Born in the UK, Robin Pearson's drive to capture the finest moments of BMX riding on the most interesting terrain he can find brought him all the way to Portugal where he now lives. It was his move to the westernmost country of Europe that made the image possible in the first place: "Soon after I moved to Portugal, my friend Anthony Pearson (no relation) hit me up about coming to visit. He is a fellow spot enthusiast - as in, he loves finding and riding the most interesting spots possible - and had wanted to make the trip to this full pipe spot for years. With me living fairly close by, he finally had a good excuse to make it happen."
When you look at Robin's image one of the first questions that will pop into your head will be about the location. So what's this spot? "It's a drainage channel that leads from a reservoir down into the earth, under the hill and out into the next valley. It does baffle me how civil engineering projects often produce huge rideable transitions like this, but I'm not complaining. To get in there, you head down a dirt track, cut through some trees and then face a steep drop down into the valley. Many of the metal rungs of the old ladder had eroded away long before we arrived, but thanks to the locals João and Bruno Soares, who helped us find the place, we were prepared with ropes to handle the descent. The feeling you get when you see a spot like this can't be overstated. It's genuinely electrifying - standing at the entrance of the pipe, Anthony and I could not believe the scale of it."
No one had the final picture in mind at all, they all just wanted to ride the spot and have a good time: "Our goal for the day was actually to ride the far end, which is more like a half-pipe, but pitched down a steep slope into the pipe. And that's what we did! All four of us cleaned the place up a bit, felt it out on our bikes, rode it the best we could, shooting photos and filming clips. At the end of the session, as you'll see in the video, Anthony even sent a flair on the vert wall."
The image that made it to the final stage of Red Bull Illume has not been shot up until this point: "As we were on our way out, we saw the full pipe in a new light - quite literally. The sun had come down and was now beaming along the valley, illuminating the vast concrete pipe with a beautiful warm glow. I told Anthony we had to shoot a few carves! I knew he was knackered from riding all afternoon but I didn't know how long the light would last and wanted to capture the sheer scale of the pipe in that glow. It's just a simple carve in a big pipe. No tricks just pure BMX."
But how was the exprience for the BMX rider Anthony Pearson? "As we climbed down the sketchy ladder and arrived at the mouth of the full pipe all sorts of thoughts were running through my head. What if someone sees us and calls the police? What if someone gets hurt? What if the water suddenly started flowing through this thing? But all these doubts were suddenly replaced with pure excitement to start riding."
Since the light changed quite late, Anthony was already pretty worn out. To get the final shot he pushed himself to his limits: "As I started to pedal down the pipe I quickly realised the gearing on my bike was far too light for such a big and full pipe. I knew we would only have a few shots at this before my legs gave up on me. Pedalling as fast as I could, pulling a small wheelie through the puddle of water at the bottom I carved up into a spot where I hoped Robin would be happy with. Luckily for me he is a true professional and nailed the shot at the first try. It was a fantastic end to an amazing day riding one of the best spots in Europe."