Steve Sweitzer

Reebok TV: The rise and fall of Skysurfer

Steve Sweitzer
Reebok TV: The rise and fall of Skysurfer

This is Patrick De Gayardon. He was an extreme athlete before we had a name for one. He was a pioneer in the sport of skysurfing. Simply put, he'd jump out of a plane with a snowboard strapped to his feet, carve acrobatic stunts in the air, and then finally, pull the chute and land.

His jumping partner, Adrian Nicholas, would jump with him to film the maneuvers. He used what looked like an old French Bolex 16mm camera bolted onto his diving helmet. This was way before the time of Go Pro.

All the footage was shot over the French Alps with Mont Blanc prominently featured in the background. Our base camp was in Chamonix.

Patrick and his team could make about 6 jumps per day. The shoot lasted about 7 days.

It was the most unorganized, fly by seat of your pants shoot I had ever been involved with. 

It was also the most amazing and creative production experience I've ever had. From the planning, travel, locations, personnel, editing, music, and client approvals, it was total chaos and one of the biggest reasons I love production so much to this day. It was a pure adrenaline rush, 24/7 for 30 days straight. My bet is that producer, Andrew Chinich is still having strange and wonderful nightmares about this shoot. A huge thanks to Rick Sittig for throwing this project on my plate.

As for my part, I got to design Patrick's superhero flight suit, choreograph maneuvers with Patrick and the plane in frame and later, hang on for life in the plane that would carry him over the Alps on each run. Good thing I never get motion sickness.

I'm thankful that these badasses put up with me, the way too serious American. They took me in.

What you'll see in this commercial is all film. No CGI. No green screen. No BS. It's gonzo filmmaking where all the action ends up on the screen.

Sadly, Patrick died in 1998 in a skydiving accident in Hawaii. He was pioneering the next flying air sport, batwing suits.

I know he's still out there somewhere flying with a giant grin on his face like the madman he was.