A Search For a Higher Place

On the road to Attunga...

Words: Seth Huot

They say everything starts with an idea. When I think of what happens inside your brain the moment an ‘idea’ is realised, it is something like watching fireworks go off. Sometimes, there is one single idea that soars way up, then bursts beautifully into a perfect spray of dazzling particles. Then there are ideas that bang loudly with one big earth shattering bang and a single blinding flash. Then, there are ideas that spark ideas and more ideas, until the sky ends up looking like New Year’s Eve over Times Square in NYC.

That’s what happened on this trip.

But let’s rewind it 12 months. Remy Stratton, Volcom veteran had just had recently been appointed to oversee the Volcom snow department, along with skate.

After much observing and dissecting of the snow team and inner workings of the snow industry, one of the first concepts Remy brought up to Jeff and I was a video project based on our three Norwegians – Terje Haakonsen, Torgeir Bergrem and Marcus Kleveland.

The concept was vague and loose initially, but the main premise was showing the contrast in perspectives, ages, and backgrounds of these individuals.

There is Terje; Snowboarding’s GOAT, who boycotted snowboarding’s 1998 debut into the Winter Games. A legend from the ‘90s generation, with timeless style, who isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Torgeir; Snowboarding’s middle child, who has been in the game for a minute and can shred anything from a scaffolding jump to epic BC pow and pillows, all the while keeping the fun meter cranked to no less than 100.

And Marcus; the small town wunderkind that is out of this world – inventing tricks, blowing up the contest scene and buttering his way into the ranks of snowboarding’s greatest, all from the local hills of central Norway.

Winter moves fast. When you are following the contest scene as it ramps up towards  the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic game qualifications, it moves even faster. Locking three guys down, who are on totally different schedules with totally different agendas to film a project was a mind and calendar melting task.

We needed one element to the video project that would set it apart from the rest and we need all three of these guys together, shredding the same place.

That’s when the fireworks really started popping off.

Remy, abstract and skate minded, brought up an idea he had for a skate feature. What he started to describe instantly sparked a barrae of ideas inside our brains.  If you have ever seen the Volcom Headquarters skate park or SXSW Volcom Super Collider ramp (Remy designed both) you will see that the Volcom Stone is more than just a cool company logo…it’s a fully shred-able and rip-able object.

Remy suggested laying the Stone flat like a table top, using the angles and geometry of the sides to transition lips and landings, making multiple and various shred options and combos.  There is no set lip, no set landing and the feature will be based on pure aesthetics with no cheesiness or gimmicks. It will be judged purely on the rider’s creativity.

The next thing was deciding where to build it. North America had tons of snow, but locking everyone – and a location – down in time was going to be tough.

That’s when we thought about Australia. We knew Marcus and Torgeir would be down there already with the Norwegian national team training, and Terje had let us know that he had an open schedule for September.

We had been going over resort host options and Falls Creek in Victoria came up from our team rider and Australian native Scotty James. None of us had been to Falls Creek so we didn’t know what to expect, but that was half of the excitement.

Jeff, Remy or myself have never built a park feature before and with the intricacy involved in this build, we weren’t about to start now. We dialed up our friends at Snow Park Technologies for the job, to make sure the feature was legit to how we wanted it to look, as well as making it rideable and safe.

Since SPT is in Reno Nevada, Volcom HQ is in Costa Mesa California, and Falls Creek is in Australia, all of the planning and logistics were being carried out through weekly conference calls. We proposed the idea to the Falls Creek park team, led by Bailey Mitchell. He had the perfect spot in mind on hill to place the Stone build.

Now all we could do was wait for Southern Hemi snow.

We quickly realized this was going to be a one-time opportunity to take advantage of such a timeless feature. We had to bring in the full heavy hitting Volcom squad. Along with Terje Haakonsen, Torgeir Bergrem and Marcus Kleveland, we recruited our diverse crew of boarders; Pat Moore, Scott Blum, Mike Ravelson and local boy Scotty James. The media crew was myself, Olivier Gittler, Volcom family droner James Lugo, Jeff Kabigting, Vernon Deck and Snowboarder Mag’s notorious E-Stone. (E-Stone has to be the man to shoot the stone… right?) We also had Volcom Australia’s Shane Azar to help manage and run point on logistics with Aussie Shredder Joss McAplin.

We all arrived from different parts of the globe and it was time to do it like the good ol’ days – jump in the van and hit the road!

Mike Ravelson taking a break from the van to stretch his legs | Image: E-Stone

The road up to Falls was gnarly, super winding and right before we reached the resort it started dumping snow, so we had to pull over and chain up to finish the drive. But the rad thing about Falls Creek is once you are there, you leave your car behind and they snow cat you up through the village to your ride in, ride out housing accommodation.  A few of us were assigned to the Attunga Lodge, which would end up being home base for the crew and supplying us no shortage of good vibes with the on-site acoustic guitars and grand piano jams in the lounge. The lodge was one of those places that leaves a big impression on you and with a crew like this, team bonding was in full effect.

We had shown up in the dark so we had no idea how insane Falls Creek is. We were quickly mesmerised by our surroundings. It’s a village on the side of a mountain, but yet also in the middle of an exotic jungle. Red parrots were flying and landing on the deck railings, there were crazy gum trees, just so many things you don’t see in the States.

As we geared up to get on-hill for our first day, nerves and anticipation were running through our bodies. We came over the ridge on the backside of the resort and the massive Stone build revealed itself. We all just stopped in awe as we looked over the Stone in pure amazement. It was perfect. It was everything we had imagined. A fucking giant ride-able Volcom Stone. We all erupted in awe, cheering and exploding with pure stoke… a moment that none of us will forget.

The boys cracked into a session as soon as the sun lit up the Stone, revealing its perfect geometry. They crushed it – the session was firing.  With a week of unsettled weather, we went up every day and were able to squeak out a couple of “sucker hole” sessions when the clouds parted for short periods of time. Spirits were high, and the vibes carried into the night with lots of beer, liquor and guitars.

The whole premise of the shoot was about the Stone aesthetic and rider creativity. This feature had never been built before and there were no rules or pre-determined factors in how to hit it. Riders were hitting it in all directions and in every possible tranny combo, they were buttering and carving the top, planting the corners, hipping, hitting it doubles and even sending it straight over the whole thing.

During our stay, we learned that ‘Attunga’ is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning “A Higher Place”. On that trip, there is no doubt that we had experienced ‘a higher place’ on hill and off. Fittingly, “ATTUNGA ‘A Higher Place’” later became the title to the film.

And it all started with a simple spark of an idea.


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