The losses in recent years have been staggering, Doug, Alex, Shane, literally dozens of others, almost all young, brilliant athletes/mountaineers/skiers/boarders, leaving behind grieving spouses, children, lovers, parents. I personally find no comfort in the “he died doing what he loved” treacle.
Yes, it takes my breath away to watch the video of Shane conquering an impossible line, so far exceeding my minor skills, and yet it is an increasingly guilty pleasure; as if I shouldn’t encourage reckless self-centered risk-taking by watching. The sheer audacity and courage involved in the undertaking makes it impossible for me to stop looking on in amazement. But I think we need a new context for observing and experiencing extreme endeavor, because the dance between voyeurism and exhibitionism has turned far too deadly.
Extraordinary individuals will accomplish extraordinary things and accept extraordinary risks. Shane and others before and after him expand the sphere of human possibility and create the hope in all of us of what we might become. The sport risks turning into a death cult, however, as money and hubris literally drive our best and brightest over the limit, over the edge. And it is fair to ask whether the insatiable drive for steeper, higher, narrower, sicker terrain expands human potential, or instead represents a morbid fascination with oblivion and the void.
I don’t write this in anyway as a critique or judgment of Shane or anyone else. A massive talent has been extinguished and a man has been lost to his family and friends forever. I am truly saddened and I extend sincere condolences to the heartbroken. Mostly, I am trying to get a grasp on my responsibility as part of the vicarious thrill-seeking audience for extreme footage and perhaps to reach a personal understanding that their are limits of human capacity, and once those limits are reached, the rest should be left to the gods.
whatever, i doubt shane would agree with you.
Shane and others who have it in their blood would be doing the same whether the film was rolling and you were watching or not.
The only guarantee In life is death. We need not forget that the camera was roiling because these people were doing these things in the first place.
Alex Lowe, Doug Coombs, Craig Kelly and many others who left our world weren’t in front of the camera when they moved on. They were doing what they loved to do! The activity that gave their life its’ meaning.
What a beautiful skier.
I thought I should post this seeing how I was close friends to Alex L., Doug C. and Shane M. – it is what I wrote for his memorial website.
“What a lucky guy I am to have gotten to call Shane my friend. When I first met him he had hair halfway down his back, think super mullet (circa 1990). He was with me the first time I blew my knee (trying a big back flip – of course encouraged by him). I remember sitting on the ground – with my knee dislocated and he quickly went to work at making me laugh. Then there’s the time we put on a huge sumo wrestler suits and wrestled in a bar in Fairbanks, Ak. When we were done we hoped in a rental car and drove to Valdez going 100+ down the snowy road when he decided to open the door and skurf his feet on the highway. Soon Kreitler and I were doing the same. The last time I got to hangout with him was in New York about a year ago. He and I talked about how funny it was being dads. The fact that they let guys like us be dads. How lucky we were to have amazing wife’s and how in love we were with our babies.
I know he lived close to the edge and some people want to criticize the life he lived. What people need to understand is that he was here to show people what the human body is capable of. He was here to teach us all how to enjoy this world we live in. He was so curious about what could be done that he ended up doing so many things first. So if there is an afterlife – they better get ready to take it to a whole new level. They better be ready to have sore stomach muscles from laughing. They should feel lucky to have him there because we couldn’t get enough of him here.
His legacy will not be forgotten.
Peace to you my dear friend and to Sherry and Ayla as much love as I can throw at you.”
I realize how hard it is for some people to understand what people like Shane do and why they do it. I think sometimes it is hard for they themselves to realize why they seek to do such things. I have been there and I constantly struggle between risk and boredom. It has very little to do with the cameras. In knowing Shane he was as likely to do any of these things without a camera being present. The cameras facilitate the means to be able to seek such grand adventure and to document them for others to learn from and enjoy.
I believe the best example of why “living for today” can be justified. Is the story of one of my first ski heroes, Steve McKinney. I met him when I was 16. he had hanglided off the North Face of Everest, he had free climbed many scary routes, he was known to drive fast, he had six world speed skiing records, he had been in a horrendous helicopter crash. He had done all of this, only to be killed while sleeping in his car, on the side of a road, by a wayward driver. – Here is a stat for you. 14.2 people per 100,000 will be killed in an automobile accident. (source http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/tables/09s1063.pdf ) So looking at these statistics would make one say that if you have a family you shouldn’t drive.
I am not saying that Shane wasn’t pushing the envelope, he was. But, there are plenty of people who live in fear of what might happen. Those people, like all of us, will someday pass on to the happy hunting ground.
Thanks for sharing Rick.
Sick Rick: No one could ever put it better. I have grown to know the both of you and others via the most amazing “glimpses” you all give us fom time to time on film. Thanks for the visions. What people need to understand is that we all seek to be some example of the dreams we hold witin. I do not get the opportunity to push the limits, my limits, as often as I would like……but, if I were able to…. it would be for the epihany of desire meeting the reality of human peripheal experience…not for the “voyeuers with no nuts”…. many, many,many of us:bankers,doctors,lawyers,bartenders,lifties,waiters,teachers,instructors…get it…we love what you love and, oh so often we get a chance to live it viacriously through you, Shame and others, who are fortunate enough to be remebered in the flicker of a lense……CHARGE ON MY FRIEND….SEE YOU IN THE ROOSTER TRAILS OF TWIN TIPS RIPPIN!!!!!!!!! Maybe in Portillo…..And we will raise our glasses very high!!!