Rounding up this years Unsponsored Q&A series is Shon Bollock. Shon is a whitewater kayaker and filmmaker from Mt. Shasta California. He has been on the water since he was 2 months old and is the owner of Shasta Boyz Productions. The chances are you have seen Shon in action in one of the many GoPro videos on Vimeo or Youtube. Enjoy!
Tell us a little a bit about your accomplishments in the canoeing/kayaking world.
My story is one of being surrounded by a very talented pool of kayakers and a loving family in Mt. Shasta, CA. After graduating from World Class Kayak Academy in 2006 I hooked up with a very small camera company called GoPro at Outdoor Retailer in Utah. That sponsorship helped launch my career as a white water kayaker and filmmaker leading to the production of my first DVD Wet Dreams in 2009. From there I collaborated footage with my friends, editing and producing Slippery When Wet in 2011. The Slippery When Wet DVD got a lot of attention and was voted for Canoe and Kayak Magazines “Reel of the Year”, however it is important to make clear that the accomplishments that I have obtained in the kayaking world are nothing but reflections of the talented athletes I have been fortunate to work with.
When and how did you first start paddling?
I was born and raised in Mt. Shasta a small town in northern California. Luckily I was born into a river family and have been on the water since I was 2 months old, strapped to me Dad’s chest in an inflatable kayak and kept rafting through my childhood. I got a hardshell for my 14th birthday and was inspired by my mentors at Shasta Boyz Productions and Clear H2o Films.
What is your current location?
I am currently finishing my BA in Film and Digital Media at University of California Santa Cruz.
What scares you the most?
Being stuck in college for the rest of my life but thankfully I am graduating in June.
What was your biggest hurdle in canoeing/kayaking when you started out – finding people to paddle with, nailing the third end, lack of rivers etc?
The ages of 8 and 10 brought some scary experiences on the river for me and kept me from going on the river at all for the next few years. I had one hold down in particular on the Klamath River that shook me up pretty bad. I flipped on an eddy line and was held down by the hydraulics. After almost a minute underwater I was able to get air and emerged a bit traumatized from the unexpected experience. Like anything you love it is going to bite you in the ass at some point and you have to decide if it is worth risking your well being over. Thankfully I have a very encouraging family who persisted in getting me back on the water and I was fortunate to attend World Class Kayak Academy where I got a chance to refine my skills on the water.
What has kept you in the sport?
Right now it is everyone else kayaking when I am stuck in a classroom (huge shout out to anyone that made an online kayak flick between 2007-2013, you got me through college). During the last four years of college I have been fortunate to coach the UCSC Kayak Club on the fundamentals of kayaking, something that I believe is at the heart of the white water industry. When it comes down to it the story is less about what has kept me in the sport and more about what has fueled my love for the river. The overall camaraderie of the paddling community and mutual respect is what I have always appreciated about our sport, the river is a humbling agent that I believe everyone can mutually agree upon.
Who is your biggest source of inspiration within the paddling world (and why)?
There are many paddlers in the white water industry that inspire me and I am thankful that our sport is filled with so much talent. For me it goes back to my roots and those paddlers that allowed me into their circles even though my paddling abilities were not ready for the runs they were taking me on. The Knight brothers (Devin, Ryan, and Andrew), Ben Stookesberry, and Chris Korbulic have always inspired my paddling. They are all extremely talented athletes but above all they put the choices they make about group dynamics not personal ambition. Stookesberry and Korbulic have been steady in perusing some of the most challenging white water on Earth from Central and South America to Asia and central Africa. I find inspiration in anyone loving the life they lead, we only get one go at life and it is important to do what you want with it.
Given the choice where would want to paddle?
It is impossible to nail down one place I want to paddle but some paddling destination for after graduation in June are: Norway, Iceland, New Zealand, and I really need to get back to Chile.
What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment in the world of canoeing/kayaking to date?
I think that there are many huge accomplishments within the kayaking industry just in the last five years but the progression of whitewater is what I have found to be most impressive. A 50ft waterfall used to be considered large to most standards but the bar is being set higher and higher. The overall talent within the white water community as well as increased boat control in running waterfalls is something that I admire of those on the front line of running large waterfalls, athletes such as Ben Stookesberry, Chris Korbulic, Evan Garcia, Rafa Ortiz, Rush Sturges, Ben Brown, and many more that continue to progress our sport.
How do you get yourself in “the zone” before a competition run or when running a challenging piece of water?
I have never been one to take the competition side of kayaking very serious, probably because I am never the fastest down the river. For me documenting film or photos has always been a passion of mine to share the intimate experiences of kayaking with friends outside of the white water community. Getting in the zone for me when paddling challenging white water has always been a process of talking with my boys about the risks and rewards of each situation. I believe most paddlers feed off each other when running class V so I always try to surround myself with the best paddlers I know so my friends are not only constantly pushing me but they provide the best on the water advice anyone can hope for. Whenever it comes to paddling on the river, especially down dangerous white water, you always have to consider group safety front and center.
What kit are you currently using?
GoPro Hero 3
Liquidlogic Jefe Grande
Immersion Research Double D
Five Ten Canyoneers
Shred Ready TDUB
Social Media Outlets?
Many Thanks Shon!