Chasing the Dream: Interview with Aaron Chase

While we were in Las Vegas for Interbike, I ran into Aaron Chase and I got a chance to talk to him about a few of his films. Here’s what he had to say:

Josh Campbell: I saw your open loop video, who decided chopping the top of a loop off was a good idea?
Aaron Chase: That was for a film called Project Breathe Easy and it was my buddy Matt Macduff. He has this whole complex in Halifax, Canada with two open loops. The one that I did is the one that he’s done a bunch but he built a bigger one. I wasn’t really all that into the big one but I loved the way the other one was built into the trees and it incorporated dirt and logs and it just looked like it was thrown together out of junk. And I wanted to learn how to ride one of those and this one had a dirt floor on the bottom and the wall is bolted onto two birch trees so it has some flex to it when you landed. It would basically throw you in the right direction; you just had to figure out how to be a passenger. When you’re doing a move like that, it might come natural to some people while it might totally baffle others. It wasn’t easy to figure out.

JC: Where is your favorite place to ride?
AC: Anywhere where there is dirt that you can move around easily. It’s soft and the dirt is dark and if you were to fall, you don’t get hurt. That’s where I ride and feel most comfortable. I get the job done on stuff like that. But at the same time, I used to ride street a lot, which is just concrete. I’m 35 now so if I do take a crash, I’d like to get back up from it. Somewhere like Utah or just a place with great dirt. But, if I had to pick one place to go and ride, it would probably be Highland Mountain Bike Park in New Hampshire.

JC: Now that you’re doing more filming, where is your favorite place to film?
AC: It’s all these new spots. I’m a GoPro filmer, so I film myself wherever I go. I just went to Iceland this summer and absolutely loved it. I don’t know if that’s my favorite place but that’s definitely the first place that came to mind when I thought about it, especially from this summer. It was a sick zone. A quick note about Iceland, if you look over your left shoulder, you could be looking at a heavenly sight like a huge waterfall. Then if you look over your right shoulder, you could be looking over a hellish valley with dark clouds and sharp rocks. It’s just such a cool place with great contrast to it. I’m definitely going back there to film for sure.

JC: I also saw a video of you riding around a volcano in Mexico, where did that idea come from?
AC: A buddy of mine has ties in South America and one of the companies that does all sorts of promotional stuff was doing a segment for the morning news every morning, and they wanted us to come down there and ride for them. There were a couple of things that they lured us down with; they brought a builder that we knew, which was really cool because then at least we knew it had a chance of happening. And a helicopter that they promised to take us to the top of a volcano that was at 14,000 feet. If you know anything about helicopters, that’s pretty high. Usually helicopters don’t fly that high because the air is so thin so they had to bring a special heli. But it was all for the government and the governor of Mexico City and all the morning news channels were there covering it. It was promoting recreation in the mountains. We did a heli drop and then the next day, we did a road gap over one of the Red Bull Trophy Trucks, which was great because I went there with my cameras and captured it all and got some sick footage that I put together and made a series out of it. In order to heave the governor and everyone out there, they had to have ridiculous security. They had snipers up on the hill with us and everything. It was pretty insane.

JC: What originally got your started biking?
AC: My dad did triathlons and he bought me my first mountain bike when I was in fourth grade and he picked one up too. We grew up in New Hampshire so there were plenty of trails. Whether it was a dirt bike trail or a snowmobile trail, we were always out on some sort of trail. My first bike was an Iron Horse Zebra Empire, which was a rigid cross-country bike with a steel frame. My dad got one too and we just biked forever. I had a career day in my high school when I was a junior and a guy from Cannondale who graduated from my school came and spoke. My buddies and I were all about bikes and when he came up and talked, we talked bikes with him for a while and the next time he saw me, I was at mount snow and I went to sign up for dual slalom in expert and it was full, so I signed up in pro and qualified 10th. Then he approached me and said he wanted to get me started on their grassroots program, which was mostly cross-country at the time, and I was the one gravity guy. I’ve been holding on there for 17 years and I still ride for them. Now I’m more of a brand ambassador for them and more of a content producer for GoPro and Red Bull who are two of the biggest beasts in this market and the best story tellers in the business.

JC: How did that lead into a career in filming?
AC: Well, I’m a GoPro athlete, so I’m more of a content producer than a competitor these days. I was competing in mountain biking but I’m more of a producer now. So I’ll go somewhere on someone’s dime, whether it’s one of my sponsors or the nice people down in Mexico, I’ll go down there and I’ll ride and film and compose something for them. It’s so cool how you can do it all yourself now. As a rider, the one weapon you need is a GoPro.

JC: If you had to choose one discipline as your favorite, what would it be?
AC: Well, of course the best is the worst. So doing the full loop stuff is probably the most rewarding because you can say hey, I did this and overcame it and I did that and I learned it and I’ve been working on this for so long, so probably the dirt jumping and the freeride aspect and the progressive riding. I really enjoy the WTF moments. Like when you pull something off on your bike that you didn’t think you could. But at the same time, it’s the worst because you’re sitting there and thinking I just hit my face on the ramp and it might be the third day I’ve been riding and if you’re 35 and you ride for three days straight, and you crash five times everyday, you’re probably just going to be like enough is enough. You get beat up and it takes a lot out of you to ride and film because everyone wants to smoosh it all into their four or five day trip and so you’re talking about four or five days of being on your bike and trying to do the most progressive moves of your summer right then and there. It’s tough because riding doesn’t come as easy as it did when I was a kid, because when I was a kid, we literally filmed everything and we used everything and had fun the whole time. But now you don’t want to do too many bar spins or too many back flips, you want to construct a segi that has a little of everything. There is just a lot more to think about now. Every shot has to stand out on its own. You can’t have a couple weak shots in your section just because you liked them.

JC: If you had to pick one trick to do for the rest of your life, what would it be?
AC: It’s gotta be a 360, because you can spin jumps, you can spin drops. They’re just the best. And you can do it on your BMX bike or your downhill bike; it’s just such a versatile trick. The back flip is the ultimate but I wouldn’t want to backflip everything. If you were to ever do one trick, I think the backflip is one of the most obtainable and spectacular tricks that you could ever do. To master a backflip is extremely difficult but to do a backflip is not that difficult.

JC: Are you doing anything with Red Bull Rampage this year?
AC: I’m going to judge, and I’m going to do the Chase cam, which is a spot that I came up with. It’s basically getting that angle of the follow cam using a chesty and a helmet cam and following a rider. Which is one of GoPro’s big, major shots and it’s also not a shot that they’re going to get because all of the riders are riding by themselves down their own line and I’m going to do some follow stuff across ridge lines and up to jumps and down shoots and stuff like that and film it as a follow cam.

JC: What does the future look like for you as far as riding and filming goes?
AC: The future is pretty bright for a guy like me because I’m able to come up with a concept and I know the recipe for making it happen. I also have the ability to build it all on my own and film it all on my own. I just need a plane ticket. So cost wise, I’m the guy for the job. I have about ten different people that I work for which is great because my bike company needs it just as much as my sunglass company needs it. So when I’m on top of the mountain, I turn that GoPro to where it takes two pictures a second and I wave it around me and I wave it around the bike and then I go on my app on my phone and I can email it to them from there or I can just send them a hard drive of footage at the end of the season. I can do edited pieces or just small segments. I just want to be the guy who is easy to sponsor and easy to work with. And not only be able to deliver on the front end but also on the back end.

JC: Thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing more of your videos. 

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