Everyone spends their weekends in the summer a bit differently. Some people search for great hikes, while others hop on their bikes. Some spend their days on a boat, while others prefer swimming off a beach. No matter your preference, the summer offers endless opportunities for nearly everyone. I, for example, like to spend the toasty hot summer days sitting next to an air conditioning unit, watching a few ski movies, and praying that both tomorrow will be cooler so I can actually go do something, and that winter will start early this year. This weekend, I watched Teton Gravity Research‘s new HBO show Edge of the Earth, and, let me tell you, it was pretty damn incredible.
Each episode of the show features a different group of athletes pushing the limits in their specific sport. The first episode, Into the Void, shows two snowboarders and one skier while they attempt to shred an undescended face in the Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. The second, Raging Torrent, features three kayakers in their attempt to travel a river untouched by kayaks. The third episode, Reaching for the Sky, details the journey of two climber’s attempt to free climb a face in Kyrgyzstan, and the fourth, The Great Unknown, explores two surfer’s mission to find the next top of the line big wave.
At this point, I think I’m pretty used to seeing Jeremy Jones push the limits of backcountry skiing and snowboarding through the many Teton Gravity Research films and videos he appears in, but that doesn’t mean I was bored while watching Into the Void. The journey into the remote Alaskan mountains is one I will likely never be skilled enough to experience, but Jones, Elena Hight, and Griffin Post make it seem easy, despite the incredibly rough whiteout conditions they encounter on the adventure. Altogether, I think this episode was perfect to begin the series. I would say a lot of the show’s audience is made up of people who already know Teton Gravity Research, and by starting off with something that could easily be featured in one of their yearly ski movies, I was quickly hooked and eager to watch episode 2.
The second episode, Raging Torrent, is unlike anything I’d seen previously. I’ve had very little exposure to the world of white water kayaking throughout my life, so I knew very little and was very curious as to what it’s like. Ben Stookesberry, Nouria Newman, and Erik Boomer show off the insanity of exploring a completely unknown river to the kayak world through their journey down the Chalupas River. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was shocked to discover the risk these athletes put themselves through. Not only are they basically exploring unexplored regions of Ecuador’s Llanganates National Park, but they’re doing so with little to no options for rescue or escape (plus there’s some drama among the group, which, in my opinion, is pretty fun to watch).
In my opinion, the value of Reaching for the Sky isn’t necessarily in the climbing itself, but more from what the two athletes go through in order to reach the face. I don’t want to spoil too much, but climbers Emily Harrington and Adrian Ballinger push themselves mentally and physically just to get to the base camp. There’s also a lot of information relating to the ongoing conflicts within Kyrgyzstan, a part of the world I, personally, knew (and continue to know) very little about. The chemistry between the two athletes is awesome, and the combination of their two disciplines works wonders while they attempt to free climb Pik Slesova.
The fourth and final episode, The Great Unknown, was hands down my favorite. I’ve gone surfing once in my life, but I love watching anything surf related, and big wave surfing has always blown my mind. Ian Walsh and Grant “Twiggy” Baker aren’t just attempting to surf completely new beaches and waves, they’re doing so in an incredibly remote area of Africa’s West Coast. They put their lives under so much risk, but are doing so willingly for the pursuit of the next big wave. I learned a lot about surfing through this episode, like what goes into tracking swells, finding solid locations, and planning the safety procedures. The episode also (like most of the episodes) touches on the environmental issues of the area, which is mainly the destruction of the beaches in order to build and excavate destructive mines.
To sum the whole show up, it was incredible. It exposed me to sports I’ve never really known much about, environmental and social issues I’d never heard of, and some pretty darn awesome athletes. I highly recommend you give it a watch if you have HBO, and if you don’t have HBO, maybe try to get a free trial or something to check it out. Well done Teton Gravity Research.
Image Credit: HBO on YouTube