In this collaboration between Outside Television, Outside Magazine, and the Jeep™ brand, three of the world’s most elite athletes—kayaker Steve Fisher, professional stuntman and wingsuit pilot Rex Pemberton, and waterman Kai Lenny—push the boundaries of what’s possible on three separate adventures.
For the first adventure, the Jeep® brand tapped Rex Pemberton, a professional stuntman and wingsuit enthusiast who has been working to evolve the art of human flight, to attempt what Rex had dubbed the X-Wing Project. The plan: Strap a carbon-fiber delta wing to his back, jump out of a plane at 18,000 feet, and attempt to fly over the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to Catalina Island—a distance of roughly 15 miles.
To maximize glide, Rex and his team devised the X-Wing, a 25-pound wing that spans just over six feet. The wing attaches to Rex via a custom-molded backplate. He controls the climb and descent by arching and rounding his back. The frame is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, and the wings are a fiberglass and composite construction with a carbon-fiber outer skin.
Under normal use, a custom-made system allows Rex and the X-Wing to land safely on his feet. In emergency situations, the X-Wing will deploy its own chute and Rex will free-fall like a typical skydiver. During a test flight, a piece of the X-Wing snapped off, sending Rex into a dangerous spin. On another test, one of his parachutes malfunctioned, reminding everyone of the dangers involved.
On the morning of this historic jump, Rex and his team have worked out all the kinks and are ready to launch. The only problem? Weather conditions threaten to shut down the entire operation, and the mission is put on hold. Watch the entire saga unfold in a six-part miniseries, starting with Episode 1.
For the second adventure, the Jeep® brand enlisted pro kayaker Steve Fisher, one of the world’s top expedition paddlers, who had always dreamed of running the fabled Merced River in Yosemite National Park. Due to the extreme difficulty of the whitewater, this 15-mile stretch of slides and gorges that ends at the iconic Nevada Falls remains a holy grail among paddlers. Until now, paddling the park has been illegal. Finally, in 2015, after years of lobbying, the park rules changed to allow kayaking on the rapids. Steve Fisher and his team want to be the first to challenge these waters legally.
Just getting to the river is a challenge. Steve enlisted fellow professional kayaker and friend Pat Keller to help plan the multiday hike into the Merced River valley. After a rough drive, the duo faced a brutal 17-mile, 5,000-vertical-foot trek to the put-in.
Hiking in was slow going. With all their specialty paddling equipment—including customized lightweight helmets and hockey-style elbow pads, food, and camping supplies—Steve and Pat were each carrying around 90 pounds of gear. Reaching the river took them two days.
Once on the river, the duo took three days to navigate the 15-mile stretch. They stopped at every opportunity, getting out of their kayaks to scout. Breaking the rapids into chunks allowed them to safely descend the river’s many waterfalls and nasty sets of whitewater. On this particular run, two factors were in their favor: The John Muir Trail was nearby, allowing them to more easily scout the river, and California’s historic drought meant the Merced River’s water level was at a more manageable flow. Watch the entire historic descent—from planning, training, and hiking to the final wild ride—here.
For the final mission, the Jeep® brand partnered with professional surfer and all-around waterman Kai Lenny, who devised what he calls the Ultimate Crossing, a one-day, 115-nautical-mile push from Maui to Oahu. To propel himself, Kai will employ all of his favorite watersports: surfing, kiteboarding, and stand-up paddleboarding.
To train for the crossing, Lenny enlisted an all-star team of mentors and advisers: trainer Ryan Flaherty to work on speed and endurance; a safety team composed of former North Shore lifeguard Darrick Doerner and big-wave icon Victor Lopez; legendary waterman Dave Kalama as his all-around coach; and world-champion wind- and kitesurfer Robby Naish, who built a custom board for Lenny specifically for the crossing.
To finish the crossing in a day, Lenny hopes to cover a lot of ocean on his kiteboard, an extremely lightweight and efficient setup that harnesses the wind and travels at high speeds. The only problems? The wind needs to be moving in a favorable direction, and the lines are easy tangled, even if you’re an expert rider like Lenny. Midway through the crossing, that’s precisely what happens, and he wastes precious time getting everything sorted out before he can continue.
Even if everything went exactly according to plan and the weather cooperated, making the crossing in one day was an audacious goal. After losing time to tangled lines during the kiteboard leg, the crossing becomes a race against darkness as Lenny stand-up paddleboards the final leg to Oahu under fading light. Watch the entire journey, from start to finish, beginning with Episode 1.