Last month, two of our Pro Team members, Kaia Jensen and Krystin Norman, were invited to attend the first-of-its-kind women's freeride mountain biking event as diggers. Katie Lozancich, an industry friend and badass photographer, was also invited to document the event from behind her lens, for a second time. We're proud to have these women recognized as leaders in the mountain bike world pushing the sport forward in the up-and-coming freeride category.
We caught up with each of them to talk about their experience digging lines for some of the top female freeride athletes. From scoping gnarly terrain to hauling water in to build steep landings, go behind the scene with us to see this progressive event through the eyes of Kaia, Krystin and Katie.
What inspired you most about being part of the dig team? Whose line(s) did you help dig?
Kaia: This was my first year digging at this event and I worked on lines for both Chelsea Kimball and Cami Nogueira. To me, it's like advanced sand castle building - I walked around the venue with Chelsea and looked at cliffs to huck off of. I'd think to myself, 'Dang, I want to ride my bike down this, how do we make that happen?" The mountain really tells you where you want the dirt to be.
Krystin: I get really obsessed with the visual aesthetic of features on a trail, so being part of the dig team was super exciting to me! I learned some new tricks for trail building, a skill that I had started to learn by doing trail work at my local trails in North Bend, Washington. Learning to build jumps and drop takeoffs/landings was something that I hadn't done before. It was a ton of work hauling water and making the dry dirt stay in place, but we were able to build some insane lines. I helped Hannah Bergemann dig her line alongside Brooklyn Bell and Finn Hopper. Jess Blewitt also rode the same line, and Casey Brown, Sam Soriano, and Vinny Armstrong shared some of the same features.
How has the Formation event grown and evolved since last year?
Katie: The most notable change this year was the venue. It felt doubled in size in comparison to the site where the 2019 event was held. Rather than be intimidated by the larger, gnarlier terrain, the athletes embraced the challenge. They built impressive lines down the mountain with all kinds of sheer exposure, double drops, and gap jumps. In comparison to the first event, all the riders turned things up a notch. The roster also expanded from six riders to eight, which brought more talent to the table and ultimately led to more collaboration between everyone.
In your opinion, how will Formation help push women's freeride to the forefront?
Kaia: Formation was my first time seeing women doing freeride and while we have less time in the sport, there's no reason media representation should be different than the men. We can push the sport forward by building a local community where gender doesn't matter. We're all out here riding bikes and progression happens when you get rid of sexism and just ride. Freeride is about sending it on bikes for fun and hucking the big stuff.
Krystin: Progression in women’s outdoor sports requires mentorship, new perspectives, and open discussion from many different parties. Formation creates a space for all of these aspects to come together, and for women to build, ride, and push each other in a supportive and friendly space
Katie: Formation provides a space for women to pursue freeriding as a career. Historically speaking, the only way to make money as a female mountain biker has been to race: Downhill, Enduro, or Cross Country. If you weren’t interested in clocking fast times, then there wasn’t a space for you in the industry, which has kept a lot of women from learning tricks or doing media-focused careers. Formation is an investment in women’s freeride because it gives these athletes a platform to show up, be badasses, and have it be shown to the world.
What was one key takeaway from your time at the 2021 event?
Kaia: Formation is all about progression and coming together to push the sport forward. Being with a group of pros who all want to just ride, even from different angles of the sport. Let's get more people on bikes and involved in the community.
Krystin: If you don’t create space for growth and opportunity, the space will never create itself. You need to make the space and then utilize your resources to fill it. Formation has made me realize more than ever that opportunity and community are what bring change and progression. I hope other outdoor sports can learn from Formation and create similar progression events for women.
Katie: By far it was the progression from the 2019 event to the 2021 event. Now that these athletes know they have something like Formation to work towards, you’re going to see more and more boundaries broken. My other takeaway was that the talent pool is growing, and I was blown away at all the new faces at the event. In addition to legendary well-known riders like Casey Brown and Hannah Bergemann, there were athletes like Jess Blewitt and Samantha Soriano who represent the next generation women coming to the stage. Watching this talent pool grow is exciting because it shows the industry that women’s freeride is a movement that is only going to keep growing.
Red Bull Formation was designed to break boundaries and push the envelope of women's mountain biking. We are honored to have riders from our Wild Rye family present to continue building community and pushing this sport forward. If you want to get more involved, we encourage you to interact with the diggers and riders on Instagram or reach out with questions - they are always a here as a resource!
Now, let's get out there and shred!