Freestyle motocross maestro Robbie Maddison is well-known for his heart-stopping stunts. In 2008, the Australian daredevil wowed the world with a leap over the 164-feet tall Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France. In 2014, he performed several back flips over stationary airplanes at the military service aircraft graveyard in Tucson, Arizona. However, neither compare to his latest stunt - "Surfing" a wave on a slightly modified KTM dirt bike.
Riding on water is not a new concept. Many bikers have accomplished that feat. Maddison, of course, had bigger aspirations. He not only wanted to "surf" a wave on his bike but also do it at Tahiti’s legendary Teahupo'o reef break, which is famous for its massive waves.
The first challenge was to build a bike capable of handling the difficult task. Maddison and his team tested a variety of bikes as well as dozens of skis and tires. To their surprise, the bike's power was not critical to navigating the water. Instead, it was the shape and angle of the skis as well as the number of paddles affixed to the rear tire that made the difference. The team ultimately settled on a KTM 250 with a two-stroke engine and custom built-in skis.
After over two years of extensive planning and training, Maddison was finally ready for the big day, or so he thought! Upon arriving in Tahiti earlier this summer, the team realized that there was a big difference in how the bike handled in the ocean as compared to the fresh water Maddison had been training upon. Salt water is softer and, therefore, offers less traction for the tires. It is also more buoyant than fresh water.
Then there was the giant surf. While Maddison is an avid surfer, he still had to get accustomed to the big swells before attempting the stunt. It was a good thing he did for after being buried under waves as high as seven feet, the daredevil realized that wearing a flotation device would probably be a good idea.
Also, while he managed to survive the surf, a practice run aboard a Jet Ski to get a feel for the waves on a motorized vehicle almost ended his "pipe" dream. That's because Maddison got tossed off the Jet Ski and dislocated his shoulder. But the adventurer had worked too hard to allow this "minor" setback to derail his plans.
Then there was the challenge of launching the biker atop a giant wave. That's because even a daredevil like Maddison could not ride into the water, catch a wave, and ride it back. For the stunt to work, he needed a launching pad in the ocean.
The crew from DC Shoes, the sponsor of this heart-stopping event, began by renting two massive barges - one for launch and the other for landing. While one barge required just a simple landing ramp, retrofitting the second with a launch ramp was a little trickier. That's because the ramp had to be high enough to place Maddison and his bike several feet above the surface of the ocean and long enough, for him to gain the momentum he needed to ride the wave.
Finally, it was time. The DC Shoes film crew waited in nervous anticipation as Maddison came speeding down the launch ramp. To their dismay, it proved to be a complete bust because of the timing and the fact that he was on the wrong bike gear. His second attempt was almost flawless. But the adventurer began celebrating a little too early and ended up crashing into the water close to the landing barge.
Not one to give up, Maddison tried again and nailed it. Thrilled at his success, the support crew was ready to wrap it up and head home. But Maddison was not done. He had heard that the area was expecting even bigger waves with 20-foot swells and wanted to get in one "last" ride.
Reluctantly, Maddison's team and a skeleton DC film crew agreed to stay behind and help fulfill his desire. The biggest concern his mechanic Buddy Morgan had was that the bike was not fast enough to outrun the giant swells. It turns out he was right. Maddison was not only tossed off his bike but also kept getting caught in one massive wave after another.
It took a full five minutes before the rescue team was able to find him and pull him out! The slightly shaken Maddison later said that he only managed to survive the waves because of his surfing prowess. As to what the motocross rider is thinking of next? Nobody knows, but you can be assured it will be thrilling!
Resources: motorcross.transworld.net, dailymail.co.uk.