Brian Grubb’s spelunking adventures in Bluespring Caverns had the feel of Indiana-Jones-meets-Star-Wars.
Riding the Myst’ry—touted as America’s longest navigable underground river—was a challenge Grubb simply couldn’t pass up.
When the two-time world champion wakeskater initially saw photos of the Bedford, Indiana, venue, he felt the potential right away.
“Our first impression of it was maybe we should try to do some wakeskating stuff down there,” Grubb said. “But once we went up and checked it out, I kind of suggested that maybe we should try to do something eFoiling. Obviously, foiling is kind of a new thing, and eFoils haven’t been around a whole long time either, but there's a lot of technology involved with them.
“With them being electric, we can run them underground without worrying about emissions or any of that stuff like we'd have to have… you couldn't run a gas winch or something down there and it's such a tight space. So, I was like, 'Man, I think it would be a lot cooler if we tried to eFoil it.' So that's kind of how we came up with the idea and then executed it.”
Cooler indeed. The year-round temperature in the cave is 53-degrees. Grubb scouted out the venue last fall to contemplate what other hurdles might await his team. He took a kayak tour to check the water depth and the width of the cave.
“Obviously, when you're in a kayak and you're looking at it, you're like, ‘Yeah it’s big enough and plenty wide and should be big enough to ride,” Grubb said. “But then once we actually got down in there, it was a lot tighter than I anticipated—which made it look really cool in the video-but it was pretty technical riding.”
An eFoil generally requires at least four feet of water. With Grubb traveling at 20-miles-per-hour, hitting a shallow spot could be disastrous. Fortunately, he had five to six feet of clear water throughout the two-mile run.
“I would kind of idle through the whole line to make sure and I could get close to the edges,” Grubb said. “I wanted see if there was any like shallow spots close to the side before I ran at full speed through there.
“You need a lot of room to stop once you build up a lot of speed on the eFoil. So, definitely more challenging than I originally expected.”
Setting up the shoot was no easy task. It’s a 400-foot descent to the river. With a dark cavern, the lighting was far from production grade. Grubb incorporated his friend Bryan Soderlind to produce the project. Soderlind transported cameras and additional lighting equipment along with Grubb’s Lift eFoils.
With no sandbars or platforms underground, the team worked out of boats and kayaks. Communication could be an issue at times, given how sound echoes off a cave’s walls and how sketchy radio transmission is underground. The quiet nature of the Lift eFoil helped.
Since the cave was open for tours daily, the crew opted to shoot at night.
“We got into the cave around 7:00 o'clock at night,” Grubb said. “I think the first night we didn't get out until like 3:00 a.m. or so. I think I was in the water for about 7 hours or something the first night. We didn't really know what to expect down there. We had to set up all the lights and just kind of figure out the different lines that we wanted to do."
He continues, “The second night went really, really well. We learned a lot the first night, so when we went back down there the second night, we looked at the shots from the night before and we kind of saw what we wanted to do differently at the longer runs. Then we also had some better flights with the drone and stuff like that. So everyone kind of learned from the first night, and the second night went really well.”
At five years young, eFoiling is still in its infancy. As a pioneer of wakeskating, it’s not surprising that Grubb would be on the ground floor of the latest water sports craze. He has witnessed the evolution from the boards of the eFoils to the extended life of the batteries—now allowing riders to glide for 15 miles or over two hours at a time.
“People do a sport for some time, and then they maybe approach looking at the water differently,” Grubb said. “It's kind of like how wakeskating started. People were like, ‘Hey, you can do this with boots on. Let's try it without boots.’ and that's how wakeskating started.
“With the foils coming into play, they come from like a surf background—but now that all of our boats are kind of surf boats and stuff, they’ve really adapted well into the total water sports area. And with eFoils, you can ride those things anywhere, too.”
While the tight confines riding down Myst’ry River in Bluespring Cavern offered Grubb an opportunity to test the eFoil's capabilities, he knows the possibilities are endless.
“I'm constantly looking for new feelings out on the water and new adventures,” Grubb said. “So, it's been a pretty seamless evolution for me. I'm always looking for the next thing to do and then taking that to places where it's never been before.
“So yeah, it seems pretty natural for me. Looking back, it's been cool to see all the different sports we've taken from something small and tried to turn them into a big, big sport that everyone can enjoy.”