Sol Neelman was at Copper Mountain in Colorado to attend Furry Ski Weekend. Running since 2007, the annual event is dedicated to fursuit skiing and snowboarding, but people without fursuits (Neelman included) are also welcome. It’s one of hundreds of “weird sports” he’s photographed over the years.
“I fell off the ski lift just after hopping on with a group of furries,” the photographer remembers now. “My camera backpack was situated funny, so I wasn’t seated securely and realized very quickly I wasn’t going to make it. Slow motion situation.”
Luckily, he fell before the lift got too high, and he remained unscathed, but it wasn’t the first time he’d run into unexpected challenges while on the job. There was the time a 10 lb. flying Asian carp snapped the less off his camera (it was during a “redneck fishing tournament.”). And then there was the US National Toboggan Championships, which he attended with his friend Rob. The two of them were there to film a TV commercial and ended up soaring down a chute at 40 miles per hour, with Neelman shouting “What is happening?” on the way down.
Many of the artist’s adventures—and a few of the misadventures—have been collected in the new book, More Weird Sports, the most recent chapter in a series that began with Weird Sports (here) and Weird Sports 2 (here)
For the past fifteen-plus years, Neelman has traveled the world documenting unusual sports, including but not limited to: mud football, drag softball, flaming tetherball, outhouse racing, and Segway polo. Rob Hart, Neelman’s cousin and fellow intrepid sportsman, contributes an essay and some of his favorite stories to this latest book, as does David Noles, a photographer and friend.
The world looks different than it did when Neelman released the first book in 2011, and in many ways, we need Weird Sports now more than ever. In today’s visual landscape, moments of joy are hard to find, and photojournalists who’ve devoted their lives to finding them are few and far between.
The final photograph in the book, as it happens, was made on March 11th, 2020 (Neelman was photographing an athletic beer-drinking contest). It would be only days before everything turned upside down—and people found themselves unable to spend time with friends, connecting over the sports they love.
Three years later, More Weird Sports represents a homecoming of sorts—a return to teamwork, fun, and friendship. Neelman dedicates the book to Bart, one of his best friends, who passed away from cancer in 2021. They met while playing high school basketball together (sports have been a throughline in the photographer’s life). And ultimately, that’s what this book is about; it’s not about athletic excellence, nor is it about winning or losing. It’s about the people who make us happy, no matter what we’re doing.
Ask Neelman about almost any one of his photos, and he’ll tell you who was with him when he made it. Maybe it’s an old friend he brought along for the trip, or it could be a new friend he made along the way. It’s these people who’ve made everything worth it, even falling off a ski lift in the middle of a snowy day in Colorado. “Oh well,” the photographer says now, looking back on that particular incident with a mix of embarrassment and pride. “Whatever it takes to get a photo.”
Grab your signed copy of More Weird Sports here.
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