Master of Dirt: Building the Best BMX Courses

Dave King chats about sculpting dirt while fine-tuning the Red Bull Berm Burners course in Virginia.
BMX dirt builder Dave King at the Red Bull Berm Burners event site in Richmond, Virginia
Dave King on the Red Bull Berm Burners build © Steve Crandall/Red Bull
By Steve Crandall

Dave King hails from the BMX dirt mecca of the universe, the woods of eastern Pennsylvania, where the most legendary trails and riders have set the bar for BMXers and jump builders around the globe.

Growing up in the Lehigh Valley, King cut his teeth riding and digging at such iconic spots as NAM, POSH, Catty Woods and more, transitioning from a local to a sponsored rider to one of the industry's most revered designer/builders. King and his crew at Dirtsculpt are some of the most sought-after builders, accomplished in the art of turning dirt into awesomeness.

While onsite in Richmond, Virginia, to build the upcoming Red Bull Berm Burners course (which is open to all types of bikes), King gave us a look into his world over a few shovels full of dirt…

Red Bull Bike: What got you into building dirt jumps and working on event courses?

Dave King: I grew up riding trails in eastern Pennsylvania, which became a well-known region for building and riding dirt jumps. Back in the ‘90s my roommates started building for X Games and other jobs like that. When they needed more help, they asked me and the rest is history.

BMX dirt builder Dave King at the Red Bull Berm Burners event site in Richmond, Virginia
A little ATV-assisted shaping with Dave King © Steve Crandall/Red Bull

When and how did you start doing it as a job?

It was 1998 when Gilly [Jeremy Reiss] and Chris Stauffer were asked to build some beginner tabletops at Camp Woodward and they needed one more guy. That was my first jump-building job.

What are some of the most unique things you've built?

The craziest build location and set-up is definitely Red Bull Dirt Conquers! It's a dirt/concrete-mix bowl with a 15-foot capsule and wallride over it!

What are the best and worst things about building for events?

The best is building and creating an amazing course and watching the riders kill it! The worst? Dealing with limited time and unpredictable weather.

Where’s the worst dirt you have ever worked with?

I think topsoil in Canada, and the Blue Mountain Ski Resort [in Pennsylvania] is pure rock.

What's been the most challenging project you've had so far?

Red Bull Dirt Conquers for sure. The work conditions are pretty tough. Mexican sun is insane; heat, long days and more... Builds that last more than a few weeks can be pretty overwhelming, especially in another country.

BMX dirt builder Dave King at the Red Bull Berm Burners event site in Richmond, Virginia
Dave King fine tunes the Berm Burners course © Steve Crandall/Red Bull

How does an event like Red Bull Berm Burners compare to other events you've worked on?

Berm Burners is cool, because it’s new, unique, and a relatively small build for a cool weekend event. When we built Dirt Conquers, it was weeks of grueling labor, mixing dirt and cement, and a crew working long hours. Berm Burners is mostly just me working with dirt, light equipment, shovels and a rake, building some berms and rollers in the heart of downtown Richmond. It's fun.

Who are some of the diggers you typically work with?

Gilly, Clint Reynolds, James P. Nutter, Will Blount… My wife Carrie helps out with everything as well.

BMX dirt builder Dave King at the Red Bull Berm Burners event site in Richmond, Virginia
Testing the Red Bull Berm Burners course © Steve Crandall/Red Bull

Any projects coming up that you’re excited about?

Yeah, X Games BMX dirt next week -- we leave immediately after this weekend at Berm Burners and drive straight to Austin, Texas, for a substantial build!

Any shout-outs?

Thanks to Gilly and Stauffer for bringing me on the job that changed my whole life, which is crazy to thing about. Steve Crandall for all the good FBM travels -- I still miss that so much but I'm old and have a family now, so no more FBM trips [laughs]!

Follow Dave on Instagram and Red Bull Bike on Twitter for more, and if you're anywhere near Richmond, Viriginia on May 17-18, check out Dave's work in action at Red Bull Berm Burners!

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