You’ve seen it by now, right? About three million people have, minus the like 10,000 times I’ve watched it.
Just in case you haven’t:
Truckee-based heir to the throne Cody Townsend stands atop a giant rocky urethra on Alaska’s Tordrillos with MSP cams rolling (complete with establishing helicopter shot from the other helicopter). He points it, takes a breath and does five seconds of the best skiing this spinning blue marble has ever known.
We lose sight of him and for a moment he is buried like a fossil, frozen in time and set to thaw in about 12 millenia to be identified as Bromo crazyassskierthalensis.
Then, surprise! He shoots out the bottom like a single, eager, one-in-a-billion ski-strapped sperm to paydirt just as the rock formation on either side closes out like the jaws of a giant space slug around the Millennium Falcon.
Single-word sentences containing the word “amazing” are so 2013, but the moment. Was. Simply. Amazing.
Then it gets better. Thanks to that toothy, douchy, fratty founder at GoPro, we see this piece of voodoo from Sir Cody Squire of Stomp’s point of view. If Michael Jackson were around today, I guarantee you he’d say, “Cody Townsend, your magic is real—and I believe in you.”
As real as real gets folks.
What Cody Townsend did is basically impossible. It’s popping up at the base of a 30-foot wave at Pipe Masters and surfing up it. It’s tight rope walking across the Grand Canyon on a slackline dipped in Crisco. It’s bungee jumping from the ground onto the wicker of a hot air balloon.
It’s literally one millimeter off, one shortened breath, one loose strap of his backpack brushing the unforgiving granite reef and he’s into the wall like Dale into turn 4 at Daytona—on a one-way track to the September cover of Powder: Cody Townsend 1983-2014—What a Ripper!
The argument comes around a handful of times a year, especially with athletes who push. When’s enough enough?
I always love to hear the gross rationalization for every big-mountain performer. Whether the feat ends in a triumphant, insanely guttural “Yeeeeeeeeeeeahhhhhhaaaawwww” as in the case of Townsend, or with a candlelight vigil and spreading of the ashes by the memorial statue: He ever-vigilantly weighed the risk, sized up the conditions and waited, patiently, for the perfect moment.
Knowing all the while, there is no perfect moment to die.
I get that nobody gets to ski that line without years of preparation, practice and proving. And yet, the odds are still stacked well against the tiny human in a situation where he decides to not just cheat death, but wait till death gets up from the table to go to the bathroom, steal his chips and his girl, hot wire his Cadillac and attempt to jump it over the Bellagio fountains with a fifth of Jack held high, no seat belt and one of those rastafarian wigs on.
In other words, live or die, Cody Townsend got one chance at the line of a lifetime. He took it and won. Personally, I’m glad he lived to tell about it.
But I hope he takes his cape off and chooses to re-live it, like the rest of us, by hitting refresh.