The Outside Blog

Adventure : Celebrities

5 Tips For Making Better Videos

KNOW YOUR CAMERA: Familiarize yourself with all your tools in a nice warm place so that when you’re outside in the rain or snow, or under pressure, you won’t press the wrong button. With action cameras, it’s helpful to learn the field of view, because there’s no viewfinder on a lot of them. It’s important to know what will end up in the picture and what won’t.

MIX IT UP: The coolest thing about these cameras is that they’re really tough, and you can put them anywhere—so put them anywhere. We don’t want a soup just made out of peas. We want a soup made out of peas, potatoes, and spices. Get a bunch of angles—top of the ski, chainstay of your mountain bike—so when you’re editing you have a lot of different stuff you can mix together.

HAVE A PLAN: If you want to tell a good story, it’s really -helpful to decide what you’re going to do -before you go out and do it. Try and figure out a -beginning, a middle, and an end. Very few great pieces you see on video or on the Web just happened.

KEEP IT SHORT: Nobody wants to watch a five-minute video of you mountain-biking down a trail. My preferred length for a Web video is 60 seconds. If you watch Super Bowl commercials, you’ll realize that you can do a lot in 60 seconds. But you also don’t have to do a lot in 60 seconds, because it’s a safe time investment for people.

LISTEN: Sound is 51 percent of a film, and action cams are terrible at recording audio. It’s easy to get sound effects—like a bike chain running or birds chirping—at places like Freesound. Also try recording a bit of narration with the microphone on your laptop.

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The Young Americans: Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney is probably the most recognizable face of new American cycling, in no small part because he’s the son of former pro cyclists and Olympic medalists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter-Phinney. But the 22-year-old has already shown that he’s not content to just ride his parents’ yellow and gold coattails.

Even before he turned pro in late 2010 with BMC Racing Team, Phinney racked up a string of staggering results on the track, including World Champion titles in 2009 and 2010 in the individual pursuit. He also proved his Classics capability with a victory at the Under 23 edition of Paris-Roubaix in 2010. Last year was his breakout as a pro, and the Boulder, Colorado, native won the individual time trial at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and narrowly missed medaling at the London Olympics with fourth-place finishes in both the road race and the time trial. He accomplished his biggest goal of the season, though, by winning the prologue at the Giro d’Italia to become just the third American to ever don the race leader’s pink jersey.

Phinney is as engaging off the bike as he is in the saddle. At 6’5” and 185 pounds, he commands the room compared to most diminutive cyclists, is quick with a joke and easygoing in front of a crowd, and moves with the self-assurance of an athlete many years older. That precociousness is especially evident during team time trials, when Phinney is often organizing and driving BMC to top finishes. And when a race suits him, he’s not afraid to take on—and beat—more experienced riders. We chatted with the young American earlier this week to find out if he thinks he can repeat his success at the Giro d’Italia, which starts Saturday.

You’ve wrapped your second Classics season as a pro. How did it go?
It went well. I had a nice result in Milan-San Remo, and it was a pretty interesting version of that race with all the snow and cold. My ultimate goal of this part of the season, Paris-Roubaix, didn’t go quite as well. It was a good race tactically as I was able to be in the right places when I needed to be there. I missed Flanders the weekend before because of a knee problem, so my legs weren’t quite open at Roubaix.

And I’m learning that preparing for a one-day race takes a bit more experience. In a stage race, the multiple days can average out to a less-than-perfect day. In a one-day race like Roubaix, you have one chance. Being able to come in the day of a race like this firing on all cylinders … I’m still learning. But I’m happy. It was better than last year, for sure, and I was in the right places. Now I have to arrive there ready to go 100 percent full gas.

Your size and strength make you well suited for the Classics. Are they the races that interest you most?
I’m a bigger rider, 85 kilos (187 pounds), though I can get down to 82 (180 pounds) by summer. So I’m a little bit hindered on the climbs relative to the smaller guys. My body is probably going to change over the next 16 years with the more grand tours that I do. But at this point in my early career, I have to focus on what I’m good at. That’s time trials and Classics.

I like the hard-man aspect of the Classics. You need to be a real man to be a Classics rider. Paris-Roubaix is the biggest, most important of these races. It’s a race that I have always loved. When I think of this part of my career, it would be the most beautiful race to win. Roubaix is the pinnacle. But before Roubaix, I’d say an Olympic medal is an even bigger priority.

Milan-San Remo was definitely a hard man’s race this year. Walk us through it.
We all knew it was going to be wet and cold. But it wasn’t just raining at the start. The temperature was also dropping. In a 300-kilometer race (186 miles), when you look down and see you’ve ridden 20km (12 miles) and you’re already shaking uncontrollably, you think, “Wow, this is going to be just great.” But you’re not going to stop because it’s Milan-San Remo. You just plow on. 

The rain turned to snow, and the snow was adding up on the sides of the roads. I started hearing a rumor that we were going to get into the bus in 50km, and that sounded like the best thing ever to me. But then I thought guys were just messing with me, and it made me mad. They did stop the race, though, and we got to go into the bus for around an hour and a half. They shortened the race, and when we started back up again it was still cold but it wasn’t as bad mentally.

I won’t say that I liked it. But I don’t mind those conditions as much some other riders. At the end, I didn’t go with the initial move at the top of the Poggio. But when our group topped it, I launched out, mostly to be safe. I didn’t think it was possible to bridge to the front group, but once I was away I decided to channel my inner Fabian Cancellara. It was really painful, but it’s Milan-San Remo so you think, “I just have to dig deeper.” Near the finish, I came on the riders, and I was really surprised, like, “Wow! That’s the front group at Milan-San Remo.” My inner cycling fan was freaking out that I might get the chance to watch these guys sprint it out. Then I was like, “Wait a second, I might catch them. I might be able to sprint it out.” I was 100 meters too late, but I was just happy to be there.

Now it’s on to your second Giro. What was it like to win the prologue last year?
It was a big steppingstone and a confidence boost. Other than the Olympics, it was my big goal last season. Going into the race, I knew that before me there were only two other Americans who had ever worn the pink jersey, Christian Vande Velde and Andy Hampsten. So I knew that if I could win that day, it would be a defining moment in my season and my career. I really committed to it and worked hard all winter to achieve that goal. I wasn’t afraid to say that I was there to win it. It was the same at the Olympics, I went there to medal. It didn’t quite work out, but I wasn’t afraid to say I was there for the win.

You have amazing confidence for a 22-year-old. Do you ever think you’re too young for all the success?
I would say yes except that Peter Sagan is my age and he makes me look like your average Sunday recreational cyclist. I am not afraid to be confident or want to win when it’s something that’s fully in my grasp. Going into a short time trial like the prologue at the Giro, I knew that I had already won World Championships on the track when I was 18 and 19 in the four-kilometer pursuit, and that’s basically a short time trial. So based off my skill set, I knew that if I worked hard I could win. When you set something as a goal and you build up to it, you can’t go in saying, “We’ll see what happens.” There’s no point. I ride my bike 30 hours a week, and if you work that hard at something, you’d better be doing it to win.

The first and second stage of the Giro this year, a flat finish and a team time trial, suit you. Do you think you can wear the pink jersey again?
The dream scenario is to go in on the first day and have a good sprint with Adam Black in Naples. And then we have the chance of winning the team time trial on Tuesday, so that would put one of us into the jersey. There’s even a chance for me to sprint for the win the day after. But there are a lot more variables this year than there were last year. It’s something that could happen, but we also have loftier goals as a team with Cadel [Evans] as the leader. And that takes precedence.

Do you feel like you have to win because of your parents’ successes?
My parents have never said, “You’re our son and you should race a bike.” They let me dive fully into soccer when I was in school. And then when I came to it and decided I wanted to try cycling, they let me do that too. They realized that I was a smart kid but wasn’t necessarily a school person, so when I told them I wanted race my bike full time after the Beijing Olympics there was no pressure about college. They have always been supportive. I have never felt pressure from them.

Many of the doping scandals and bad press in cycling lately has been about Americans. Do you feel any weight to make good for that?
I don’t feel extra weight. When I was reading the USADA reports, I wasn’t thinking, “I’m going to bring this sport out of the darkness.” I was as shocked as everybody else, and it took me a long time to digest it.

But I feel a responsibility. I have always had a clear moral clarity toward sports. I have a firm stance about anything pharmacological. I pretty much draw the line at caffeine gels. Anything beyond that, I just won’t do it. There is gray area, like Sudafed or a strong narcotic like Tramadol. Those things are legal. It’s for guys who have legitimate problems and are torn up from a crash or something. But then there are guys who take these things even if they don’t need it.

I don’t know what that would feel like to race on a heavy painkiller. I don’t want to know. I can do it without, and everyone can too. That’s the way that we can start to rebuild the foundation. The way I see it, we have a chance to potentially make the cleanest sport in the world. All I can do is have my own firm boundaries and then communicate with my fans about how we are approaching races.

What do you say to the skeptics who think that pro cycling can’t exist without doping?
You can’t use the word “everybody” regarding anything in life. It doesn’t hold up every time. People have the right to be cynical. Even I’m cynical. I think about certain performances, and I wonder. I hate that I think those things about my colleagues and the guys I race with. But given the past, the cynicism is natural.

I think it will go away with time. And all I can do is lead by example. I have stated and will continue to state the things I don’t agree with. I think and hope that if people see my stance and see the approach I’m taking, they’ll believe in me and start to believe in the sport. And hopefully we’ll move forward.

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Judging Surfing’s Gnarliest Waves

This Tuesday, surf writer Chris Dixon flew from South Carolina to join hundreds of industry professionals in Irvine, California, for the 2013 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards on May 3. The XXLs are the Academy Awards of the surf industry, a star-studded get-together that honors the men and women who hurl themselves into building-sized waves churning at the speed of locomotives. Along with a small jury of meteorologists, surfers, and journalists, Dixon will measure riders' biggest waves using still photos, calipers, and the surfers’ estimated height in a crouch.

Chris Dixon was 14 when he stood up on a board for the first time in Surfside Beach, South Carolina.  After that, he rebuilt a 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville so he could drive every weekend to Carolina to get his fix. He fueled up on gas that cost 80 cents a gallon and hit the same breaks every weekend, even while attending the University of Georgia in the early 90s to study journalism. He'd call the Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City every Friday to check conditions before taking off, but usually left no matter the report.

“The conditions here on the East Coast are so variable I’d get down sometimes and the conditions would be shitty,” he says. “But that was part of the fun of it; the adventure of it was never knowing what you were going to get.”

After graduating, and freelancing for Surfer, Dixon got his big break when he convinced the magazine's editor, Steve Hawk, to hire him as the founding online editor of “Somehow I convinced them to hire this East Coast cracker to start up their Web site,” he says. Dixon would go on to collaborate with Surfline founder Sean Collins as he built his site into a live-video-streaming, worldwide-wave-projecting behemoth.

We caught up with Dixon for some wisdom about the state of big wave surfing, his opinion on when someone will ride a 100-footer, and how climate change might affect your break.

When did you get into covering big wave stuff?
Jay Moriarty died right around when I got my job. There was a real gloom over the Surfer offices when I arrived, but there was also this reverent awe for Maverick’s, which was still a fairly new discovery. I got to go to the first contest at Maverick’s and the first contest at Todos Santos in Baja. I went out on a boat at both of those places. Sean and I worked with Dave Gilovich and tried to do the first ever webcast of a surf contest from Todos Santos. 

I also worked with a guy named Evan Slater who was one of Jay Moriarty’s really good friends and was there when he died. He ended up as the editor of Surfer, and is now the digital director of Hurley. He was such an interesting study, because he seemed like such a mild-mannered guy, but then when you started talking to him, you realized that he loved blasting Fugazi at earsplitting levels, and how cerebral he was.

I wanted to find out who these people were and I wanted to tell their stories. My first big New York Times assignment was about the controversy jet skis were causing at Maverick’s.

What led you to move from the online world to freelancing?
When I decided to quit working at Surfer, I wanted to go back into the larger world of journalism. Before I started working at Surfer, I dabbled at doing some freelancing for The New York Times from the Southeast. I was 30, and I felt like, If I don’t get back into doing this, I’m going to be trapped in the surf world forever.

So I left Surfer. I went to meet a bunch of editors in New York City. One of them was Terry McDonell who was at Men’s Journal. He told me his buddy Jimmy Buffett was looking for a surfer who knew how to do Web sites. Jimmy hired me to travel with him for a year and I did a proto-blog—video editing, photography, and wrote travel articles. Again, I had Jimmy Buffett as my editor. That was pretty cool.

If you want to have some inspiration towards living a life worth living following your own passions, you would have a hard time following a better example than Jimmy Buffett. After working with him, with his encouragement, I just leapt back into freelancing. That was when big wave surfing was really taking off with Jaws and Laird Hamilton and these guys towing at Maverick’s, and the revelation of Cortes Bank in 2001, which stupefied everyone.

Where do you think Cortes Bank ranks in its ability to generate the largest waves in the world?
I think it’s pretty clear that the two places capable of spawning the largest, or at least the tallest, waves, are Cortes and Nazaré, Portugal, which was revealed by Garrett McNamara over a year ago. Both places have unique bathymetry. Rather than pushing waves outward—like at Teahupoo and Maverick’s—at Nazaré and Cortes they go up and up and up. The biggest in terms of size? I don’t know, because we haven’t seen how big Nazaré can get. I have some video from the 2008 Cortes mission, that hasn’t been seen publicly, that shows some outside waves that were probably 100 feet high. I think Nazaré is probably capable of spawning 100 footers.

The difference between Nazaré and Cortes is that Nazaré breaks closer to shore, in front of a headland, which is gnarly. Cortes is 100 miles out to sea and it breaks over a shipwreck, which is also pretty damn gnarly. Plus out there, you could just be swept into this caldera of whitewater and just disappear.

The most recent article you wrote for Outside was about Garett McNamara dropping in on Greg Long on a wave at Cortes Bank, which resulted in Long nearly drowning. Why do you think McNamara dropped out of this year’s XXls?
Only Garrett really knows why he pulled out of the XXLs. It’s a tough one for Garrett. I have a ton of respect for him. Anyone that follows big wave surfing will tell you he’s one of the unsung chargers in big wave surfing. He does a lot of stuff off the radar.

Maybe Garrett feels like, and I’m not going to speculate for him, but what do I have to gain by being in the XXLs? Did he need to compete in the XXLs now that most of the world thinks he rode a 100-foot wave, thanks to Anderson Cooper and 60 Minutes? I doubt if we’ll know if that weighs into his thinking or not. Was it 100 feet? Garrett didn’t say the wave is 100 feet, but Garrett has to deal with the fallout from it being declared that big.

Greg Long, Shane Dorian, a host of others have gotten a lot of attention in the last year for paddling into bigger and bigger waves. What’s the next frontier in big wave surfing?
They’re now wondering if they’re not hitting the ceiling. That’s something Greg himself is wondering. Was his wave at Cortes too big to paddle?

Cortes especially, it can be paddled a bit bigger maybe, if the waves are big and clean and perfect, but I think that the guys are starting to wonder if its physically possible to go much bigger out there. Maybe you can catch the wave, but there may be no way to survive a wipeout there if your safety gear doesn’t function. Greg was able to survive it, not only because he had this amazing safety team working for him, but because he was using an experimental new leg rope that did not break. It was thicker than any leg rope ever used before, and they were able to find him because his surfboard was attached to him. If his surfboard had not been attached to him, he almost certainly would have drowned.

So that’s a question, has the paddle ceiling been reached? I don’t think anyone’s willing to jump on a jet ski yet, but I think they’re finding themselves close to that limit at Cortes now.

Do you think there are more new big wave spots out there?
Yeah, there are. In Surfer, in 1996, we did this big issue called “The Future is Now.” One of the features in that issue was a center insert, “The Surfer 2035 Issue,” looking forward to the 75th anniversary edition. Evan Slater wrote this amazing, prescient piece about a fictionalized seamount in the South Pacific where there was going to be this big wave surf competition. It was so much like Cortes Bank—which he knew nothing of at that point—that I have to wonder if he was psychic. There are spots now that I guarantee you would slacken peoples jaws, to learn that people are surfing them and not revealing them.

As sea level rises, do you see a shift in where waves break or big wave spots happen?
You would have to have a dramatic rise, a 30-foot or more rise in sea level, to really change the marquee big wave spots to a big degree. You have to remember that truly big swells reach a thousand feet down into the ocean. So, you’re talking about spots that have been around for thousands of years.

What global warming will do, and is already proving to be doing, is make waves bigger. Though another recent long-term study suggested that waves would be smaller a half century from now. So really, the bottom line is:  Who the hell knows?

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Eli Reimer: Base Camp Bagger

On March 14, 15-year-old Eli Reimer became the first American teenager with Down Syndrome to reach Everest Base Camp. “We took time to really spell it out for him in a way that he could understand,” his father, Justin, who climbed with him, said. “We trained and we got everything on Netflix that was related to Himalayas.”

They decided to attempt the trek after a friend of Justin mentioned that it could be a good wait to raise money for their non-profit. Justin says that Eli is athletic, and that they hike a lot, but that they’d never thought about doing a big climb. Their nine-person team raised 85,000 for the Elisha Foundation, which the Reimers started in 2005 to provide resources for families with special needs children; they’re particularly active in Eastern Block countries like Ukraine.

Justin said that, mentally, they broke it down in to small pieces for Eli, calling each day a summit, and often having different members of the team working to distract him from the intensity of the climb. Physically, Justin says, Eli’s experience wasn’t that different from the rest of their team. At one point most of their group got a stomach bug, which Eli avoided.

After 10 days of climbing, and trying not to hold the team to any expectations, Justin said making it to Base Camp was surreal. “It had been 16 months of planning, so then to have my son in all of his disabled glory standing there was humbling,” he said.

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Arabs at Altitude: The Sheik Celebrity

Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, a 31-year-old self-proclaimed “philanthropist sportsman entrepreneur” from Qatar is in the midst of a bid to climb the Seven summits. If he makes it to the top, Everest would be his sixth, and he’d be the first Qatari to successfully summit.  He put together a private team that includes Raed Zidan, who is attempting the first summit by a Palestinian, and Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi Arabian woman attempting the climb. To document the trip they’ve brought a film crew from Qatar TV. They’re producing a show along the way.

He and his team, the self-dubbed “Arabs at Altitude,” are climbing with Seattle-based Alpine Ascents and raising money for Reach Out to Asia, a Qatar-based NGO that provides educational infrastructure to countries like Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

As of April 25th, the Arabs at Altitude had raised $1,429 of their goal of $1 million. 

Because of the access to Wi-Fi at Base Camp and along the trek—and possibly because it creates buzz for the TV show—they’ve been putting out video edits as they climb, and tweeting a ton. They made it to Camp 1 on April 23rd. On the 17th, they stopped along the way to throw down their rendition of the highest Ever Harlem Shake, which they called the Harlem Sheik.

You can follow them on Twitter at @EverestArabs.

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