Sam Ward on the Molly Wave, Mistissini River, Ottawa. May 6, 2014 Photo by Jasper Gibson
Canon 5D MKIII with a Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 93mm
1/1000 sec. at f/10 – ISO 400
Canoe & Kayak: The whitewater community is pretty tight-knit… What’s it like to work with these high profile whitewater athletes? Was there ever a moment when you felt “accepted into the group?”
Jasper Gibson: At first, it was incredibly intimidating interacting and photographing the WWGP athletes. I mean, they are some of the gnarliest athletes in the world. I did have a few people that I knew from prior experiences in the whitewater community so that felt like a godsend. I don’t know if there was one moment in particular where I felt that I was “accepted into the group,” but over the two weeks I feel like I became friends with almost everyone on the tour. So many laughs and good memories with the most humble professional athletes in the world (in my humble opinion).
This river wave looks pretty gnarly! What was the approach the athletes took to riding it? What were the challenges involved?
Luckily, the wave was paddle access, so no walking was necessary. The athletes would drop in and ferry across from river left, paddle really hard and 25 percent of the time they would catch the wave. Ice chunks the size of VW buses were floating past so we had to have Jake Greenbaum (spotter on the bridge) tell Sam Ward (boater) when there was a clean window for surfing. In about an hour or so of staking out the wave, he probably only had 5-8 clean passes. Out of the whole hour, he only had a few minutes of riding, and even then he hit a few chunks.
We named the wave after Benny Marr said, “we should name it Molly.”
In response, Sam said, “Shit man, that wave was almost pure ecstasy.”
I looked at Sam and told him, “That's what we should name it, ‘Pure Ecstasy.’"
It was unpredictable and you had to be in perfect position to catch the wave. Pure Ecstasy was a fickle beast, but once obtained, it would give the rider the rush of a lifetime [laughs].
What are the biggest challenges you face in photographing whitewater?
One of the biggest challenges that I face in shooting whitewater is capturing more than just the amazing action that takes place on the river. Whitewater kayaking takes you to places that most people don’t even think of. I have a passion for capturing these athletes in the captivating scenery that they surround themselves with on the daily.
Also, there is so much more to whitewater kayaking than the actual river running. There is the camaraderie, the lifestyle, the gypsy living, but most importantly it’s the most humble, charismatic and sometimes crazy community of people that make whitewater what it is. That is what I am challenging myself with these days, trying to capture the lifestyle of whitewater.
What’s next on your list of photographic adventures?
As we speak I am on a road trip! I am spending the last weeks of summer traveling all around Oregon and California taking photos of almost everything outdoors. We are surfing, climbing, backpacking, longboarding, SUPing and life-styling on the coast and in the mountains. And, I just bought myself a surfboard, so I guess that will be a good learning experience! This winter I will also be getting after the ski photography. I am really stoked for this winter.