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The Action Sports Report

12/15/2008
The people's champ at work in the backyard. 

[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]

Right now Jim DeChamp is probably best known for being Travis Pastrana's best friend. That's because his two-wheeled X Games career consists of exactly one ill-fated run this summer. The result? A broken back and a return date with the drawing board. But recently DeChamp became the first person to land a front flip on dirt (okay, it was mulch) while taping for Pastrana's new show Nitro Circus which debuts on MTV in February. He recently called us from location (something about wave runners in Malibu) to fill us in on his historic moment and what it was like to step out of Travis' shadow. At least for a little while. —C.P.

MAG.COM: So, the evolution of freestyle motocross continues.
Jim DeChamp: While filming the show we were basically trying to break as many world records as possible, and the front flip was just an obvious choice. I had already attempted it at the X Games, so we built a ramp and set it out at 40 feet, just like we have it at the foam pit at Travis' house. We put a ton of mulch on the landing to soften the blow and just went for it.

That easy, huh?
I had landed it a bunch of times in the foam pit so it was just a matter of actually going through with it on dirt. I actually nailed it on the second attempt during taping.

Take us back to the first attempt at the X Games 14. Did you just get caught up in the madness that is Summer X?
BMX dirt jumper Steve McCann and I were sitting up at the Vegas Supercross back in May and we just asked ourselves if it would be possible to front flip a motorcycle. We started running through a bunch of scenarios and made a checklist of what you would have to do and it sounded doable.

Let me guess, enter Travis?
Right. So I tell Travis and of course he's excited about it. Next thing you know he gets me a 125 [cc bike] and I'm like, "I guess I actually have to do it now." The next week we get home and start practicing and it's not working at all. The bike was too heavy to flip. But I just kept chipping away at it, getting closer and closer.

A lot of back flipping is based on momentum, the bike carrying you through. But a front flip runs counter to that. How do you get the bike to go where it doesn't want to?
The key is to chop the throttle and hit the front brake as soon as you leave the ramp. That transfers your weight and momentum forward and the bike starts to endo. Once you're at the peak of your flip you tuck the bike in just like it's a BMX bike and try to pull it through.

What's going through your head as you're sitting on the platform before your run during Best Trick?
Actually I was pretty calm. Being in front of a large crowd or on TV didn't bother me at all. I had been to the X Games so many times with Travis that the crowd didn't really faze me. I knew the jumps, the routine, the atmosphere, everything. There was almost no surprise. Seeing everything behind the scenes for so many years really prepared me for it. But knowing that everyone was expecting me to do one thing, I could feel like the anticipation was growing every second.

I'm guessing it didn't really go the way you had planned?
I just kicked it out there a little too far and landed on my butt. I ended up with a diagonal compression fracture of my T12 vertebrae.

Has Travis ever tried the front flip?
He tried it a couple times in the foam pit and didn't even come close. No one else I know has even tried it.

Other than being Travis' boy, people really don't know anything about you. Give us the two-minute Jim DeChamp True Hollywood Story.
Well I grew up about 5 minutes from Travis and started racing BMX when I was younger before I moved to mountain bikes. I won an amateur national championship then started doing some freestyle stuff. Every now and then I'd hop on a motorcycle at Travis' track but I wasn't very good at that. When he got his own house I just started going over there all the time to ride and build jumps. For about four years I was able to earn a living racing mountain bikes. But a couple years ago I got a regular job as an appliance repair person [laughter in the background] …Trust me, people don't laugh when their dishwasher is broken!


GOING ONCE!

Like baseball and Alyssa Milano, so too, art and action sports are inextricably tied. This week, we pay a visit to the Nike
Lightning Bolts Art Exhibit
at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood. The art show, after a year of touring the world, is closing with a special online auction for its one-of-a-kind BMX number plates. FMX legend Mike Metzger, who grew up riding BMX bikes and is a fantastic artist (and tattoo artist), painted a plate, as did Haro Bikes founder Bob Haro, his creative director Pete Demos, rider Taj Mihelich, Jackass creator Jeff Tremaine and about 40 other artists. The proceeds from this auction benefit the Athlete Recovery Fund, a foundation that provides financial support, grants and scholarships to severely injured athletes.

At the end of the evening, I finally stole a few minutes from Nike 6.0 rider Nigel Sylvester, 21, who spent the night shaking hands like a man running for office. Sylvester was born, raised and currently resides in Queens, NY, where he recently opened his own BMX clothing boutique called Format.

"It's awesome. It's the best way to give back to the community, to the kids," Sylvester said. Since opening in May, Sylvester has invited his buddies to Queens and held demos at the store, and hopes to sponsor his own team by next summer. "I've had kids come up to me and say they started riding because they came to one of our demos and saw us ride," Sylvester said. "Growing up in Queens, I never thought I could make it to this level. But here I am. And to have kids tell me I'm their idol and that they ride because of me, there is nothing better than having a positive influence on kids." —A.R.