It's been a while since I've written anything about my riding lately, as I've been busy with school and riding too much to find some time to sit down and type something out and edit a video. I've been plagued in the past with my riding spots being closed, condemned, or just torn down. I'm from El Cajon, in San Diego, which is basically nothing but houses with very few open hills to build on. Of those few hills, even fewer still are not plastered with no trespassing, do not pass go, go to directly to jail signs. So basically I'm left with nothing to use to train on, and I can't build anything because San Diego gets less rain per year than the freakin' Sahara. You get the idea...This is where the whole concept of, "Dude, Just find a way, It can be done," came from.
These past two years have been amazing, I've been riding as much as I can and trying to progress fast enough to keep up with the competition, which is proving to be a battle. In 2010 I made the decision to focus on my riding more, and decided the best way to do so, would be to simply test out of highschool (at the age of 16) and start college. This proved to be one of the best things I could do, as I now didn't have to waste time with dead end classes that where going no where, and could split my time between important classes in college, and riding.
I do some racing too
So, this is great right, all this time and...Nowhere to ride. Thankfully, I made this decision in winter, so the two inches of rain we get per year is coming soon. I spent the winter building what would be my only local riding spots for the year ahead, since we can only build about two weeks a year. Luckily, I also have some DJ spots close by that I built years ago in my BMX days that have been maintained and made bigger by the BMX community. They're small, but it's better than nothing.
What's the point of all this effort? Well, as many of you know, I consider myself to be a big mountain freerider, and with the return of the Rampage in 2010, I wanted to get an invite to it. With all these negative things that seem to aspire against, I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents who agreed to take me to the old rampage site a couple times over the 2009-2010 season to train and ride. After three trips I was familiar enough with the terrain that I was able to send in some videos and pictures to Redbull, and receive an invite! This has been a goal for me ever since I saw my first rampage in 2004 on DVD.
Practicing in Virgin, Utah
One of my favorites
Getting zesty on the Karpiel
Once I was invited, I knew I really had to put in the effort to go against the best in the world. I devoted all of my time to big mountain style riding, trying to find rocks and cliffs around here to practice on...which I soon realized really didn't exist. Never the less, I trained hard and practiced techniques and tricks, and finally arrived at the Rampage.
Such as learning 360s on drops
Riding my purpose built training drop
Practicing tricks on drops
Trying to log some air-miles
I didn't really have too much time to build a line at rampage, since I spent most of my time staring, open jawed, at just how massive everything really is. I had planned to build one line to qualify on, and if it wasn't good enough, have another back up line that was riskier, but perhaps more points. However, this never happened. I ended up using one line that worked pretty good for me.
So, uh...I'll ride this one I guess...This place is steep!
Rampage was a surreal experience, walking around, talking to all these pros I have only seen in videos was something I'll never forget. I remember everyone kinda looking at me like, who is this kid, why is he here? All the pros were super nice to me, but somewhat wary of me walking up the hill with a shovel...like I didn't know what I was doing. Once we got a chance to ride together at the old rampage site, that animosity went away, and I truly felt like I was part of the group. That feeling was amazing, and made all the work worth it.
Lucky number 13!
Testing the step down with my 'wind gauge' next to me
Hitting my drop
The one I planned to superman...Kind of glad I didn't have too haha
Competition day, woke up at 6:30 to get to site at 7:30. Before I knew it, I was up in the gate with the helicopter in the air, winds gusting big time, with some guy counting me down. Once he said 3-2-1 I could go whenever I felt like it, since the wind was blowing the redbull arch over on us. After waiting a minute or so, I started feeling like the wind is here to stay and I'm looking like a pussy for staying in the gate for so long, so I said F*ck it, and went for it.
First drop, brutal impact
The ridge I chose was ridge 1, which had a decent sized start drop that most people chose to half roll/half drop, since it had a FLAT landing. I decided to just huck off it, since rolling it was a little more technical, and I hoped that just airing it would get me more points. The second my wheels went off the dropped, it seemed like the wind had calmed down, and all the noise went away, and all I saw was my bars, front tire, and the trail in front of me. That first run went pretty good, styled some of the drops, sent the big drop I build pretty good, no-braked the double drop and got some bonus points for clearing that one pretty far. I got to the last jump and just tabled it, planning to superman it on the next run if I needed too.
Double drop with the start in the background, notice the dust from the wind
So, after run one, I was in 10th place, the last qualifying spot to advance to the second day. Awesome! Now I just have throw down on the second run a little better to secure my spot in the finals...I stopped for a second..Wow, this is really happening! I might make it to the finals in Redbull Freakin' Rampage! I shook my head as if to clear my mind, and continued up the long ascent to the top. Speaking of the ascent, the course here is so steep, it takes 5 people to get up certain parts, and the start drop actually had a rope hanging off it that you tired your bike too so they could pull it up. You then used the same rope to pull yourself up, the whole time on a ridge no more than 8 ft wide with huge drop offs on either side...And they want me to ride down this?! Another headshake...I was back in the gate ready for run 2. The wind was even worse this time. I once again went with f*ck it and huck it when the count down began. However, this time was much sketchier. I felt the wind on every jump. I dead sail-ered the first step down, unsure of what the wind will do. I tried to convince myself to just go for it anyways, but I could feel the bike tipping any time I caught air. I roll up to my big drop, about a 30 ft vert cliff. I eye the redbull flags, and they seem to have calmed down a bit, so I send it with confidence, only getting a little sketchy.
Riding the line I had chosen and built
The drop on my line
Final jump of the course
Now comes the big one, the double drop. The first drop is small, about 8-10 ft, no big deal, but it lands on a very steep, narrow ridge, which allows about 25 ft of stopping distance before you go off the next drop, which is about three times as big as the first one. The landing for the second one is long, so I wasn't worried about over jumping it if I didn't brake enough on the landing of the first one, but this time what I was worried about was the wind. You get quite a bit of air on it, and I was worried. No, scratch that, scared shitless. I reluctantly let go of the brakes, and drop in, positive I'll be sampling some of the dirt if a couple seconds. I manage to land it, ride out and finish my run. At this point, I realize I've been riding pretty sub-par, erring on the side of safety instead of style, something that should not exist at the rampage. So I decide it's time to superman the last jump. Alright, here we go. CRUNCH. What the heck? I look down as my bike skids to a stop on the lip of my would be finish line jump. My chain lays bound up around the rear wheel and casette. F*CK! I calmly walk my bike down to the finish line, visibly pissed. I ended up in 12th, not qualifying for finals.
Initally, I was pissed about it, but the next morning I woke up super tired and sore, feeling rather relieved I didn't have to participate tomorrow in finals ahaha. I was glad on the finals day to be on the sidelines, sitting next to my new friend, Kelly McGarry, watching these riders throw down harder than I could ever imagine. My favorite moment has to be Cam Zink rolling in for his second 360 attempt. Being there as a fellow athlete and knowing what's going through his head made me so scared for him. I cannot describe the feeling of elation when he rode out, and obviously everyone agreed, since the crowd drowned out the helicopter with their cheers.
So, all in all, It was an amazing experience I got to take part in, and I came away from it with amazing memories of rider after parties, and watching the most insane freeriding I've ever seen. Oh, and an invite to next year. So for now, it's back to finding a way.
I write all this, not to whine about my conditions, but as a sympathy to what many of you are facing. We don't all have a huge back yard with jumps in it, we don't all have perfect clay dirt to build with, and we certainly don't have access to a foam pit whenever we want like some of the top riders do. But that doesn't mean you can't find a way. Every day there are more and more shredders popping up, and I'm proud to be a very small part of freeriding during these times. Freeriding is not dead. For me, It is just beginning. Now get out and ride and HAVE FUN!
I'd like to say thanks to all my sponsors:
My beautiful Karpiel Disco Volante
Very Special Thanks, none of this would have happened without you guys:
My parents and family
Kyle Madden for building my line at rampage with me, Thank you!!!
Josh Bender for mentoring, tips, and general badass-ness
Todd Barber at H5 events for keeping rampage alive!
NIck Simcik for mentoring and footage, great riding with you!
Mike Metzger; great riding with you man!
Mike Lord: Support and photos
Jan and Morgan Karpiel
Dale @ Division 26
Bonnie and Lear Miller
Grassroots cycle and the ranchstyle crew
Shout out to Evan Guthrie! Live. Fight. Ride. Evan Guthrie. You got it buddy, keeping fighting.
And thanks to everyone who is out there living the dream on their bikes and keeping freeriding alive.http://www.Karpiel.com http://www.Wilwhite.comhttp://www.facebook.com/WilWhite26