The outdoors are not always a blank canvas. As much as we'd like to creatively paint lines or set routes on whatever we fancy, in some cases we simply shouldn't. A few different adventure athletes learned this the hard way after inappropriately using protected and sensitive areas of land for recreation and content creation.
The controversy begins in Hawaii, where a group of skiers and snowboarders—Victor De Le Rue, Markus Eder, and unnamed additonal skier—rode down the dry slopes of the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea. The video sparked outrage from the local Hawaiian community since the Big Island’s volcano is considered sacred. According to KITV News, not only did the athletes fail to apply for permitting, but their stunt defaced and scarred the mountain. Had they even tried to obtain a permit they likely would’ve been denied because the land is considered so precious. Mauna Kea also serves as the home to both anthropological sites and endemic species.
Officials fear that the damage could be more extensive than what is immediately perceived. Located on Mauna Kea is the rare Wēkiu bug habitat. It can only be found on the summit and was potentially damaged from the stunt. Following the backlash, the video was pulled from all the athletes’ social channels. Eder released a statement apologizing for his actions and stated that De Le Rue and Studer share his sentiments.
Meanwhile, a similar story panned out in Spain with rock climber Chris Sharma. The outcry began after apparel brand Prana shared a photo of Sharma scaling the intricate wall formations of a cave. Outside Magazine reports that the National Speleological Society wasn’t too pleased with Prana’s marketing move. They argued that Sharma’s bouldering potentially damaged these environments, which are rich with life and biological processes, potentially causing irreversible harm. After the group shared the photo on Facebook, fellow cavers began chiming in. They expressed concern by calling out Prana for promoting improper caving practices and setting a poor example for other climbers to follow.
Following the backlash, Prana’s president Russ Hopcus described the photo shoot as a mistake. Moving forward he promised the brand will use this as a reminder to be meticulous with location choice for future content. The company also removed the image from its digital catalog. In its place, they explain the controversy and own up to the mistakes that they made in the process.
As content creators, we hold immense responsibility for being stewards of the outdoors, since our actions can have direct impacts on the places we visit. It’s been a major goal of TGR to be both mindful of where we film but also protect these incredible environments when we can. For example, in our recent film Ode to Muir, Jeremy Jones and Elena Hight ventured deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness for a 40-mile foot-powered splitboard expedition. Beyond the winter camping and first descents, Jones and Hight used the experience to reflect on the importance of the natural world and what we can learn from it.