TRIATHLETES ON HORSES' BACKS
Waimea,Big Island, October 2014

Main characters:Sebastian Kienle, Ronnie Schildknecht & Yvonne van Vlerken
Supporting roles: Per Bittner, Sam Gydé, Tine Schleifer
Stuff: Herwig Labostella Steiner, Kjell Schiöberg, Paniolo Pa'akaula

Some time end of July the idea popped up. Why I am brooding on developing things that are different, is it simply a whim? If I had to answer this question to myself, I would boldly say: "Of course, not". To leave a mark nowadays you have to do things differently.

We did 2 photo shootings with our team in Kona at the world championships: one on the lava fields with our legendary CUBE (photo) in 2012 and another in the Energy Lab following the motto "one shooting another shooting another and so forth" in 2013.
But what next?
Yet another shooting in a similar environment restaged in a similar way? How boring for us and how boring for our audience.

Being on the Big Island it is not far-fetched to consider horse-riding as an interesting choice. Especially as body perception was our topic of concern during the last weeks riding would perfectly fit into our strategic approach for the year 2014. After a big race such as the one in Kona riding - I thought - would be good for the tortured and exhausted bodies and minds of our athletes.

The vast pastures with their deep green colors stretching out underneath the summits of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are a breath-taking scenery for such an endeavor. I was sure that the guys would like it and welcome it as delighting change from the everyday routine of training and racing.
And this was the case.

LOOKING FOR THE LOCATION

The online search results opened my eyes. I felt ashamed after traveling to the Big Island for more than 10 years not to be familiar with the long Paniolo (cowboy) tradition of the Hawaiian people. When we found out it was quite obvious to us that we had to find a farm run by indigenous paniolos not by US Americans.

After touring through the countryside we found our place of choice. We never regretted to have picked out the Dahana Ranch in Waimea. The place breathes the closeness of all living creatures. They treat each other with respect and live the peaceful coexistence we can only dream of. Nature is not an alien we are looking at fearfully enviously or sentimentally. Nature is just what we all are.

The pictures tell it all, no more words are required.

TESTING OUR RIDING SKILLS

Herwig, Kjell and myself have no horse-riding skills. So it was our major concern to find out whether we would be able to ride a horse, shoot a video and take photos. Especially master Herwig had big doubts. To venture out for a proof of concept was inevitable.

This was our second trip to the Dahana Ranch. On a beautiful sunny day we enjoyed our ride spreading out over the vast pastures of the ranch with a perfect view on Mauna Kea.

You won't believe it, there is not one picture available. All three of us were focusing completely on riding our horses. Master Herwig turned out to be the most talented one of us.
Very important, after all he is the main character when it comes to our multimedia performance. After this rehearsal we felt confident and were looking forward to the "big show" after the race.

THE DAY OF THE PREMIERE

Race day we had luckily survived with Sebastian winning the world title and Kjell not drowning the Pacific Ocean when filming the swim turnaround in the gigantic swells of this day. All of us were looking forward to the adventures on the horses' backs.

By 10:30am we had collected everybody and drove to Waimea. Bright sunshine and a good mood were our companion on the road. Nobody could ever have imagined at this time that things would turn by 180° within the next 2 hours.

Arriving at the farm the sun was still out comfortably warming body and soul.The dogs came running towards us friendly wagging their tails, the cats watched us from a distance and Pa’akaula, owner and paniolo from the bottom of his heart, was already preparing the horses.

Yvonne mounted the horse first, then Sebi, myself, Ronnie, Sam and so on. Then the first rain drops fell and a huge rotor of cloud appeared at the horizon.

We are all waiting.
Having no idea yet what kind of adventure was expecting us.

The clouds are building up.
But we did not realize the threat yet.

The first rain drops for Sebastian and Ronnie...

All of us have been rookies and needed instructions...

Kjell started to rush around us with his camera to get some good shots. Our gut feeling told us already that we might have seen the last sun rays on the ride that still lay ahead of us. But what came then was far beyond from what we could imagine.

At the latest we should have been alarmed when Pa'akaula set off with his warm down feather jacket. Sebastian, Per and Tine put on a jacket. The rest of us left wearing a t-shirt only.

Kjell decided to leave his expensive camera at farm and took the GOPRO on the telescope bar with him on the horse. Herwig took the SONY video camera - we decided to take the risk to lose it - and one GOPRO on the head, another one Pa’akaula took on his head… I myself was in charge to take photos with the iphone protected the diving cage.

We left in harmony on our horses’ backs still optimistic.

Round about 30 minutes after our departure from the farm - we had all spread out already - the situation changed completely. Strong winds, a temperature drop - I assume below 10°C - heavy rain with the drop torturing our skins like little ice cubes.
It was hard to continue smiling, but we did as good as we could. But this was not yet the worst of weather on this day. A thunderstorm followed. The lightnings and thunderbolts right above us.

I started to ask myself how dangerous the situation really was, no clue. I only realized that Pa’akaula allowed us now to trod behind each other and that he then made shortcut back to the ranch. He was cool, you couldn’t read whether he found the weather conditions threatening. We all kept cool too, nobody panicked… all of us proved to be true triathletes.

Herwig and Kjell were simply amazing how they were shooting the whole scene. I myself could not operate the iphone camera anymore. My fingers were too stiff.

Trotting away over the vast pastures of the ranch

The rain drops were hurting in our faces due to the strong winds. Our cloths were drenched, our bodies crouched and our minds tried hard not to let ourselves go and stay in an upright position.

Body-wise Sebastian was probably suffering the most. The fatigue after Saturday's race made him more sensitive to the temperature, the wind and the wetness, mood swings are normal after such an exertion.
Therefore he was the most stressed one of us, but he kept his countenance all the way through.

But at the very end we have been all happy to return safely and quickly escaped into our cars with the heating at full throttle.

But today weeks later we all love to remember this adventure. The memory made a great event out of this Monday after the big triathlon race. It taught us once and again to be humble, to respect nature and to be aware of the own ignorance. Even a world champion title turns small under such circumstances.

Imprint | Distribution