Raise Your Game: How did you first get involved in freestyle?
Dan Whitby: Samson and I have spent years doing motocross, trying to work our way up on the local race scene. We got to a certain standard, and got lucky by meeting the right person who had a training academy where we could practise freestyle. It progressed from there.
There aren't any freestyle training parks in the UK, just private parks owned by people like Bolddog and other people doing it for themselves by building their own ramps. It's quite hard to get into.
Samson Eaton: I've been riding bikes since I was four-years-old. My dad's got some Harley Davidson bikes, so it was in my blood to ride bikes. I started racing motocross when I was 12. Dan and I used to race at the same clubs. I started jumping on the Bolddog ramps and Dan asked me to ride with him.
RYG: What does a typical week's training involve?
11 October 1983
- Winner - Adult N&SJMCC Championship (2004)
- Winner - Eastern Centre MX2 Junior Championship (2005)
- First English rider to complete a back flip on a 4 stroke bike (2006).
DW: We don't get the same sort of weather as the Americans. Whereas an American rider will get to ride the bike at least twice a day, we're lucky if we get on the bike twice a week.
We try and get in the foam pit as much as we can. We try to ride as much as we can. There's no substitute for riding and getting in the foam pit.
RYG: What sort of skills do you need to ride at this level?
SE: You need a bit of skill, and a lot of guts (laughs). It's a bit hit and miss when you're trying to learn a new trick. You try it and it's either going to go right or it's going to go very wrong. For flips we practise in a foam pit, but I've still seen Dan knock himself out a few times in that, so it's still dangerous. You've got be very brave.
DW: You've got to be competent on a motorcycle. I learnt a lot of skills racing motocross, in terms of bike awareness. When you come to hitting metal ramps it's a completely different kind of situation. They're designed to kick you as hard as they possibly can and that gives you a very different feeling.
Once you get confident in hitting the ramps, then you can start experimenting in throwing yourself off the back of the bike. You can be the most talented rider on a motocross track, but that doesn't mean you can do freestyle moves. It takes a certain something.
RYG: How do you build up the confidence to throw yourself 75 feet through the air?
DW: You start off with a much smaller gap. You work your way up to 75 feet. You can get the location of the ramp wrong if there's a bit of a cross wind. It takes skills to adjust and put the bike in a certain position so the wind doesn't affect it. It can be scary.
RYG: What kind of preparation do you do before you perform?
SE: Protection is a big factor. We wear big hard boots to protect our ankles. We wear body armour, which consists of chest and back protectors. We wear knee pads and back supports. I wear a carbon fibre neck brace as well, to stop whiplash. I also stretch out before we perform, so I don't tear muscles.
DW: I've got two and a half thousand pound's worth of knee braces on. I managed to crash a back flip about two months ago and ripped the anterior cruciate ligament away from my knee.
RYG: It's obviously a very dangerous sport, what keeps you coming back for more?
DW: When you've got about twenty thousand people making a bit of noise for you, there's no other feeling like it. You can't match that. We love going out on our training ground and having a session. We buzz off what the other person's doing. You add the crowd onto that and I can put my hand on my heart and say there's nothing to match it.
RYG: Freestyle is extremely dangerous, what sort of injuries have you suffered in the past?
DW: I've broken a bone in my neck. It broke laterally, that's the reason I'm still able to walk. I've had that fused. I've broken my thumb, my collarbone, my humerus bone, fingers, toes, my foot, my anterior cruciate ligament three times, and loads of other torn muscles that I don't bother listing.
SE: I'm the rubber man. I'm not too bad. I broke a couple of fingers and toes when I was racing. I've only been doing freestyle for four and a half years. I've broken my leg twice in the same place, in the space of about three weeks. I've had some jolly good crashes but I always seem to bounce. I've been pretty lucky, touch wood.
RYG: What have you learnt from this sport?
11 January 1989
- Fourth - N.A.S.S Championship (2006 and 2007)
SE: It can be very dangerous if you're not 100% focused on what you're doing. I've seen Dan get flips wrong so many times in the foam pit, simply because he didn't know what he was doing, because he had no-one to learn off. You can't go into it half-heartedly. That's when accidents happen and you get really hurt.
DW: Freestyle motocross has taught me lots. Firstly, it's taught me that I'm super-privileged to be doing what I'm doing. I consider it to be a true blessing. I'm getting to do something that I truly enjoy doing, and I'm making a healthy living out of it.
Hopefully I can be a good role model for kids. I worked hard in school. I struggled with my broken neck through college, but I doubled up and I got myself five A levels. All the way through school and college, everyone was anti-bikes, saying 'You're never going to make a living out of bikes.'
As clichéd as it sounds, I am literally living the dream. I'm riding my bike, I'm making good money, I don't need to do drugs, I don't need to drink. I'm straight down the line and I'm having the best time of my life. If kids have got a dream, and it's within reason, go out there and follow it.
RYG: How important has education been for you?
DW: I can't overstate how important it is. Through college I doubled up on business studies A levels. That's really coming into play now that I'm a director in the Bolddog team. We're looking to the future. We're launching Bolddog health and fitness studios, so guys in the team can pass on their knowledge.
They've had to train very hard to get where they are, and I feel that they can give more back than an average gym instructor who's done a course. Samson's actually come back from injury. He's trained to get where he is. We've got a lot to give as people. The future for us is in health and fitness studios. I wouldn't have been able to do that without my business studies degree. It is undoubtedly going to help me when I'm older.
RYG: What advice would you give to young people looking to improve themselves through sport?
DW: Work hard in school. It's hard, and I didn't want to work hard in school when I was there. I couldn't see the point of doing it but thankfully I kept myself together. I worked really hard and it all paid off. Work hard and good things will happen to you if you put yourself in the right positions.
SE: If you've got a dream, follow it. Ever since I was little I wanted to ride bikes. I was told that I'd never make money out of riding bikes. Through school I worked hard. What I really wanted to do was ride my bike. I kept believing that and it came good. If you want something, go out and get it. If you work hard, you'll get there in the end.
Work hard to get what you want.
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