Words: Ben Harmer
Photos: Bas Slabbers Photography
Shane McConkey said it best, “Just ski down there and jump off of something for crying out loud!”
So we listened, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.
Extreme sledding season was in its prime, so why not build the pro model Shane talked about in MSP Films' ‘Sick Sense’ - bigger, faster…and more EXTREME! When we first got accepted into the Red Bull Flugtag in Philadelphia, it was unreal, and it only took a short while to realize that this project was more than just another comical flying (failing) machine. It was about honoring the most extraordinary athlete/super hero that ever lived, Shane McConkey. Hearing from his friends made it easy to figure out what direction to push the craft, other than off the edge.
"He would have either taken it very seriously and tried to create something with tremendous flying capacity, or he would have made something that failed miserably but let out a massive flaming fart as it pitched over the edge." - Scott Gaffney
"He'd probably come up with something way smarter than anyone else so he'd win, but with more nudity as well." - Cody Townsend
If you’re not quite sure what Flugtag is, it means ‘Flying Day’ in German, and is a Red Bull event where contestants build and pilot a human-powered flight machine off of a 30-foot drop into the water below. Winners were judged on creativity, showmanship and distance. But from the beginning, we figured that succeeding in Flugtag had much less to do with those characteristics, and was more about doing something that would have made Shane proud. So we started blasting Jukebox Hero and entering parties in full saucering attire: rope, kneepads, vibrant jumpsuits and all.
After two and half months of Red Bull consumption and power tool operation, we had invested all of our funding (thank you NASA!) into the ‘science of spinning.’ Why Spinning? Because it’s SUPER RAD!
Since I’m sure most of you, along with myself, are here to glance for awesome pictures and then bounce to the top rated videos, here’s a quick break down of the most epic components that went into building this giant saucer piece.
Glass Floor: Three layers of mat fiberglass infused with vinylester resin.
Keg: Cut with die grinder and bonded to base for spin stabilization.
Curvature: Single layer of mat fiberglass installed with aluminum L brackets.
Final Paint: Layer upon layer of vibrant colors and stenciled lettering.
When Red Bull asked us how we expected to go the distance, we answered: strong wind gusts…and maybe some supportive pigeons. Unfortunately, the pigeons bailed, but Hurricane Earl was right on point. In fact, the night before, Shane and Earl decided to claim first flight as our saucer completely flew off of the wheelbase by morning! So rad.
But seriously, what made it so fun was that we really couldn’t fail. When Shane’s friends came out to see the saucer, everything stopped. Seeing what this meant to them was the greatest honor of my life, and we let anyone and everyone who was there sign the saucer before flight. When I read all of the messages, they were so awesome. “Fly over the double rainbow,” “Because farting is cool,” “McConked it!” and hundreds more.
And then it was game time. Uncle E, a close friend of Shane’s, was on the mic, getting the crowd pumped up for our epic launch. Roll music, initiate moonwalk on snowlerblades while chugging liquor bottle with Red Bull Cola. Some donkey steps and a pre-flight backflip had the crowd out of their lack of seating. Rope is pulled, and the Saucer spins with colossal authority. Our team starts pushing to the edge and…"STOP!" Yells the safety manager. We tracked off course. Fail, but we were able to pry it out of the net and give it a second shot. Shane’s friends put it best saying, Shane must have just farted on it before take off. Things were going a little too smoothly for a Saucerboy.
And then, we took flight! I’m not sure how many feet, so let’s just say at least over a triple rainbow. As for the judging, I zoned out a little bit, and numbers really aren’t my thing. More importantly, my teammate unintentionally mooned 85,000 people on the jet ski ride back to the dock. Priceless.
Our goal in this project was to make Shane proud, and approach things the way he might have. When we hung out with Uncle E after the show, it was amazing to learn so much about Shane as a person - the kindest, funniest, most caring and consistent person ever, treating everyone he ever met with the highest level of interest and friendship. I’ll live those characteristics to the end. Shane lived thousands of lives in one, he’ll always be dearly missed, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ll now ask myself, What Would Saucerboy Do?
RIP Shane McConkey