The real athletes behind Point Break’s extreme snowboarding scenes
Published on February 19th, 2016 | by Jordan Kierans0
The original Point Break film (1991), starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, is a classic, known for its jaw-dropping surfing scenes. The new version of the film widens the action-adventure brief, including daring feats performed by elite athletes from the worlds of snowboarding, wingsuit flying, rock climbing and motocross riding too.
There are many well-known pro snowboarders in the film, performing stunts or serving as stunt coordinators and technical advisors. Seven-time snowboarding champion Xavier De Le Rue is the film’s lead rider, and Iouri Podladtchikov, Louie Vito, Christian Haller, Lucas DeBari, Ralph Backstrom and Mitch Toelderer are also involved.
Just as in the original Point Break, young FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey in the new version), infiltrates a team of thrill-seeking elite athletes, led by the charismatic Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). The athletes are suspected of carrying out a spate of crimes in extremely unusual ways, and agent Utah tries to prove their guilt by going undercover.
One of the scenes in the high-octane film sees Bodhi and his team snowboarding down the rocky face of a mountain on the Italian side of Mont Blanc in Alps. The pros doubled for Utah, Bodhi and Bodhi’s comrades as they hurtle down the mountain’s sheer faces at speeds of between 30mph and 65mph.
“Our lead snowboarder Xavier is one of the best big-mountain snowboarders in the world,” says director Ericson Core. “He helped us find locations like no other. He’s also a filmmaker in his own right, so he became a partner in terms of where to place the cameras.
“When it became clear that no one could keep up with Xavier, I gave him a camera and he captured quite a bit of what happened. He’s the only person I know who’s good enough to take the extraordinary runs we were taking and handle a camera at the same time.”
De Le Rue says, “I’ve never seen a Hollywood movie that pulled out a really credible snowboard segment, so that was the goal here – to have something that would feel authentic for everyone, not only for wider audiences but also for core snowboarders.”
Avalanches were a constant threat so the crew had daily consultations with the local mountain guides and the Italian avalanche warning services before the day’s schedule and locations were worked out. Of the three-and-a-half weeks allotted to filming the snowboarding scenes, the crew was able to use only 11 days.
“In big-mountain riding there are many types of dangers, number one being snow, which is a difficult element to control,” De Le Rue says. “There could be cornices, crevices and slides that could either bury you or take you down into the rocks.
“So you always have that to think about those, plus just the gravity of riding above rocks at that speed. There are lots of variables, so you need to be focused and take a huge margin on everything you do. Never rush, and don’t get carried away with the amazing day you’re having.”
Amplifying the danger was the pairing of two or four riders on a run, which is rarely done in the mountains, as this increases the avalanche risk. “It was very technical,” De Le Rue says, “but, all in all, a great experience.”
Xavier De Le Rue
Xavier De Le Rue has a racing and freestyle background, but it’s his skill in big-mountain riding that has earnt him wide recognition. He can claim three Freeride World Tour wins in a row (2008, 2009, 2010) and was World Boardercross champion twice. He has also been awarded many other major snowboarding honours, including the Biggest Guts award at the 2012 Reels festival and Standout of the Year 2010 by the TransWorld Rider Poll.
De Le Rue has also received recognition for his films. Among his freeride filming projects are the movie Deeper, an expedition to the Antarctic for the documentary Lives of the Artists, and mind-blowing action in TB20 and 2112 by Standard Films.
Following these experiences, he created his own production company, Timeline Missions, which produces regular films such as This Is My Winter;White Noise and Mission Antarctic, which documented his trip to Antarctica on a small boat with his crew, a Timeline Missions collaboration with Camp 4 collective. His latest release is Degrees North.