It was chilly in the Klappan, a wild, mountainous piece of northwest British Columbia snaked with the streams and tributaries that flow into the Stikine River. Western junior Brendan Wells and his brother Todd found themselves following a group of Tahltan First Nation activists toward the faint sounds of a drilling rig, cameras in hand.
“We went at night. Probably a group of around a dozen of us. When we got there the drillers kept on working even though they were supposed to shut it down. This one guy pulled down his pants and mooned us and lit up two cigarettes in his mouth,” Brendan said.
“They continued to work, which is illegal, but they called in Fortune Minerals. A bunch of the Fortune Minerals bosses came in, as well as the police to try to negotiate this and figure out what’s going on… [The police] were like, ‘Well, if you’re going to film us then we’re going to film you.’ So they got pictures of all of our faces, which I was a bit nervous about because they were saying that Fortune Minerals wants to press charges for mischief. We didn’t want to get in any trouble, we just wanted to document this.”
The Wells brothers are kayakers, first and foremost. They sit at the pinnacle of the sport, having run some of the most technical water in the world. Until just a couple of years ago, Brendan held the world record for the tallest water fall to be dropped by a minor, the 94-foot Abiqua Falls near Salem, Oregon.
But as the Wells’ found themselves negotiating with police in the middle of the night near a drill rig in the Canadian wilderness, it would seem that their love for one extreme sport had grown into something a lot more complicated.
“I think that the first step to making change is building awareness and I think we can have a huge role with that,” Brendan said.
The brothers formed Mountain Mind Collective, their own video production company, in 2013. Thus far, they’ve produced two episodes of whitewater action, one on rivers near their hometown of Trout Lake, Wash., and the other on the Lewis River and the Hamma Hamma falls on the Olympic Peninsula.
But Mountain Mind Collective has international ambitions, and that doesn’t just mean going to Canada. Todd is currently producing the group’s next episode from footage he shot running rivers in Colombia, where nearly every river in the country is slated to be damned for hydroelectric power.
Brendan hopes to move beyond producing what he calls “eye candy,” shots of kick flips off waterfalls and intense GoPro point of view sequences, to make films that connect people to another part of the world, or even teach them how to become better kayakers themselves. As an Outdoor Education major within Fairhaven, Brendan says he, “hopes to not just do the extreme stuff but also the instructional stuff to get kids outside. I think it’s really important in this day and age to get people outside and in a boat.”
For now, Mountain Mind Collective exists solely on Vimeo and Facebook, but a website is in the works. In the meantime, Brendan feels good about using social media to reach his audience.
“It’s pretty apparent to me that social media can build awareness… I see targeting not only kayakers but all the recreational users that use the land, whether they are hunters, dirt bike enthusiasts, whatever.”
So, what happened that night at the drill rig in Canada? What does it look like to blast through rapids in the rainforests of Colombia? Keep an eye on Mountain Mind Collective. The film from Colombia is slated for completion in the very near future, and you can watch for the Canada episode in late March.
To see the films and learn more about the Wells brothers, go to facebook.com/mountainmindcollective.
*Editor’s note: Todd Wells was a writer on The AS Review staff from September 2012-March 2013.