The European Outdoor Film Tour reminds us what we can achieve when we leave our comfort zone, says Deputy Editor of Ski+board, Rosie Barcroft
The audience visibly cringed. Their gasps echoed around the Royal Geographical Society, London — shock showed on their faces, but with it came admiration, excitement and unbelieving grins. I knew I was doing the same. Twenty-three year old James Kingston from Southampton, UK was dangling off a 77-metre crane… Looking down, you slowly saw his right hand join his legs, his left hand, gripping the railing, was the only thing keeping him from a certain death. The European Outdoor Film Tour 14/15 (EOFT) was off to a flying start.
Every year, the EOFT handpicks top outdoor sport films for a thrill-seeking audience. From mountain biking to ice climbing, kayaking to caving; these people challenge their fears, push their boundaries and ultimately, achieve incredible goals.
After watching a moving story about four women tackling the Onon River through wild Eastern Mongolia into Russia, breath-taking mountain bike stunts by Derek Westerlund and Logan Peat, and a stunning light display from two skiers shredding the Alaskan backcountry at night in custom LED suits it was the caving that made my stomach clench and heart race.
Kieran Mckay and his team from New Zealand were determined to find a link between two intricate cave systems on the south islands, Stormy Pot and Nettlebed. As well as wiggling and squeezing through tiny gaps in the rock, which brought on my claustrophobia, they competed against waterfalls, the cold and the caverns slowly filling up as the rain continued to fall outside.
Surprising the audience, Kieran stood up at the end of the short film to rapturous applause. “We actually managed to create a tunnel between the caves”, he said. “I chipped away at the rock for a while before emerging into — what I realised —the Stormy Pot team’s toilet. It’s a truly unique experience and I love the nothingness you can only experience when you’re hundreds of metres below the ground.”
Free climber Alex Honnold had the audience sitting up in their seats, or even hiding behind them as he scaled the Yosemite “Heaven” route earlier this year. And father of two, Will Gadd produced a cheer when he finally made it up the icy surroundings of the Helmcken Falls in British Columbia, after swearing like a trooper.
We finished with Sandra Lahnsteiner and her all-female freeskiing team as they sped down untouched snow-laden verticals in Japan and Alaska, skimming through trees, jumping off cliffs and somersaulting down the mountain.
I left feeling inspired. Perhaps not to crawl through a mountain, hang from a crane or free-climb up a cliff face, but to push my limits and travel out of my comfort zone more often.
And as James Kingston said: “Face your fears. I used to be scared of heights, but now I don’t see the point of climbing something without looking down.”
The European Outdoor Film Tour is the biggest film event for the European outdoor community and is a well-established sell-out brand on the continent. For the past 14 years it has featured the most exciting outdoor sports film and adventure documentaries in the world. The E.O.F.T. is an edited programme of around 10 extreme/adventure sports films, visiting 200 venues in over a dozen countries in Europe from October to December. It´s not “just” a film evening, it´s a real event, with a compère who introduces the films and star athletes in attendance at many of the screenings to hold Q&A sessions.