It was the wave seen 'round the world.
Now a household name (even People Magazine covered his epic ride), Robbie "Maddo" Maddison accomplished the ultimate "He did what?" when the video "Pipe Dream", released earlier this month, showed him riding on water and surfing a wave on his dirt bike in Tahiti. It was so incredulous Transworld Motocross displayed "This is Real..." across their cover photo for the September issue.
Indeed it is real and must be watched to be believed.
It did not come without some hiccups however as Maddison's death-defying stunt certainly proved death defying as a large wave known as a "west bomb" knocked him off his bike and he nearly drowned. It took two years to realize his dream of surfing a wave on a dirt bike but it's in the can and Maddison is now the star of a film featuring perhaps the most original stunt on a dirt bike ever recorded.
Maddison, who set a then-world record 322 foot jump on his motorcycle on New Year's Eve 2007 and then a year later jumped his motorcycle to the top of the Arc de Trimphe at the Paris Las Vegas, not only looks like James Bond in the pinnacle moment of Pipe Dream, but is a real life James Bond, as he doubled for Daniel Craig in "Skyfall".
Maddison was gracious enough to talk to MotoSport about riding on water as well as his new deal with Sony Team Action Cam.
Years riding pro: 11 Years
What age did you start riding and on what? I started riding back in 1985 at the age of four.
What bike was used for surfing? KTM 300 SX
Hometown: Kiama, New South Wales (Australia)
1. How did you come up with the idea of surfing a wave on a dirt bike?
The idea of surfing a wave on my dirt bike was spurred from my love of surfing and motocross. Growing up in Australia, the ocean was my backyard and I learned so much as a surfer. Surfing gave me the insight on how waves work and being comfortable in the ocean.
2. What modifications to the dirt bike were necessary to get the job done?
Over the two years it took us to develop this, there were countless modifications that were tried and tested. The most crucial part was getting the ski design and angles positioned correctly. We also sealed off components of the bike so that nothing could get into the ocean and harm the environment.
3. How did you approach riding on water?
I had tried this before without skis, back then I hit it wide open, leaned back and hoped for the best. When I added the ski's I did the same thing, hit it wide open and hoped for the best, it was hard to control at first but after a few changes I made it a half mile. Once we had that down we started to figure out the method to the madness as we established control.
4. You must have fallen. Was the bike equipped with some type of floating device or did you lose some at the bottom of the ocean?
There was a lot of falling, you'll get to see that in the "Behind the Pipe Dream" video. The team and I made sure we didn't lose the bike or its components so we installed an inflatable flotation system so we could easily recover it.
5. How would you describe riding on water?
Riding on the water to me is by far the most enjoyable way to ride a dirt bike. It's unbelievable and overwhelming, kind of a buzz like riding a giant roller coaster for the first time, you just want more! It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done that's for sure. Probably because of how much time and effort I've put into making it a reality.
6. Does it require a different riding skill set compared to riding on land?
Riding on water definitely requires a different skill set compared to riding on land. The bike rides so differently on water than on land and required so much core strength. I had to use my body to counteract the bike with every hit that came at me. And because the ocean is so unpredictable, you had to adapt to the water. It's by far the most challenging terrain I've had to ride a bike on.
7. OK, the wave. Did you realize how big it was and what was going through your mind as the water engulfed around you?
Oh man, when I saw the wave, 100 percent of my being was scared. There are moments when you know you're in the wrong place at the wrong time and that's the closest I've ever been to that. I really thought it was all over, when that wave took me down. I gave in and let it do its thing to me, so to see the light of day and breathe again was a miracle in my mind.
8. Was riding that type of wave what originally crossed your mind or were you thinking of riding in a pipe?
My original idea was to ride a wave and get barreled, I didn't even imagine riding a wave that size but since completing this "Pipe Dream" project with DC, I'd definitely like to get out there on my bike and get that barrel, it's just a lot harder to do than it is to imagine.
9. How many waves did you ride before getting the perfect shot?
I rode a total of five waves whilst in Tahiti. When we kicked off the filming and commenced working on the project, I rode three out of four waves successfully. Then right when we were ready to pack up and leave Teahupo'o, the surfing world started talking of a huge swell that was coming in the next few days, so we decided to hold tight. After waiting, I rode the final wave in the film at Papara, which easily became the image the DC team and I decided to go with for "Pipe Dream".
10. When you got to see the clip of you disappearing and then coming out alive and beating the wave, what did you think?
I don't think there are words that can best describe that moment. While it was happening, I was definitely nervous and scared but watching the footage was so rewarding. That's when it all hit me. I finally realized we had achieved my "Pipe Dream" and I have defied convention with the help of Jeff Taylor and DC!
11. When you reset for a new shot, did you ride out through the waves and then ride around waiting for a breaker?
Raimana Van Bastolaer helped throughout this process in Tahiti. He basically runs Teahupo'o and helped us gain access and passed on local knowledge of how the wave broke and what to be cautious of. We were very strategic and worked together to calculate the timing of each wave before I went out there with my bike. The launching procedure will all be spelled out in our BTS (Behind the Scenes) film soon to be released.
12. What was the most difficult part about this stunt?
The most difficult part of this stunt was probably when the (west bomb) wave knocked me out. I don't remember much of it but after I regained consciousness, I saw my wife and friends at DC in tears because they thought I wasn't going to make it. I put all the people I care about through a rough time but I'm grateful to have come out of it on top.
13. Anything shockingly easy?
I trained to ride the waves of Tahiti by surfing and jet skiing in my full moto gear and that was surprisingly easy for me. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I grew up surfing and I'm very familiar with the ocean.
14. You've joined Sony's Team Action Cam. Tell us about this.
Yep, I have joined the Sony Action Cam team. These cameras are pretty amazing. They have better components than competitor cameras as most of the competitors use Sony internals so they saved the best stuff for their own products. I like to use the best tools for the job, so I didn't go with the most popular camera, I went with the best!
15. How can we watch you dirt bike ride a wave?
You can watch "Pipe Dream" at DCShoes.com or through my personal site, RobbieMaddison.com.
16. What's next for you? I'm thinking something with a dirt bike and jumping out of a plane.
[Laughs] There's a lot I have in mind, making dreams into reality is a lot of hard work, so I'm not going to claim a thing, I'll just keep going with the flow and see where life takes me.