Photo Epic: King of the Kootenays
Mountain lions, grizzly bears, bull elk... of the many dangerous creatures hiding out in the mountains of Interior BC there's one to rule them all. An unparalleled destroyer of the planet's gnarliest terrain, repeatedly flying in under the radar to victory, Kurt Sorge is possibly the ultimate dark horse of the MTB world. Having taken an unimaginable and unmatched third Red Bull Rampage win in the fall of 2017, it's a mystery how 'the other' quiet Canadian prodigy stays as camouflaged and humble as he does. Rest assured between far-flung travels, the co-founder of the Fest Series is living what many of us would agree is the best possible version of 'the dream' at the edge of the wilderness. This man is a rock star beyond hats and helmets. The King of the Kootenays has earned his crown.
|My name is Kurtis Sorge, most call me Kurt. I’m 28 years old. I grew up and reside in Nelson, BC and as soon as I threw my leg over a bike I was hooked.|
Nelson is a city located in the Selkirk Mountains on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. The winters offer steep and deep powder dreams and when the snow melts we have access from old mining and logging road to many mountains with over 100 trails in the surrounding area.—KS
A big part of the evolution of freeriding comes from this neck of the woods. Many pros started off in these haunts and the valley's well known for its progressive trails and features. Coming from team sports, I found snowboarding first and then I got into biking soon after. Having a bunch of good riders in town helped me tons and I still get out with most of the people I grew up riding with. Shuttle days and sessions on the jumps in this community are some of my favourite times. Nelson is one hell of a place to come back home to.
|In December 2016 my girlfriend, Chiara, and I finally moved into our new place across the lake from Nelson. It’s an old hunting cabin at the foot of the mountain that's taken a fair bit of renovating. It's a mile or so down-river from town and there's no real maintained road to our house; the majority of the year it's boat access only. We are now neighbours with Garett Buehler, a long-time friend and my main riding buddy from the early days. Garett's Dad had a place over in Grohman with a field and what started with a road gap and a couple of jumps eventually turned into a full trifecta line with 3 different options that took up the whole yard. There was another property above Garett's that flowed perfectly into his yard and the dream was to have the jump line all the way from the top of the other property. That reason, plus having spent a lot of time over there and loving the quiet bush life, made it a dream spot—KS|
ON EARLY INSPIRATION:
|My first taste of freeride MTB was when my buddy 'The Dude' brought Kranked 2 to school. Mike Kinrade and Jeremy Grant's movie 'Hidden Pleasures' was the next bike flick I watched and featured all the raddest riders of the time. There was a year or so I kind of fell out of love with biking when I started going to town for junior high... Ya know, girls and stuff, ha. But I still had the itch to ride when some older guys had put on NWD 1 in the cafeteria and Robbie Bourdon and Joe Schwartz segment came on and that got me stoked! So those hometown heroes plus the rest of the cast of the NWD series were always my favourite growing up.—KS|
ON PERSONAL HISTORY:
Alex Woikin and few other guys from the neighbourhood, Nick Cima, Shane Learmonth, Kurt Desjardain, Brent Reins, to name a few, were sending it and riding all the time. Dude and I would go watch them hit the dirt jumps they had built and mess around riding down stairs and doing wheelies off picnic tables until finally one day when I showed up at their jumps I wasn't there to just watch. Later, a bunch of local guys and I started filming with Tamas Forde for his first bike movie "Local Yokels". I became good friends with him and started riding more with Garett Buehler. It was the fourth edition of the "Ultimate Freeride Challenge" (an online voting video contest before YouTube was even invented) where a bunch of legends like Tyler Super T Klassen, Matt Hunter, Cam McCaul, Wayne Goss started their careers. Tamas offered to film mine and Garett's entry videos, so we set off that year and made it happen. Matt Brooks had invited me to come ride with him after never meeting each other and we rode with Jared Gatkza, Steve T... they were sending it!—KS
We pretty much went straight to the Ord Road gap just outside of Kamloops to hit one of the biggest step downs to date done recently by Steve Romaniuk. Jared was no foot canning the road gap and Steve T was no handering it at the time and that seemed absolutely nuts. I was keen and padded up and headed up to the top with Johnny Korthius who was on a hard tail with a dual crown. We both sent it at the end of the session, making easily the biggest drop I had ever hit. Later that week we went to Kelowna and hit the Gillard Road gap, which was also made famous by Romaniuk, so with those clips and a bunch of riding from around Nelson, I ended up winning. From there I signed 3 contracts, was invited into the Freeride Entertainment family and to start filming for their videos plus getting invites to the biggest contests.
ON GOING PRO
It was a surreal feeling making it pro for sure. I was 16 years old and just going into grade 11. As a rider I always liked going big, pushing myself and I had a few tricks, but I was riding a freeride bike with a dual crown so I wasn't flipping, spinning or anything like that. Having more opportunities to ride and getting a dirt jumping bike, I was inspired by the guys pushing the scene and slopestyle contests got me stoked to learn more tricks.—KS
My life didn't change a whole lot on the personal side. I was still riding and hanging with my friends from back home that were always progressing themselves and going on crazy adventures. Hanging with them was always good training, plus riding with other pros at events, filming and off-season trips to Cali helped a lot
|I've always dreamed of building my own jumps on my own property so spring before last I pulled the trigger and rented a big excavator and went at it. I've worked with machines before, but never operated them so I taught myself and gave 'er—KS|
|Fest Series came about at the Hillbilly Huck Fest 2013, having such a good time on big bikes with the freedom to ride when we feel like, when the conditions are right. Instead of contest runs, it was just a big session and trains. Besides Rampage, Chatel Mountain Style was the only big mountain/slopestyle event and it had been discontinued. It was up to us to keep this vibe alive so Makken Haugen, Nico Vink, Graham Agassiz, Andreu Lacondeguy, Nick Pescetto and myself all said we wanted to have a similar event. We'd invite everyone for a good time riding the biggest and best jumps and enjoy each other's home cultures. It's been great having guys like Kyle Jameson, R Dog, Jeff Herbertson stoked on the ideas and starting their own event with Cruz Fest the second and third season. Sam Reynolds also, who was there at the beginning, started Dark Fest last year. Now KJ has kept the dream alive moving to Bend and combining forces with young-gun powerhouse, Carson Storch, with Black Sage Fest.—KS|
|Now don't get me wrong; riding the biggest and baddest jumps is awesome, but I don't think that was the final vision for Fest. We have plans in the works... more events, film projects and for sure keeping the 'mountain' in mountain biking.—KS|
ON WINNING RAMPAGE
|The emotions of winning Red Bull Rampage for the first time felt so surreal. It was my third year out in the desert, but that season I had a bigger bag of tricks from riding slopestyle contests and I was coming off a couple of years filming 'Where the Trail Ends'. Travelling to some of the planet's best big mountain zones definitely didn't hurt. I was stoked to realise a childhood dream, plus so thankful for all of the people who supported me throughout my life and career. It was a long journey to get there—KS|
ON THE STRUGGLE:
A month before the 2013 event I was super motivated to defend my title, but I broke my tibial plateau hitting a tree at the Bearclaw Invitational. In the end, I would be off the bike for 9 months and obviously, the dream of a repeat win was over. I came back after the toughest injury of my career hungry and wanting to take my riding in another direction away from slopestyle. The season was going great; having the first year of the Fest Series I was able to spend the whole season on my DH bike. Almost the same time as the previous year I was doing a promotional event and slipped a pedal on a small jump after doing a super can... I got my right foot on the pedal but stomped my left foot to the ground and rode over it with my pedal. I rode away with a dead leg, but as I slowed down and looked at my leg I could see the lump where I had snapped my fibula. The hopes to make it back to Rampage that year were over and it ended up being a complicated break that no doctor was keen to operate on. That off-season I got the call, which I thought was to resign my contract after being with the company for 10 years, but it was a giant disappointment to find the exact opposite. I started shopping around late in the season with most companies out of budget already. Luckily I still had a bunch of personal deals that stuck with me, but I had the rest of the bike to get together. Eventually, I managed to dial in the bike, parts and kit with a stack of awesome companies and it fuelled the fire once again.—KS
With another solid year behind me, I was just hoping to make it to Rampage for 2015. There were still a lot of people in doubt that I still had it and I felt I had something to prove. It was a classic Rampage, long days digging and minimal practise. I had yet to do most of the big moves in my run but had to go for it. It was hands down the rowdiest run of my life. Big impacts and an overshoot, I knew I just had to keep sending it and hold on. There were a lot of super sick runs that year and I couldn't believe I ended up on the top again. It felt amazing to come back after a couple big injuries and show everyone I wasn't going anywhere. It was a full Fest podium which was cool but it was also tough that year as a bunch of guys got hurt. Like a lot of folks, I thought to myself 'is this really worth it'...
|Going into Rampage last year I felt like a smarter rider. Knowing these days I need to prepare my body and mind as much as my riding. 2016 I was dealing with some head games as well as a big crash in Norway midway through the summer that had me off my bike almost right until Rampage. I knew what I wanted to do, but the stars weren't aligning. I was happy to make it down in one piece that year but it left me wanting much more. I felt like I took the right preparation this season and with the help of an awesome dig team, we pulled it off! It was a run I had been thinking about ever since that first victory in 2012 and it felt insane to finally achieve those goals.—KS|
|I think Rampage has very quickly got a lot more eyes on freeride mountain biking and at the same time is helping progress the sport. I feel like when there were bigger movie productions like NWD and the Collective films, guys were out pushing themselves and elevating the sport every year. Without those movies nowadays, Rampage has been the platform to really step things up and legitimize what we do. There are guys still taking big leaps forward and sending it super hard of course, but now instead of filming one segment a year everyone is spread a bit thinner and doesn't have the time or budget necessary to scope, build and focus like back in the day. I love when you do see riders put out big mountain, freeriding segments; they always get me fired up to head back out into the backcountry myself.—KS|
|Since busting up my tibial plateau/knee I realized those injuries stick with you for the rest of your life, especially as you get older. Just to keep my knee working at 100% I need to stretch every day, let alone the rest of my body. I started working out back home with Ed Natyshak on his program called 'Sasquatch Performance Training' (SPT) back in 2010 or '11. His program teaches you not to give up physically or mentally. I have a tough time getting into the gym as much as I would like and would rather just be out shredding, but I do try to hit SPT as much as possible when I'm home.—KS|
ON THE ALTERNATIVES:
|I always said I wanted to fly helicopters when I was young and still think it would be super sick. Hopefully, that or travelling would be sweet; living the gypsy life. Or maybe working 9-5 somewhere. I'm pretty stoked to have bikes in my life.—KS|
ON INDUSTRY CHANGE:
In the days long before the likes of Instagram and YouTube, when I first started and flashing forward to now, the landscape is obviously way different. The immediate nature of social media has its advantages and I think in ways it's great for upcoming riders, but it also makes it tougher to get budget for the more significant, larger projects that demand some real time and money. Luckily for me, I have a lot of great companies behind me that support my vision and give me the freedom to do what I want.—KS
Sometimes it seems like a struggle to convince the bike industry that freeride can bring value to their business. I grew up in the days of Kranked and NWD and it was all about progression and Freeride... Some companies get it and for the others I understand, but I won't just roll over that easy. I think the hardest for me is the bike industry trying to get rid of 26" wheels.
ON PEOPLE WHO SAY YOU'RE CRAZY:
|I say they're crazy for sitting in an office all day long.—Kurt Sorge|
ON BIG MOVES:
|I make sure I know what I'm doing and that I feel confident. I'd rather live to ride another day than spend time on the couch.—KS|
ON OTHER FUN:
|I was lucky enough to grow up snowboarding at Whitewater Ski Resort. I still like to snowboard and I have been getting into split-boarding more and more. We gain access with snowmobiles, which has also become one of my favourite winter pastimes. Last season I couldn't resist any longer and got myself a Snow Yeti MX, which is a conversion kit for your dirt bike for riding in the snow. Right now I'm on a surf trip down in Nicaragua with my girlfriend and after we'll be heading inland to ride some Volcanos, before getting back to BC to play in the snow.—KS|
ON 10 OR 20 YEARS DOWN THE LINE:
|I don't really think quite that far in advance. I like to go with the flow, but I do see myself still riding bikes and exploring the World for new areas to ride.—KS|
|There's a ton of people I'd like to mention that inspire me in everyday life and who've made a big difference in my career. I'd like to thank my parents for always being very supportive and giving my brothers and I a great upbringing. My girlfriend, Chiara Durfeld; she inspires me all the time and makes me excited about life. My friends, other riders, photographers, cinematographers and everyone else I have worked with that keep things fun and progressive. My sponsors; Polygon Bikes, Giro Cycling, Oakley, Rockstar Energy, Hope, Evoc, Deity, Sr Suntour, Fly Racing, Schwalbe, Cane Creek, Ti-Springs, MRP, Mypakage, Kal Tire. Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone for taking the time reading.—Kurt Sorge|