When it comes to pushing the limits of progression there are a few names that immediately come to mind within the BMX community -- one of them is Zack Warden. For years he’s been at the drawing board putting in the work it takes to keep things fresh and help pave the way for the future generation of riders to follow. He truly lives by the “go big or go home” motto and is willing to put it all on the line in the name of landing a new trick.
There have been past X Games Big Air contests where he literally hasn’t pulled a single run because he was so dedicated to landing the trick he set his mind to. Things have been a little different recently, however. Not only has Zack shown the world what he’s made of by earning a gold medal in Brazil at the first stop of the Global X Games series, he also left them with a taste of what’s to come with a look at yet another ground-breaking combination that left everyone scratching their heads.
We checked in with Zack on a recent trip to Woodward West to prep for X Games Barcelona to see what he had to say about winning gold, creating brand new tricks and what goes through his head as he rolls into the massive Big Air ramp.
redbull.com: First of all, congratulations are in order for getting your hands on your first-ever X Games gold. How does it feel?
Zack Warden: Thank you, it feels good. It’s something I've always dreamed of. The first time I ever saw BMX, Mat Hoffman had broken his foot and put a piece of metal in his shoe and won the contest he was riding in. Just the fact that he was riding with a broken foot inspired me. Along the way I definitely realized what BMX was about; it’s so much more than a contest, but it feels good to get this one under my belt.
Anyone who knows your history in BMX knows that you’ve been putting in a lot of hard work over the years to always push your limits. Can you pinpoint anything that led you to your first-place finish in Brazil?
There’s a Boy Sets Fire quote that I've loved since I was a kid: "It’s just a will away.” I've really tried to base a lot of what I do off of that. If you’re just willing to try, there’s not much a person can't do. I've had a lot of opportunities in the past, some worked out for the best, some not so much, but I think my willingness to keep trying and keep at it is what really led me to my first gold medal in Brazil.
What’s the hardest part about mentally preparing to send yourself down the roll-in of the MegaRamp?
Keeping it in check and respecting it. The possibilities on the ramp are endless, and with the speed and the momentum it’s easy to get carried away and huck yourself. The MegaRamp provides a lot of safety in its speed and big transitions, but the downfall is [that if you make] one wrong move all the positives turn to negatives. The same speed that helped you slide out is now jarring your whole body to a sudden stop. It’s not too pleasant; with that ramp it only takes one crash or one simple mistake to break you off, which is really easy to forget when you’re caught up in the moment.
What was the harder part of your winning run? The backflip bikeflip over the gap or the triple tailwhip on the gigantic quarter?
I don't really know, to tell you the truth. I fall on both about as much as I pull them. The quarter is scary, but so is missing the seat or grip on the flip bikeflip. Either way, when I do them it’s really just a crapshoot.
What are your plans heading into Barcelona? Everyone got a glimpse of your newest variation, which is the backflip bikeflip to late tailwhip. Can we expect to see that come to life there?
It gets wild in the middle of those comps sometimes. It’s pretty crazy watching one of your friends fall from the sky and get carried out on a stretcher, then have no idea if he's alright and be told to go and do your hardest trick in front of the world. Sometimes the time’s not right to push it, and you have to back away.
What was running through your mind the split second before you rolled in and went for two incredibly difficult tricks?
Any time I’m doing anything where I know there’s a risk, I take a second to think about my friend Jimmy Turner, who sadly passed away a few years ago. Not only is life a truly precious gift, it shouldn't ever be taken for granted. I’m so extremely fortunate to have the life that I do and no matter what happens -- whether I win the contest or fall on my ass every time like I did in 2011 -- the fact that I have the opportunity ride my bike on such a big scale is truly an amazing thing. All you have to do is try your best and enjoy the moment.
What advice do you have for young riders looking to get that sweet taste of victory and someday own a gold medal themselves?
When I first started riding it was a dream to make it here and win a gold medal. As I got more into BMX, I realized that even if I never turned pro or never entered a single contest that my bike would be able to provide an outlet that I could express myself through. My bike has always been my best teacher; apply yourself and try your best and you will never be disappointed.
Any shout-outs and thanks to the people who helped you get to the top of that podium?
Thanks to my parents first of all; they’ve supported me since day one and I love them with all of my heart. Camp Woodward has helped out a lot over these years so thanks to them. Thanks to Fox Racing, Mat Hoffman and Hoffman Bikes for helping make my dreams a reality and every single person that lives in St. Louis. Bloody finger, Woad Dang Clan, sprockets, Ding-a-lings, Ashley Green-Otto, Genevieve Evans, Toni Turner, Tom Raniollo. Also thanks to all of my friends who let me live on their couch, floor, or garage, The Heathens, and BMX!
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