My first skydive ever was on Friday the 13th—just 12 days ago. My legs were hanging out the door of an eight-seater plane flying at 12,000 feet above Australia’s Gold Coast when it dawned on me: I was more concerned with making sure my GoPro was running than the fact that I was about to freefall a mile to the earth at terminal velocity.* GoPro had accomplished its mission.
Last week, Australia’s Gold Coast was overrun with 76 elite adventure athletes who came to town for GoPro’s 2016 Athlete Summit, where they learn how to shoot pretty videos of themselves and their friends playing in the sand, water, and sky. With a schedule that included racecar driving, jet-boarding, and skydiving, it’s basically summer camp for some of the biggest names in extreme sports. Olympic gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg, surfer Alana Blanchard, big-mountain freeskier Lynsey Dyer, legendary kayaker Eric Jackson, and climber Sasha Digiulian were all in attendance. The event benefits the athletes as much as GoPro, because equipping them with Hero4s and teaching them how to pick the right resolution, frame a shot, and do some basic video editing means they’ve effectively created an army of, for lack of a better term, the raddest content creators on the planet.
What Happens When You Round Up 76 Top Pros at the GoPro Athlete Summit
Each morning, athletes exhausted from long nights of partying and editing video split off into separate training sessions. Day one focused not just on how to best operate the camera in specific situations (in a helicopter versus underwater, for example), but how to make sure your photo or video told a story. Massive backflips are cool, but it’s better if you set up the situation and give everything some context; GoPro used pro skier Chris Benchetler’s latest series as an example.
Afterwards, the athletes loaded onto busses and headed out to get their adrenalin fix for the day, where they were tasked with shooting video and photos and posting as much content to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter as possible. At the end of the week, everyone submitted their stills and completed edits for a chance to win a new MacBook Pro.
As we’ve written before, GoPro has moved from being solely a hardware company to a content creation company, and one of the ways it’s doing that is by turning its athletes into storytellers. “For us, having them feel like they have a good grasp of how to create content, how to create engaging stories, that is more valuable than anything else,” said Abe Kislevitz, creative director for GoPro Entertainment’s Action Sports division. “ It’s a win for everybody involved.”
But learning to become a pro shooter in just four days isn’t one big victory lap. Athletes struggled trying to get the right shot or the best sound bite. Rather than arm-wrestle over who got to race the coolest car, for example, they busied themselves weighing the pros and cons of using a three-way mount versus a spinning mount. BMX legend Mike Escamilla, who won the best video contest with this clip, spent hours crafting an edit from all of the footage he shot during the day’s activities.
On the flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane, famed waterman Chuck Patterson told me that being with GoPro is like having a big, extended family: even if you don’t know someone personally, you feel like you do because of how involved everyone is with social media. The GoPro staff felt the same way. Justin Mayers, a former pro skier for Volkl who now works on GoPro’s media team, said, “Even working for a snowsports brand, you’d never get an opportunity to be around this many people at once. It’s crazy how one little camera can bring so many people together.”
Athlete Summit awards:
Best Video, Mike Escamilla
Best Photo, Emma Dahlstrom
Most Engaged Social Post, Matthias Giraud
Outside was a guest of GoPro during the athlete summit.
*Correction: We've updated the story to reflect the proper altitude from which Bryan Rogala jumped.