Getting outside the comfort zone
Chance York is getting comfortable outside of his comfort zone. York is the outdoor enthusiast, narrator, and on-camera star of “Outside Chance,” an eight-episode web series produced by TPT. Season Two of the series begins March 8.
“Outside Chance” highlights some of Minnesota’s newer and more traditional outdoor activities. In Season One, York tried logrolling, mountain biking, shore fishing, urban farming, geocaching and snow kiting.
“We don’t know what we are going to get when we start. We have an expert and a place, and we go and do it,” York said. “I might be surprisingly good at it, or I might suck.”
With his up-for-anything attitude, York is a game stand-in for viewers as he challenges himself to attempt new activities on land, frozen lakes, and even underwater.
To get dramatic action shots, he often straps mounted mini cameras to his body or a helmet while a drone tracks his thrills (and chills) from overhead. In recognition of its breathtaking production values, “Outside Chance” recently won a regional Emmy Award.
“I’m trying stuff I’ve never done before and documenting the learning curve. The ad libs and wipeouts build the episodes,” York said. “In the snow kiting episode on [frozen] White Bear Lake, the wind kicked up and that kite dragged me across the ice.”
The completed episodes, each eight to 12 minutes in length, require intense planning by a team of producers and photographers. But once the cameras start rolling, the action is unscripted and relies on York’s personality to carry the unexpected triumphs, surprises and flops.
“I do get scared sometimes,” York confessed. “Where we filmed the rock-climbing episode, someone had died [earlier]. Their gear wasn’t properly situated and it was wet and the rocks shifted. I saw a memorial on the rock as I’m climbing by, and that authentically hit me. You can’t fake that stuff.”
The episodes also serve as a travelog to showcase some of Minnesota’s well-known outdoor playgrounds as well as stops off an obscure backroad. York wears wetsuits, harnesses and life jackets as he sometimes literally jumps into an activity.
“In the log rolling episode, I did not truly get the hang of it, but I progressed in a couple hours and got better,” he said. “I trust myself to see what I can do. I want viewers to think about what might happen when they put themselves out there and do their best.”
As a musician, rapper and emcee, York is a seasoned performer, and he may be more athletic than many of his viewers. A longtime yoga instructor, he also teaches meditation and does wellness consulting and health research.
“Yoga taught me to use my body as the doorway for a deeper understanding of myself and the world. Our bodies are wired to produce sensations, feelings, emotions. When we live at a desk or behind a screen, our bodies don’t get those chemicals,” he said.
“When you do something challenging and get thrown off balance, your body reacts by creating a natural high. Do something scary and new and you experience joy. It’s real.”
York often turns to other people of color as his experts, but he downplays the idea that diverse participants don’t embrace the outdoors. “There are still some stereotypes, but I’m exposed to tons of BIPOC people who are outside, and I’ve experienced welcoming attitudes everywhere. I don’t want to be the ‘the outdoors person of color.’ I’m just a guy who happens to enjoy nature and being active.”
York was raised in Minnetonka and grew up enjoying what he calls “lake life.” The youngest of five boys, York laughed when he said his parents chose his name because he was “their last chance for a girl.”
Today, York’s Bloomington home is quite a contrast to the one where he was raised. He is now a devoted “girl dad,” the father of four daughters who range in age from 11 to newborn. He and his wife welcomed their newest baby earlier this year.
“In the past year, I hit some milestones. I turned 40, won an Emmy, and had a new baby,” York said. “I’ve seen opportunities to step outside my comfort zone, try new things, meet new people, get a dose of those feel-good chemicals. That’s what life is for.”
“Outside Chance” can be viewed at tpt.org/outside-chance and on YouTube.