The Finer Things - Crunch Time
Down to the wire with the Volume team
Words and Photos by Devin Feil
When the leader of a race enters the final lap at a track meet a bell is rung, and if you've fallen behind it's now or never to get yourself in position to finish strong. The bell rang loud and clear for the Volume team in late October as Texas Toast 2014 was in full swing. The original plan was to premiere the 'The Finer Things' DVD at Toast, which would have meant wrapping up filming a couple of months prior. As often happens with full length video projects, the initial release date turned out to be merely a carrot to chase. Volume's bell lap was a two month long sprint to the tape filled of generator missions, broken bones, last minute flights, bangers, and memories that'll last a lifetime.
An ender, one way or the other:
An ender is a tall task for a rider like Alex Platt. When nearly every trick you do involves a fairly serious level of risk, large stair count, and more than a few full cranks then you get into that truly do or die territory to close out a video part. By mid-December with a hard set filming deadline looming, the pressure was on to get that one last clip. Alex felt he was without a definitive banger, and there were a couple of setups in Southern California that fit the bill. Option A being a gap to tire ride along a dumpster enclosure out in the Inland Empire, although there were some factors that had kept Platt from attempting it prior. The main hangup with the spot was a run up that required you to turn just before lining up. Although the run up was manageable, when moving at the necessary speed meant Alex would sighting up at the last split second. With plenty that could go wrong we were all nervous to see this one go down. Platt handled it first go and we all exhaled a sigh of relief.
Satisfaction still escaped Alex as he'd come off the ledge a hair early and said it just wouldn't do. There were no thoughts of a redo but the mission to fire another deadman trick out was on. Roughly a week later we loaded up the van and made the drive to a campus roughly half way between Long Beach and San Diego. Even judging from a cell phone photo it was obvious that what Alex was about to attempt would either end Alex's section, or end his time on a bike for the immediate future. Alex was looking to film a gap out to feeble to hop over on an L ledge as tall as your average one story roof. Once Mike Mastroni and I were all set, Alex gave it just one look and sent it with disastrous results. The pop over was just a bit late and his back wheel tagged. Alex was left with shattered knee cap, fractured arm, and a spot that held true to being an ender, one way or the other.
In a way it's almost like this fall knocked some sense into me and forced me to just be done with the project.
- Mike Mastroni
Doesn't have to be deadman to be dangerous
Specialization in BMX seems to be the way of things these days. Everyone is categorized as street, trails, ramp, creative, freecoaster, etc. with many people trying to hold their respective category on a pedestal. For whatever reason Mike Mastroni's unorthodox brand of riding has been met with scrutiny at times, with occasional detractors calling into question it's legitimacy in comparison to more conventional street. While Mike isn't dropping off roofs or bombing down El Torro there still is very real risk in play with many of the tricks and unique setups he rides. Knowing all that he put himself through finishing up his section I caught up with Mike about two serious falls during crunch time...
Tire ride across a series of poles:
It was really late at night with about a little over a month to go until our tentative footage deadline, and I was already pretty exhausted from being out filming all day. Typically when I do things I'll do them more than once to get them just right, or at least to have a few options for which one I like best. In this instance I really wanted the clip to be filmed fisheye, however Jeff Z was after the long lens photo. I told him it wasn't a problem, and that I'd likely do it more than once anyway for additional still shots and etc. I did it a few times and sort of kept coming off the side towards the end of the poles, then finally got a fish one I was happy with. Knowing I'd achieved the clip and with my initial excitement out of the way and the Red Bull wearing off, my focus was becoming a little more relaxed. I hopped on two more and kept coming off the side, then on the third one disaster struck. Very tired and not completely focused, I missed my front wheel completely to the left, and ended up swan diving directly on top of the string of poles. I smashed my rib on the very last pole, did a front flip, and landed on my back. I knocked the wind out of myself, totally couldn't breathe, and things began to go a little black. I made a horrendous noise for what felt like a 40 seconds, I lifted my arms over my head in the fetal position and finally caught my breath in time before passing out. Needless to say I didn't try it again. Pretty much instantly I knew I had cracked a rib. It was still very painful, difficult to take a deep breath, and got even worse the next day. Funny enough, the next day I went to film Jason's tunnel line in his part in one of the dustiest drainage tunnels I've ever been in, which definitely didn't help matters.
Roller coaster tooth concussion:
This was literally a week before I absolutely had to have the video done and sent to the duplicator. Ever the perfectionist and never satisfied with anything, I wasn't completely happy with my section and still had quite a bit of black space in the timeline. Feeling like there was no way I could further butcher the already butchered 8 minute song, I had my mind made up that more clips was the only solution. I brought Josh Clemens along to film and we went to this roller coaster tooth between two dumpsters at a school that I had already eyed and turned down on two separate occasions. I hopped in a few times and just double pegged through. The dumpsters moved minimally and everything slid really well. I thought it was a go, so I went for it. The dumpsters were ever so slightly uneven, so to compensate for that I thought I'd hang my back end ever so slightly to the right... bad idea. I swung too far, wasn't steep enough in the tooth, and cased the front edge of the right dumpster catapulting me to my face/chin on the ground. Initially I didn't go out, and I got up with my chin gushing blood and ears ringing. I can clearly remember walking back up to the top and hitting pause on the second angle camera, then I remember virtually nothing after that. Josh said that I was basically walking around aimlessly for 20 minutes asking him what happened and where I was over and over again. One of the times it finally sunk in and I came to. I remember the camera bags were already packed up and everything. Having completely no recollection of the past 20 minutes, I remarked to Josh "Wow man, you really packed everything up fast!" Haha! With my chin still leaking blood and my jaw really sore and swollen, the rest of the day was spent in the ER getting checked out. It was getting increasingly harder to talk and I couldn't chew or anything, so was convinced I fractured or somehow dislocated my jaw. Luckily it was all fine and it was just some internal swelling preventing me from chewing or biting down. I got some stitches, went home and finally faced the fact that I just had to put my part out as is. However I definitely slept well knowing that I tried my ass off up until the the very last second. In a way it's almost like this fall knocked some sense into me and forced me to just be done with the project.
SLC to LBC one last time:
Tate let's talk about your last trip out to California
Well naturally I wasn't quite pleased with the amount of footage I was sitting on and I knew the deadline was coming up real quick. I don't think anybody is ever 100% satisfied with a project like that. It was a great trip though, really glad I was able to make it back one last time.
You'd already been out shortly before that on what was supposed to be the final trip right?
Yes originally the previous trip was supposed to be the last one. I got like 3 or 4 clips that trip and I knew It would bug me if I didn't make it back one last time.
Was it nice to have a no pressure situation knowing that it was on your dime?
Each time I go on a trip I have this glorified vision of myself getting like 20 clips and shit. But in reality its like I go on a trip and 2 days in with no clips I kinda hit a little panic mode. It's as though I start fighting this little mental battle thinking "Oh man! Volume is going to think I'm not even trying, they're never going to ever want to buy me a plane ticket anywhere ever again." Needless to say that kinda kills my creativity and makes it a little harder for me to stay in a clear and creative mindset. Knowing it was all on my dime was pretty nice, in fact I think it was one of the more productive trips I had.
Does the concept of an ender even really play into your filming process?
Yes kinda... well actually no, now that I think about it. The only thing I've ever gone into filming knowing it was going to be my banger was the drop in for my 'Killjoy' section. All of my other ender clips have just kinda worked as a ender. I think I actually like that more.
What's it like working on a video project with a link-minded rider in Mike Mastroni?
Fucking awesome. The BMX industry as a whole isn't exactly always understanding of a "creative" riders mindset of filming. 16 clips a day is seen as more productive than one clip that took an hour to figure out and two hours to pull. Mastroni completely understood how my mind works and my emphasis on getting some of the concepts I had dreamed up into an actual clip. Can't wait to start on the next Volume project in the works.
With the video done and out now, would you say this is the video part you are most proud of?
It takes at least a year for me to stop nitpicking my sections to pieces so no not yet. Gotta wait for that nostalgia to kick in.
I already was seeing myself going down it at that point, but there was no chance of me doing it that day. So I dreamed about it all night haha!
- Alex Raban
In queue for the coaster:
You were in a good position with all but your ender wrapped up before others. Did it feel good to be ahead of the curve during the last couple months of filming?
Yeah! Towards the end of filming I was happy with what I got. I knew I had a couple things in mind closing out filming that I really wanted to get. Glad it worked out!
Weren't you battling a couple of injuries during that time? Were you looking forward to a break from filming to really heal up?
In the early stages of filming I sprained my PCL in my knee pretty good. That took me out for a couple months. After it healed I was dealing with wrist issues from a fall. Which explains the KT tape on my wrist/arm. Towards the end of filming I sprained the same ligament in my other knee from the caveman to feeble attempt. Thankfully that healed a little bit quicker to wrap up my section. The breaks from the injuries definitely helped me heal. Picked up surfing to rehab in the water. Even though I was itching to ride haha!
How long had you been sitting on the roller coaster crook spot?
Not too long, maybe a few months. I remember seeing at night riding through the campus and instantly knew what I wanted to try cause it was too perfect.
We shot it on a Sunday, but you'd tried to go the day before as well right? What happened that day?
Yeah I drove down and was ready to try this. We arrive around noon and roll to the spot and there was a soft ball tournament happening for the entire day. With people surrounding the rail. I already was seeing myself going down it at that point, but there was no chance of me doing it that day. So I dreamed about it all night haha!
How'd you feel rolling away getting this ender off your back?
I was stoked, I remember thinking I'm gonna pull up as fast as I can and I'll be good. There were a couple where I bonked the beam at the end and it startled me a little. But I just kept my focus and got it. Back tire went flat shortly after and security rolled up within a minute of me pulling it. Left the scene super happy haha!
You had the ender in the bag, but came back down to LA for the X-up smith. What was up with the cop and that whole scene?
Yeah I wanted to get an X-up smith in my section but didn't know if it was gonna happen with the timeframe. I happened to drive down over the weekend just in time. Got to the spot and gave it probably a solid hour of tries, coming real close to a few. It was really getting exhausting at that point. Then out of nowhere a cop shows up. Immediately told us to wrap and get out of the spot. I was thinking "No, no this can not happen." I begged the cop and asked for a few more tries, he wasn't having it. Then he somehow changed his mind and was like "OK, a few more." In disbelief i ran back up the stairs. Couple tries later I got it. The sigh of relief haha! I thought I was gonna buckle in front of the cop watching. Thankful it went smooth.
Measure twice, cut once:
Daniel Martinez and his filming process is unlike any other rider I've been around. Measure twice, cut once is the old adage, but D subscribes to a far more methodical approach. No matter what Daniel films it's bound to be smooth as glass, although the time elapsed before he makes even a single attempt may vary greatly. He loves to ease into what he's filming, but sometimes that just isn't an option. As was the case on the evening Daniel set out to check a rather large rail to thread the needle off the list. When you want to get to the bottom of a rail you aren't left with any real options other than to simply do it. Most riders facing an intimidating filming situation will try to keep the number of run-ups to a minimum, so as not to get into their own heads. One or two looks and a go is very common.
With D it can be a serious battle to get the nerve up, but more often then not he comes through no matter how long it takes. As much as I respect those who are able to flip the switch on right off the bat, it is almost more impressive that he's able to push himself past that fear following a long inner struggle. With the necessary time required to fire up the generator and get my flashes in place Daniel had ample time to mull over the rail. A relatively simple grind turned into well over an hour of run ups beginning at nearly 1 AM. During the long string of run ups I was positioned along the double yellow lines of four lane road without any divider, keeping alert to avoid cars barreling by at 50 MPH. My attention is diverted momentarily by what I thought to be an approaching car and sure enough as I look back over and D is half way down the rail. I'd blown it, but was saved by a minor tag of the last stair. Back up the stairs he went, but this time he completed the roundtrip much quicker.
Never quit searching:
For 16 years and counting Jason Enns has been a member of the Volume team. For point of reference to his incredible longevity; in 1999 Jason was 22, and Broc Raiford hadn't even celebrated his 21st birthday yet at the time 'The Finer Things' premiered. To perform at a professional level in any sport for that number of years is a feat that few can lay claim to. When you've done something for so long, it can be human nature to coast. Jason is not the coasting type. He may be passed his days of gap to grinding second stage rails on his switch side, but he's far from settling for good enough.
As is the way with other sports athletes adapt as they age, and BMX is largely no different. Father time is undefeated so those who want to stick around must do so by changing the game. Jason's adaptation came in the form of focusing on the strengths of his early ramp riding days and vast Southern California spot knowledge. When the lap bell rang Jason was in the pack with the rest of the team, and he found his second wind and kept pace. Without an ender captured he scoured old stomping grounds and saw things with fresh eyes. A testament to never quit searching for spots, because what you've been looking for might be right under your nose. A playground grind to ladder ride is so unlike than any Jason Enns ender we've ever seen and that made it all that much more incredible.
I was just pushing myself to make every clip count and make sure I put everything I had into this thing regardless of where my section ended up
- Broc Raiford
Well-deserved last part honors:
Take me through the last scramble to find an ender. Weren't you originally
hoping for the uprail hard 540 to close it out?
Oh man, I feel like the word "scramble" is even an understatement. I was a stress case when it came time for my section in 'The Finer Things' to come to a close. I really hadn't had anything in mind when it was ender crunch time because I was banking on it being the hard 540, but that ended up not qualifying for a solid ender due to the landing being slightly sketchy. I started watching DVD after DVD, edit after edit, looking for possible ender spots or even trying to get some influence on what I wanted to do. Coincidentally, Devin Feil came to me with a handful of awesome spot options and we all got in the Volume van and set out to tame the great white buffalo that was my ender. We spent about three days looking at spots and feeling them out. In the end there was only one spot left due to either high security or just not feeling that the spot was right for what I wanted. The last spot, was one Devin had mentioned to me before and I wrote it off because it looked too good to be true. However, he ended up getting the location and we went to go look at it towards the end of the third day. I knew when I rolled up on it that I had found what I was looking for. It was actually insane to see in person because of my disbelief in its actual existence. I spent some time figuring out what I was going to film because I wanted it to compliment the spot perfectly. After about a good two hours of trying a few different things on it, the crank to gap bar felt right and I ended up walking away with exactly what I wanted to finish my section.
Was their extra pressure knowing Mike planned to have your section last in the video?
To be honest, I didn't know that I would have last section until a short while after we had gotten my ender and everyone was finished filming. I was just pushing myself to make every clip count, and make sure I put everything I had into this thing, regardless of where my section ended up. I feel as though that was the right way to go about it on Mike's behalf, because anyone on the team could've had the ender section and it would've been amazing. The fact that no one was ensured the last section kept the whole team working their asses off.
I've seen you film a lot of crazy stuff but never react like you did for your last clip, taking your shirt off and running around. Was the relief of being done with your section part of it?
The relief of finishing my section was definitely part of it, because not only was finding the spot a struggle, but landing it was too. I tried a few different things on it and ended up getting tossed around a few times due to the spot being very unforgiving. I couldn't feel out the rail because if I hit the rail, I had to gap the steps and that turned into the biggest struggle of it all. Every try was full commitment and if I didn't hail victorious, I was working towards a sweet heel bruise or a rolled ankle from dancing down the stairs when I had to bail. My celebration was a overwhelming mixture of excitement, relief, and overall just stoked-ness that I made it through filming a DVD section alive haha!
It's safe to say this is your best collection of footage to date. How was it seeing the video premiere at a theater with your dad flying out and all that?
After we had finished filming for the DVD I kept things pretty chill as far as filming goes. I felt like I was on cruise control until the night of the premiere. I didn't know what to do with myself now that I wasn't stacking for my section anymore. The premiere was insane to say the least, because not only was the title 'The Finer Things' spelt out huge on the front of the this fancy theater in NewPort Beach, but my Dad decided to surprise me by showing up literally minutes before the video kicked off. He flew in just for the night and apparently everyone there knew except me. It was awesome having him there, as well as all my best friends, to watch this amazing collection of footage the Volume team had gathered over the last two years. The turnout was more than I had expected and will be a night that I surely will never forget.
You've kept the ball rolling since wrapping up 'The Finer Things'. How eager were you to get working on new projects?
I think that the feeling of not knowing what to do with myself once we were done 'The Finer Things' has kept me motivated ever since. I wanted to continue to push myself like I had been doing, and start stacking for promos and some other miscellaneous projects to keep the ball rolling, so I wouldn't slack off and get lazy. Everyone knows it's a struggle to get things moving again after taking it easy for a while. So I figured I'd let the success of the DVD motivate me to keep making moves and start the next chapter in my BMX filled life.
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