The Chainsaw, Frogger, Synchro Spinners, Crazy Larry, Fender Grab, Side Saddle, Switchback, High Chair, Skitching, Stoppie – whatever the stunt, it ain’t over until the tires are blown. That is what fans can expect at this year’s Vancouver Motorcycle Show.
“You are supporting hooliganism!” were the words of one reader when a wedding photo of a professional stunt rider on the cover of The Vancouver Sun’s Driving section a while back. Like any sport, it just takes one bad seed to leave the wrong impression. While it is true there are a few risky riders out there that are stupid enough to stunt in traffic and deserve the hooligan name, professional stunt performers do not fall into this category.
“The biggest misconception about stunt performers is that we don’t care about people or traffic safety. If you have a stunt bike set up,” says Westcoast Freestyle Stunt Team member Matty Augustine, “and you still ride the streets, people think you are jerk. The members of Westcoast Freestyle don’t ride (stunt) on the street aside from transportation. We truck our bikes to the lot.”
The lot referred to is a closed area where the performers hone in their craft for endless hours similar to any athlete’s training. Adrenaline is the fuel that drives them but training, practice and safety is what keeps them performing. The team knows the natural risks of the sport they love so they advocate safety as possible.
“Guys that ask us, we tell them to make sure they stunt on a closed course,” continues Augustine. “We have supervised guys and teach them how to get control of their bikes. When you get into stunting, you want to find the right group of people to show you how to do things right.”
“We’ve all crashed,” continues Augustine, “but at the same time, we have all learned how to fall out of tricks. ”
Learning from the local pros is another way for a new rider now to take a hit to their wallet. Becoming a stunt rider is not as simple as just buying a bike. Modifications have to be made.
Gas tanks have to be dented in to prevent the rider from sliding off the bike. A hand brake set up has to be put in place so both front and back brakes can be operated from the handlebars. There are roll cages to be considered, removal of fairings and then endless ‘hours in the saddle’ tweaking all the gear to suit the rider. Plain and simple – money and time.
So what does a career in stunt performing offer?
The glamourous side is as Tom Cruise’s stunt double in Mission Impossible but the reality is, much like any other sport, you do it because you love it.
World Class XDL Pro Chamionship competitor, Hollywood B, says, “If you are going to do it for the sport, it’s great, it’s a lot of fun. You will develop your motorcycle skills. But if you are looking to cash in, you are not going to retire or make a six figure income stunt performing unless you are in it for the long haul and plan to invest the time to grow with the sport.”
Investing the time is just what Hollywood B and the Westcoast Freestyle Stunt Team do but Hollywood has a clear message, “Like any sport, the more you practice, the better you develop your skills but no matter how good you get, something could always go wrong. You need have a helmet on, you gotta have a jacket, you gotta have all your gear on whether your going 2 miles an hour or 200 miles an hour and a good rider definitely does not ride on the streets.”
Hollywood B, hails from Seattle, Washington, and is a returning performer this year to the Vancouver Motorcycle Show. As a career professional he is continually touring, performing and competing as well as developing the business side of his craft with a selection of DVD’s, occasional television appearances, athlete sponsorships and most recently an appearance on America’s Got Talent.
One DVD, Rockin the West, Street Edition, shows riders performing on the streets of Seattle to San Francisco but Hollywood advises that the filming was all under permit, performing was undertaken on closed streets and only professional riders took part.
“Before we even start to ride, the bikes go through a tech spec,” advises Hollywood B. “We check for oil leaks, gas leaks, clutch cable adjustments, etc. We check all the riders to make sure that they are all professional riders because is someone goes down it affects us all.”
The Westcoast Freestyle Stunt Team will be delighting fans at the Vancouver Motorcycle Show from Thursday, January 19 through to Sunday January 22 with several shows each day and Hollywood B has a surprise in store for fans.
“I don’t want to give it away but the best time to come to the VMS, because people get off work at 5 or 6, and it gets dark, is at night,” laughs Hollywood B. “Night time is going to be one of the best shows.”