by Kyle Cowling
For many young motocross stars coming up through the ranks, it may be difficult to keep a level head when they’re growing up in the over populated Southern California area. With the temptations of parties, girls, drugs and alcohol; it is easily understood why so many future stars of Supercross and motocross fade away without a trace. However, Huntington Beach local, Sean Borkenhagen, is proving that he has the motivation and inspiration to block out the typical SoCal distractions. After moving up to the A class in 2007, Borkenhagen’s chance of racing the last few Outdoor Nationals of ’07 was hindered by a horrendous crash during an Amateur National in Texas. After the accident, Sean was left with a paralyzed right arm and a broken collarbone. Sean has since proved that he has the strength and will to overcome his injury as he is now back in the A class. We caught up with the young H.B. surfer and moto guru to see how his ’08 season is going, as well as discuss his plans after Loretta’s.
You’ve had a busy couple of months, Sean. What’s been going on?
I’ve been riding a lot at all of the local tracks, and I’ve been racing every single weekend. During the week I’ve been working with David Bailey at the track; he gives me advice on riding. Things are really coming around for me.
How did you get set-up with David Bailey?
We just started talking one day and we hit it off. Throughout my injury I always kept him posted and he took me under his wing. Ever since I came back from my injury he’s been a wonderful friend of mine. I ride with his son, Sean, a lot and that has been helping the both of us out.
We know it’s not the best thing to talk about, however, some people are unaware of a very serious injury you suffered.
I endowed really hard on my 450 one year ago at Oak Hill, Texas. I landed headfirst; broke my collarbone, and it hit a bunch of nerves. That’s what caused my arm to lose all of its feeling. My arm was paralyzed for a while. My doctor told me the chances of it ever working again were slim, and even if it did I would have to undergo a lot of therapy. I did as much therapy that I possibly could and things eventually came around. Luckily the nerves weren’t damaged too bad, but we didn’t know what to expect because nerves can only take so much; my collarbone was fine, however. We were just worried about the nerves. After lots of therapy I regained the use of my hand, wrist, bicep, and all of the muscles. All of that took eight months; three months into it my arm wasn’t working at all.
You’ve told us previously that your doctors said you would never regain feeling in your arm. Have you been back there since to show them what you’ve accomplished?
(Laughs) I’ve been trying to go back and tell them, “what’s up?” Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to go back there, but I would like to go back show them that I got my arm to work again; show them a some pictures of me riding so I can throw that in their face (laughs)! Sometimes they were pretty negative about me wanting to come back to racing, but I want to shove it all in their face… Show them what I’ve accomplished.
You’ve spent all of your life growing up in Huntington Beach, which can be a monsterous distraction for many. How have you been able to keep that from getting the best of you?
I think it’s purely because I’m a quiet person. I don’t even know too many people around here; I just have my own little click that I hang out with. I did the home schooling thing, and there aren’t a ton of kids around here my age. Being that I’m so shy, and I ride so much it haworked out to where I don’t hang out with many people in Huntington Beach. I do a lot of surfing, and a lot of riding; so I have two little things that keep me away from any of these distractions.
Coming up through the ranks on 80s, and 125 intermediate you’ve always said you didn’t have the best of luck; when do you think everything started coming together for you?
I would say things started clicking for me in ’05! I just woke up from telling myself I would get faster, but that never happened. I started to figure out what I needed to do to go fast, you know? I started taking things more seriously… I don’t know. For a while I wasn’t all there in the head when it came down to becoming a better rider. I think it was more of a maturity factor that helped me move up to the next level. It seemed like things were clicking for me mentally once I started to mature, and riding started to come along, too! I believe it was maturing that helped because in the past I would just ride around. Since ’05 I’ve come into my own being as a person, and growing up I guess.
What are your plans after Loretta’s? Can we expect to see you join the last few Outdoor Nationals?
Yeah! I’ll definitely be out there! I have my license and I’m just going to finish up the amateur stuff and step into the pro ranks this year. I’m super excited to do that! I’m ready to go, you know? It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I always told myself (since I got hurt) that all I wanted to do was race professionally, and if I had the opportunity to ride again I would go all the way because I’m almost there. I want to give myself a chance and try and be a professional at this sport!
Do you know what your first pro national will be?
I think it’ll be Millville if I remember correctly. That’ll be the perfect place for me, too! However, we’ll figure that out, as it gets closer.
Talk a little bit about Supercross. We’ve heard you say you’ve had the opportunity to ride some SX, and you’ll be on the line at A1 next year.
I plan on racing Supercross next year! This is my last go-around in the amateur world; after Loretta’s I’m going into professional racing fully committed. There’s no turning back. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable with jumping, and I’ve ridden a handful of Supercross tracks. In a way it’s kind of second nature for me. I feel comfortable on an SX track: triples, whoops, jumping rhythm sections. It’s still going to take a lot of learning, but I’m definitely capable of riding it pretty well.
What is truly your most embarrassing moment, Sean?
(Laughs) When I was riding PW-50s I was at a race back in the day, when Perris was called GFI. I was doing really well at this race; I was in second place. It was only the second lap of the race and I had to go to the bathroom, so I decided I could just go to the pee, jump back into the race and still finish second place. I gave my bike to my dad and he goes, “What the heck are you doing?” I run through this crowd of people and off to the first port-a-potty I could find. I did my thing and ran back to my bike, but by the time I got back to the race it was over with. I just cried all the way home. I don’t know what I was thinking. I still get crap from that!
Who is in your crew that you would like to thank, Sean?
I would like to give a big thanks to my dad for all of the years he’s stayed by my side, and always believing in me! I want to thank David Bailey for all of his help and advice he’s been giving me. It’s helped me tremendously. I also want to thank Andrew Langston for all of his help, and being a wonderful friend to me. Chad and Dough at Mid Cities Honda, Todd Hicks at Fox, Pro Circuit, Paggio at Oakley, Deluge Sport. AMPM, Dano at DVS Shoes, Renthal, Twin Air, Brian Fleck at Dunlop tires, Braking, Adrian at Ride Engineering, CTi2, AC Racing, Proclean 1000, Engine Ice, and Factory Backing thank you all!
Fox, Pro Circuit, Paggio at Oakley, Deluge Sport. AMPM, Dano at DVS Shoes, Renthal, Twin Air, Brian Fleck at Dunlop tires, Braking, Adrian at Ride Engineering, CTi2, AC Racing, Proclean 1000, Engine Ice, and Factory Backing thank you all!