The Passenger is still on-board, so technically I haven’t survived pregnancy yet, but 260 days into this gestation-thing, I’ve distilled it down to this: surviving pregnancy doesn’t require any more gratuitous advice from any more well-meaning self-declared (“I’ve had a baby/been pregnant/read a book, so I know all there is to know”) experts. So I’ll keep this short.
Like a snowflake/fingerprint/bundle of human cells, every pregnancy experience seems to be completely different and unique, making the single the best piece of advice I received to toss the What to Expect when You’re Expecting bible into the trash-can. Along with any expectations. The roller coaster ride begins now. (Honestly. If someone tries to give you that book, burn it. And if someone gives you a copy of Tina Cassidy’s Birth, set yourself on fire. Self-immolation is the only way to purge your mind of the images of early surgical interventions. Instead, get thee straight to Pregnant Chicken’s website.)
couldn’t have made it wouldn’t have wanted to try making it this far without 3 things:
1. Coconut oil.
Stretching skin itches. Coconut oil, straight from the grocery store, was this caterpillar’s saviour. (Skin is your body’s largest organ. So I don’t really want to put anything on it, that I wouldn’t eat.)
You’d think the biggest benefit of coconut oil is the chance to smell like tropical paradise in the middle of winter, but it’s actually unscented – another bonus when your sense of smell and taste goes on overdrive.
According to the Authorities of the Interwebs, there are well over 101 uses for coconut oil, beyond the edible and nutritive, including managing cradle cap and treating other tender body parts. (Guess I better get another jar.)
Something awesome happened in winter 2010 – an awesomeness that passed me entirely unnoticed until a few months ago, when the rules and regulations over who can assist with your birth suddenly became relevant to me.
Vancouver Coastal Health announced that the Squamish General Hospital would welcome midwives.
Whatever journey it had taken to get there, and I imagine it was quite the ride, this has meant that my pre-natal care was covered by MSP, and that I can elect to birth in a hospital with a midwife attending, effectively enjoying the best of both worlds.
Recommended by a new mom friend who is also a public health nurse, I met with a midwife at Roots Community Midwives early in my pregnancy, with a million questions and no freaking idea what I wanted or needed. I still had questions when I left that appointment an hour later, but I had a sense of being listened to, that someone was tasked with my care who was medically trained in maternity care and whose philosophy centres around empowering women and couples as they become families and are masterful at holding space for that transformation to unfold at its natural pace.
6 months later, I pulled my partner in to an appointment. He’s the logistics guy in our relationship and had started to have a million questions that I couldn’t answer.
He’d been talking me down from the ledge for the past 180 days, and now had a chance to enjoy the same support. Leslie listened and answered all his questions. When we left he said, “Wow, it’s like there are no stupid questions, even when you’re asking something you know is dumb. They really hold space for you.”
3. A sense of humour.
When you go from feeling like this:
in anticipation of this:
a sense of humour is all that you can really count on.
I figure, if I can’t see the funny side of this ride, I am well and truly hooped.
I sat at my work Xmas party the other night between two twenty-somethings and two forty-somethings. I nursed a cranberry juice and an unplanned-for 6 and a half month pregnant belly and played the Berlin Wall as the conversation bounced back and forth about the pros and cons of having kids. (Me: quiet as stone. Them: each trying to understand what life was like on the other side of the divide, but getting nowhere.)
The fresh-faced ones said, “I think there’s a bit of a conspiracy of silence around motherhood. No one really tells you the truth about it. I mean, I just want to see a list of pros and cons, like I would make with any other life decisions.”
The veterans of working motherhood exchanged a knowing look.
They tried to explain that, once you’ve made a person, you can’t ever articulate regret over that because that would be like committing some kind of existential genocide: you just can’t undo a person that you’re responsible for creating. You can’t do that to them, you can’t do that to your own grip on reality. Any other bad decision you’ve made in life, to enter an ill-advised relationship with a lover, with someone else’s husband, a toxic boss, or a back-stabbing friend, whomever, you can wish undone. But not a human being that you actually brought into life. (At least, that’s what I think the knowing look meant.)
I’ve got a pros and cons list. I’ve been scratching notes into it for almost 20 years as people would make throwaway remarks (Me, at 26, jumping on a trampoline. 46 year old friend looks on ruefully and says, “I haven’t been able to jump on a trampoline since I had kids. My bladder just isn’t up to it.”) From the scary toll on your physical self (haemorrhoids, incontinence, sleep deprivation, varicose veins, stretch marks, sex life down the drain) to the evident toll on a relationship to the daily drudgery of taking care of another (thankless) human being, to the financial impact, loss of freedom, absence of Instruction Manual, terrifying prospect of having to go through high school vicariously all over again, loss of identity, and insurmountable challenges balancing professional development, self-actualisation, and the practical demands of parenthood, my list skewed pretty strongly ‘against’.
Last winter, I stumbled on this article, All Joy and No Fun, by a woman who broke the Code of Silence and told the truth:
Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so. This finding is surprisingly consistent, showing up across a range of disciplines. The effect of children on the life satisfaction of married individuals is small, often negative, and never statistically significant.
Which just confirmed my disinclination to have kids.
I had read an anthology of essays by writers debating whether to have children, Maybe Baby, and my conclusion was pretty much the same as the executive editor’s: remaining childless means you are more likely to be able to travel, live abroad for work, take physical risks, or inhabit the world of your fictional characters without being pulled into the demands of real ones.
“There was a richness and texture to their work lives that was so, so enviable.” Lori Leibovich
So, for 16 years, my partner and I were officially “ambivalent” regarding Destination Parenthood. We put off making an official decision, and as we got on with our lives, that procrastination was on the verge of making the choice for us. People stopped asking. No one, least of all us, expected us to get pregnant.
Creating a human wasn’t an act of will for us, but when the Universe made us the butt of a cosmic joke and those two little stripes appeared on the pee-covered dipstick, we committed to make it an act of willingness. At the end of the day, proceeding is our choice. So, we’ve spent six and a half months making psychic space, and physiological space, (“really? that’s my stomach?”), trying to open our minds and to hold physical space for a new person that we are (so irresponsibly) responsible for.
And I’m looking at that pros and cons list as closely as ever. And scratching into the ++ column:
the chance to touch Mystery.
That’s the thing about that Xmas party conversation. In the debate between “It just doesn’t seem very convincing or appealing” vs “You just can’t understand until you do it” – everyone is right.
That’s just how the Ineffable rolls.
My friend Ange said, “Where have you been most happy?”
She’s a creativity coach starting her own consulting company, so I let her experiment on me. (It didn’t hurt a bit. She promised it wouldn’t.)
I took her crayons and pushed aside my self-consciousness to scribble tragic little stick men on the butcher’s paper she unrolled in front of me… my happy place… my happy place…
1. In the shower.
In times of desperation, creative stalling, when the opening sentence to a story just won’t come, when my body temperature has plummeted, when I need to wash off the stress-stink of work day, or conclusively finish a workout… I shower.
Under the stream of hot water, everything stops. All the straining. Ideas come. First lines. Gamma flashes. I don’t know how it works. But it does. Every time. Douse head. Have ideas.
I’m so glad I live in a waterlogged country.
In Australia, letting water run for too long is the Original Sin. It’s Water. It’s not for just standing under.
But I don’t need long showers in Australia. I get that same joybubblebliss feeling in the ocean.
2. In the surf.
Maybe it’s because smelling of salt and sunscreen snaps me back in time, to when being was unbearably light, back when I was flat-chested, knock-kneed and lived in a swimsuit, when I weighed so little I barely left footprints in the sand.
Some combination of force and froth tosses you when you’re in the surf. You’re weightless again, like when your dad used to hold you by one leg and one arm and spin you like a mechanical “aeroplane” circumnavigating him, the air traffic control tower. Your body would skim and skip across the surface of the water, until he released you. You’d fly, and then the water would catch you.
Douse head. Be happy.
That’s what the stick men say.
A tidal wave of one million ideas is crashing on my shore, which is what happens when there’s one project, one assignment, demanding all your attention. Be quiet, darlings. You’ll get your turn.
Hence, this quick tutorial from Miranda July: a handy guide for the easily distracted. (Anyone got some giant mixing bowls they can lend me?)
Hold that thought.
Julia - I left something at the studio tonight after your class, but I don’t want it back.
It’s my self-loathing.
I don’t think you’ll have to sweep it up. I suspect it will spontaneously combust without me there to feed it.
Yeah, you really kicked my ass tonight.
That was a tough session. The toughest part was turning up. It’s hard coming back to yoga after two years of no practice, especially in Whistler where every body is sculpted and lean.
But I have known you for ten years now and I don’t think I’ve ever been your student. So I sucked up my trepidation and your shining face and big embrace were a good welcome. And once I tiptoed into the studio, I saw all those ripped bodies and perfectly cut arms and just vowed to avoid the wall-to-wall mirrors for the next 90 minutes.
You might be the nicest sadist I know. Steel and sugar all rolled up in one. A core workout? Right off the bat. I’m in over my head, here, I was thinking. Julia’s class is a bit too advanced for me. Whistler is too advanced for me. All these fucking hardcore intense people are too advanced, and a little too comfortable in their semi-naked posing, for me.
But at some point in that 90 minutes, I stopped thinking that I wasn’t good enough, and I began to feel this jubilation in the effort, in the pure physicality, in the slow openings, in the sweat coming off my forehead in actual droplets. Something shifted. And by the time I was lying in Savasana, with more of my body’s salt water leaking to the bamboo floor, this time out my eyes, I almost felt light. The last time that yoga made me cry, it was frog pose that undid me. I’ve left some stuff in this room, I thought, thinking about whatever it was that I left behind when I opened my hips up that tiny little bit in frog pose. What now?
And then I had this weird conversation with myself.
Leave your self-loathing.
Okay. Good one.
No, seriously. Leave it behind.
Okay. Yes. I will. I have. There, done.
Yesterday, I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and wholeheartedness and when she said, “you are not perfect, but you are wired for struggle, and you are worthy of love and belonging,” something snagged in me. My breath in my chest.
It came back to me, tonight:
You are not perfect, but you are wired for struggle. You’re body is not perfect but it is wired for struggle. You are worthy. You know that you have to practice compassion towards yourself, first, right?
So you’re leaving it?
No, seriously, Lis, have you left it? Or are you going to sneak back in and pick it up, out of habit, because you’ll feel naked without it?
I’ll leave it.
I think I have resolved this, composed myself, when we roll out of savasana and into lotus, and I get ready to OM and Namaste and wrap up the session. I think I’ve made my peace and had a nice little moment with myself and the tears are done, just part of the saltwater residue of mostly sweat at my feet.
We didn’t get to start with Oms, you say, so let’s make a sea of Oms. Let’s finish with eight. But instead of all together, Om on your own breath, purposely, so there’s a sea of them. It’s really pretty.
You tell us not to worry if we’ve never Omed before, that we don’t have to, that it means many things, but the meaning you like is connected to a discovery that the sound made at the core of the earth is a deep vibrational Om.
And so we Om.
I cannot explain the wave of sound that washes over me, through me, around me. 20 voices, all different pitches, all resonating. I feel as if the earth has wrapped me up in a roil of sound and is humming-thrumming to me, humming some deep ancient multitonal song that my very cells recognise, a sound that contains whalesong and bee-buzz and a million other things I can’t pull out of it.
And the emotion of it shocks me. And it doesn’t stop.
The great wave of love and bliss and relief and grief that we are making washes over me, floods through me, bowls me over, buoys me up.
I disappear straight after class because I do not quite know how to express all these things to you. I slip through the long wet grass across the train tracks and back to my car where I pull out my notebook and write:
I left something in the corner of your studio tonight – my self-loathing. Just want to let you know, I won’t be coming back for it.
In that great rising sea of oms, I heard that I am beloved of the earth.
I am not perfect, but I am wired for struggle, and I embrace the physical pleasure of that struggle, that my body is capable of it, and I embrace all of our worthiness, our deep cellular wave-riding worthiness of being loved.
When my dad went bankrupt, it occurred to me he might kill himself. I rang, asking with more emphasis, more scrutiny than ever before — So, how are you, Dad?
-Oh, I’m not going to off myself or anything.
Good to clear that up.
He’s lost everything. He grows a scary beard. My dad, the pirate. Someone stole his treasure, so he’s hiding out on the high seas. Sharing a ship with his ageing father. Grandpa plays the part of the parrot, offering long periods of silent companionship, broken with sudden piercing commentary, repeated over and over.
Dad limps back and forth, keeping watch for the bailiff. He doesn’t know when to expect the marauders, swooping in to steal off with everything he owns. Not that there’s anything much of value. The laundry machine is as old as me. The record-player, a relic. His wardrobe, a series of flashbacks. His favourite saying: do you think money grows on trees? And the debt-collectors are coming, riding their apocalyptic horses, Irony, Karma, and Bad Fucking Luck.
He detaches from it all, shaking out his pockets, stripping off his clothes, mentally shedding his worldly goods in anticipation of the surrender. But one thing is too precious to release, a coin collection.
The thought of the bastards getting their hands on that, that one precious thing, a constant in his life from age seven to fifty-one, riles him. He cannot allow it. Will not.
He wraps the coins in a bag. He will stand his ground here. They can take everything else (he gets out the shovel), his career, his business, his income (x marks the spot, by the pawpaw tree), his routine, his retirement (breaks the soil, digs down two, three feet, creating a neat mound of dried out earth to the left of the hole). But not this. (Is a hole empty or full? Empty is open is nothing left to lose.)
He buries his treasure.
Way back, before he left, I was having trouble at school. A lightning-rod girl, conducting through a whip-thin frame all the stress and static of an eight year marriage unraveling, of mortgage payments and interest rates hitting 13%, 14%, when it’s going to stop? Her social-immune system low. Not wanting to go to school. Seven years old, empty-stomached (lunch stolen), a hair ahead of the black-caped, yellow-eyed boys who chased her to the school gate every afternoon.
Here is my memory of the last stand of parental solidarity. The last time it was “them”, my folks, the pares, mumanddad.
Crying in my sleep. Sadness swarms up in the dark, pulls you underwater, tastes like salt, warm and sticky, is hard to breathe through, except in great ragged gulps.
The bed sighs, bows under the weight of one of my parents, the other stands guard in the doorway, to catch and squash any monsters that try and make a getaway. All tender concern for the little girl who cries as if the sky is falling. And maybe it grieves them even more because they know what is to come for her. They know what lies ahead when this family ends and she sifts through the wreckage. And maybe they feel like crying, too and wish for a safe dark place to sit with their sadness, let it circle around on their laps, needling and clawing at their thighs, looking for the perfect spot to settle, and the fat hot tears come at last.
Or maybe they think, She’s only seven. What could she possibly have going on that could make her this sad? Here’s one that must be fixable. Here’s one we’ve got to be able to fix.
-What’s wrong? What’s wrong?
They shoosh the hiccoughs.
-Take a deep breath. Stop crying. Come on now.
-What’s the matter?
I have no friends.
It seems this is the problem
Quite a doozy.
It’s dark. They leave the room after calming me down. They must go and talk about this. Maybe share a bottle of wine. Do they bicker? Hug? Does my dad place his hand on the small of her back as they tiptoe out of my bedroom and down the stairs?
Some time later, a shadow in my door.
Noone else for the rest of my life will call me this.
-You awake? Got something for you.
A treasure, they bring. A talisman.
A brand new yoyo. It’s 1982, this is rock-the-kasbah stuff. Red, shiny, emblazoned with the curlico script of classic Coca-Cola.
-You can practice tricks and the kids will think you’re really cool and
–they’ll see what you’re doing and want to know how and come over and
- they’ll want to play with you.
And if not, at least the girl will have something to keep her occupied, will have a prop to ward away the loneliness.
They put the yoyo in my school port. Next to the lunch box that has been feeding some faceless bullykid for the last few weeks, emptied out every day before I get to the port-room when the lunch bell rings, emptied and kicked across the floor.
They wrap up all their prayers and powers in a yoyo.
And I can see they loved her.
That little kid and her pillow of sorrow.
And I think ‘everything I possibly can’ is what you would do for your children.
But it’s not much.
I guess, this is what family is, the people who watch quietly as your heart breaks and then sit down with you at breakfast the next day.
My dad calls. He has bad news.
(Grandpa? The bailiff? Jail?)
His coin collection.
(Seized? Pawned? Stolen?)
He dug up the one artifact of his life, the coins wrapped carefully in a couple of layers of grocery bags and hidden in a hole in the ground. The moisture, the fetid earth, the rains, the ferocity of compost, the way nature seizes with aggression everything that is broken, breaks it down more, wants to claim it finally, to reuse it. Nature takes his treasure, eats away at the display cards, the packets, the sleeves, eats away at the buff finish of the coins, tarnishing, staining them.
They are ruined.
And I watch his sadness from the door. Five steps to the bed. Ready to squash any monsters that try and make a quick getaway. But the monsters are holding fast. Five steps, five hundred miles and an eighteen hour flight. Same difference. Shh. Shhhh. “Everything you can” is what you’d do for the people you love.
And usually, it’s nothing at all.
But watching as their heart breaks. And sitting down to breakfast the next day.
For the egg to become, anything, it has to crack apart. Yellow yolk, new day, quiet hand on our backs. These are the treasures. The chest is wide open.
Fun to find myself at the Whistler Writers Group gathering tonight, reprising my role as social media cheerleader for nervous wildly creative writers.
Here are the notes from tonight’s crash course on branding and social media marketing, using the Whistler Readers and Writers Festival as a case study.
Yes, this overview is quick and dirty. But I spent five years longing to plant a garden, paralysed into inaction by a load of gardening books that all began with mapping out one’s property, drawing diagrams of wind and sun and rainshadow, and sending soil off for rigorous testing. I wish someone had just said to me – all that planning will come. In good time. If you are interested in growing things, then stick a seed in the earth and see what happens.
An infinite collection of tiny rocks and decomposed plant matter. You clog my lungs and grit my teeth. You scratch my goggles and stain my clothes. But you also stain my soul. So thank you. Thank you for letting me ride all over you. For being forgiving while I learn whips. For two-wheel drifts and big, fat skids. For providing soft ground between stone and wood. For flowy lines and sculpted berms. For the scars on my shins. For the impressions in my memory. For bringing together others just like me to worship you in this kick-ass place. At once, you are everything to me, but just another small part of the best bike park in the world. Mike Berard
When you read a piece of copy and it shimmers and ripples and vibrates like a living thing, you know the writer was able to tap into a really true place. My colleague at Origin Design and Communications, Mike Berard, worked on the Whistler Mountain Bike Park summer 2011 campaign, which is rolling out now with this first lovely piece, an homage to dirt (which mostly, I eat. So, hear, hear. Thank you dirt.)
In the lead up to bike season, I’ve been obsessing over flow, chatting to some of the best trail builders in Whistler and Squamish to discover the parallels between that elusive flow state that a creative person is always questing for, and the flowy ride I hope for when I log off and pedal away from the computer.
Big Red Ted Tempany, the wizard behind Squamish’s Half Nelson trail, is about to finish the second phase of rebuilding Lower Pseudo Pseuga. (Support the trialbulding work in Squamish by picking up a SORCA 2011 Trail Pass, an awesome grassroots initiative.)
We touched base recently about “flow” and how to engineer it, as a trailbuilder, so that more riders will experience it. Here’s what he had to say.
Flow is something I first heard about many years ago while getting tips from friends who were trying to help me ride better. Flow like water, they would say. Ironically all you had to do was follow the path of the falling water down the fall line sections of trail. In my opinion old school fall line trails really do not have flow, but it is the rider that actually has the ability to flow. A really good rider on an expensive bike can seem to make any trail flow. I try to build trails that allow the water to flow directly across the trail, not down the trail. This serves two purposes, it keeps the dirt on the trail where it belongs and allows to rider to get off the brakes. Both extend the life span of the trail. Now we have a trail that can be ridden without braking all the time, now the rider can allow the bike to flow with the trail. A trail built with this in mind has the potential to turn a passenger into pilot – no longer skidding out of control holding on for dear life. I try to build trails that are hard to go fast not hard to go slow down. I try to reward experienced riders with new challenges that are only apparent with higher speeds down the trail. Less experienced riders still can have enjoyment on the same trail as they also can roll and dip without hard braking and shifting. I guess a good flowing trail to me doesn’t require a full suspension, gravity dropper seatpost, 21 gears and 8 inch rotors. A well designed trail can be ridden on a very basic bike. It doesn’t require a $5000 investment to get you down the trail. This allows Mtbing to be more accessable to everyone. Ted Tempany
So this is me, heading out for an afternoon ride, with a love for dirt in my heart and Bruce Lee on my shoulder. ”Be water, my friend.” Love dirt. Be water. (And buy a trail pass!)
Freeriders, Froriders, flowriders, streetriders, stuntriders, shoreriders, trialsiners, slackers, hoppers, droppers, coasters, jumpers: give us any label you feel necessary to separate our baggy-clothes-wearing, untucked-jersey-selves from you, if that is what you feel you must do. We’ll always have camaraderie amongst ourselves, which is all we really need.” Joey Hayes, 180 Magazine, 2003
Oct 21, 1976 The fat-tire revolution begins with the first downhill mountain bike race in Fairfax, CA, with 12 riders (including Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard and Brian Cross) descending 400 metres of gravel road in about 5 minutes on “clunkers”. The participants go on to found Fisher Mountain Bikes, Ritchey, Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as mountain cross racing, and the first mountain bike magazine.
1981 Specialized introduces the Stumpjumper – the first major production mountain bike in the world. Available for $750, it is “superlight”, weighing just under 30 pounds, is made of steel, has 15 gears and no shock absorbers.
1980s North Shore pioneers start riding hiking trails:
a small group of bike riders, on primitive mountain bikes, started trying to ride various hiking trails scattered throughout the mountains that give Vancouver it’s picturesque backdrop. Quickly, they learned that many parts of the trail were impassable without getting off of their bikes, and henceforth started to devise ways of overcoming these obstacles. Rocks and planks were added to trails so that mud pits were filled and riders could ride over fallen logs. A few years later, bike specific trails were constructed, and the rocks and planks became integral parts of these new trails, because these new trails were designed to be technical in nature. The trail builders, free from the constraints of traditional hiking trails, sought out lines that linked significant features together. ~ Noel Buckley
1984 Todd “the Digger” Fiander builds his first trail.
Lee Lau later writes: Digger pioneered so many trail features that I cannot even begin to list them definitively. He built ladder bridges over wet sections. Then he “built them high, built them sick, built them skinny”. He saw rideable rock faces before anyone even began to think of riding them & pioneered the use of “Digger’s gold” to lay on top of trailwork to finish sections. Something for which Digger doesn’t get enough credit is his attention to route finding; he hikes routes over and over again before putting in a single shovel. He’s still one of the few builders to not use a chainsaw.
1985 Don Douglass convinces Mammoth Mountain to host the Kamikaze Downhill – the first lift-serviced, ski-resort based mountain bike event. Prior to that “the ‘what if’ subject of taking bikes on a ski lift and riding down the service road had come up plenty of times as the ultimate fantasy.” Charlie Kelly remembers: “The success of the first Kamikaze so impressed the resort’s in-house promotion company that the next year Douglass was out of the picture and Mammoth Mountain promoted the mountain bike races along with the regular programme of road bike races.”
1988 Mitchell Scott’s Fear and Loaming article in Bike magazine highlights the explosion of the North Shore.
1989 Whistler’s Off-Road Cycling Association is founded, in response to BC Parks attempt to keep mountain biking out of Garibaldi Park. 20 years later, WORCA boasts over 1500 members and is the heart and soul of Whistler in the summer.
Early 1990s Front fork shock absorbers introduced
1994 The first ladder bridge is built by Todd, the Digger, Fiander. Dangerous Dan Cowan takes the idea to the trees.
Dangerous Dan Cowan built the Fleshy Wound in 1992 and Todd, The Digger, Fiander (Of the North Shore Extreme video series) began his incredible trail portfolio in 1986. The Digger gets much of the credit for the high standard of trails on the shore. His trails, besides being incredibly inventive and fun, drain amazingly well and can take enormous traffic without becoming shredded. In 1994 Digger showed Dan his first “ladder bridge” which spanned a low, muddy part of Ladies Only where ferns and skunk cabbage grew. A ladder bridge is built by laying 2 pecker poles (preferable cedar) across a gap and then banging split cedar “rungs” into the poles to make a deck. Dan ran with Digger’s invention and started building narrow ladder bridges high above the forest floor. This lead to more difficult trails and other builders began using the technique. Today ladder bridges have spread across North America and the shore virus can be detected in tiny pockets even in the Eastern US. Dan is also credited with the discombobulator, a devious series of teeter totters attached together so that if one moves they all move. Dan is an important figure in the history of the North Shore because of the range of his talents. He is one of the best riders around and at the same time one of the most prolific trail builders. When Dan builds a trail he thinks beyond his current abilities so that his twisted imagination comes up with a trail that is more difficult than his last. ~ Noel Buckley.
mid 90s Lift access mountain bike riding is being experimented with on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. To buy a lift ticket to take your bike up the Whistler Mountain gondola, you have to be able to squeeze an orange as hard as you can for a full five minutes, to prove you had the braking strength to go up the mountain. Eric Wight kickstarts the first bike park on Whistler running guided trips on the mountain, combining bike trails with ski runs around Whiskey Jack, Pony Trail, Marmot and Bear Cub. “In the first year, you had to have front suspension or you couldn’t go. And no one wore padding. People thought it was a little crazy.” (Whistler Blackcomb take on its operation in 1999.)
1996 Debut of Olympic mountain biking coincides with the birth of “free-ride” mountain biking in the BC hinterlands – Brett Tippie, Richie Schley and Wade Simmons start the revolution by “launching off anything,” dropping steep lines in Kamloops, putting the “mountain” back into mountain-biking.
The year 1996 had featured the debut of Olympic mountain biking, but already a contra-movement called “freeriding” was taking shape in the B.C. hinterlands. What was this all about? The world found out after Tippie bragged about Schley’s air capabilities to famous filmmaker Greg Stump. When Whistler-based cinematographer Christian Begin later went to Kamloops to film Schley for Stump’s Specialized-commissioned movie, Pulp Traction, Tippie begged his way onto the shoot by dropping a mind-boggling line. The boys and buddy Craig Olsson showed Begin the local goods, Stump was blown away by the footage, and a controversial classic was born. Controversial because it depicted some radical new ideas: no trails; descending natural terrain; man against mountain. In fact, erosion concerns by Sierra Club whiners made Specialized nervous enough to edit down the freeriding in the final cut.
With the 1996 Olympics, mountain biking had launched fully into the public eye: World Cup was booming, the industry, too, but some clearly just wanted to ride. No numbers, no competition, just flowing down a trail or whatever they found under their tires. These riders also weren’t interested in spandex or shaved legs. The rebellion struck a punk chord and after “Sick” dropped Berger’s insane photos, and Begin’s film Tao of Riding took it to another level, Schley, Tippie and downhiller Simmons garnered the first mountain-bike freeride sponsorships from Rocky Mountain. Almost immediately Rocky was at the centre of a copyright lawsuit by Cannondale over the word “freeride.” Sidestepping the terminology minefield, Rocky busted out a few afro wigs and ushered in the Froriders: three fun-loving, hard-riding guys with diverse backgrounds in BMX, skiing and snowboarding. A face for the off-trail descents, huge air, massive drops and maximum style of radical freeriding. More importantly, they were also the face of a new lifestyle: road trips and big personalities; loose clothes and open minds. Photography and cinematography took off. Magazines and movie companies flourished. The usual paradox of non-competition competitions took hold. Critical mass tipped the whole thing into the mainstream and the rest is ongoing history. Leslie Anthony
Greg Stump and Christian Begin capture the action for a Specialised-commissioned movie, Pulp Traction. Richie Schley is featured on the Feb 1997 cover of Bike magazine riding a Kamloops line with the headline: Drop everything!
“…the thing about freeriding is that it is not about Joe Blow being three seconds faster than you on this course – that’s what racing is about. Freeride’s about your personal goals. It’s like ‘oh man, I aired those stairs that I have been looking at for years.’ So have a hundred people that may have aired them better than him but that doesn’t matter. it’s just that’s what he wanted to do on his bike and that’s what he did.” Wade Simmons
1997 Joyride forms, a production company borne in Chris Winter’s garage, with the dream of creating a World Championships of Freeriding, free of the stuffy UCI guidelines that were governing mountain biking at the time. Co-founder Paddy Kaye remembers, “that got kaiboshed on paper pretty early on. We tried to do Joyride ’99, again unsuccessfully, so went back to the drawing board.” In the meantime, PK had been building a little trail on Whistler Mountain, “Joyride”, with a view to hosting a lift-accessed mountain bike event there. In 2001, they hosted the first Joyride, a bikerX inspired by boardercross.
1997 NSMBA forms
1998 Release of Kranked 1 – the first ever freeride movie:
1999 Whistler Blackcomb take on operation of the bike park, opening the Whistler Mountain Bike Park with an expanded trail network. Approximately 10,000 visits are recorded.
2001 A-Line built on Whistler Bike Park. It takes two summers and 1200 machine hours to build. “B-Line began the change, but A-line defined it. That trail alone had such a huge impact on our business and the whole industry of lift-asssisted mountain biking,” said Dave Kelly.
2001 Dave Watson wins the first Joyride, an event organised by the Whistler Summer Gravity Fest founders Paddy Kaye and Chris Winter, Whistler’s first biker cross: “Unlike most events that they would compete in, Joyride was more about just having fun and riding the unreal terrain in Whistler,” remembered Dave Watson. That fall, the Harvest Huckfest debuted, a jump demo that was the beginnings of Whistler’s slopestyle course. Kaye and Winter also produce the first Crud to Mud. Hosting Kranked movie-screenings and the MSP and TGR film premieres in Whistler helps them pay the bills to keep the events side of things afloat. In 2002, Joyride brings in international riders, including Cedric Gracia, Brian Lopes and Steve Peat, who fall in love with the park and spread the word, putting the Whistler Bike Park on the map. Lopes later says: “Whistler is hands down the best place to ride a bike. Riding there made me buy a house there, so it must be special.” In 2003, Gravity Fest includes the Joyride bikercross, an Air Downhill on A-Line, a 2 day trials event, and the first Slopestyle Expression Session, an X-gamesish freerie competition where riders are judged on creativity, type and number of tricks, smoothness, bike control and aggression.
2002 The first Air Downhill is held on Whistler’s A-Line, a last minute addition to the Joyride festival when the World Cup DH is cancelled. Cedric Gracia won for the guys, and Anne-Caroline Chausson won for the ladies. Everyone loved it, and the Air DH legend was born. Remembers Paddy Kaye, “The A line downhill was a whole new thing for mountain biking, a downhill course with 50 jumps. And the riders were taking it seriously. Canada was never known for having fast downhillers. We had fast XC guys, but A-line really built the skills of a lot of local riders. They got really fast really quick, getting lots of laps, and people would have to step up their game when they came over here to compete. And that’s still happening, which is cool.”
2002 Andrew Shandro hosts the first week-long freeride mountain bike camp, introducing 35 Summer Gravity Camp-ers to the Whistler Bike Park. Ten years later, they’re still going strong.
2002 First Red Bull Rampage is held in Utah, Wade Simmons takes the inaugural crown. Unregistered, unsponsored, virtually unknown and recently fired from his job, Darren Berrecloth shows up, and places 3rd.
Richie Schley and Brett Tippie take us back to the beginning, here:
2002 Introduction of dual suspension bike
2002 Wade Simmons lands the Moreno Valley road gap on his Rocky, in New World Disorder 3, a massive 42 feet. (Video, here.)
2003 Dave Watson hucks over the Tour de France.
2003 Wade Simmons offers this definition of ‘freeriding’ and identifies 18 year old Thomas Vanderham as the rider to watch:
“A creative interpretation of the landscape that is original and fits into the ability of the rider. Breaking out of the obvious where someone might say, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Finding lines that express talent, that are original… and most importantly that flow and are fun to ride.”
2003 Darren Berrecloth basically invents Slopestyle, crossing over from BMX and winning the first contest ever (and $2000), the Whistler Summer Gravity Festival’s Joyride Slopestyle, an event produced by Paddy Kaye and Chris Winter. Berrecloth is declared one of Outside Magazine’s World’s 25 Coolest People the next year (ranked up there with Jimmy Chin, Kit deLauriers, Michael Phelps and Arnold Schwarznegger.)
2004 Whistler Mountain Bike Park expands into the Garbanzo Zone, tripling the Park’s vertical and adding four hand-built single-track trails through Whistler’s sub-alpine. The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) describes Whistler as the “benchmark for lift-accessed mountain biking”.
2004 17 year old Paul “Bas” Basagoitia, with no sponsor and a borrowed bike, upstages the field at the first Crankworx to win the Slopestyle, and does it again in 2005 to prove he’s no one-hit wonder.
2004 Joyride moves to Sun Peaks, where they build a new bikercross track. The following year, Paddy Kaye pulls the pin on the event, saying “there is a good chance the Joyride event will be back again some day, but only under the proper circumstances – if it provides great value to all the parties and has a positive impact on the sport. Joyride has always offered a big cash purse to athletes who make a living on a bike and remains a visionary platform for the young sport of mountain biking.” It takes seven years for the planets to align, prompting Kaye to comment: “It was a great experience. I learned a lot. But I think in some ways were were a little ahead of the game, and just needed to sit back and let things catch up.” By 2011, the sport had evolved. “There’s more people. More eyes on it. More opportunities. I’m stoked to have the opportunity to be involved again.”
2005 “The 360 heard ’round the world”: Darren Berrecloth high-speed 360s the road gap at Crankworx. How did it feel? “Very relieving cuz if I crashed I would be mangled but it was such a weird feeling going so fast and far backwards.” ”Do you think I should do it,” he asks Richie Schley. “Can you?” Schley responds, later acknowledging, “I was so impressed.”
Whistler Mountain knows how to build mountain bike features. With huge gap dirt jumps, a ten foot curved wall, quarter pipe and a ridiculous teeter-totter option, which had multiple lines to it. Then there is the 60 ft road gap which Darren Berrecloth 360’d…… WHAT THE &%*#. You must see that guy ride. Burly does not describe what that was. The crowd went insane! Dirtworld.
Five years on, Brian Lopes called it “the sickest thing he’s ever seen.“
“To this day one of the sickest things I’ve ever seen was from Darren Berrecloth. At CrankWorx he 360’d off the huge ladder bridge over a big step-down gap. It blew my mind and every year I see that gap I still can’t believe he did it. To 360 something with no lip, going that fast and gapping to a landing that’s 15ft lower and not so big has enormous consequences if you don’t pull it. But he cleaned it.”
June 10 2007 16 year old Alex Prochazka becomes the first and the youngest rider to land a double backflip in competition, attempting the trick that he has practiced at the Whistler Air Dome for the first time on dirt in competition at the 26Trix Dirt Jump competition in Leogang, Austria.
2007 Mountain biking proves it’s economic chops. It’s now worth $34.3 million to Whistler a year.
2008 Bike park building goes seriously viral and becomes one of Whistler’s most successful exports. Gravity Logic, made up of top trail-makers Tom Prochazka, Dave Kelly and Rob Cocquyt, spins off from Whistler Blackcomb – the trail rats are now legit. Writes Andrew Mitchell of the Pique:
Three years before there even was a Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Dave Kelly and Rob Cocquyt were cutting trails on Whistler Mountain with Eric Wight of Whistler Backroads Adventures. Before that they were building trails in Squamish, including legendary Powerhouse Plunge, 19th Hole, Power Smart, Pseudo Suga, and others with a distinctive freeride bent. When Whistler-Blackcomb decided to open a bike park in 1999, Kelly, Cocquyt, and Tom Prochazka were the obvious choices to plan and build the new trails. Since then the size and scope of the bike park has increased every year, while ridership has increased by double digit percentages annually.
“When we built those first trails on the park in 1996 a busy day was 25 riders, and we were all making single digit hourly wages,” said Kelly. “I never thought in a million years that I would be heading to China or Norway or the Mediterranean to build mountain bike parks and making a legitimate career out of it.”
The success of the park has prompted other mountain resorts around the world to sit up and take notice, which more than two years ago prompted Whistler-Blackcomb to create the Gravity Logic group to serve as consultants for the growing lift-assisted mountain bike industry. They also hosted Gravity Logic forums in Whistler, inviting other resorts to take part.
2008 Andreu Lacondeguy lands a double backflip and wins the Monster Energy Slopestyle at Crankworx in Whistler.
2009 Richie Schley, Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie, the ‘Froriders’, are the first freeride bikers to be inducted into the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame. (Check out Hans Rey’s induction speech:
At a time when full suspension bikes where just growing out of their puberty and World Cup Downhill courses still included fireroads and uphill sections; these guys started shredding steep chutes, gravel fields and drops with transitions. Hmmm, I thought, transitions that’s a pretty genius alternative to the drops to flat I was used to….All three of them had roots in BMX, combine that with their snowboarding or skiing backgrounds and things almost start to sound logical. A lot of these early influences came from these sports and not necessarily from the established mountain biking scene of those days, along with them came other riders, filmmakers, photographers and promoters from the skiing and boarding industry – and all them helped shape this new school movement. Slopes got steeper, drops and jumps got bigger and Tippie’s jokes stayed the same and nobody laughed more about them than he himself. But that’s a different story.)
2010 The FMBA creates the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour, giving Crankworx one of only two “diamond” event status. More than 50 riders take part in 18 competitions around the globe – Cam Zink ends an epic comeback season to Win the World Tour title.
2010 Cam Zink gives hope to every rider ever laid up on the couch by winning the Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle, his first victory since taking the title in 2006, after spending 4 years sidelined by injuries and knee surgeries. He goes on to win the Red Bull Rampage and the FMB World Championship and a place in everyone’s hearts as the Comeback King.
2010 Greg Watts wins the VW Trick Showdown with a backflip double whip.
2011 Red Bull Joyride aims to reinvent the slopestyle contest by constructing a rider-designed course that puts the free ride back into slopestyle, with man-made North Shore inspired features, a pure dirt jump line, and a slopestyle line offering a series of options, to allow maximum creativity, and to reflect what mountain biking has become.
May 28 2011 Kiwi Jed Mildon does the first triple back flip. He spends 2 months practicing in the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest foam pit, on a nearby farm with one objective “get triples.” Holy hell. What will they think of next.
Thanks to Leslie Anthony, Chris Armstrong, Mike Crowe, Paddy Kaye, Darren Kinnaird, Lee Lau, Martin Littlejohn, Rob McSkimming, Tarek Rasouli, Mitchell Scott, Richie Schley and Eric Wight for their insights. The oversights, however, are all mine.