Travis Pastrana Returns To Action Sports
After three years away from the sport due to a number of serious injuries and NASCAR commitments throughout 2012 and 2013, Travis Pastrana made his return to FMX for the first time since attempting to perform a 720 at X Games LA back in 2011. Pastrana was scheduled to ride at every stop of his Nitro Circus Live tour this year, but unfortunately, the number 199 will be sidelined again after breaking his leg a few weeks ago. We had the opportunity to sit down with Travis before the injury occurred, and were able to talk with him about the tour, his new life as a family man, and his return to riding dirt bikes.
First off, you just made your return to FMX. How has it been so far?
It’s been awesome. I feel like everyone always goes, “Aw, you retired!” I just get hurt enough to where I have to stop having fun for a little bit, and I can’t progress the way I want to. So I just got burnt out on doing the same thing and it’s not worth taking the risk. I got into car racing which was a lot of fun. I have a tendency to be pretty passionate about what I do, so I gave NASCAR a two-year go and one full season. I learned so much and had a lot of fun, but I just really missed the camaraderie of action sports. The tours [Nitro Circus Live] are doing so well worldwide and crushing it, and all of my friends were just like, “Come on! Come on! You gotta go back on tour! You gotta have some fun!” Paris Rosen helped us out with this awesome ramp design that he has, and it just re-inspired all of us on tour to get back out there and try new tricks. Plus my wife has been awesome! She was pretty much a NASCAR wife all last year, but she loves to skate and that’s her passion. She was a two-time X Games gold medalist in vert. For her it was like, “Come on. Let’s go do this and travel the world as a family. We’re not going to have that many more opportunities to travel the world with our friends.” And you know, I just miss riding. I miss being in the foam pit, and I miss progression. Hopefully my role on motorcycles will slowly evolve to be the guy that works with Red Bull and different sponsors on airbags, and on foam pits, and on safety, and on ramps, and just try to keep helping action sports progress—and doing it in a safe way where we can continue touring the world having a good time, but also show guys what might be possible in a foam pit, test ramps, get everything set up, and let them take it to the world.
How long have you actually been back on a bike?
Well, my ankle is really bad. So when I hurt myself at X Games—almost two years ago now—I couldn’t walk for pretty much a year. I went about eight months without walking. This was the longest injury I’ve ever had. It even took me a while just to get back into driving cars. It was just depressing—not because it hurt but because I couldn’t do anything [laughs]. So I went on the Nitro tour and just kind of crutched around and announced and stuff, which was fun, but it was cool when I finally got back into racing last year. I did the Gymkhana 5 video where I went out with Ken Block, and that was the first time I’ve been back on the bike. That was over a year after I crashed at X, and I couldn’t even fit my foot into the boot because it was just so swollen and hurt so much. I went to [Jeremy] McGrath’s ranch six months after that and had so much fun, but just my ankle still hurt so bad that it almost wasn’t worth it still. Then I went to Chad Reed’s and [Ryan] Villopoto’s earlier this year, and then Terah Gieger’s house, and I was like, “I’m back! Nothing hurts! This is amazing!” My shoulders were solid, my legs were fine, and my knees were good. I thought, “Man this time off was great!” Ever since then I’ve ridden pretty much every day [laughs].
So, you’re going to be doing the tour, but are you going to be taking it easy or is it back to your normal routine of doing crazy stuff on a dirt bike?
You know, it’s a tough call, because I’m not having fun unless I’m doing something I haven’t tried before. To me that’s what’s so fun about action sports, but I actually just knocked myself out yesterday—in the foam pit of all things— and I’m laying there and thinking, “Ok, time to reconsider this. How much are you willing to push and willing to risk.” My biggest goals are to help progress to sport and to be able to ride everyday, but also to not get hurt—so it’s kind of a catch-22.
Let’s talk about the tour. You guys just got back from Europe, right?
Yeah, we went across Europe. Dude, this tour…I never thought it was going to be as successful as it is. We went to France, and we had to stop the show halfway through because we couldn’t yell loud enough over the loudspeaker. They went into their soccer chants and everybody had to stop. We all got off our motorcycles and bicycles and went up to a jump landing and took a bow. It was just 15 minutes of them cheering before they stopped and we were able to start the show again. It felt like it was a rock show. I don’t know how it will work this year in the States, but it’s been an amazing ride throughout the globe, for sure.
You’re also a full-fledged family man now with the new baby, and you’re taking the whole family on the road with you. Is it going to be a challenge?
It’s been awesome. We went over to Europe when Patty was one month old and we thought that it was going to be crazy, but she does great with flying. Because of NASCAR and now the tour, she’s been in more different states and countries than she’s actually been home [laughs]. We just rented a motorhome while we were over there and drove from stadium to stadium traveling the countryside. We had so much fun and Lin-Z just broke it down pretty simply. She goes, “You know…as a mom, I still get to do whatever. I’m back on tour skating already, I get to be with my husband and kid every day, we have full-time catering—I don’t have to cook—we have full-time laundry at every venue so I don’t have to do that, and we have this amazing Nitro Circus crew of family.” It’s been awesome, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
With everything coming together the way it is and the tour already going further than you’ve ever imagined, what’s next to elevate it to another level?
Actually, my whole life has just been reality never setting in [laughs]. With the investment group jumping on board, their goal is still to elevate the sport, which is really cool because most investment groups are just in it to make money. One of the main guys came to me and said, “Man, I always wanted to be a motocross racer. My parents would never let me do it, but it was one of my biggest passions. I came to one of the shows [Nitro Circus Live], and I was re-inspired—I felt like a little kid again. We have an opportunity here to inspire so many kids and families to go out and get on a dirt bike and skateboard.” We’re actually going to build a full-time training facility for Nitro Circus, where no matter what sport you’re in, you can come and train and do all this cool stuff. Our goal is to keep it progressing by having a place for them to do it safely, and also having the best in the world help teach them instead of them just trying it on their own after watching a video. On top of that, we want to have a full-time show there too—probably in Las Vegas—but we’re still working out the details.
The North American tour kicked off this month in Canada, and from there you venture down into the US?
Yeah, it’s all over the US and then after that down into Mexico. We didn’t get a lot of venues down south this time, but hopefully next year we can do a North American tour in the summer that hits more of those states down there. We really wanted to hit Madison Square Garden and the MGM, and then had to book the rest of the shows around those stops. It’s been wild just dealing with the business aspect of stuff but my goal is to just deal with the fun aspect. I’m trying to renegotiate my spot in all this [laughs].
You’re always challenging yourself with different things like NASCAR and rally, so do you have plans to jump back into any of those at the moment or are you just focused on Nitro Circus?
The main focus is definitely on Nitro Circus. With all of the opportunities available right now, it’s not a make-or-break year, but this year could bring everything to a level where most of my friends could have a job for quite some time. The success of the US tour is going to determine a lot of what we can do. Either way, I’m definitely getting back into rally cars—I absolutely love rally! The GRC [Global RallyCross] is going to be awesome this year too because Red Bull is getting involved and the locations are going to be great, so I’ll probably jump in for a race or two there. I’m also doing the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000, and I’ll probably go to Sturgis where they’re having a Pro 4 event and I haven’t raced a Pro 4 truck before. For me, this year is going to be a lot of fun. I’m really focusing on family, but also I’m doing some off-road stuff and getting back to the dirt.
Will we see you at X Games Austin this year as well?
Yeah, I’ll be at X Games Austin just for rally car. Honestly, the motorcycles—I love it, but I like to do it on my own terms. It’s not worth it for me to push the limits unless I can control the takeoffs and landings and the times. I’m getting old [laughs].
We will be checking out the tour when it comes to Anaheim later this month. What can we expect?
Every single night, someone will step up and do something that’s never been done before. If you like carnage and chaos, or if you like progression you’ll get your fair share of all of it [laughs].
You’re always talking about progression. Is it just a huge group of people pushing each other to do the gnarliest thing on a given day?
We give out the MVC award every night, and for instance, I’ve been doing the tour since the beginning and I’ve only got one MVC. It’s so hard to do, and it’s such an honor to get it among all of the guys. So every night, whoever goes last in the final set of tricks has to do something that’s bigger than anything else—basically something that’s nothing been done, ever—and you’re expected to land it, because, well, you’re going last. Every night people were fighting on top of the Gigant-A-Ramp for who gets to go last. These people are crazy! No way would I want to go last! It’s a big family and they’re all trying to outdo each other.