For their upcoming film Cascada, extreme kayakers Erik Boomer, Tyler Bradt, and Galen Volckhausen teamed up with climbers/filmmakers Tim Kemple, Anson Fogel, Blake Hendrix, and Skip Armstrong to hunt the remote Mexican jungle for the perfect waterfall … and the perfect shot. It’s pretty sweet when such diverse talents merge to push the boundaries of visual storytelling. Here Skip tells us about their time in the field.
Adventure: Tell us about where you were in Mexico? Why did you pick this spot?
Skip Armstrong: We flew into Mexico City and rented a couple of Jeeps and drove five hours to the State of Veracruz and were based out of the town of Tlapacoyan. This spot is on the Caribbean slope of the country and gets a bunch of rainfall in the autumn months. Several rivers cascade from the high plateau of central Mexico and conveniently converge near this bustling town. It’s a perfect base camp for waterfall exploration.
A: Looks like a beauty of a waterfall in the trailer. How tall was it? Were there others you explored on the trip?
S.A.: There were several waterfalls that we shot on the trip. The two that got the most descents were on the Alseseca River. They are named Tomata 1 and 2. Tomata 1 is about 65 feet high, and it’s amazing how many people are running it and how frequently they do it. Whitewater kayaking is truly progressing. Tomata 2 is an intimidating drop that corkscrews into a massive blue lagoon that can only be accessed by rappelling 150 feet below. The entrance rapid is unpredictable and unforgiving. It’s impressive that athletes are able to navigate the rapid before they even arrive at the 70-foot freefall. Another we shot was the 128-foot beast named Big Banana. Galen Volckhausen notched the descent and is the third person to ever run it, an impressive feat for an 18-year-old.
A: Seems like you all had adventures on dry land, too. Can you tell us about some of them?
S.A.: An impressive tropical illness ravaged our group bringing all members but one to a grinding halt at one point or another. The day we arrived we had about 15 minutes of clear weather before the tropical skies opened up and poured. The rain didn’t stop the entire ten days we shot. At one point or another every single camera we had was put into a bag of rice for an overnight drying session (which works wonders by the way!). There are little flies that bite and some of us were just destroyed by them. All in all—it was a true adventure!
A: Tyler Bradt broke his back on a waterfall a couple years ago. Did everyone emerge uninjured from this trip?
S.A.: Tyler Bradt is such an impressive paddler and wonderful person to be around. His energy and passion for life are infectious. This was his first big trip since his injury, and it was wildly cool to see him confront some darkness and have perfect lines on every drop he paddled. Fortunately, on this trip there were no injuries and everyone came home with only bug bites and big smiles.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
A: How did the filmmakers capture these gorgeous shots? I saw an image of someone (maybe Tim Kemple) dangling from a rope strung across one of the falls. Tell us about some of the creative things you all did to get the angles and images?
S.A.: It’s always amazing when you have some of the world’s most accomplished climbers on a trip. Tim Kemple from Camp 4 Collective ran a line across the falls, and he and Anson, without pause, sent themselves out on the line to shoot and film. At one point they were just feet away from the kayakers as the descended the falls. Anson and Tim both
wanted to capture angles and perspectives that had never been done before or are seldom seen. At any given point we had four cameras running and that allowed us to push our creativity. We also had a 19-foot crane with us that we setup on waterfalls’ edges several times. Anson and Tim we hanging in a harness almost the entire trip, it was
impressive to witness.
A: When does the film come out?
S.A.: The short film will be released on January 14.