Paul, congrats on your record breaking jump. That was epic. What possessed you to go out and embark on such a project?
Cheers! Over the last few years I had been mostly focussed on contest riding, trying to learn and dial in my tricks as much as I could. Then I hit a point, I realised it wasn’t as fun for me as it had been originally. I was over throwing myself into a foam pit nearly every day. When I rode I was doing all my biggest tricks every session to try push myself further and further each time. As rad as it was, it felt like training, rather than freestyle. Without much variety I’d started to grow tired of it. I was feeling a bit burnt out because it just wasn’t as fun as it used to be and I felt I wasn’t actually doing what I wanted. Freestyle is supposed to be about doing whatever you want. Instead, in a way, I was doing what was expected of me if I was to do well in comps. I wanted a break from that side of it and to take it back to what I find fun and just enjoy riding my bike again. When I was younger I’d go down to my parents farm and ride the natural terrain, building jumps into the hills and banks on the farm. I’d send it on those pushing myself and learning different ways of riding. I watched a lot of freestyle moto growing up so that would have had a influence on that too.
The size of it had big influence from Dane and Jed, I’d been out to check out Dane’s set and watched his video a lot. I had also been at Jed’s while he was jumping his and it looked so fun that I wanted to get a piece of that hang time too! One evening up at our local trails I was looking out over the farm on the other side of the road and saw some cool spots to build something. I got in contact with the Farmer, I hadn’t met him before, I asked if it would be alright if I could go for a look. He said it was no problem so I went for a walk around the hills to see what I could find. After searching for a couple hours, the second time up there with my mate Hugh we came across the spot I have now.
Tell us a bit about the jump itself, how did you build it?
When we first came across the spot, I stood on the hill above it and worked out where my lip was going to go then and there. I looked at the roll in hill size, the angle of landing and decided the lip was going to go right where there was a pile of sticks from a dead gorse bush. I had no tape measure or speed check or anything, just visually looked at it and thought the pile of sticks would be the ideal spot. I told the farmer I’d found a good spot and asked if would be ok to dig there, with his approval I was out there the next day with my spade and started chipping away.
I went out there most days for almost a month with a spade and wheelbarrow. I was going to the states to ride for a while so that put it on hold for a few months until I returned home. I came home and got back into it again, out there about 4 or 5 times a week sometimes for 8 hours a day, all on shovel and hand tools and a home made roller wheel for packing. There was one day I had a rotary hoe to take just the grass off by pushing it up the roll in, other than that, each day I’d mission up the hill loaded up with my tools and lunch for the day and get into it.
After getting a good amount of the dirt in place, I thought it would probably be a good idea to measure it. The measurement came in at 70ft from the lip to the knuckle. With a bit of a laugh, I decided that’s what it had to be I suppose. With the majority of the first lip in place I started on shaving out the landing. Because the landing hill went across on an angle it wasn’t square with the lip making it shorter on one side. I had to dig the shorter side in further to be square with the longest side which then ended up making my landing point at 75ft. Even for a 1 foot high landing, this took about 5 days of digging, moving grass sods and levelling out the down ramp to remove the bumps the cows had made over the years.
Some days were really hard, I’d dig in the rain, I slipped numerous times walking down the roll in. I turned up one day and the wheelbarrow had somehow got a flat tire since the day before, I didn’t have much choice since I was already out there but to use it anyway. A full barrow of wet clay on a flat tire pushing/pulling it up the hill is a mission! Plenty of language was used out there and I had some real testing times over the course of it all. But, that is what makes digging jumps what it is. As hard as it was at times, it was all worth it. It’s not over yet and so far I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.
It sounds like you did this almost entirely on your own. Was that on purpose or was there not much support around?
Nah it wasn’t on purpose at all. Usually I would be out there lunchtime until late afternoon which didn’t suit my mates as most of them work full days. Then if I was doing a late afternoon or evening dig they’d be tired from work and it is a bit of a drive out to the spot. Also, I guess they didn’t have any intention of jumping it, so it would be more worthwhile to dig at the trails for them. All up I had help from a mate for 2 days, otherwise the rest of it I dug all myself. I didn’t mind it though, I like it out there as the closest visible house is about 3km away and the scenery is amazing with the big green hills and views for as far as you can see so it was nice. Peace and quiet with a great view, digging dirt jumps, how could you not enjoy it really haha.
Did it work first time for you?
Nah it took me a few goes to ride out of it, is pretty rare to build a dirt jump and it work good first time so it took a few adjustments after the first hit. I still haven’t cleared to as far as I would like to go but with each step I’m learning and the jump’s feeling better. The first lip I built was just a smaller one to check to see if I had the speed to make that sort of a distance, as until this, the biggest gap I’d hit was 50ft. It was trial and error to make sure I got it right. I wanted to build a lip first to test out the speed that would send me up with the gradient of the hill and hopefully touch down just at top, rather than diving straight into the unknown and build a big booter lip to send it off first try. When I hit it first, conditions were super windy, I probably shouldn’t have even tried in that wind but I was too keen and impatient to give it a go. Instead of sending it straight to the big distance first go, I tried to transfer right up to the shorter point of the landing hill. This lip nearly got me to the top of the hill, but my transition was a bit too sudden and it ended up kicking my back end up sending me dead sailor nose diving in just short of the knuckle. Luckily I was able to get out of this safely, I bounced over the bike and landed on my back sliding down the landing face of the hill. Because the cows were in the paddock at that time it helped save me. They’d freshly shat everywhere and that mixed with the long grass meant that I slid smoothly to a stop, cow shit all through my hair and clothes. I didn’t care at that point I was stoked to be safe and get my first hit out of the way. After this test, I knew I had the speed but needed to change my take off to give me more height with a mellower tranny.
I dug some more and got my take off to how I thought it would be a bit more suitable. I sent this take off up to the transfer once again. I made the distance up there but got thrown a bit off balance by the lip, partly because I was transferring sideways at 65km/hr but also because being the first time hitting this lip I wasn’t sure of how it would project me. Landing my bike on an angle blew my back tire, with a change of tube I was ready to go again. I guessed I could possibly just make it the 75ft landing because I now knew how the lip worked and transferring would have taken away some of my distance. I dropped in again, this time I did not get the roll in quite as good as the previous time but because I was committed to doing it I didn’t back out. I should have. My front wheel came up short by about 3ft, exploded my front tire out off the rim, bars moved right forward whilst I blew off the side of the bike to my shoulder. I hit my head hard on the roll over and tumbled down the hill. Got up expecting to be knocked out or something broken but somehow I was fine, just severly bashed by the dirt.
5 days later, after a solid osteopath session and a new POC helmet I went back up there to ride out of something. I’d dug this jump for so long and put so much effort in I wanted to ride out of it. My plan was to pull the transfer first. After landing that I would know if I had enough speed to try the main jump again, or at least know what I would need to change to make it work. Again the wind was blowing strong but I went for it anyway, I had the distance and the height but the wind got me majorly and took my wheels out from underneath me. I went down hard frustrated that once again, I had made it there but was unable to ride away from it. With my bike and body still mint I was keen to have another crack at it so pushed my way back to the top. Second go, I managed to get the lip sweet and battle the wind but just came up short. As it was to the transfer it wasn’t as heavy as the first case on the main jump and I held on to bounce over the knuckle and roll away. I was in a bit of an in-between spot, stoked I had ridden out of it finally, but not too happy about not clearing it completely. I knew at this point I needed to change my lip again if I was to clear the main jump and even for the transfer to feel nice. Not content with casing I pushed back to the top to clear it properly. I started my pedal down the gentle slope at the roll in, cranking as hard as I could, got a decent roll in drop and launched it. This time felt the best it had yet and I cleared to just where the hill started its decent.
What was the feeling like to finally get it down?
The feeling to finally roll out of the jump which I’d gone into months prior with just an idea, put all that effort in and taken heavy hits on, was so good, like nothing I’d had before. I guess most of it came from all the hard work paying off, in the rain or the heat shovelling away for hours just hoping it would work. To then get some reward out of it, even if it was only for a few seconds mid air was all worth it. It felt so rad to be floating that big and all I wanted afterwards was more of it. The best part was now having landed the transfer knowing that the main jump would work, unfortunately it would mean more shovelling. But, not too major compared to what I’d put in so far. Just rolling out of that transfer gave some good reassurance to the original plan of pulling the main jump which needs to work for the rest to happen. I was definitely really stoked, but still had that in-between feeling. I was pumped to have pulled it and ridden away from it but, this was only the transfer not the main jump so I wasn’t fully there yet.
Where to from here? You mentioned that you may have more plans?
Once I get this jump dialled and running sweet, I will start on the rest of the line. The hill drops down into a big gully with perfect terrain for building a set that flows down with it, all of good size like this first jump but different style. The current jump will be the first big one then into a step down, hip and a big booter. The terrain would be hard to get machine into so I will stick with original style and hand tool build it all using the landscape to suit. It’s on!
Anyone you would like to thank?
A massive thanks to the farmers Marcel and Sandra for allowing me to dig up his paddock and build this. Without them it wouldn’t have been possible. My parents and mates for supporting me and putting up with my daily rants about a dirt jump, which was quite a lot more-so than the usual and still is as it goes on. My sponsors for providing me with the gear and parts I need to make dreams become reality. Ryan McCrae and his talented film crew for providing their skills behind the lens. Cheers!