What's Next for Cam Zink? - Interview

May 9, 2016
by Dan Severson  
Cam Zink interview

When we look back over the last decade at the changes and progression of our sport, there are a few benchmark moments that specifically come to mind when we are talking about the "Freeride" category. While multiple riders have contributed to this progression, for now, let's just do a quick recap of some of the stand-out moments that came from one man in particular; Mr Cameron Zink.

Rampage, 2010, and after taking a hard crash attempting an unthinkable 360 spin off the newly added Icon Sender, Cam gets back on the bike and in his 2nd run lands the largest step-down 360 ever and takes the win. In 2011, while filming an edit for watch brand G-shock, Cam heads out to the old Rampage site and muscles a massive back flip down the infamous "Bender Sender". Roll on to Rampage 2013, and feeling confident after the recent Utah mission, Cam decides that the modified Icon Sender's biggest step-down (78ft) would be a perfect spot to showcase the progression of his massive backflip skills. With his then-girlfriend expecting their first child any day and an injury that would keep most riders on the couch, Cam ignores Doctor's orders to not ride and successfully lands the flip in his run and takes 3rd place and Best Trick award. The following year at Rampage (2014), Cam continues with the evolution of his 360, going bigger than before and this time on natural terrain, and lands himself in 2nd place and another Best Trick award. Later that year, in true Evel Knievel style, Cam heads down to Mammoth Mountain and sets the world record for the longest backflip at 100 ft. 3 inches, and lands himself into the Guinness World Records.

Although the feats above just scratch the surface on the accomplishments of Cam Zink, these moments alone should be enough to make for a satisfying career, but it seems that this man still has a lot more left in the tank. Between running his grip brand Sensus, YT Industries' USA distribution, and being a dad, how does Cam manage to juggle everyday life, meet sponsor obligations and still have time to push our sport into areas we never thought were possible? Let's find out...

Cam Zink interview

So Cam, what have you been up to lately?

I have been trying to get my shoulder to heal up, other than that it’s fairly normal stuff for me; hanging out with my wife and daughter, riding, running Sensus and doing all the executive tasks at YT USA. I just started a non-profit as well; sensusRADtrails.com. I'm also trying to build some stuff in my yard to compete in slopestyle for my 13th year and trying to build some enormous stuff to push what I think may be possible on a bike.

bigquotesI love the triumph and thrill of the gamble but I just love riding my bike. - Cam Zink

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview
Rotorua souvenirs...

How is everything going as far as injuries right now? Are you able to ride as much as you'd like?

Not nearly riding as much as I’d like. I have to pace myself and currently I’m on time-out after setting my shoulder back, yet again at Sea Otter Slalom.

Shoulders are tough. This is the first real shoulder injury I’ve ever had, so I guess I’m lucky, but it’s been tough. I separated my SC joint two weeks before Rampage last year. Afterward, it caused problems in the actual shoulder joint. So I had surgery in January because it was getting worse, rather than better. Labrum, bicep tendon re-attachment and a cleaned up bone spur...

I was trying to ride Crankworx Rotorua, but I ended up with a torn lat muscle and a dislocated finger in practice because I was trying to ride too soon. So now I’m here, off the bike, and setting my sights on riding in the Nitro Circus Live shows in my hometown of Reno next week.

Cam Zink interview

You've been running Sensus grips for about seven years now. That's a good run! What is the latest and greatest with the brand? Do you have any new product or projects you'd like to share?

I started Sensus in the midst of knee surgeries as a side project to keep me busy. It has steadily grown since the original Swayze Single-Ply. It was a side job; I did everything by myself, even packing and shipping grips, from 2009 to 2013. Since then I’ve had some hired help from my brother and now that we have an office for YT USA and Sensus, it gets some extra attention from everyone here.

YT is top priority as it is the breadwinner in the building, but Sensus is my baby and this year should be a huge year for us. I just designed a new clothing line and we have our first single-lock grip design coming out with a built in endcap, the “Sensus Lite". Very stoked to present it on a new website soon. Like everything in the industry it’s delayed a bit, but shouldn’t be too long!

It seems like YT is all over the media these days, especially with the addition of Aaron Gwin. How do you think his presence will affect the brand and sales?

This is the golden question I keep getting asked. Mountain Biking is in exponential times and with so many different brands out there, I couldn’t be more proud to be flying the YT flag. YT is in an incredible spot, but not because of Gwin, Capra, Jeffsy, reviews, or price point, etc - it’s because of authenticity in a great brand with great people behind. They happen to make the best bikes in the world being sold for prices mountain bikes should be.

Signing Gwin was incredible, yet it is one of the many pieces of the puzzle as to why YT is the fastest growing mountain bike brand.

Cam Zink interview
Early stage prototype grip and packaging design concept

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

What are some of the challenges you have faced running the brand(s) from a business perspective?

Time. Remember when you were young and the days were so long? You sat in class waiting for the bell, no.2 pencil in hand, drawing bike jumps and logos on your cold hard desk. Then you rode for what felt like all day after school, still making it home in time for Mom’s home cooked meal?

Now, I feel like I’m going to bed right after waking up. It’s good to be busy and right now we are getting our operations autonomous so it should alleviate some work off my plate. Good help is hard to find, but we have a dialed team here. Currently, things are getting easier and I am able to delegate tasks as there is just too much to do in a day. Plus I need to ride! I want to ride as hard as I can for as long as I can. Thankfully, the first year of getting YT USA off the ground is over. It was just my brother and I for the first few months with part-time help. Now we have less stress, more humans and more time to ride!

What will you be focusing on most this year; events, racing, video segments? Anything new that you are excited to talk about?

I have some huge plans that are progressing without a definitive timeline, but Sky Tavern in Reno is a non-profit ski resort where I am going to build the majority of it. I have a lot of goals that aren’t finding backing so it’s looking like I’m going to have to fund it myself. Shooting for a few more records on this project.

For contests, it’s pretty much Fest, The Crankworx World Tour and Rampage. There are so many contests out there now, but these are the ones I really care about. Crankworx has Best Whip, Speed and Style, Pumptrack and Slopestyle so it’s a lot of competition for me. Trying to get in a few DH and Slalom races at Mammoth for Nationals and Kamikaze games, too.

Now that the dust has settled (pun intended) on last year's Rampage, How are you feeling about how things went down with your run? Will we see you there this year?

I was so heartbroken last year. A lot of people saw me tearing up in the rider lounge after the first runs, but thought it was because of the judging. It was because I had just heard one of my longest riding buddies is in a helicopter and can’t feel his legs. There were so many horrendous instances that week far beyond anything people were writing articles about.

The focus keeps being directed at the risk level. We knew the inherent danger; that’s not the problem! Red Bull deservingly took a lot of backlash after last year's Rampage, but they took necessary actions and held a meeting with top riders, media and organizers to ensure the event will not only go on, but improve. Everyone left the meetings happy and if they come through on their word 2016 should be the best Rampage yet.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

What changes need to take place in order for Rampage to continue? Has there been any resolve between the riders and promoters as far as rider safety, practice time, compensation, etc?

We were being treated poorly and disrespected. The biggest change the public will notice is a far condensed rider field. There were too many people out there. There will be a mandatory rest day before the last few days of practice, as well. The rest is more behind the scenes pertinent to medical protocol, POV footage, etc...

What single trick or feature from another rider stood out to you most from last year's event?

Nico Vink went insanely big on that drop. Paul flipped the 60 foot plus canyon gap up top behind the ridge, Semenuk did the cleanest switch 3 drop on a big bike ever and T Mac tee’d up the “El presidente” drop! Andreu spun the giant hip on the ridge, R-Dogg and KJ spun the big YT ramp, Paul and Genon did the mega drop and Strait 'no-handered' the huge drop. Oh, and Aggy put on a steeze clinic... Sorge and Claw’s drop up top... There is way too much that went on.

Cam Zink interview

bigquotesI have some huge plans..." - Cam Zink

The level of risk also seems to be at an all-time high for that event, with riders basically putting their lives and bodies on the line to even have a shot at top 10. At what point do you say, "It's not worth it". Where do you draw the line?

When you’re not having fun anymore. Plain and simple. The time leading up to it is stressful and we all pay the price every now and then, but if you wanna play the game you can’t cry when the game plays you.

Landing your run is the sickest thing in the world and the most fun; worth the struggle. I’ll stop when the risk isn’t worth the uncontrollable ear to ear smile at the bottom of a line.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

Most of the major events you've been in seem like extremely high-stress environments. How do you manage to block that out and perform under pressure?

Focus on the task at hand and remember if you are thinking about anything else you are putting yourself in more danger. Focus, focus, focus.

Tell us a bit about where your motivation comes from these days compared to your past?

I love the triumph and thrill of the gamble, but I just love riding my bike. The better you get, the more fun it is. The further you go, the better places and bikes you get to ride.

I am fortunate that I get to ride the sickest bikes at the sickest places, with my friends who happen to be the best riders. I live for it. With my daughter, wife, friends and Mountain Biking, I am a happy boy.

What is the ultimate reward or pay-off?

Living up to my potential.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

Notice any similarities here?

How are you doing, juggling family life and your huge workload? Any plans for more kids on the way? I'm sure the future generation would love to see a few more Zink's shredding bikes!

Well, hopefully, the next baby is a boy so that there is a little man in the family. If it’s another girl that’ll prob be the end of our procreating because the only way to have three girls is to start with two. I love my daughter more than I could have ever imagined, but three girls plus my wife might be the end of me, ha-ha.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

Everyone loves a good trail dog. How's your four-legged companion doing these days? Has he been ripping the trails with you? Got any good Zader stories for us?

Zader is getting too old for the rocky Nevada trails, he walks down some of the trails he used to YOLO his paws right off, but he still rips at 7. He has been in a lot of videos, but my favorite clip of him ever is in Sage’s Lemonade and DuckTape Stuffs video where he pre-hops a giant five-foot roller and belly/wiener scrubs the top of it all stretched out in slow-mo ha-ha. So sick.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

Best and worst part about living in Reno, Nevada?

Wind. Sometimes it’s so nice outside, but you can’t ride because of the wind. You can’t always plan on it settling down in the afternoon so if I have to ride jumps to get ready for a contest or something I’m forced to get after it in the morning, which sucks. DH, Trail or anything else rules in the morning, but jumps should be an afternoon thing.

Cam Zink interview

Cam Zink interview

That should do it for now Cam... any thanks or shout-outs?

Thank you to my loving wife, Amanda for being my biggest supporter and the best Mother to our Daughter, Ayla. My parents for buying me bikes and taking me to races all those years. My brother for being huge. Brad and Mark for holding it down at the office. Markus and Willy at YT for taking a chance and letting me run YT USA. Colby at ODI, who manufactures all Sensus grips in Southern California. And my sponsors who enable me to live the greatest life I could imagine:

Monster Energy
YT Industries
Nature’s Bakery
SRAM/ Rock Shox
Troy Lee Designs


MENTIONS: @EeehhZink / @oxide / @danyul / @suspended-productions / @YTIndustries / @Sensus / @SramMedia / @troyleedesigns / @michelinofficial / @deityusa / @FiveTen / @oakley / @Birzman


  • 193 9
 Zink is the realest there is, a true American bad ass. I'm lucky to be able to ride with him and call him my friend.
  • 25 3
 Fuck Yeah Zink is the Man!
  • 32 4
 Zink for president!!!
  • 7 10
 For real if zink was born american and running I would vote. Still might write him in vs my usual Howard Stern option. Either way he a model of the freeride world current and look forward to seeing him go loco in future events.
  • 17 0
 EDIT: My appoligies Zink is true blue american. My bad, for some reason always thought he from NZ due to his extreme nature but learn something new each day. All the best and continued fan of all things Zink!
  • 23 1
 When wind is your problem at riding bicycle. you know you are a badass.
  • 3 1
 It gets reallll windy here in Reno though, but Zink is still a badass.
  • 10 0
 @fecalmaster: "from NZ due to his extreme nature" XD
  • 8 0
 "Freeride" shouldn't be in quotes. It's a real thing.
  • 123 2
 I am an absolute nobody - a pale, wispy, shadowy boiled cabbage of a man. I ride YT because of the Zink bros and I feel like a thick, rare steak grilled over flame, a shot, and a beer when I sprack my Capra off a tiny, 2 foot booter.
  • 6 0
 Love it
  • 7 1
 Brilliant Big Grin
  • 8 0
 this should be YT's sell line!
  • 92 3
 Zink is the man! Absolute badass on a bike and great role model and ambassador for the sport.
  • 31 1
 The first Rotorura slopestyle Semenuk bailed on his second run and ended up leaving, all of Pinkbike was giving him shit for not being one with the other riders and accusing him of being a poor sport. Zink showed up on Pinkbike and told everyone to chill because Brandon was a close friend to all the guys who rode that day. That stuck with me sticking his neck out for a friend like that, even on the shitpostfest that is a Pinkbike comment section. Next time I see him at Whistler I def want to shake his hand for just being a decent dude.
  • 47 0
 This brand, TLD, Thanks Cam Zink...for being all things rad and would give the shirt off his back to a person in need.
  • 44 0
 It's so nice when elite athletes are real nice people too. Keep it up, Cam!
  • 40 1
 Family man. Rider man. Mans man. Business man.
  • 2 0
 I had to call Trek today to order a part and I couldn't help but feel jealous of the guy answering the phone. To live AND work bikes seems like a dream. Great work with YT Cam, excited to see what the year holds for YT and big man Zink!
  • 30 1
 "I’ll stop when the risk isn’t worth the uncontrollable ear to ear smile at the bottom of a line."

Nuff said.
  • 30 3
 zink for president! loook out hillary
  • 25 13
 You mean look out Trump, b/c Hillary has no chance with our stupidity!
If we were smart, Sanders would be dominating Hillary right now.
  • 10 2
 @abzillah: I fully agree dude. Frown r.i.p. us politics sorry man.
  • 1 0
 @makripper: Sanders is a better choice compared to Hillary, but I still wouldn't vote for him if my taxes depended on it. Oh wait they do....
  • 1 0
 @somismtb: Unless you make over 250k a year youre good. If you do... well life is tough huh?
  • 2 2
 @snyda: I don't but my grandfather does. He worked his way up from being dirt floor poor into running his own lumber business employing a large majority of the community. I'll be damned if I vote for anyone who wants to take from him to give to takers, drug addicts, etc. I know the money needs to come from somewhere, but it's not right to take from the guys who earned it the real way. Many other government programs need refinement. Government Jobs are the biggest joke in the world
  • 2 1
 @somismtb: you do realize that the military and roadways are socialist enterprises? And healthcare should be a right for all, not just those who were born into the upper middle like yourself. Just wait till you come on some hard times and see if you change your tone Wink The nordic model of governement is quite sustainable
  • 23 0
 YTs stuff just looks dope.
  • 18 1
 I bought two pairs of Sensus gum rubber grips in 2014. I never got a shipping notification or anything, so about a week after I ordered I emailed in just to check what was up... and none other than Cam himself responded back, promptly, with an explanation (they don't send annoying emails, awesome!). The grips were in my mailbox when I got home Razz
  • 13 1
 "Well, hopefully, the next baby is a boy so that there is a little man in the family. If it’s another girl that’ll prob be the end of our procreating because the only way to have three girls is to start with two."

God is going to "bless" you with twin girls now ; )
  • 1 0
 ha, my mate had a girl, then another. They figured they'd try one more time for a boy and got twin girls. Blank Stare
  • 8 1
 Great interview and nice answers that give a good insight into the man and legend that is Zink....BUT...(and maybe I shouldn't open this can of worms....) grilling sponsors (Redbull) for the safety of an event (Rampage) and claiming that giving a rest day could avoid serious injury is a little odd.
How about wearing more than a tank top? In the first Rampage videos those guys wore every pad imaginable and now they don't. I would think that before one points fingers, it would be reasonable to critically consider one's own actions. I'm all for going for it but why would anyone not take the most fundamental personal safety measures first !?
  • 4 2
 I kinda think that Rampage has reached a point where elbow/knee pads and pressure suites are going to be more of a hindrance in that fact that movement is restricted.

I wont wear elbow pads despite the fact that I always land on my elbows because they make me feel like I cant move as much.

Also the size of the stuff they do, its not going to massively help in a crash.

Not sure if that's it but that would be my reasoning for not wearing it
  • 1 0
 @cjkj1999: neck braces and back protectors on the other hand...or how about not jumping straight back on the bike after a smash?
  • 10 0
 Hell yeah! Stoked to see what is going to happen with Sky Tavern!
  • 1 0
 Sounds like unrideable world record type stuff which is too bad
  • 7 0
 @Brycelewis: that's not the case at all, Zink is contributing to all of the construction from beginner trails to his own lines. We have a huge build crew of pros for this year with Zink at the front. Flagging starts next weekend on a new phase, digging the week after.
  • 4 0
 Yep! Tamba.org spelled out their plans a few weeks ago for all the trail work in the area. Super stoked!
  • 6 0
 With people like this on the team its no wonder YT is the dopest brand out. Sickest riders, good reviews, affordable price and sweet vibe, total dream bike. And shit, thats one badass dog
  • 7 1
 do i spy an o.g. oakley B-1 grip on cam's desk?

loved the B-1s............

almost as much as the .5 !

man do miss my .5s................
  • 3 0
 Old people recognize that classic grip. Keen eye, Kohut.
  • 3 0
 What about Oakley 3? such amazing grip that was difficult to get your hands off them, funny that is why you do not get them now!
  • 6 2
 Very, very stoked to keep getting more details on how they're changing Rampage for the better! It should have always been for the riders as it was before it became a media shit storm, so its great to hear its returning back to that form. MTBing is lucky to have so many great people involved like Zink.
  • 5 0
 Great guy, great article, great company. I also love when European brands try to get slick with American jargon and you end up with YT Tues marketing slogan: "Epic Shit." Where was Gwin when that got lost in translation. Big Grin
  • 1 1
 Honest, concise, accurate... nothing wrong there. It's also quite an amusing pun on a certain XC bike from we-all-know-who, and if that isn't slick, then I don't know what is Big Grin
  • 7 2
 Thought i was losing my mind for a second... this article was originally published on May 5th. It then seemed to disappear until today, May 9th. WTF
  • 4 1
 Probably Pinkbike decided to reschedule. Weirdly often that means the newest articles don't appear on top of the news feed, but like 3 posts down, depending on when the post was created, not on when it went online.
  • 3 1
 Cam zink is the most incredible man that mountainbiken can have! He is so passionated about what he is doing and without him i would not ride how i ride today cause he inspired since my beginning of mountainbiking! Thanks Cam and hopefully we will see more of you in the future!
  • 2 0
 Awesome brand, awesome people, awesome pictures, awesome bikes! I'm glad the brand has grown fast and continues to challenge the industry as a whole. God bless Zink and YT! #Goodtimes forever @YTIndustries #Ilovejeffsy @EeehhZink
  • 2 0
 Dude has a wicked name. Just got start up some uber niche (expensive) Zink bike frames, or partner with GoPro to make the ZinkCam brand of "freeride" helmet cams. If I was him I'd just hang with my wife & kid(s) go ride everyday and make a decent living off my glory years and maybe a new idea here & there. Also as a dad, I just couldn't jump off cliffs for money anymore.
  • 4 0
 From the interview, I don't think he is doing it for the money.
  • 1 0
 @cheeverbrent: Pretty sure he's not doing it for free, either though. Obviously the guy is passionate, but this is also his main gig he has to support a family. It's cool, but it comes with a tonne of risk, and the guy has nothing to prove at this point. He's a legend.
  • 6 0
 Even his dog shreds better than I do
  • 6 0
 Can't wait to see the madness!
  • 4 0
 Yeah Cam!!! Thanks for doing what you do. Props to you for your investment in promoting riding and development in the Reno area.
  • 7 1
 Absolute ledge of a man
  • 3 0
 Nature's Bakery? Oh man I didn't know one could be sponsored by bakeries those days...I'm a great eater...should I send my resumè? Big Grin would be SWEET. ahahah
  • 3 0
 Great article and obviously a super sick rider! Beer

A lot of props to him for starting a much needed revolution within Rampage!
  • 4 0
 Awesome article. And stoked to finally hear some positive news about Rampage!!
  • 6 2
 I'd go as far as to say living legend
  • 3 1
 Not sure why but totally agree, dirt jumping in the morning is just not right but trails are fine, preferable actually, in the morning.
  • 5 4
 THESE are the kinds of companies i deeply enjoy seeing succeed. Specialized... and the likes, are a bunch of corporate pigs, out there for the cash and the prestige... Cams the real deal, so legit
  • 10 2
 Heh, don't forger that the "corporate pigs" started small back in the day too...
  • 3 2
 @Milko3D: Didn't specialize get their start as a merchant/importer rather than innovator? And then later on got big through large-scale replication of other peoples' designs? Could be wrong, but not the most romantic history.
  • 5 0
 @Milko3D: True enought.... But is someone like Cam going to become these people? This man has a heart and a soul, i think he will stay true to his roots.
  • 1 0
 @beast-from-the-east: Capital needs to come from somewhere, perhaps they were more involved in the road scene in the beginning, but I'm not a specialized historian, so don't quote me on that

@zion-i: Hey, Zink is the man, but do you think he wants to stay in a scruffy office for too long?
The man seems ambitious enough to push things forward, pouring his heart into what he's doing, and that's how things happen. Getting bigger is a natural progression in business I think, plenty examples from all areas, Hope Tech...bloody Apple, HP and so on.

Didn't mean to spark an argument, it's just that we often jump to conclusions, bashing the big guys.
Reminds me of the Chain reaction article, someone posted an article with their history.
They were the small LBS once and look at them now - purpose built warehouse, hundreds of employees, international deliveries...
  • 3 0
 @Milko3D: Hey, no argument here! You make good points, some companies manage to stay true to their core values that got them started... and others become.. for profit organizations all im saying here, i think as YT grows with cam behind the wheel, they will remain solid!
  • 1 0
 @zion-i: the american wheel....he doesn't run the entire company
  • 1 0
 with all due respect to Zink, I strongly advise against "ignoring Doctor's orders" as someone with negative experience on this subject
  • 2 0
 Cam is the man. Also, just got topped up on sick desktop backgrounds - great shots Dan!
  • 4 1
 Daman! Legend!
  • 3 1
 A bad mofo, tempered with kindness! So much respect for the guy!
  • 3 1
 I think his plant is dead!
  • 2 0
 Now that's a nice Boxer love it
  • 2 0
 Anybody with a Boxer is always cool with me! Rock on Zader.
  • 2 0
 Love the Miller Lite inspired packaging!
  • 2 0
 a full carbon tues is cheaper than the cheapest trek sesion
  • 4 2
 What a Zink!
  • 3 1
 Good job yt!
  • 1 0
 great answer about the Aaron Gwin question.
  • 1 0
 Fair play to Zink for speaking up. Truth to power is never easy.
  • 1 0
 Cool read!
  • 7 10
 Cam zink is the only thing cool about reno. Such a depressing place lollipop
  • 7 2
 Zink is the man - and the Reno is the SHIT.
  • 3 5
 I feel so depressed when I go there
  • 5 1
 @thook: then you are doing it wrong.
  • 3 6
 The best. Reno is an awful place though lol
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