A nondescript house on Queenstown Hill is the secret crash pad of Red Bull’s daredevil athletes. Danielle Kirk takes a peep inside ‘Base Camp’
Phat, sick, epic.
Welcome to the secret world of the planet’s most extreme adrenaline junkies.
The house might look like typical Queenstown Hill lodgings from the street but inside it’s Gen Y heaven complete with all the mod cons.
The covert den, dubbed “Base Camp”, has been owned by international energy drink giant Red Bull for the past few years – and for 11 months each year, some of the world’s biggest names in extreme sports call it home.
Red Bull typically loans the pad – complete with plasma TV, sound system, Hiace van and Red Bull fridge – to its sponsored athletes while they’re training or competing in the Wakatipu.
Queenstown’s own Red Bull pro Chuck Berry has chilled out there a few times while entertaining Red Bull big-wigs.
“We’ve hosted some pretty interesting people like [Hungarian super pilot] Peter Besenyei, who invented the Red Bull Air Race,” the local base jumping legend says.
“I showed him round and he seemed to be particularly fond of the local wines, especially the chardonnay.
“And over Christmas, [world aerobatic champion] Hannes Arch came to visit. He came to stay at my place but he visited [Base Camp] a few times.”
A crew of top mountain bikers are the latest sub-culture sporting heroes lucky enough to stay there for free.
American videographer Aaron Lutze wangled the house for his entourage – American riders Phil Sundbaum, Andrew “AT” Taylor, Blake Robinson and Billy Lewis, Austrian Niki Leitner and Kiwi photographer Caleb Smith – for a fortnight last month while filming free-riding flick Summer of Shred.
“Last year we were in Queenstown one night, we drove by the Red Bull house and were instantly drooling over it,” says the 29-year-old former world record-breaking trails rider. “So [this year] we called, asked, they gave us permission and gave us the key.”
The men – all in their late 20s bar Smith, who’s 30-plus – have found living rent-free in the luxury pad to their taste. It’s got three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms, a garage and two large decks with knockout views.
But their extreme lifestyles mean fine-dining isn’t on the cards – normally retreating to the pad with takeaways, or making the most of morning fry-ups and good old-fashioned Kiwi barbecues.
“We had a barbecue last night but the downtown scene in Queenstown is pretty fun,” says Lutze.
“We’ve had two-for-one pizza at Harry’s, we’ve been to Winnies a handful of times and we’re addicted to the Turkish kebab place in The Mall.
“But AT’s dad is a chef so AT’s been cooking full-on American-style breakfasts for us every morning.”
Then there are the 3000 free cans of Red Bull in the garage to get through – the boys succeeded in downing a third during their stay.
With a gig that sweet – travelling, mountain biking, filming, living for free – it might seem natural to rise late and booze till the wee hours. But most of these athletes have partners at home and all are dedicated to their sport.
On a typical day they wake, eat – “one guy wants to pour Red Bull on his cereal to see what it tastes like” – choose a dirt-jump playground then head outdoors by 10am to film.
They get home by 8pm, cook or order out, upload footage on to one of their many computers, shower – and head to bed to pump some Zs.
“We haven’t experienced as much nightlife as some of the people who come to Queenstown and aren’t professional athletes,” Lutze says.
They’ve hosted some barbecues downtown but house parties are a no-go zone and the crew even cleans, he adds.
“What we do is super fun but it is still work and we’ve got to stay focused.
“As fun as it would be to throw a huge rager, it just complicates what we’re here to really do.
“And we’ve taken really good care of [the house] and made sure everything is clean – we don’t have a maid.”
That’s about all this chilled-out pad lacks. Any takers?