck speed, these athletes are there.

The first of the five-to-20-minute films to be shown this Saturday is 2nd Base, which documents the edge of the envelope of the extremely dangerous sport of BASE (Building, Antennae, Spans and Earthen objects) jumping. BASE jumpers find mountains and other high points that are angled in such a way that they can jump off without hitting anything on the way down, and then they do just that. Springboards (to propel them beyond the danger zone) and parachutes help ensure the sport is not instant suicide, but in the end leaving room for danger is what this sport is really all about. Flying headfirst down a cliff and knowing at any moment you could become a red dot on the mountain is what gets the juices flowing for these slightly insane daredevils.

The less insane of the daredevils take a slower route down the mountain. Not that skiers and snowboarders put themselves in any less danger. Losing control after taking a jump can send skiers flying through the air for upward of a minute, with awkwardly shaped objects jutting from their feet, and trees are a constant danger. There are no parachutes to save the day here, either. But the subjects of the documentary Hustle and Snow are not deterred by threats of broken bones or twisted bodies; they are turned on by it and more than wiling to sacrifice a lifetime of health to the gods of momentary ecstasy.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of traveling to a mountain, so many extreme athletes have decided to scale a few buildings before they jet off to work or school. The film Dist-Urban Behaviour documents "buildering" and parkour, the sport of traveling over obstacles, which transfers the world of extreme sports to the urban landscape. Bringing this opportunity closer to home makes it more accessible, but also adds more challenges, such as dodging those pesky rent-a-cops and people who think you are trying to break into their apartment.

No extreme sports festival would be complete without a showcase of what is perhaps the fastest-growing "alternative" sport of this generation: stunt mountain biking. The New World Disorder film series recently released its seventh video, Flying High Again. Featuring local favorite Cam McCaul of Aptos, this film presents the newest tricks by mountain bikers who just don't get enough of an adrenaline rush riding down a hill.

The crazy and danger-craving athlete is never limited to just finding risks to life and limb on the land, of course. Wet-House, which documents the world of whitewater kayaking, features athletes who are pushing the limits of the sport and smiling all the way through it. The film takes viewers to stunning locations around world, including the remote Zambezi Rapids of South Africa. The film is critically acclaimed for going beyond simply showing cool tricks to telling the in-depth personal tales of some of the world's best kayakers.

Two of the films at this year's festival prove that daredevils can have a sense of humor too. The Professional Adrenalists pokes fun at the sport of freestyle walking, satirizing many of the tropes and egos found in extreme sporting videos. The short film Touching My Self presents the trivial act of walking up and down the modestly sloped 9,000-foot Petite Verte as an epic accomplishment on the scale of reaching Everest's peak. The film's two adventurous Brits have spent time flirting with girls on the hills near their hometown but "have always dreamed of climbing a real mountain." Small children outpace them as the narrator chronicles "hour one" and "hour two" with a soundtrack that mocks projects like Touching the Void, a book and film relating two climbers' harrowing ordeal in the Peruvian Andes.

Casual daredevils, professional stunt addicts and the uninitiated will all find something to love in these short but sweet video clips—and none of it will hurt.


Movie Times THE RADICAL REELS FILM FESTIVAL shows Saturday, Oct. 6, at 7pm at the UCSC Media Theater. Tickets are $10-$12 and can be purchased at Pacific Edge, Sprockets, Patagonia, and UCSC Recreation (831.459.2806).


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