Walking down to the lofty cliffs of Emerald Pools you can't help but notice that jumping from them into the frigid waters is a dangerous undertaking. Whether it be the crosses and memorials at the beginning of the trail or the "Please don't jump" memorial that sits en route to "Goliath", the biggest jump at the pools, it is a place to take seriously. It is rare that I sit behind the lens and feel a sense of uneasiness, but as I wait for John Epsteyn to finish his preflight meditation my mind wanders into its darker realms. Line of the Week !! | 80-Foot Backflip Into Emerald Pools | Damn! | Unofficial Networks

Line of the Week !! | 80-Foot Backflip Into Emerald Pools | Damn!

Line of the Week !! | 80-Foot Backflip Into Emerald Pools | Damn!

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Line of the Week !! | 80-Foot Backflip Into Emerald Pools | Damn!

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John Epsteyn gets inverted at Emerald Pools

The Line of the Week
Jumper – John Epsteyn

Emerald Pools

Walking down to the lofty cliffs of Emerald Pools you can’t help but notice that jumping from them into the frigid waters is a dangerous undertaking. Whether it be the crosses and memorials at the beginning of the trail or the “Please don’t jump” memorial that sits en route to “Goliath”, the biggest jump at the pools,  it is a place to take seriously. It is rare that I sit behind the lens and feel a sense of uneasiness, but as I wait for John Epsteyn to finish his preflight meditation my mind wanders into its darker realms.

Over the years as I have shot cliff jumping wherever it may be, I have received all sorts of fan/hate mail. It is not uncommon for me to receive an email from a mother who has lost a son in a cliff jumping accident. By no means am I trying to promote danger. In fact I am simply trying to promote a friend who is a master at his craft. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, John crushes the gainer regardless of height. He doesn’t hesitate and lands with minimal splash like an olympic diver.

We had been talking about shooting the pools for years and last week we were in the same place at the same time. The lighting at the pools is about as tricky as any I have dealt with in my career. Hot temperatures and glaring sun mixed with extreme shadow lines make Emerald Pools a photographers nightmare. He mentions that he hasn’t done a jump like this in years.

He stands atop the waterfall, takes a running start, his legs rotate over his head, he inverts. Within a split second after the jump, John disappears into darkness and then the splash. The crowd cheers. Others wear shoes when they jump off towering cliffs, John doesn’t like the extra weight. After each jump he free climbs the cliff he just sent. We move from spot to spot. He throws gainer after gainer each one more styled out then the last.

John Epsteyn climbs back up after a jump

Other jumpers notice the photos and begin to show their skills. A backflip goes right in front of my lens from 40 feet, then a 50 foot back dive. I clearly picked the right day to shoot. John mentions he is ready for “Goliath” the 70 footer and Emerald Pools’ most daunting jump. The lighting is awful. I never know what to say to an athlete who is ready to do something mind-blowing when I know the conditions are marginal. But my job is to get the best photos I can under the circumstances.

John Epsteyn on Goliath

I can tell John is nervous. He is ready to go, but I am not. I need the best angle. I ask him to wait. He is getting antsy. Finally, I find my spot. With my legs dangling over a 70 foot cliff, even I am nervous. He gives the countdown. “3..2..1..dropping”. He throws the gainer, it seems like he is in the air forever, he lands it perfectly.

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Cliff jumping is a very dangerous undertaking and people die doing it. Please be safe out there!

The Line of the Week is a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography. All images are only to be used in conjunction with the Line of the Week. Any other usage must be cleared in writing by Ryan Salm.

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