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...
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.
|I love the triumph and thrill of the gamble but I just love riding my bike. - Cam Zink|
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.
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.
Early stage prototype grip and packaging design concept
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.
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.
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?
|I have some huge plans..." - Cam Zink|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
SRAM/ Rock Shox
Troy Lee Designs