GoPro's portable, popular HD video cameras have transformed a generation of extreme sports enthusiasts into cutting-edge filmmakers. Over the last few years, GoPro's users have captured, uploaded, and viewed a vast library of previously impossible footage containing everything from record-breaking BMX jumps to back-breaking encounters with Mother Nature to the flight of a seagull. Inspired by Tom Foster's feature article The GoPro Army, we assembled a small (but exhilarating!) sampling of the highlights.
Founder Nick Woodman came up with the idea for GoPro during a five-month surfing trip to Indonesia and Australia, where he found himself "frustrated that pro surfers tended to be the only ones who could get good images of themselves surfing—because you needed a professional photographer or videographer willing to bob around in the water documenting you." Shot with a GoPro camera, this deceptively simple-looking footage of famed surfer Ramon Navarro sliding through a Chilean wave is an elegant illustration of Woodman's original vision.
The first few seconds may look like a horror movie, but what follows is a heart-pounding, fun-for-the-whole family, aerial tour over Cannes, France—an appropriate setting for what is apparently some seagull's directorial debut. "A real bird's eye video," said Lukas Karasek, the Slovakian whose GoPro camera was briefly carried off by this ambitious avian. (Some have cried hoax—Karasek was in town for an advertising conference—but he insists the footage is real. The seagull was unavailable for comment.)
What does it take to outrun an avalanche? Thankfully, professional free-skier Matthias Giraud didn't have to find out. In what looks like the cold open of a James Bond movie, a head-mounted GoPro camera captures the Frenchman and his cohort as they narrowly escapes a cascade of alpine snow by skiing right off the sheer face of a mountain—with parachutes at the ready. Needless to say, high fives are exchanged at the end.
Brothers David and Billy Werth work together at Indiana's Grayout Aerosports, where they teach and perform airplane aerobatics. The operation also offers "thrill rides" to non-pilots, though it's unlikely that even the bravest customers are allowed onboard when the pair performs their signature trick. Here, witness the "inverted tail grab"—a feat both more and less complicated than it sounds.
After months of training in the "largest foam pit in New Zealand," Jed Mildon managed to stick a landing that was anything but certain. Looking like a low-fi Evel Knievel in front of a hometown crowd in Taupo, New Zealand, he careens down a sickeningly high ramp and lands the world's first-ever BMX triple backflip. It is exactly as terrifying and upside-down as you'd imagine.
On the board, under the board, on the sidelines, in the sky—you get a chance to be everywhere and big air with skateboarder and X Games Silver Medalist Adam Taylor. He's such a good dude, he even makes small talk with you mid-jump. Watch for the "timeslice" effect at 00:00:49; pre-GoPro, such a shot would have required as much as $100,000, along with a crane and hours of setup. Here, a single operator and an array of 48 GoPros capture a 3-D rotating view of a Taylor as he flies off the ramp—all for a few thousand dollars.
As all post-collegiate hipsters and farmer's-market-frequenting urban sophisticates from Portland to Park Slope know, biking in cities can be dangerous. The hazards are many; some of them commonplace (the car door recklessly flung open, the rogue and oblivious pedestrian darting into the sidewalk, potholes), others, well, less so. But at least there's no risk of getting blindsided by a sprinting red hartebeest antelope, which is exactly what happens to South African mountain biker Evan van der Spuy in one of GoPro's most widely viewed clips.