Photo Annual: Behind the Shot – Nick Valliere launches “Gold Slab”.
Spot name: Gold Slab
Location : Gold Country, Northern California
Camera: Nikon d2xs
Settings: 1250 @ F 5.6
Lens: nikon 80-200 2.8
Nick Valliere by Rodrigo Donoso
“This is a spot that I will never forget not just because of the shot being featured in Alliance’s 10 Year Anniversary Issue.
I ended up stumbling onto this spot by accident one day while trying to escape the heat. I was in the Gold Country, Nor Cal visiting a friend from Florida whom had moved to the area and it was sweltering hot. While swimming in one of the local rivers we struck up a conversation with a dude whom was panning for gold. He told us about another river down the road that was warmer and more of a hangout spot. The next day we went and checked it out, as we were driving down the canyon toward the spot I noticed this huge concrete slab at about a 60 degree angle right in the middle of the hangout area. We parked the truck and hiked down the steep trail toward the river. We ended up not swimming but we hiked around and I checked the spot looking at the surface and landing noting where the big rocks were. The following day we came back with intentions of swimming and enjoying the cool water and the scenery. We would end up learning a lot more about the river and have a life long memory. The river banks were packed this time so we decided to cross the river and have our own little beach area to kick it at. We were able to find a path across the river that was a little over knee deep. The current was fairly strong but we were still able to cross to the other side. We were now hanging out on a rock beach down river from the other people who were there. The rock beach created a chute that funneled water to where you could wade in and ride the current down 20 yards to a calm pool you could swim out of. After going thru the chute a few times we were drying off and bull shitting with each other when we noticed 3 babes across the bank that were looking to cross at our same spot. We saw the first babe make it over and saw her friends following behind. After some more laughs I noticed one of the girls had given up on walking across and was trying to swim. She slowly began to go downstream faster than she was going across. Pretty soon she was hauling ass down stream bouncing off rocks that were barely under the surface. Instead of trying to stop herself she was preoccupied with attempting to keep her twins in their suit. My buddy, Lance and I were both frozen in awe not quite sure of what we were witnessing. After bouncing off the rocks while attempting to save her top she came into the top of the chute, where she slammed into a large rock and then went under water. She popped up yelling for help, by the time she yelled a second time I was running over rocks toward her. I was able to dive in and drag her up to shore, I propped her up on a rock and made sure she was ok. She was hyperventilating and had a few bumps and bruises but other than that she was fine. About 5 minutes later her friends came wandering up looking for their friend they watched get swept down the river. In all the insanity I never got her name nor a “flight to boston” but I do have an insane memory to look back on.
Even after I nearly watched a girl drown here I knew I had to call Rodrigo and get the ball rolling on winching this beast. I drove down to Disco Bay to meet up with Rod and Bryan Cowart better known as BBQ Face. I had told them all about the spot and they were down to go do some winching. Bryan is one of the top 5 winch drivers around, he really knows how his Pulldozer works and has pulled me on many of my recent shots from northern cali. We went and hit it but we didn’t get the shot we were looking for. I ended up hitting the slab roughly 4 or 5 times on my first attempt. I had been swimming across the river to get to an easy start point on the same side as the slab. This was exhausting, we also found that the dam on the river released water at 3pm every day and the water would rise rapidly. We figure this is what caused the girl to get washed down the river.
Roughly 2 weeks later I drove back down from Portland to hit this spot determined to get a shot for the mag. Once again BBQ Face drove the winch, Rod shot photos and Al Gartamaker filmed while my friends Lance and Chava came out to watch as well. This time we were there with plenty of time to spare before the water level came up and the sun went down. This time I was able to hike around a larger rock and start on the same side as the winch. It was much easier than swimming across the river but still quite difficult to scale rocks holding a board in one hand and rope in the other. I think I got 6 hits this time with much more success because I could rail into the slab and launch off the thing. The surface of the concrete was of fairly high quality and not too riddled with pebbles, and slid extremely well with no alterations to the spot. I would rather hit the spot naturally and adjust my riding accordingly to avoid using wax. The time it takes to wax something leaves you exposed and people might think you are vandalizing and may contact the boys in blue.
So when you’re out there winching be aware of all your surroundings, be smart, don’t be idiots.