World of GoPro

10 Questions with the Creator: Shon Bollock + ‘Impermanence: Rafting the Grand Canyon”

May 09, 2022


GoPro Family member Shon Bollock recently set out to document he and his father Steve’s journey to recreate a Grand Canyon rafting trip that they first embarked on in 2005. Sixteen years—and a whole lot of adventures—later, they were able to rally two other boatmen from the original group to execute what could only be described as the bookend trip of a lifetime. In fact, embracing the time we have on Earth became a main theme in the video, titled: “GoPro: Impermanence | Rafting the Grand Canyon.” 

The short documentary, shot 100% on HERO10 Black + MAX, follows the four rafting veterans on a 24-day, 280-mile trip down the Colorado River as they battle not only the elements but Father Time, too. Between sharing fond memories of life on the river—and making new ones—one of the boatmen, Marty Sochet, openly wonders when the three 70-plus-year-old boatmen would become “liabilities rather than assets” on trips like this. (Spoiler: As you you’ll see in the video, this won’t be any time soon!)

We caught up with Shon, who is a former professional kayaker in addition to filmmaker, to hear more about what went into the making of “Impermanence” and all the feels that come with watching it. Here are 10 questions with the creator:

1. How many of the original crew from the trip were there?

Shon: From the original crew on our 2005 trip, we had four of us, which happened to be all the boatmen. I was the only raft guide on our trip that was under 70 years old, and given how tired I was, if my fitness level is half of what the other boatmen had going, I will consider myself lucky. It was truly impressive to watch them navigate the river with grace and with minimal mistakes.

2. How did the ‘dads’ (a.k.a. the subjects of the video) meet?

The Dads all met through being river rats oddly enough. My dad, Steve, was guiding for Turtle River Rafting company and met Marty while he was kayaking on the Owyhee in the early 1980s. Marty and Rick were already kayaking buddies and my Dad was the first person to let Rick row on Lower Klamath. Rick was invited on their Grand Canyon trip in ’85, which ended up being the first time he had ever rowed his own raft for a whole trip. Eventually, Rick was the owner of Turtle River Rafting company where many in our river circle cut their teeth learning how to guide. Fast forward a couple decades from ’85, and they all had children who grew up together eventually joining forces for our first Grand Canyon trip together in 2005.

3. How long did prep take for the trip? And did you always know you’d want to film this reunion trip?

The Grand Canyon permit lottery is a complicated system, one where your odds of winning decrease every time you go on a trip. Our boatmen, not including myself, have nearly 40 private trips down the canyon under their belts. Given those odds, we were fortunate that Gareth Plank, one of our local friends up here in Mt. Shasta, won the permit lottery and extended us the opportunity to jump on his permit. This means we had about 8 weeks to get all of our logistics, gear rentals, shuttle and transportation situated for the trip.

If you ever get the chance to go on a private trip down the Grand Canyon, it’s an opportunity that you literally drop anything and everything to be a part of, and I mean anything … quit your job, rob a bank, sell a kidney, whatever it takes.

4. Did you raft the exact same section of the river?

We had the same put-in at Lee’s Ferry as my first trip but this one was longer. Our 2005 trip was 16 days, and we took out at Diamond Creek but this trip we took the full 24 days and went through the entire canyon taking out at Pearce Ferry, 280 miles from our put-in. Since I was a teenager the last trip, my awareness of the place and the magnitude of the endeavor was pretty lost on me. The effort our fathers put in to get us down that stretch of river at such a young age was nothing short of amazing. Pretty sure I called them all psychopaths about a week into our trip because it became very clear how difficult it would be to bring a pack of teenagers down there for such a long stint in the wilderness.

5. ‘They call it grand for a reason.’ What a great quote at Mile 52! Were you starting to get loopy out there? Or what day did the ‘I haven’t seen civilization in X days’ brain start to kick in?

Not quite yet, haha. At that point you are not even 25% into the expedition, so you want to pace yourself. I think if you have visited the rim of the Grand Canyon you are in awe, but the magnitude of the geological time you float through really expose how tiny and insignificant we are. Despite all the struggles I had during our trip, I really wanted to be as present as possible, trying hard to not look at the map or count days. Once you pass Diamond Creek, the character of the canyon really changes, and in those last few days you become overtly aware of the drought happening below by the towering silt banks.

6. Around 9:21 there is an epic view of the camp from the ridge above. What time did you usually get on and off the river for the day and was there a lot of hiking in those off hours?

That was actually a view from the Patio, which was a day hike. We ended up camping just downstream of there since camping isn’t allowed at spots like this on the river to preserve the more heavily trafficked areas.
We had a very diverse range of experiences and hiking desires on our trip, which led to some challenges around making time to hike but also creating reasonable hours on the water. 

Our crew was made up of early risers which lead us to getting off the beach around 8 a.m., but we weren’t usually getting to camp until around 4 p.m., which set us up for some long days.

Full transparency, I had a lot of hiking ambitions to start the trip, but I let go of them early as I became aware of my own energy levels between being a boatman, leading a cook crew and keeping all my cameras/batteries charged as well as backing up all my SD cards at night. So every free moment I had was used to just look up, appreciate the privilege it was the be back in there and soak up as much time with my dad as I could.

7. How many GoPro cameras did you take on the trip?

I was trying to ride the line between having backups in case any of them went in the drink but still shooting as efficiently as possible so my data transfers at the end of the day were manageable. I settled on three HERO10 Black and two GoPro MAX cameras, which felt like the perfect kit.

8. Were any cameras lost in the filming?

Fortunately, no GoPro’s were (significantly) harmed during the making of this film.

9. You do a great job of utilizing both HERO10 and 360 MAX footage, did you end up preferring one camera over the other and why?

Don’t make me choose! Honestly, I love them both for different applications. You can get really creative with MAX, especially when using keyframed 360 content in a linear timeline. Plus, it gave me the ability to get drone like shots above the raft in a place where drones are VERY ILLEGAL.

Obviously with HERO10, the simplicity and HyperSmooth 4.0 capabilities have been a gamechanger for gimbal-like fluidity in a tiny package.

Long story short, it depends what you are using them for, but the ease of HERO10 with the GoPro Quik app is probably best for the everyday users, but I like getting creative with both. So there you go, I successfully didn’t answer your question.

10. It seems like this was an emotional trip for the original crew, besides the closing quote about striving to not fear death, are there any other conversations or comments that stood out as wisdom we can benefit from—maybe something that didn’t make the final cut?

Well in all honesty, this was an emotional and challenging trip for everyone on it. My dad really nailed it with the quote “whatever you bring into the canyon will be magnified” and he was 100% correct.

We had leadership struggles, logistical challenges, two people leaving the trip early and just an overall difficulty finding our flow as a unit. I can’t speak to everyone’s experiences, but from my own, I truly struggled with finding balance between wanting to authentically capture the story as well as carry my own weight when it came down to the physicality of the expedition and our day-to-day needs. In hindsight, I wish I could have found more grace through it but like most experiences we live and learn.

If anything, this trip really shined a light on how extraordinary my Dad, Marty and Rick are for navigating so many trips down there and all the challenges that inevitably come with those experiences.

WOW! Thank you to Shon for sharing this incredible BTS perspective and overall adventure with us. And we’d also like to thank his father Steve Bollock, Marty Sochet, Rick Demarest, Joel Scott and his sister Heidi Bollock for the archival footage from her documentary film, River Rights of Passage.

This production was a family affair, starting with Steve taking Shon on his first rafting adventure at two-months-old on the Klamath, and we’re thrilled to share it with the greater GoPro Fam, enjoy!


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