BEHIND THE LENS
RED BULL RAMPAGE
IT’S A FUNNY WORLD
Words by Yoann Barelli & Shane Roy | Photos by Shane Roy
Yoann Barelli – It’s June 16 and I’m out riding my bike like any normal day. Except on this day I fall of my bike and hurt my knee, badly. I know right away that it’s serious and that my session is over. One week later the verdict is a completely torn ACL and my Meniscus is severely damaged. I need surgery.
As you may know, I’m a really active person and I didn’t know how I was going to handle this challenge. This is my first big injury and I’m not used to having forced down time. I was down and depressed for a while and searched for ways to distract myself. I’ve been really into photography as a hobby and enjoyed shooting all sorts of things, from action to landscape when suddenly it all clicked! I was going to be a photographer.
My wife Katrina and I had planned on taking my daughter down to watch Red Bull Rampage for quite some time. As I was waiting for my surgery, I counted out the months ‘til Rampage and it gave me my new goal! Getting back into shape, mobile enough, and strong enough to be able to attend Red Bull Rampage and hike around the grounds. What became even better was my desire to not only watch Rampage, but to shoot it as a hired photographer! It was as if I was training to recover in time for my biggest race.
I contacted Red Bull and asked what it would take to get a pass to shoot the Red Bull Rampage. I was told that I needed an assignment letter from a media outlet so I quickly reached out to Drew and after we discussed the plan he sent an email to Red Bull and I was in. It was party time. The 2019 Red Bull Rampage was going to be my first ever event as a media guy and I was going to work my ass off to get there, ready to work.
Six weeks of crutches and couch time after surgery and I was anxious to start training. After three weeks I’m back at the gym, doing upper body stuff and single leg exercises, it felt amazing to have such a big goal during this process. The six weeks pass and I’m walking again, gym exercises starts to get more and more interesting and my progression is amazing. ‘I’ll get there,” was my mantra every day.
It’s now October 14th and I meet with my buddy Shane Roy for a highway garbage pick up project. We talk a lot about our passion for photography and he shares that his dream is to also become a professional photographer. We bonded over a love of high quality imagery and highway trash bags. That day was amazing in many ways, we picked 300kgs of garbage in four hours and a movement was created. Check my Instagram if you want to know more :).
On October 16th, I have an appointment with the surgeon and she is stoked on my progression. I get the green light for Rampage. I’m pumped. It’s happening.
Just a few days later we are at the airport ready to go. My family and I are on our way to the Red Bull Rampage. We are at the check in counter with a short line, we are a bit tight in time but not too worried. We step up and give our passports to the agent. Two minutes later the lady calls me and ask if I have an ESTA to get into the States. At this moment I realized that I fucked up. My ESTA was expired. I tried to do it in time but the system wasn’t working properly and it didn’t go through.
I decided to stay in Vancouver with my daughter, while Katrina went ahead without us as everything was booked and paid for. I send another application and wait for a bit. After a couple of hours with no confirmation emails back, I decide to go back to Whistler.
On my way I get a message from Shane who wishes me luck for Rampage, I decide to call him to share my story. We laugh a bit about the situation (I like to laugh about things) and suddenly, BOOOOOM – an idea!
“What about if you go shoot rampage instead of me?” He says “What?! Are you serious??” “I’m fu*king serious man.” I call Drew, explained the situation, I laugh more about it, I feel like he wants to punch me in the face and break my nose (Editor’s Note – Yoann is 85% accurate in this statement! Ha ha), I laugh more, and I tell him my idea. He says YES.
Now I have to call Chris from Red Bull and hope for another yes. I get it so now I call Shane. “You’re in man! You dreamed about being a professional photographer and now you’re about to shoot the 2019 Red Bull Rampage!”
Shane Roy – My friend had just called to cancel our road trip down to Utah and there wasn’t much else I could do to get there on time for the event. After weeks and even months of planning this trip, I was struggling to accept that it was not going to happen. I accepted my fate and said, at least my good friend Yoann is gonna make it!
Then the phone rings, it’s Yoann calling. He’s supposed to be boarding a plane to Utah with his wife and daughter. I answer with excitement, as I know he’s been pumped for this trip. He’s working the event as official media for the first time and I know he’s worked hard to get here with his photography.
I’m shocked to hear he’s been turned around at the airport due to Visa issues and now he’s not going either. I figured he called to laugh about it with me. I also thought that we would make the best of it and use our free time to focus on a project we had started the week before, but Yoann had a different plan for me.
He told me he wanted me to go instead of him. I was shocked. He said, in his thick French accent, “Shane, I am very serious. You told me the other day that photography was your dream so let’s make some dreams happen”.
I remember pinning it home to get my stuff packed up as fast as I could. I was so pumped to get this opportunity and it had my full focus. I did my best to take everything I’d need but to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect. With no idea what I was in for I booked my flight for the next day and locked-in a rental van out of Vegas.
I still couldn’t believe I was going to experience Red Bull Rampage in person. I had been working from the ground up over the past couple years to get my photography game on point. Events like this were one of the big reasons I devoted so much time to photography. You don’t want to blow an opportunity like this; they just don’t come around that often.
With some of the world’s top photographers, videographers and athletes attending the event, I knew it would be a bit nerve racking trying to operate around them without getting in the way. I’m personally pretty comfortable with trusting the athletes and getting close but this was some serious terrain and I didn’t know if that would be okay. Also I know if I’m close, I’m blocking shots and I didn’t want to upset the other media or block shots of the live feed.
After arriving in Virgin, Utah at about 4am. I wrapped up in my sleeping bag for some much needed rest. I swear I blinked and it was 8am. As I rose from the floor of the van I was blown away by the view. The sun was just beginning to crest the horizon, lighting up the opposing mountainside. As much as I would have liked to stay and enjoy the sunrise I quickly packed up and headed to the event.
After jumping through a few hoops to get my accreditation I headed over to the shuttle area. I was quickly ushered into the back of an old turquoise truck with lengthwise bench seats in the back. I’m feeling in the moment and decide it’s time to start shooting photos.
As I pull out my camera and begin to swap lenses the driver proceeds to put the pedal to the floor and that was when the real Rampage began for me. I barely managed to keep all my gear from flying out of the truck all while documenting the experience.
When we pulled up to the bottom of the course I was stunned. We’ve seen it on T.V. and social media, but this giant is meant to be seen in person. It will give you goose bumps. Wasting no time I began my ascent up the course. This was it. I was officially in the action.
Now what happened over the next two days seems impossible to squeeze into one article, but I will tell you this. If you want to see people pushed to their absolute limits in every way imaginable, go to Red Bull Rampage. If you want to test your ability to run with the top dogs, go to Rampage. There is a possibility that the terrain will eat you up and spit you out, but there is a possibility that you will come out better and stronger than you arrived.
The important thing is how you deal with it all. Not one of the people standing on that mountainside came by this experience easily. Not a single person up there got handed a golden ticket to ride. Everyone struggled. We all faced our own ups and downs and overcame them the best we could.
This brings me to the most important thing I experienced at the event and surprisingly it all wraps up into one word – camaraderie. It’s the spirit of friendship and community in this select group of people, like the camaraderie of soldiers at war that keep each other upbeat despite the difficulty of their circumstances.
As the digger said to the rider, “We are in this together.”
This experience for me was the biggest point in my photography career to date. It was an absolute honor to have even been considered as a candidate for the event. I really don’t know how it all happened so fast. What I do know is that hard work pays off and a few cuts and bruises might be the stamp that gets you in the door.
Hope to see you next year Rampage!
It’s a funny world…
After getting back to Whistler and dealing with missing out on my dream I make the best of my time at home. My best friend Chad is around so we spent some time together, and on Friday I go to his place and watched Rampage together. We had an amazing day and promised that we would go to Rampage together next year.
Sadly it’s the last time I will see him, the last time I’ll get to talk to him, to laugh with him and to give him a hug when I left his place. Two days later he suffered a heart attack while riding his bike in Whistler with the one he loved. Chad passed away at 54 year old on Sunday October 27th.
It’s only when I was reading Shane’s story the other day that I realized all along I wasn’t supposed to go to Rampage. I’m so thankful that I couldn’t get on my flight, that my application didn’t go through, and that I gave the opportunity to Shane to accomplish his first dream as a photographer. Most of all I was happy I got to spend one amazing day watching this amazing event with such a beautiful human, my friend Chad.
I’ll go shoot Rampage next year Chad and I’m taking you with me.
I’ll miss you forever my dear friend,
See you again soon.