Photos by Eric Palmer unless otherwise stated.
Following my last trip to Cape Town in 2016, there was some unfinished business to take care of back in South Africa. Just a year ago I left for a once in a lifetime opportunity that was a 6-month adventure to the African continent to work and ride. I had some basic expectations going into this trip, but nothing could have prepared me for the months ahead…
Having been around with The Rise crew on the loop of doom project, I saw first-hand how different life is on this side of the world. I had almost lost an eye to a fallen 21mm wrench, had the cheapest root canal ever, had the keys to a rental truck stolen from a trance party, then swam practically naked with sharks without a cage and a cut up hand from potatoes. Before stepping foot into the country this trip was already better off than the last, so what could go wrong this time you ask?
Photo: Tuscan Hayward
The first leg of the trip found me back in the Garden Route. Having spent half the trip in Sedgefield last year, I got close with one of the most incredible families I have had the privilege of meeting, the Hayward’s. Since most of the crew from CT was already in Sedgefield for Dawn of the Dirt, Kirsty came the distance to Cape Town to visit some family and get this crazy cannuck back “home” safely. Following the loop build, the Hayward’s practically became my African parents with two rad brothers and a sister. Moto roots live deep in this family!
Justin Novella of the trail crew slaved through sickness to build one of the best lines of trails South Africa has ever seen for Dawn of the Dirt 2. Having thought I had a broken scaphoid prior to leaving Canada, I was stoked on the doctor’s misdiagnosis that allowed me to able to shred alongside the crew aboard my prototype slopestyle bike!
Still fresh, the riders came together to pack the line and the sessions went off into the night! In true fashion, Justin got as close as possible and tires nearly touched on a couple flip trains. Luckily Shin (Eric Palmer) was directly below to capture the close calls!
The Zydeco is a steel slope-style frame geared up to destroy! When the idea came up to test this work of art, I was beyond proud to work with Gabriel Lang (Gabo) of Altruiste Bikes! Not only am I a big fan of his work through his Dobermann days and the Partymasters, I trusted that this thing would take me to hell and back having seen what Matt Macduff put it through.
Photo: Broderick Horne
Prototype number two has a few changes in geometry and my own custom “Galaxy Camo Splatter.” Specially made with a TRICKY stamp on the dropouts and an assortment of custom frame mods, this thing is a weapon of mass destruction! The purple Industry Nine wheelset sets the pace for the immense quality and attention to detail in this build.
Photo: Broderick Horne
In the light it has a midnight black powder coat with turquoise and purple splatters, but at night it's a glowing universe as the beast awakens with a display of glow-in-the-dark star splatters that resembles the night skies. Certain colours show off more then others in specific light, making this paint job adapt to its surroundings and be consistently different at a glance.
The Zydeco works off a concentric BB pivot containing two sets of MID bearings and is built around one of the most unique designs you’ll see on the market. I have spent years perfecting my gyro setups, but Gabo hit it out of the park with this custom “London mod” cable guide system. Using very little housing and hidden under the frame, this system has little friction and sports the vintage style of exposed cable. Complete with a C6 South African flag, the Hucker tidal wave ODI grips, and a great white shark seat, this bike speaks the tales of its time in the African dirt.
Photo: Broderick Horne
Photo: Broderick Horne.
Tight on time for shipping, Gabo ended up taking a flight to Toronto to hand deliver this frame the day before I left. Straight out of a suitcase he managed to get it on as a carry on from New Brunswick in two pieces. With just an hour and 45 minutes between flights, we had just enough time to build it up at Spoke-O-Motion, turn around, and head back to catch the return flight. What a legend!
I’m a carpenter by trade, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. Having done the same style work for 7 years now, I needed to go out and get some real-life experience. What better way then changing continents for a while. With the help of friend Ryan Franklin, I was offered a position on the Monster marketing team in Cape Town and a contact for a gig as a bartender at my favourite bar in town, the Aces N Spades. This rock and roll bar was in one of the most dangerous stretches in Cape Town but was also one of the most popular bars in town. It was a totally new world to me, but after a few shifts I quickly found myself a part of the family. The tattooed out of town kid from Canada was the perfect fit for the bar. It wasn’t long before my lucky maiden jacket took attention helping evolve a revolution of sleeveless denim vests with my bar manager Leon! It also helped that the owners Pini and Reg were some of the most rad folks around that also own many popular clubs in town. What started as a side job to earn some cash blossomed into a solid network of contacts through the club scene in Cape Town and some of my best friends this side. Damn, I miss this place!!
Cape Town is filled with incredible trails spots but I was only able to ride the Potato trails and the Yobos in 2016. The trails crew had spent their winter season stacking and sculpting at some of the most incredible trails you’ve ever seen, Soetvlei! The unlimited lines, transfers, and flow of these trails are every riders dream. These are the type of jumps where you’re in the air longer than on the ground while slapping branches flying through the trails. With no foam pits or training facilities like Joyride 150 around I had to treat my riding like the old school days… just send it to dirt and hope you can walk after.
Front flips have always been one of my favourite feeling tricks but also my nemesis mentally. I've been doing this trick for 8 years but it has never really become any easier mentally, but the Soetvlei trick jump line had one of the best-feeling step ups around where they just seemed to click.
Justin and the crew have been hand digging this spot for over 12 years and their passion and dedication involved is remarkable and inspiring to say the least. It’s truly an honor to throw some water down and stack dirt let alone set tires down on a spot with so much love and passion behind it. Soetvlei would be where most of the sessions would pop off over the 6 months.
I was going through work visa issues and I needed some extra cash so I found myself in Johannesburg with the Monster crew. Ryan Van Der Spuy of LW Mag hit me up with the idea that I should host the upcoming King of the Whip event after I randomly picked up the microphone to mc at the Dawn of the Dirt. What started as messing around with friends, turned into commentating an FMX whip comp for 3000 people. This was the first time I’ve ever done something of this sort, so it goes without saying there were a bit of nerves at play. Once the engines started and the crowd arrived, everything seemed to fall into place and go off with a bang! I learned that I had as much fun getting the crowd involved as an MC as I do as a rider.
With the Night Harvest right around the corner, building was well under way on the Potato trails and time was tight. Time wasn’t the only issue however, South Africa was in the middle of the worst drought experienced in over 100 years and along with it came strict restrictions. If you used too much water you could face fines or even charges, but Johnty’s neighbour donated a whopping 6000L of water from their borehole. With the trails crew going strong, and a mini excavator on site, the jumps got a serious makeover!
This year saw bigger names and international talent making for a close contest in both fields. As the BMX guys finished qualification and the MTB dudes were set to drop for finals, as did some rain! What looked like it may shut down the event at first, quickly passed and gave the jumps the perfect amount of moisture to run impeccably! The crowds weren’t fazed by the rain either yet they embraced it and began cheering louder. It was game time…
Having spent the past month on the shovels and away from the bike, I put a lot of pressure on myself for defending the title. I came to get the full experience of what goes into the event, so to defend the title after all the digging and prep work would be huge. After riding with the homies, the pressure seemed to disappear and the fun of riding came back strong! Feeding off the energy of the crowd, I found myself unleashing my full bag of tricks run after run to keep up with the shredding of Reynolds, Silva, and Swedish young gun Lukas Skoild.
Photo: Grant Mclachlan
As catfish called last runs, I threw down my glory run with the same trick on the final jump from last year, the fronty tuck! I got the craziest déjà vu of my life when I landed. I knew at that moment I had achieved my goal and I was on top of the world!
Photo: Grant Mclachlan
Lets just say the after party got the best of me that night but that’s another story in itself. The day that would follow would be a rough one. With the Night Harvest part of the Cape Invasion for 2017, this weekend was welcomed by the incorporation of another legendary African action sports event, the Ultimate-X. Following my commentating gig in Johannesburg, I was hired to guest-host the event alongside friend and local surfing legend Captain Kai Linder. With Kai’s vocal presence and my knowledge of BMX tricks and the riders, it was the perfect mix, untill I fell asleep during qualies. Half alive from the night before, I found myself in front of multiple cameras for live streams putting on a brave face while vomiting outside during the ad breaks. The sign of a true champion as some said. Certainly didn’t feel that way to me but I pulled through and finals were insane!
Throughout the trip, multiple wildfires burned all over the Western Cape. Although many started by cigarettes thrown from car windows, some were believed to be arson to send a message to the government and its corruption but who’s to say if that’s the truth. The constant sound of helicopters off in the distance became the norm while we were shooting and offered some epic views of the fires being fought off in the background. One windy night a massive fire started on the Devils Peak of Table Mountain just above a subdivision of homes and apartment complexes. The full moon just next to the mountain had the same orange glow to it as the flames. It was a creepy sight as we stood holding ourselves up against 80km hour winds. Since it started at night the helicopters were unable to take seawater in buckets meaning fire trucks now had to tap into the already dwindling drinking water supply. It was a bad combination but thankfully no one was hurt and no homes were lost.
We had to be strategic about our film and photo shoots. Often if the light was good it would be too windy, or vice-versa and it was too dark with no wind. A few gambles led me to ride through the night with nothing more than a cell phone light on just the first lip and roller of the trick line. Having no depth perception what so ever and Eric’s flashes popping out of the abyss mid-trick it was a seriously wild ride. Add gusts into the mix and I was a UFO in the African night sky. Although a little off the wall the gamble paid off and the photos that came from those nights made all the fear of the dark worth it.
I found out quickly that this country was one of the most difficult and demanding for visa related applications. After police background checks, medical exams, bank records, and lawyers, I was going nowhere fast. To rent my own place I had to prove I had a visa and a job to cover the rent, yet Monster wouldn’t release my legal contract because I didn’t have a visa to work legally within SA. I was at the mercy of the Department of Home Affairs known to be a literal pain in the ass to tourists. Stuck in a tight spot I was forced to call in endless favours and sleep on couches.
To make extra cash I was forced to take more shifts at Ace’s but things would take a crazy turn out of nowhere. To my knowledge, some of the bouncers around town are controlled by Nigerian gangs and somehow the Russians got involved over a turf war. Battling for security business they attempted to take control of each club from the Nigerians. If the bar disagreed they would either vandalize the place or simply shoot it up. Multiple clubs fell victim to this movement including the neighbouring bar to Aces where two people were shot one night I was working. Knowing time was running short I left the bar to avoid missing out on anything with the crew for my last 3 weeks. Working 12 hours overnight, then trying to film the next day eventually took its toll and became too hard to manage as is.
Having watched Mike Aitken and Chase ride the gum trails years ago in Odyssey Electronical, I couldn’t leave SA without seeing the trails in person! With the drought being so extreme and the trails untouched for some time, we needed a huge amount of water to get the line running. After planning out the day with trail boss Wayne Reiche, we cleaned out an old dirty pool in Cape Town and transported buckets an hour away to Durbanville.
Gums have been around for ages and the dirt is incredible, much like the lines splattered everywhere on the plot. Tight for time, the crew came together pushing barrow after barrow and slapping away. After the handwork was finished we managed to get a few laps into the sunset on the tight and techy mainline with all the locals. Big thanks to Wayne for the honour to ride and dig at such a legendary spot!
The nickname Captain Pugwash has stuck with me down south and it went with the perfect intro idea. Things didn’t line up in 2016 for the intro, but this year I was determined to make it happen to make this edit epic. In the waterfront of Cape Town there are multiple tours, but there’s one that stood out in particular, the Jolly Roger. The Captain Pugwash cartoon is based on tales of an old pirate, and here we had our pirate ship and a real-life Captain Pugwash. The captain of the ship even had a peg leg to make it official. After a few beers and complimentary champagne surrounded by everyone from the trip, suddenly I’m out in the cold Atlantic with a blow-up doll as a life preserver. Man overboard!!
Thomas and I agreed that if I was thrown overboard, I would eventually wash ashore. Now getting logic involved he insisted on me trying to body surf the doll to complete the intro. We arrived at a cloudy and windy Muizenberg beach expecting it to be dead. To my surprise these conditions made for great surf and a packed house. Now I find myself running to the Atlantic with the goal of body surfing a wave on a doll… let's just say the locals got more then they bargained for and I got barreled multiple times as Crim died of laughter and secondhand embarrassment.
After nearly 3 months since my application for my visa I got an email that said I would be able to stay. What was assumed accepted after saying “Your application is ready for pickup”, would turn out to be a rejection and a slap in the face. I had no money, a return ticket booked that I couldn’t afford to change, and now I am being kicked out because the government took too long to respond. I had my lawyer fight to have this appealed which gave me some time to stall the inevitable, but also made it so that if I were not out by a certain date I would be detained and face charges as an illegal immigrant.
With parts being so difficult to get here I like to leave my stuff behind to gain a new life while giving back to say thanks. My hockey bag was damaged in the flight and couldn’t be trusted to take a bike back, so I had to shed some weight for my flight home. It seemed like the best option for me to leave behind my hardtail. Everyone seemed to have a pretty dialled set up in Cape Town and I hadn’t touched mine in months so I gave it a fresh paint job and passed it down to the Hayward’s for Reece and Tuscan to shred!
It was my last weekend in South Africa and it was sure to end on a high note. I was approached by the SA Bike fest and the old school productions crew to host an array of action sports throughout the festival in Johannesburg! With some help from the skate judges and the Tony Hawk pro skater as a kid, I got through the ramp rodeo skate contest followed by the BMX! Later in the evening after the MotoGP race, moto ramps were brought into the race track and I was host to a show of FMX, fireworks, and moto trials, and Monster girls!
Photo: Grant Mclachlan
At the end of the day, I went on this trip to gain life experience and that’s just what I got. Although I can’t return for 5 years, I wouldn’t declare this trip a complete failure. The knowledge gained and memories made along the way will last forever.
I am forever grateful to the friends I have met on these adventures who helped out a stranger from another world in his time of desperation. I would have been on the streets had it not been for the Sandell family and the Novella’s who welcomed me into their homes and gave me a safe place to rest my head. To Wayne Gorton at Vans for keeping my feet on the pedals, Warren lamb of Cape Cycle systems for keeping my suspension serviced, Eric Palmer who has been my goto guy, I could always trust to get the banger, Thomas Sandell for believing in this project since day one and producing one of my favourite videos of my career, not to mention the endless good times. My true South African brother Justin Novella of the trails crew for all the good times on and off the trails, and of course the all the locals for the opportunity to dig, ride, and document the local spots to try and promote the scene I fell in love with from the start. It seems so distant and impossible looking back at what I managed to accomplish here with everyone. Waking up in my own bed feels as though it was all some vivid dream that I can’t seem to wake up from. One thing is for sure, Justin and the crew know how to build a set of trails and the South Africans are some of the raddest people you’ll ever come across! I will miss you Cape Town, but something tells me I'll be back sooner than later...