The Friday Interview – Ride’s Most Notorious Crashes; In Their Own Words

The Friday Interview – Ride’s Most Notorious Crashes; In Their Own Words
(Part 1 – Robbie Morales’ Ditch Gap)

Robbie Morales’ infamous ditch gap and Jason Culver’s epic Oceanside stair gap are always at the top of people’s minds when they think about insane crashes and gnarly slams that probably never should have been attempted. It has been more than a decade after the sequences originally ran in the magazine and people still talk about them on a regular basis. We tracked down both riders for this week’s Friday Interview to get to the bottom of things and ask what the hell they were thinking. Here are their stories… —Fat

CLICK TO VIEW SEQUENCE - Photos by Brad McDonald. - Originally in Ride BMX issue 16.

Name: Robbie Morales
Age: 39 (Approx. 23 at the time of the crash.)
Location: Santa Ana, CA

Where was your infamous crash?
Where the 55 and 405 freeways cross in Orange County, CA.

What was going that day when you crashed?
Back then you shot photos mostly, so filmers were rare. We were driving to the next spot to shoot a flick and I looked out the window and said pull over I'm jumping that shit.

Describe the setup of the crash as you remember it. What was going through your head when you were sizing up the gap?
The set up was terrible…had to come off the freeway exit, pedal through a field and hope it worked. I didn't think too much about it, which is probably why I slammed so bad.

What was the motivation behind going for something so gnarly?
At the time I liked going fast and jumping stuff, probably from racing for so long. It seemed doable. Most of the people I was with knew it was too far, but being young I didn't care.

What went wrong with the gap? How exactly did you end up eating shit?
Went so fast I got anti-hop and crop dusted across to case the ledge. 45-16 tapped out…I thought I had enough speed to clear it regardless of pop, haha.

What went through your head as you were mid-air and you knew things were looking grim?
I thought it was good for sure. The noise and impact were horrific. Basically folded up my bike completely. Most of the stuff we were doing was a bit uncharted back then, so it had the possibility to surprise ya, and man, did I get surprised.

What was the reaction from the people around you immediately after?
Disbelief. Some didn't stay to watch. They probably knew it was gonna go bad. I was still up for it and it was a scene right after. We thought it was sewage water so we freaked and got to a hose. I stripped and got the spray down, then drove to the hospital for some stitches in my arm. Overall, I was lucky though.

What kind of injuries did you walk away with? How did your bike fare after the crash?
Whiplash and a gash on my arm, but I was lucky. My bike was ruined…everything bent or broke around the frame. It was like a car crash, shit was wrecked.

What was your reaction, and the reaction of other riders when the sequence first ran in Ride?
Shock and awe, with some comedy. In the sequence I actually pass a car.

It’s definitely a crash that people still bring up on a regular basis…At that time did you have any clue that the gap would go down in history like it has?
Not really, it was cool that it was in Ride and a Panasonic ad. Big Brother skate mag also ran the sequence in an article on BMX and how nuts we are. The sequence definitely showed that, haha.

What kind of significance did that crash have on the BMX world at the time? What was it about the crash and photo sequence that keep riders around the world always coming back to it?
Whenever a rider tries to push the limits it's significant. It leaves a mark, whether it works or not. Jumping and hopping are the basics of BMX, so riders can relate to it. The feeling of landing a gap is amazing.

Do you know if anyone else has tried the gap since?
No, the freeway has changed and it's filled in. I wanted to hit it again, but it's probably better I never did, haha.

What’s the most common question you get from people when they ask you about that crash?
People ask why, and I always say I thought I had it….

Have you been back to the gap since that day?
I drive by it every day. It makes me laugh and remember how much fun I had during that time. For sure, I was definitely not all there upstairs when I was younger, haha. I was lucky to not get hurt more. Shit, I'm pretty lucky to be doing what I do today and I'm thankful to still be around.

Is there anything we are leaving out? Anything else you want to add?
Thanks to Ride BMX, Brad Mcdonald, Steve Buddendeck, McGoo, and Moeller for taking care of me that day. Oh, and Panasonic for the car stereo. And shouts to James Covington…long live the river gap!

Click to enlarge. Here's a scan from when the sequence originally ran in Ride BMX issue 16 (June 1995).

 

Click the next page to read an interview with Jason Culver about his notorious Oceanside stair gap crash.

friday-interview1

The Friday Interview – Ride’s Most Notorious Crashes; In Their Own Words
(Part 2 – Jason Culver’s Stair Gap)
 

CLICK TO VIEW SEQUENCE - Photos by Mark Losey. - Originally in Ride BMX issue 37.

Name: Jason Culver
Age: 31 (Approx. 19 at the time of the crash.)
Location: Valley Center, CA.

Where was your infamous crash?
Oceanside, CA.

What was going that day when you crashed?
Mat Hoffman's BS games were being held at the Oceanside Pier that weekend. My friends and I were just out riding as usual.

Describe the setup of the crash as you remember it. What was going through your head when you were sizing up the gap?
I knew of another guy that had jumped down about 15 steps and rode the rest of it out. I remember saying to myself, “I can do that, but bigger.”

What was the motivation behind going for something so gnarly?
When you're a young rider, you just want to be noticed. This was my chance.

What went wrong with the gap? How exactly did you end up eating shit?
I never focused much on dialing in on my riding. All I wanted to do was go big. I jumped a little further than I expected, and when you land 40 feet down on stairs with an aluminum front wheel, it just does not turn out well.

What went through your head as you were in mid-air and you knew things were looking grim?
Honestly, I lost all memory of the flight. All I remember is pedaling as fast as I could toward the stair set and then getting up off the ground at the bottom.

What was the reaction from the people around you immediately after?
There were hundreds of people around and everyone was going nuts trying to figure out why some guy just flung himself off that huge stair set.

What kind of injuries did you walk away with? How did your bike fare after the crash?
I had road rash to the bone all over my body, and the tip of my heel was broken. My front wheel had the indentation of a stair in it, but the rest of the bike was good to go.

What was your reaction, and the reaction of other riders when the sequence first ran in Ride?
I was pretty pumped to see the spread and so were all my friends. At that age it's pretty much a dream just to be in the magazine for any reason.

It’s definitely a crash that people still bring up on a regular basis…At that time did you have any clue that the gap would go down in history like it has?
I really didn't think about it like that at the time.

What kind of significance did that crash have on the BMX world at the time? What was it about the crash and photo sequence that kept riders around the world always coming back to it?
I'm not sure what it did for BMX, but I know people just like seeing things that are way out of the ordinary, whether it involves skill or not.

Do you know if anyone else has tried the gap since?
No, I don't.

What’s the most common question you get from people when they ask you about that crash? (And your response to it…)
"Did you get hurt?"…Not as bad as I should have been.

Have you been back to the gap since that day?
I’ve been back there a few times. The only thing I think of when I look at that stair set is: Brains: 0 / Cajones: 3

In the original sequence in the magazine there was a cop carrying away your bike. What happened there?
The cops took me into their little station, which was right at the bottom of the stairs. They told me that I put the crowd at risk of seeing a gory accident, but couldn’t charge me with anything, so they gave my bike back and let me go.

Click to enlarge. Here's a scan from when the sequence originally ran in Ride BMX issue 37 (December 1998/January 1999).
A current view of the stair set from Google Maps.

 

Here’s a quote about the crash from the photographer that was printed in Ride BMX issue 100:
“At the ESPN finals in issue 37 I was in the judges’ tower when Mat Hoffman radioed up that a kid was about to jump down the 51 stairs next to the contest site. I grabbed my cameras and got there just in time to shoot Adam Boelkes jump over the first 13 stairs and the flat, and then bomb down the 38 remaining stairs like they were the back-side of a jump. Later I was back in the tower when Mat came back on the radio to say that someone else was about to jump the stairs, but this time he wasn’t going to watch. I ran to the bottom of the steps again and got there just in time to shoot Jason Culver go way too fast, jump nearly all the way, and then completely explode upon impact.” -Mark Losey

 

Click the previous page to read an interview with Robbie Morales about his notorious river gap crash.

friday-interview1