Sporting life on the big screen |

Sporting life on the big screen

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyLocal hero Brad Ludden stars in yet another Teton Gravity Research film, "Wehyakin." Proceeds from the Vail premiere Friday support First Descents, a kayak camp for youths battling cancer.

For those thrill seekers who want to see the latest in the extreme sports film world, this weekend’s Mountain Games includes two Vail premieres at 8150. Today, Matchstick Productions mountain biking flick, “Freewheel Burning,” will be shown at 9 p.m. Friday, Teton Gravity Research’s “Wehyakin,” a kayaking film, will be shown at 10 p.m.

“Freewheel Burning’

“Freewheel Burning” is all about the money shot. Filmed in Australia, British Columbia and the United States, cameras follow bikers off cliffs, through tree tops and down slides. Some segments feature the sort of speedy freeriding that can only be described as downright silly.

The movie features two-wheel phenoms such as Bender, Robbie “Air” Bourdon, Anne-Caroline Chausson, John Cowan, Steve Peat and more, with some gratuitous belly shots of Jenna Jameson. The soundtrack offers tastes of Fu Manchu, Hoobastank, Iron Maiden, Cypress Hill, Unwritten Law and Dope.

Cover is $6, and after the film musical act 3 Degrees of Freedom hits the stage for a late-night show.


Directly following the Yonder Mountain String Band concert Friday, Teton Gravity Research’s newest production, “Wehyakin,” hits Vail with an abbreviated version of the new film. The full-length version will debut in Bozeman, Mont., June 20.

Local whitewater heroes Brad Ludden and Ken Hoeve star in the film, which is a departure from a normal action-only extreme-footage movie. “Wehyakin” delves into the story behind the scenes.

“There’s a lot of good times and the camera captured that,” said Ludden. “But given the nature of our sport, there’s a lot of bad times and tense times, too. It was cool to see after the fact. It was real, nothing was fake or contrived.”

He likened the experience to more of a reality-T.V. scenario than a movie gig. Though strange for him at first, he eventually got used to having the camera around constantly.

“It dives into our heads more,” he explained. “There’s more interviews, more behind the scenes stuff. In the industry, we call the constant action shots porn. After three or four of those shots, it kind of numbs you. But obviously there’s so much more that transpires on those trips.”

The camera recorded everything they were doing, but didn’t ask them to do something specific. In Ludden’s eyes, the film is a success because of that. Arden Oksanen, co-owner of Teton Gravity, agreed with him. He called it progress.

“In previous years, it’s just been a music video,” said Oksanen. “You put down the song and then just lay footage on top. We wanted to do something different, which meant we had to tell more of a story. So you get more trip segments, that sort of thing.”

That idea is in keeping with the movie’s title, too, which Ludden said is a Native American term for guiding soul/guiding light.

“When you walk up to a rapid, nobody is there saying you can or can’t do it,” said Ludden. “There’s no red or green light. You have to figure it out for yourself. It’s a gray area, especially because you always want it.”

They have to guide themselves and each other, based on their own skills and the river’s unpredictable nature. Ultimately, they weigh the odds. Viewers will get to see what goes into that decision.

“I’ve done some filming with reality-type settings that are similar to this, but nothing this “in your face,'” said Ludden, laughing. “I have some renewed respect for anyone who can survive reality television.”

Cover is $7, and tickets go on sale at 8:30 p.m. day of show. Proceeds go to First Descents, a kayak camp for youths battling cancer.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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