FARM JAM: Rising from the ashes
Two things no one needs at an event like this is wind and rain. Fortunately, the former stayed away but overnight rain meant there was a bit of a scramble at first light to get things going. The one thing you really need for an event like this is a posse of patient, dedicated, hardworking riders. In New Zealand this type of person is described as a GC. I'll let you hazard a guess as to what that means. Moving on... with wet, claggy, sloppy clay jumps the GCs got to work turning them into a rideable set of trails. Ingenious means were utilized to make this so. First, the top layer of gloop was carefully scooped from the flat bottoms, then spadefuls of dry dirt was administered, brushed in and slapped up. This was a good start but it wasn't quite enough so Mike "Hucker" Clarke grabbed bales of straw and petrol (both plentiful on the farm) to create baking fires wherever necessary. As spectators rolled into the venue at midday the scene must have been a bizarre mix of Apocalypse Now and hangi (traditional New Zealand food cooked underground). At times like this you need to adopt a little bit of homemade scorched earth technique.
The FMX jumps don't need to be so perfectly sculpted but they still needed some work to make the most of them. Quads were used to turn the earth and lime was peppered over the top to help them dry. The rain was holding off, despite grey skies, and by lunchtime the show was ready to start.
Metallica boomed across the PA with a 4-stroke accompaniment. Steelie faced Southland onlookers carrying boxes of Double Brown and Speights Ale strolled into the venue, lured by the braap of the motorbikes. The crowd was a funny mix of rural farming families, hip looking mountain town cosmopolitans and local bogans. Bogans, for those not familiar, are a species of people who look like Juggalos minus the makeup, with groomed mullets dressed in garments adorned with energy drink, lager and car brand logos. Sort of the equivalent of Kiwi rednecks. These guys come to party and expect a to be entertained. Fortunately, they were. The moto boys put on one hell of a show. Heart Attacks, La-Z-Boys, Dead Bodies, and Turntables were being thrown through the sky, with the occasional backflip – always a crowd favorite.
The circuit of dirt step-ups and doubles provide a wild loop which appears more natural and dynamic than the straight line of metal booters that normally make up the FMX comp courses. Arguably, it takes more skill to compete a solid lap of the Farm Jam FMX course. Groups of five riders took to the sky to do battle, with standouts being international superstars and Red Bull X-Fighter competitors Nick Franklin and Levi Sherwood. The competitions all follow a casual jam format rather than two do-or-die runs. This gives riders an opportunity to get into the groove, shake off nerves and try things that are a little more risky. Levi Sherwood, 2012 X-Fighters World Champion, showed why he is so dominant by effortlessly styling the course like he was racing AMA Supercross then unleashing a series of contortionist backflips, including a 60 foot step-down backflip that had people raising their arms or scratching their heads.
A big shout out must go to third place finisher Brazilian Freddy Kryillos who tried to amp up the crowd. He revved his engine, threw the horns and gave the international sign for 'make some noise' (wild palm lifting gesticulation). He soon found that coaxing any sort of expression out of one of the toughest crowds in the world – rural New Zealanders, a group of people that could shrug off their house being burned down around them – wasn't an easy task.
Back at the dirt jumps the air smelled like the course was ready. Cooked to near perfection, the hay was swept clear to reveal a smooth, hard-packed line of clay sculptures. The mountain bikers were up first, often the warmup act for the far more aerially adept BMXers but the guys on big wheels were keen to put on a show. Immediate stand outs were Matt Jones with ridiculous off-axis dumped 360s which could be mistaken for backflips with some sort of twisty wildness thrown in there, truck drivers, backflips on setup jumps and massive airtime. Elmo Cotter brought a blend of trail dawg steez that made him stand out from the rest, as well as boosted backflips and huge amounts of hang time. Connor Macfarlane looked determined and threw down a variety of big tricks and combos all over the course to make him look like a real contender. Lewis Jones, the young ninja, extended his tricks further each lap through and Phil McLean stretched out huge superman seat grabs, 360 whips and flip whips. It was going to be close, but then the UK's Matt Jones rolled into the big jump at the end of the course and pulled back on a ginormous double backflip. That got the crowd making a noise.
Again, the results are rider judged and Matt Jones rightfully won the event, including Best Trick for his double backflip, while Elmo Cotter took home a bit of cash for Most Stylish MTB Rider. He's a student in Dunedin and doesn't ride much so hopefully he can use that money to eat well, study hard, graduate and then get back to somewhere with some good trails because everyone likes watching someone ride with that kind of grace and poise.
The MTBers eventually wrapped up their play and it was the turn of the BMXers. A huge field of Kiwis, Australians and American riders were loaded up into the start ramp and fired into the jumps. Crowd favorites like Mike "Hucker" Clark demonstrated that no matter the prize money the real reward is having fun, a lot of it. Paul Langlands looks like he could be an All Black and rode with similar grit and determination. He launched a huge front flip superman then took to the biggest jump to attempt an off axis 720/360 backflip which didn't quite work out so he kept going at it despite bone crunching crashes. The guy is made from tougher stuff than most mortals. Brandon Loupos executed several 1080s which were mistaken for just 720s by plenty of onlookers, no doubt because it just seems too much spin for one man. After this he landed a Cash Roll, then rolled back into the jumps to attempt a Cash Roll Tailwhip. Errr, what? Yep, he's quite the aerialist. Amongst the big tricks, riders like Mike Ross, Eric Hennessey and Boyd Hilder grooved through the jumps with such effortless style that had plenty of grown men wishing they could ride like that. Beauty and power. Eventually, Brandon Loupos was crowned the winner and also took home the Best Trick cheque for his 1080s. Paul Langlands was rewarded for his savage, warrior spirit riding.
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Prizes were passed out, the crowds dispersed and riders moved down to Camp Runamuck to get the party started. The Farm Jam yet again proved that down to earth, rider focused events are where the sport truly flourishes. The stories that riders will take home and the spirit that has been bolstered will last longer than all victories and the legacy of the Farm Jam will continue for many years to come, we hope.FMX
4. Ryan Brown
3. Fred Kryillos
2. Nick Franklin
1. Levi Sherwood
Best trick: Levi Sherwood
Best style: Levi SherwoodMTB
5. Elmo Cotter
4. Lewis Jones
3. Phil McLean
2. Connor Macfarlane
1. Matt Jones
Best trick: Matt Jones
Best style: Elmo CotterBMX
5. Boyd Hilder
4. Danny Campbell
3. Mike "Hucker" Clark
2. Paul Langlands
1. Brandon Loupos
Best trick: Brandon Loupos
Best stye: Eric Hennessey
Words: Seb KempPictures: Callum Wood and Simon Makker