August 4, 2018
Maybe you’ve heard of them from Fox News or Daily Mail, maybe you’re one of their nearly 50K Instagram followers, or maybe you’ve never heard of them before today. If the latter is true for you, we introduce to you the guys who make our palms sweat while simultaneously making us want to swan dive like Pocahontas off the nearest 100-foot cliff… Paddle 9.
Paddle 9, a tour company based out of Manuel Antonio, has been making waves on social media and in the news for their adventurous spirits and addiction to adrenaline. Founded in 2012, the company started guiding tours that include waterfall jumping and stand-up paddle boarding. They are family friendly and have a little something for everyone, but Paddle 9 really started gaining media attention when they collaborated with daredevil cliff jumpers & social media influencers Robert Wall (@robert.wall), Justin/Jay Briggs (@brggsy), and Alex Shirley (@alexsquirrely) which unexpectedly led to the filming of an awe-inspiring documentary titled Giants of the Tropic.
Paddle 9 first came across the cliff jumpers on social media in 2017 and thought they’d be perfect to work with, but they weren’t entirely sure what a collaboration with them would look like or if they could even pull it off. The way the story played out has left us inspired, to say the least. So, who better to tell the story than the man who spearheaded the entire operation: Co-owner of Paddle 9, Matty Rosenthal (@mattyruggz).
Tulemar: How did you originally find out about Robert, Justin, and Alex, and how did this partnership come to fruition?
Matty: We found them via Instagram. We originally found Robert Wall’s account because he was making a big statement on social media in the cliff jumping community. He was featured on several extremely popular social media accounts and he caught our eye. Brian Galloway (founder of Paddle 9) and I took a shot in the dark and I sent him a direct message to his Instagram account to see if he’d be interested in a possible collaboration. At first it said “seen” and no response, so we figured he was a “diva” and he wasn’t going to respond! However, a week later he messaged us, and it turns out he wrote out the response but where he was living he had awful internet and his response never came through! Once he realized it didn’t send, he re-sent it and was extremely interested in hearing more about the opportunity we were proposing. We communicated back and forth, and he told us more about his “crew” and their manager who worked for Volcom (@volcom) at the time, Hope Lane (@hopeisdopee). Everything snowballed from there…We set a plan for them to come to Costa Rica, we sent them a travel stipend to go towards the cost of their plane tickets collectively, and we put them up in our Paddle 9 house in Manuel Antonio for 3 weeks. In exchange for these accommodations we were to receive exclusive rights to any content that came from this 3-week campaign, and anyone else we worked with must also tag and/or give proper credit to Paddle 9.
T: So, was it in your original plan to film the documentary Giants of the Tropic?
M: The actual film itself was not the original plan…It sort of organically happened, as did many things that transpired during this campaign because the right people were put in to play on this project. In fact, two films were made during the campaign. The first one was by Robert Wall, which started with cliff jumping footage from places all over in the United States and ended with Costa Rican waterfalls including Nauyaca and Magia Blanca in the Peace Lodge Waterfall Gardens. Alex Shirley completed the first ever decent off Magia Blanca, followed by Robert then Jay (they played a game of “rock, paper, scissor to see who went first), so this was incredibly exciting and historic for us! We premiered Robert’s film at The Marina Pez Vela (located in Quepos, Costa Rica) during his 3-week stay.
Giants of the Tropic was its own animal. When this project began to come to fruition, we realized that we needed to come up with some concrete scheduling as far as waterfalls and places to check out in Costa Rica. I will be the first to admit when I am in over my head, and I was in over my head! So, I decided to enlist the help of another group I had been in contact with via Instagram called Overland Cruisers (@overlandcruiserscr). These guys are a group of friends based out of San Jose, Costa Rica whose weekend mission is to go on as many adventures as they can in their 4×4 vehicles. Whether it be waterfall chasing, a new hike to some incredible view, or camping on a remote beach, they are always doing something while producing incredible content for social media. Fortunately for us most them are photographers, some by hobby and some semi-professionally. You can check out their work on Instagram at @tagphotocr @de_ride_photography @andresmiranda92 and @andres_elizondo.g.
I reached out to Overland Cruisers when I realized the film was happening and that I couldn’t maximize its potential by myself. I sent them a message on Instagram and we set up a weekend excursion to explore waterfalls. This was to scout out and decide on some awesome places to send the cliff jumpers upon their arrival, and beyond that we wanted to get to know each other and see if this collaboration would be a good fit. Luckily, we really hit it off, and after spending time with the group it was clear to me that this team was perfect for the job. The collective work ethic of everyone involved in this project was incredible. Every single person brought something to the table. I really can’t commend everyone that was a part of this project enough… The way some things came together – from weather conditions to content we got at all the different places – it was almost like the universe was in support of this project.
T: We love stories like this! If you had to name one thing that inspired the documentary the most, what would it be? What do you feel was the documentary’s main purpose?
M: The campaign itself was the inspiration… The strangers becoming friends and ultimately family, the good vibes and beautiful places we ventured to, the waterfalls we conquered, and the history that was made with first descent at Magia Blanca.
The purpose was that we wanted to bring positive exposure to the cliff jumping community and we wanted to bridge the gap between cliff jumpers in the United States and other countries by telling our story in an inspiring and exciting way.
T: It seems like a lot of work went into this project… Probably more than you anticipated originally. What did your schedule end up looking like during your 3-week campaign with Overland Cruisers and the cliff jumpers?
M: During the 3 weeks the cliff jumpers were here we had a great outline for the bigger excursions. These were usually taking place on weekends to accommodate the Overland squad’s work schedules. Naturally we always liked to have a bigger crew because that means bigger energy. So, the places featured in the film usually were shot between Thursday and Sunday. Costa Rica is not the biggest country and traveling to and from certain locations can take a lot of time due to road conditions and infrastructure, so many of our days would start at 4am or so.
In between larger excursions we would shoot locally in or nearby Manuel Antonio and Quepos. Whether it was at the Manuel Antonio beach or shooting some little cliff jumps at Maracas in Nahomi Parqueo. We got some awesome footage of the guys just goofing off and doing gymnastics in public. You could basically point a camera at them and just watch what would happen!
As far as obstacles we encountered, we were extremely fortunate. For the most part we had great weather, our waterfalls all ended up being jumpable, and locals were willing to meet up with us and show us the way to hidden gems. Everything was amazing and went surprisingly smooth. However, we did have a few scenarios that had us a little concerned…
T: Oh no. Do we even want to know?
M: Well, the first substantial waterfall I planned to take the crew to was Nauyaca waterfalls about an hour outside of Manuel Antonio. It’s extremely well known in Costa Rica by locals and tourists. This waterfall has a 60-foot jump from the top of the first waterfall, and a 160-foot waterfall on the upper level, but it is not jumpable. We were so excited to get some epic video and photos from here. However, when we pulled into the gas station to fill up for our trek to the waterfalls, we ran into our first snag of the day. Per usual, I shut the truck off while we filled the tank, but when I attempted to turn the truck back on the alarm system malfunctioned and disengaged the engine! I could not get the truck to start, we tried everything. We tried to disconnect the alarm from the battery, we tried letting the car sit and resetting for increments of 5, 10 and 15 minutes, we asked the gas attendants if they had any ideas and when they had none, we asked if they could call a mechanic to come check it out. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have any idea what could be wrong. I did recall that sometimes this can happen when the remote battery runs low, so remembering this and mixing with my frustration l started clicking the unlock button while simultaneously banging the remote against the car! It was both mildly strategic and completely out of frustration, but it worked! The truck fired up and literally everyone cheered. I was afraid that this was foreshadowing for the rest of our day, but fortunately we didn’t run into any further snags during that trip.
The second obstacle – and absolutely the most daunting – was the weather the first time we went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. It was pouring rain and the visibility was next to zero. As we examined each waterfall it was clear that only one appeared jumpable, Magia Blanca (120 feet), which has never been jumped before. Although it appeared to be the perfect place to jump, the weather and water levels were not cooperating to allow the boys any chance at all of depth checking the potential landing zone. So, we ended up leaving without jumping any of the waterfalls and while we had hope, I really think none of us thought it would work out.
T: You mentioned earlier that these boys were the first ever to jump from Magia Blanca. It sounds like your fate took a turn for the better?
M: In the following days we experienced other waterfalls and adventures that you can see in Giants of the Tropics, but at the end of the day all our minds were on Magia Blanca. We couldn’t help but think how incredible & historical it would be to jump this waterfall. Not only has it never been jumped, but no one has ever even been allowed to jump it. It would be a record for two of the jumpers for highest waterfalls they have ever jumped and ultimately it would have tied the entire campaign together perfectly.
To our surprise, while we were trekking around to the other places, we got a call from the manager of La Paz Waterfall Gardens that the weather forecast was looking good for the coming week and that they were feeling fairly confident about a depth check and a potential jump being possible. So, that night we made our way up towards La Paz Waterfall Gardens and stayed in this cozy lodge near the park the evening before. Spending that evening with the whole crew knowing that tomorrow could be a day we make history together was a really special part of the trip. When we woke up the next morning the sun was shining, the skies were blue, and we hit the road feeling hopeful about our day.
When we arrived at La Paz, the boys still had to do a depth check, and because the water was so violent during our previous visit we were worried about whether a depth check would be possible this time around. As we made our way down toward the base of Magia Blanca you could already hear that the roar of the river was much less than our previous encounter… This was a very good thing! As the waterfall started to show itself through the jungle we could immediately see that the water levels were substantially more inviting, so much so that the boys felt confident in doing a depth check! Upon realizing this was actually starting to become a reality and history could be made on this day, tensions and anxieties rose.
We had an employed a paramedic for this day, and him, Robert, Jay, and Alex all got in the water and made their way around the right side to the rocky ledges where they were able to get right under the falls to the side of the potential landing zone. With only a pair of goggles, Robert jumped into the water and swam to the bottom. Alex went after him and both confirmed the best news ever: The pool was 15 feet deep and a sandy bottom, which meant it was safe for them to make a decent from the top of Magia Blanca! Although all of us onlooking couldn’t hear what they were saying, their body language said it all: This was going to happen. Robert, Alex, and Justin were going to be the first three human beings to ever jump or be allowed to jump from Magia Blanca…
To see the history unfold you can watch Robert Bog The Milkman, Squirrely, and Brggsy in Giants of the Tropic:
If you’re wanting to try your hand at being a cliff jumper, ask your personal concierge about the Paddle 9 tour during your next stay at Tulemar! Hoping to see more collaborations with the cliff jumpers and Paddle 9? Word on the street is that they are doing round 2 in 2019. Stay tuned and keep checking back with @Paddle9 and @Tulemar for updates!
Tulemar & Paddle 9