Degrees North: Interview with Xavier De Le Rue

We met Xavier De Le Rue at the world premiere of ‘Degrees North‘ during the San Sebastian Film Festival, which was a great opportunity to ask him a few question on what could make quite a bit of noise in the world of freeriding…

Only a few days ago we all saw the teaser for Degrees North, and from that day we kept thinking that Timeline is probably going to create a huge buzz with the introduction of paramotor access to freeriding. Xavier De Le Rue, Ralph Backstrom and skier Sam Anthamatten will go down in the books as the first riders to use this technique as a drop off. And it’s not the only surprise this film is hiding. The official release date is the 22nd of October, and will be on free streaming for 48h  on Red Bull website.

it’s super cool to dream big. get out of your comfort zone, even if you think that’s crazy, and follow your dream!

OB: As you say in the film, “I Love adventure, this is how I see happiness”. What was your first next idea for an adventure, after exploring the Antarctic?
XV: The idea I had for a while, even before the Antarctic, was to try to bring paramotor to the mix. I had been training on those machines, and I could imagine it as a perfect way to explore any given spot on the planet. I really wanted to push the possibilities in that area, and the main idea of Degrees North was born. The first goal was to be able to find new zone with that tool.

Is it why you alway look for new places to explore? Was it in fact a means of scoping the mountain in the beginning?
I always look for new places, and yes in the beginning the paramotor was used to fly over lines, then hike them and ride them. But then something new happens, and we just followed all the possibilities this new tool is offering us. And exploring the possibilities of the paramotor instead of exploring new zones was just as exciting! It is so satisfying to have a new way to discover the mountain!

Sometimes you cross the globe, only to find average snow pack: what is your feeling in those moments? And do you still find some pleasure riding?
Unfortunately, it’s part of the game, when you look for the hardest conditions or the steepest lines. I could just go ever year in Alaska and make it easier in term of chances, but that’s not how I want to do stuff. There’s a time for scoring footage, and there’s a time to go beyond. And when you do and you find good snow, then it becomes really magic.

What is the best lesson that freeriding taught you in the way you do it?
Probably that you must always take full responsibility. All the choices you make, all the actions you do have consequences. And when you’re in the fire, you can only count on yourself. I think in our today’s society, where everything is expected to be ‘safe and without responsibilities’, it’s a good lesson to take. More and more, I would say.

And what is the best lesson adventuring in general has taught you?
That’s it’s super cool to dream big. Even when things look impossible at first, you must get out of your comfort zone, even if you think that’s crazy, and follow your dream, make it become a goal and nail it. It is the best satisfaction you can get in life. Beyond what you even think in the beginning.

Have you ever seen Alaska in such a state as you did when you went this year? Do you think it’s worrying?
Nope, nobody ever saw it like that. it was the lowest rain/snow level in history since the beginning of 20th century. It was February and it look like it was end of April at the best. It was just crazy. And yes it’s definitely worrying, but people don’t really talk about that over there, strangely.

At some point in the film, just before the paramotor scenes, you or Ralph are in a super steep, puking line, and then the camera loses the rider on a massive jump: was that landed? Because it’s really crazy right there!?
It’s Ralph in the middle of the sluff on a very scary line indeed. He did bail it on the landing. It was fat for sure, and I just stayed on the other side watching him, haha!

Xavier set to drop from the paramotor. Nuts.

Is it the same for you in term of security to ride dangerous zones with a splitboard or a regular freeride board? Or is there still a big difference in the conditions you ride in?
There’s still some differences, but it’s getting there. What is the most difficult, or different, is to adapt to the bindings. They are a lot different than regular ones. The straps, the materials, it’s a bit like changing brand and ride new bindings every time, so you need some time to adapt to it and fee good. But after a while you get used to it.

OK, and what about the feeling when you first drop into the line from the paramotor? 
Incredible for sure! It’s like my kid’s dream comes true at this moment. Something I always thought was doable, is finally coming to reality. A great feeling.

What is the most satisfying: riding new unexplored territories, or being the pioneer of a new technique in approaching freeriding? 
Riding in untouched territories, we’ve done it a few times already. So it was a real bonus for me to focus on the new approach technique really. Plus I was thinking about it for such a long time, when we were able to make it happen. And the super bonus is that it’s exactly what I thought it was: a total new way that’s going to open so many more opportunities. More than going to ride a new spot, that’s for sure. The paramotor will always give us more options, anywhere we decide to go next!


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