Snowboard filming changed a lot in the mid-90s when snowmobiles opened up the backcountry to us. The limitations of the sleds and our knowledge kept us pretty close to home at first, but after a few years, we had started to really explore a lot of new areas.
As we did, the terrain we could access got better and we started to find bigger features to hit. Cliffs that had perfect steep faces below them, rollers, steep landings, and eventually road gaps became the thing. In late 1999 I signed on with Forum Snowboards as a staff photographer and started to shoot the legendary Forum team that November and through the winter of 2000 for a film project that ended up being The Resistance.
I had shot with Devun a lot over the years and by 2000 his hall of fame status was already assured. It’s easy to see the footage and photos of Dev from his career and take for granted the talent, but the work that goes into all those shots is why he is next level.
For the opening segment to the movie, [Sean] Kearns wanted to get a tracking shot of Devun driving Orion’s T-top Firebird in full rocker gear, so one day we packed up a crew and headed off to the Hurly River road. We had been exploring zones up there all winter, largely by ourselves, and the area was still one of our little secrets. There was a section of road that was mostly straight and dropped steeply off to the side, allowing a helicopter to follow alongside and get the shot. It was perfect.
Permission to film there was a bit trickier. As in, we didn’t have it. Of course, that didn’t stop us from putting the heli down on the side of the road and setting up “road workers” about a kilometre apart on either side of our stretch of road. The lesson of the day was: an orange safety vest, a clipboard, and walkie-talkie are official enough to stop traffic for an afternoon on a dirt road. “What are you guys filming?” the people would ask. “Oh, just a movie of the week…” For some reason they never questioned it.
“This was just a warm-up for what was to come.”
After a bunch of runs through we had the shot and sent the helicopter off. Luckily, no government vehicles passed through for the hours we had the road. When we were done, Devun wanted to head a little way up the road to check out a feature that he had seen that past winter. It was a road gap and he wanted to get a look at the landing at low tide to make sure that there were no hidden boulders or logs that would be lurking under the snow. It was huge.
The landing was good to go, at least there were no hidden obstacles, and it was on the list of things to do for 2001. Winter came and we passed by the waiting gap multiple times, but the conditions were never right. Then Devun hurt his knee and the gap was on hold. Finally, in the spring, it looked like a now-or-never scenario, and we went to try and tame it. The in-run was sketchy and it dodged between trees before bursting into the light and lip with no time to think.
It took some time to build, and by the time it was ready we were out of sun. [Chris] Dufficy was game though. He was the first one to hit it, launching a massive Method. The footage went to the Wildcats movie Return of the Wildcats and Devun left it for another day. As the spring season wore on, we were running out of days with conditions that were good enough to shoot, but we got lucky with a day of sun and enough new snow on the landing to make it doable. By now the snow on the road had melted down a lot making the drop in to an intimidating height.
Devun finally got to hit the drop that he had put months into researching and preparing. It was massive. When the film came back from the lab I could barely believe it. This was no wide-angle trickery; it was just balls and talent. I wrote “Huge Road Gap” on the slide mount, but soon it would come to be known as the Hurley Road Gap.
But he wasn’t satisfied. This was just a warm-up for what was to come, but since the season was over, he’d have to wait to bring spins to the Hurley Gap. The next season gave us more cracks at it and right off the bat Dev’s Backside 3 netted him the cover of Snowboarder Magazine. That air and a Corked Cab 5 were featured in arguably his best part in MDP’s Pulse.
The Hurley Gap has become a legendary spot and a rite of passage for many pros, but few know that it was a product of Devun’s vision and hard work. At least that’s my story. And I’m sticking to it.