Words: Raph Derome
Photos: Brennan Grange
Through all the competitions, videos, clinics or travels I have done, the one thing that has always stood out to me has been winching. I have always looked up to the way snowboarding and skateboarding teams have the ability to go on these unreal road trips to film their full-length movies. I’ve had the chance to film while winching with some friends, but they were shooting me and the longest we’ve been on the road was three days. It was great, some of my favourite memories but I have always dreamed about hitting the road with a crew of fellow riders. When it’s just me, I push myself, but when you’re with a group of riders who share a common goal it is an entirely different experience. You all push each other to do your absolute best.
A lot goes into these road trips. You have to go in with a plan. Most winch spots are hidden and not right off the main roads. I had been scoping winch spots on the web for a really long time, I had spent over 30 hours on the web looking for spots and came up with about 150 spots around the east coast, at least they looked good in pictures.
Aaron Rathy and myself have been tossing around the idea of filming a full-length movie together, with a friends section of riders who share the same outlook we have on riding. We looked at this trip as our potential first shoot for the movie. Early June I sent out the invites, and Rathy and Felix Georgii were 100% down and ready to hit the road. I was blown away that Felix was ready to fly in from Germany for a last minute winch trip. June 16th Felix arrived in Montreal. It put quite a bit of pressure on my shoulders because I felt like I had to make his trip worth it and it is so hard to control how a winch trip goes. I was organizing a trip for the first time and it was stressful to make sure I could get the right permissions to cross the border with the rental car and all of our gear. I just wanted to make sure everyone would be stoked.
We had scheduled the trip from June 19th to June 27th. Eight days seemed pretty short, but it was the only timeframe that worked for everyone’s schedules, it was also a good length of time to test my first official road trip (After looking back, eight days seemed like weeks). This was a dream trip for me, something I have looked forward to my entire life.
June 19th @ 7 am
Rathy, Felix and I hit the road and left St.-Zotique, QC.
Our first spot was about an hour away from my place. We set up a kicker down this waterfall spillway. The spot was rad and the whole scene was beautiful. Setting up the winch was a mission and it was a hard spot to swim out of and get a good run up which meant we could only get about four hits an hour. The neighbours around the area were really into wakeboarding and helped us set up a pulley system to get a higher pull. We ended up getting a video clip each and finished our first day with the stoke metre at the top. We drove to Belleville, ON and called it a day. We all thought at that point that it would be that easy for the next eight days. We were wrong…
DAY 02 / June 20th
We met up with Brennan Grange, in Markham, ON None of us had officially met Brennan yet, but he was assigned to be our official trip photographer. He fit in really well with the crew and quickly became our unofficial mechanical engineer for the rest of the trip.
Now united, the four of us started driving. We finally got to this sick spot, which was a little camping site. We started setting up the kicker for this cool drop but a guy showed up in the first 10 minutes to tell us it wouldn’t work. He apparently owned the dam. Rathy tried his best to convince the guy to let us stay but his proposition wasn’t enough. We packed it back up and drove around Toronto but could not commit to any locations. We found three great spots that would work and decided we could hit them all on the following day. We were looking forward to a big day.
June 21st @ 8 am / Guelph, ON
We arrived at the first spot of the day and set up the kicker in the water near a ledge that had a decent sized drop. I hit it first. Obviously, when winching, the water is shallow, never really deeper than knee high. We were able to get video and photos after only the first few hits. I was pretty happy about getting a good shot that quick. We then moved the kicker over to an up rail. It was a scary looking spot because there was a lot of concrete around and you really had to commit to it and make sure to get your board over the rail. At the same time if you over committed and fell off the other side, you had to make it over the concrete ledge so you would slide on the grass out of control, rather than the cement. Felix went first and took his time with it and eventually started committing to some really cool front lips on the rail. He got a couple of photos and video shots that really looked good. I then went for it. I was able to get the shot I wanted and Rathy killed it all morning, shooting us from the cold water. Our day had been amazing so far, getting shots, not getting kicked out and everyone around was watching and getting so stoked on us wakeboarding. A few hundred people walked by that day and got to see some really cool wakeboarding and talk about it. Felix even scored two numbers as he spent a good portion of the day talking to two girls as he was driving the winch. Just the best day.
We started to lose light so we rushed to another spot in Guelph where Rathy set up the kicker really far back from a waterfall spillway and eventually was able to get a cool shot. It was a big gap and we needed the winch full throttle for that one. We then started our drive towards the border at Niagara Falls and stopped in Hamilton. We checked into a hotel, and then got kicked out. Rathy used his negotiation skills and was able to convince the lady to welcome us back in
DAY 04 / June 22nd
The thing with road trips is, you get to see a lot of cool things along the way. We went to check out Niagara Falls for the first time. Brennan had been there before, but for Felix, Rathy and I it was pretty cool to see it. It was also a nice break from winching and we were able to relax and not be on a time crunch as this was the only non wakeboarding stop. A definite stand out and well worth it. We then crossed the US border without any problems, which was a huge relief on my part because it meant the trip wouldn’t be a total failure. Once in the US, we drove to Dryden, New York. We spent all day in the car and couldn’t find any good spots. This is the challenge with winching, online the spot I found looked great. In person it was too shallow, there wasn’t enough water and it was much smaller. We went deep into New York state looking for spots, but it just wasn’t working. One lesson I have learned from this trip is not to drive so far to a spot if you’re not 100%. Trust me.
DAY 05 / June 23rd
We found this awesome homemade dam, and ended up spending a lot of time at Home Depot getting the necessary supplies to make it winch-able. Once we had gotten about half way through the build and had the plywood and metal bars set up in the water, the State Park Officer kicked us out. Busted! We ended up with another day without getting any shots and the vibes were low at this point. We were far from home, tired and losing time on spots that were so far from the pictures I originally found. It was pretty frustrating.
June 24th @ 4:30 am
We got up super early, with a new attitude as our next location didn’t disappoint. This spot was pretty unreal. It had this super-sick ledge…there was a lot of current which was a bit sketchy but that was only if we fell inside the ledge area. (The crap-in-wetsuit story can’t be written but it would be great to tell.) We had a feeling we would be kicked out of this spot so we thought getting there before sunrise would give us a head start. Luckily the county workers were cool about it and said as long as the cops didn’t hear about it, we could stay. Felix went first and he tried to hit it without the kicker and slid the whole thing on his bum which was so sketchy considering the concrete steps and the strong current. The fact we hadn’t slept and that it was before six am definitely didn’t help either. We needed the kicker to get the extra boost, it was a massive ollie. I went first and hit it a few times before passing the handle to Rathy. We wanted to make sure that we all could get some shots before getting kicked out. Everyone took about four or so hits to get their shots and eventually we did ge
t kicked out because the cops started calling the county about us hitting the dam.
I was pretty bummed because I didn’t get the exact trick I had envisioned before we had to leave. We knew the police were on their way so we split up and Felix and myself went to get the kicker from the water. Rathy has the van, and drives over to pick us up. He opens the trailer to show me what had happened. Rathy had BACKED UP OVER THE WINCH with the trailer. He was in a hurry because the police were on their way. The winch was so crooked and messed up. All I can think of is, “This is not my winch, Felix came all the way from Germany, we are 10 hours from home, the trip is over.” Depressed, we all start packing our stuff. Brennan seems to think he can fix it, but we all know he is way too optimistic. I wish we had taken a photo to show how bad the winch looked…but it was bad, REAL bad. Brennan took the sledge hammer and started banging the winch until it was straight or somewhat straight again. We fixed the wheels and some minor stuff, and then took the winch to the garage across the road and before you knew it, we had a brand new… well newish winch. It was a little weird looking but it was working and we still had time to hit another spot.
We arrived at our next location. It was a cool ledge to a water spillway. We had to build a little dam to give Felix more water for his ollie. He wanted a blacktail on it really bad, he was charging it. He bailed hard multiple times and had to give up with his elbows and back all bruised up.
I hurried to set up the kicker beside that wall with about 45 minutes left of light. I wanted to hit that wall and land right back in the tranny. I got one hard bail but was able to got for it again before sun was down and was able to get the shot I wanted which ended the craziest rollercoaster day on a great note.
DAY 07 / June 25th
We drove to my absolute favourite spot I had found on the web. It was a really big spillway. I won the rock, paper, scissors and got the first try at it. The spot was sick, but as I looked up after landing my first try, the cops were already there waiting for us. All we got was one try before getting kicked out which was depressing at that point.
Later that day, we found this drop for Rathy to hit. It was sunset and light was unreal, it wasn’t a kick-out spot and somehow the planets were all aligned for us to get the shot. Rathy got a few tries but just couldn’t stick it. We thought he would get in on the next try if I could drive the winch a little faster. On that very last try, the winch broke and the sun was gone. We figured out later we only had to change the spark plug…we drove back home that night and stopped after we crossed the border.
We knew we needed more shots and knew of a good ledge that Dusty and I had hit in the past. What’s great about winching is that the spots stay the same and riders who get better can really progress. We had the chance to beat whatever had been done in the past. Everyone killed it including Brennan with some insane photos. We all got multiple shots and it just felt good. We were back in Canada, we didn’t get kicked out and we all killed it that day. We celebrated the end of the trip at Boston Pizza and said bye to Brennan.
We drove back home to St.-Zotique in the morning. We cleaned the truck and trailer and I dropped off Felix and Rathy at the airport.
After the trip we had over 15 video shots, really good photos and a ton of good stories. There were lots of ups and downs but overall it was so much fun. It is what winching is all about. It’s an adventure and you have to stay positive and be persistent through it. We were all happy to be home but I know we will miss winch life a week from now. This is what keeps me passionate about winching, it is more than just wakeboarding, it is an adventure. As Felix liked to say, this is winch life!