It's been a good few years for sports documentaries. 2001 kicked things off with Stacy Peralta's kickass skate doc, Dogtown and Z-Boys, while 2003 had Dana Brown's surfing film, Step Into Liquid. Peralta promptly followed in 2004 with his spectacular examination of big-wave surfing, Riding Giants, and shit, even off-road racing got its due, with Brown checking out the Baja 1000 in last spring's Dust to Glory.
But if Peralta and Brown have dominated subcultural sports docs for the past few years, two first-time directors—Kemp Curly and Kevin Harrison—should be watched for the next few. With First Descent, the duo offers a badass look at the history and current state of freestyle snowboarding. Focusing on a small group as it explores the gorgeous and treacherous slopes of Alaska's backcountry (the group's made up of some snowboarding pioneers, like Shawn Farmer and Terje Haakonsen, as well as the kids who currently dominate the sport, like Shaun White and Hannah Teter), Curly and Harrison splice in backstory from snowboarding's still fresh, often troubled history—covering everything from prejudices from skiers and Olympic scandals to crazed Japanese fans.
But aside from the personable snowboarders, Henry Rollins' sporadic narration, and the all-over-the-place soundtrack compiled by Mark Mothersbaugh, the real reason to check out First Descent is the jaw-dropping footage. The daredevil imagery on display here can only be defined as "fucking rad"—with White's elegant maneuvers, Teter's dogged determination, and Haakonsen's audacious, climactic ride down a massive mountain face, First Descent boasts footage like you've never seen—and each turn, wipeout, and jump is captured by Curly and Harrison's stunning mix of aerial and close-up cinematography. While First Descent might be the latest in a string of killer sports docs, hopefully it's not the last.