Professional mountain climber Jimmy Chin pushes boundaries in
Jimmy Chan is usually more comfortable thousands of feet up a rock face or hanging from the end of a rope with a camera in hand. But when the professional climber talks to CBS News one bright, late summer morning at Surf Ranch in California, he has other things on his mind — like a six-foot barrel of 700 perfects in a wave pool. Roams for yards.
“It’s like a perfect wave, and there’s a huge opportunity for growth,” he tells CBS Mornings’ Lilia Luciano at the man-made wave basin, the brainchild of legendary surfer Kelly Slater.
The wave pool is a marked departure from the mountains and rock faces that have made Chen one of the most recognizable faces of adventure sports — thanks to his 2019 Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” which Yosemite chronicles climber Alex Honnold’s struggle to conquer KL. Captain without ropes or other climbing equipment.
By their very nature, extreme sports are adrenaline fueled and at the very end, when faced with life-threatening danger, Chen says the best practitioners enter a special state of mental existence.
“It’s that transcendental experience where you’re in a state of flow, where everything else fades away and you’re in a space of no-thinking and the world slows down. And it’s just such an incredible experience. And That’s an intoxicating feeling.”
Living in the face of danger, he says, gives adventure sportsmen and women a deeper connection with the forces of nature.
“You know, I obviously like living in wild places and the ocean, for me, has a lot of those raw elements that I like. There’s a lot of raw power and you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. “
His new series explores what it means to be at the mercy of nature. Documenting the misadventures and mishaps of some of the world’s greatest extreme athletes – or simply the misunderstandings about where that edge is – “Edge of the Unknown with Jimmy Chin” looks back at the defining event that shaped each of their lives. Could have finished, but changed instead. them forever.
From a big-mountain snowboarder caught in an avalanche to a kayaker stuck underwater at the base of a 60-foot waterfall they’ve just plunged over, the stories are as dramatic as they are terrifying.
But for Chen, these moments are moments of growth — moments when players adapt, reevaluate and go back to the mountain or back to the cake.
“The real story is how they deal with challenges and life-changing challenges … pivotal moments in their lives. That’s really inspiring to me.”
We’re all, Chen says, “assessing risk, calculating risk, making decisions about how far you want to push it, how far you want to take it.”
But sometimes, like this bright morning at Surf Ranch, he also enjoys de-stressing while exploring water sports.
“I’m not a professional surfer. I’ve been a professional climber for 20-plus years, but it’s just something I love to do, and I love the progression. I’m still on the learning curve. But it’s really fun for me.”
“Edge of the Unknown with Jimmy Chin” airs Tuesdays at 10 pm ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel, with all episodes available to stream on Disney+.