We actually came across this incredible desert location by pure accident, way back in 2015. We were in Israel and Palestine making our Parkour in the Holy Land series, and had covered enough of the story side of things but still needed to get some action footage.
Searching Google for unusual locations nearby, we came across images of an abandoned monument on top of a mountain at Masada, on the eastern edge of the Negev Desert, close to the Dead Sea. So we ventured down there by bus from Jerusalem stopping in Be’er Sheva to break up the long journey.
As we were approaching our stop, one of the team woke up everyone else, insisting we all looked out of the window. What we were driving past was one of the most bizarre landscapes we had ever seen.
For a good 15-minutes we were speeding past acres and acres of flowing sand canyons, seemingly randomly placed in the middle of the desert. We jumped off the bus, totally disregarding the monument we had actually travelled there for, and walked straight into the canyons.
We were completely blown away by the texture of the ground. The surface is a sort of super fine dust that, when rained on and dried out, forms a crust on the top layer. That meant it was perfectly firm enough for run-ups and take-offs, but you could easily churn it up for super soft landings.
There were no plants or animals to be seen in this area, which made it really eerie and cinematic. The deepest canyons were over 100 feet deep with weird ledges and levels to break up the sheer drops. Apparently, what we had discovered had been part of the bed of the Dead Sea thousands of years before. Flash floods and weathering over eons had formed the strange shapes and channels through the dust.
On that first trip, we obviously hadn’t planned on stumbling across such a unique location. We filmed what we could with the limited time we had, and determined to come back as soon as possible to do it proper justice.
For the four years since our initial discovery of these canyons, this concept had been high up on our priorities list. We were just waiting for timing with other projects to fall into place so we could get back there. Things worked out at the beginning of this year, and we got straight on a flight to Tel Aviv.
We spent just one night in Tel Aviv before renting a car and driving south to a town called Arad, on the edge of the desert. We stayed in a lodge designed for parties of mountain bikers who come to ride in the desert, and made good friends with the owner. We told him our plans and showed him some of our videos – he was a massive help and lent us a shovel and axe, which both proved to be very useful.
Going into this trip, the intention was to match super heavy levels of cinematography with some crazy movement that is only possible in this unique location. We knew the place was perfect for a certain style, and we had five days to figure that out and capture it.
I guess we had an idea of what the film would be like, based on our Parkour on Mars video, but I don’t think any of us had realised how much we had progressed as athletes, as film-makers, and as a team since then.
Due in big part to Roof Culture Asia our process has been really refined. Our understanding of movement, and how to capture it on film, has developed so much since we first visited the desert canyons in 2015. That meant the concept had room to evolve into a new vision of what parkour can be – something that was a surprise even to us.
Those five days we had to shoot were some of the funnest training days ever! It was such a novelty to be in a place where we wouldn’t be kicked off, no security to deal with, and really easy access to anywhere we wanted to go!
We’d return to the lodge every night, shower, put on clean clothes, and then eat dinner as a team while going through the selects of that day to decide what we needed to get during the following day’s shoot.
The days were intensely demanding for all of us. The drive from the lodge to our location took 45-minutes to an hour each way. Once we arrived, we would get changed into our dirty dusty clothes, then hike for around half an hour to whichever spot we had identified to start at. We would then warm up, choreograph shots and film runs.
That process would be on repeat with 10 to 15-minute hikes in between all day, until we ran out of light. Then we would hike back to where we had parked the car, get changed, and repeat the long drive back to the lodge. Fortunately, the scenery was so incredible the drive never got boring and it was the perfect chance to reflect on the day’s progress.
The only bit that wasn’t as much fun was the insane levels of dirt – literally every part of us was covered in a layer of dust. It got in your nose, your ears, your eyes. The evening’s showers were probably the most eagerly anticipated part of each day. And we were breathing in ridiculous amounts of dust, which resulted in some pretty savage coughs.
From our previous visit to the desert, we’d identified that dust in your eyes was a massive problem, and this is how we knew we would need goggles to do it properly. However, we didn’t consider how much we would be breathing in – seems obvious in hindsight. Next time we’ll take full face masks!
The all-black clothing and coloured goggles we wore for this shoot added so much to the aesthetic of it. We were resistant at first, because we thought it may come across as gimmicky, but genuinely that video would not have been possible without eye protection.
We want to avoid being too prescriptive about the style and interpretation of what we did out there. It’s cool to kind of leave it to speak for itself. All I can say is, we’re so stoked that the timing worked out, enabling us to create something that outdid even our expectations.
That location is one of our favourite places in the world, and we’re so proud we could do it justice in the limited time period we had – go watch STORROR’s Desert Parkour Rampage!