Four Words you Should Never Say to Travis Pastrana? "That Can't Be Done"
© Monte Isom/Red Bull Content Pool
With a career based on making the impossible possible, Travis Pastrana has earned a reputation as the go-to guy for world firsts on both two and four wheels. Get to know him here.
Travis Pastrana's (Backyard) Action Sports Paradise
You recently let the cameras around Pastranaland, which is quite some backyard. Where’s the inspiration come from?
Thank you. That was the goal, for "one of a kind." Guy Cooper had Cooperland with a go-kart when I was growing up and I guess I never grew up.
Every day that you do something, make sure you love it. If not, it’s not worth the injuries.
It seems to be an ever-evolving site. What’s next to be created?
It’s not actually that much land. It’s always changing with whatever we need and we build what we build. It helps [with] my dad being in construction. In fact, it’s just a bunch of us rednecks in the backyard!
You’ve had quite an extensive résumé. How do you define yourself?
Without a doubt it’s been varied. Motocross was where I wanted to go, but my dad and uncles drove motor cars—one was into drag racing—so we always had things like bobcats to go charging around in. That was me from three years old. We’d get a shovel and dig out jumps or drive go-karts around the shop. So, I just wanted to try everything.
A lot of people are defined by just one thing, but you’ve been able to excel on a number of fronts. How and why have you got into so many different things?
My uncle was quarterback for the Denver Broncos in 1969 and 1970, but he got injured and came back to working in construction and coaching lacrosse and football at the local college and he still works there. Dad said he was the greatest athlete out of our town and state and didn’t make enough out of turning that hobby into a career, so every day that you do something, make sure you love it. If not, it’s not worth the injuries.
Coming in with that mentality was awesome as I never did anything for the money—I did it because I loved it. Starting off, we didn’t have much growing up, my uncles would chip in to pay for gas and the local dealership gave us a bike. My parents sold the boat, the Harley and had two mortgages on the house, so I’m aware money was a huge deal.
What would you like to be remembered for at the end of your career?
I just hope to be the guy that people think gave everything he had and always brought it. He brought fun and I feel like I’m best gentleman driver—OK, maybe I’m fighting for that with Ken Block. We show we can mix it up and beat the best in the world on a good day. But we’re not Sébastien Loeb or one of the Formula One guys. But it’s fun and we’re good enough to live our life exactly how we want to and find ways around the norm.
Your latest venture is Nitro Rallycross. What’s that involve?
We were all set to kick that off and then COVID hit, so that crushed us. But it’s kind of good that we had more time to work out deals with more tracks. There are going to be five tracks in year one— special purpose-built courses—and I’ll either build them myself or else help with the guys.
The goal is to make it exciting not just for fans, but drivers too. There have to be options that different cars and manufacturers have the chance to do well at one [circuit] and another at another. So we’ll mix it up. The drivers are really excited and they’ll be scared when they get there.
The best time in racing is the first couple of years when you’re really still learning what works the best. Our goal with that is to continue to mix it up and, when the drivers think it’s figured out, we’ll change it up.
The list of stunts you’ve done is pretty impressive; from jumps across the Grand Canyon to the River Thames. What’s the thinking behind a stunt?
It’s less about the stunts and more about the competition, even if the competition is just with yourself. I love when someone says it can’t be done, then I love figuring out how it can be done. Take the Backflip Superman—people said it wasn’t possible with gravity, so we welded brackets on the clutch levers so the arms would hit those levers and pull you down. That was a pretty cool little knickknack, so there’s a lot of stuff like that which makes stunts seem easy nowadays.
I love when someone says it can’t be done, then I love figuring out how it can be done.
When I think of your career, it’s the X Games first, isn’t it?
Yeah, I got the first gold medal there when I was 15 and then it was chasing the next thing. Now it’s boat racing and that’s awesome. I was lucky that most of the top teams are from Europe, but they couldn’t come to the US this year, so I was able to get a bit more experience before the big boys come over.
If you had to pick between two and four wheels, which would it be?
What’s neat about two wheels is you can’t carry a car, but you can a bike. You can buy a bike off a showroom floor and be competitive, you can’t do that with the top form of car racing.
Your wife’s an X Games champion in her own right. Does that make for a competitive household?
Very competitive. We don’t overlap in our sports, thank goodness. We're competitive with everything we do. Lyn-Z [Adams Hawkins] was thinking about trying to get to the Olympics as skateboarding went in, so she won the World Championships in 2019, which was I was so proud of her for. But she enjoys being a mum and, even on the podium, was sad as she’d missed two weeks with the kids. I’m just glad someone in the family grew up! She does a great job with everything.
So is even a board game competitive in your house?
Yeah, I’m not as good. Lyn-Z is awesome at cards and board games and that frustrates me. We’ve figured out the things that we can’t win at so we avoid it. She loves the boards. Anything with wakeboarding, surfing, snowboading. I can’t do boards at all. I tried on a snowboard but just flipped and bellyflopped. I’ll ski and she’ll snowboard.
What about the kids? Are they following in mom and dad’s footsteps?
My seven year old loves driving a lot and my six year old likes motorcycles a bit more. Both skate a little bit. Now they’re both flyers. Our older daughter, when everything gets bad she starts to giggle, but she never gets hurt and crashes every day. The younger one is a little more talented, maybe she listens, pays attention and works really hard. She rarely crashes but, when she does, gets injured.
As a parent, has that diminished the risk you’re willing to take?
No, at the end of the day I want the kids to see their parents, see how hard they work and do something that they love to do. So many friends leave for work before their kids get up and get home when it’s dark. Something I’m fortunate to not have to do. I’m gone a lot but, when I’m home, I’m with the kids. I like to show them the passion and working on stuff. I hope that that’s one thing that they take; do anything, but you have to work at it.
What other advice is there?
There are two rules in this house, which are no whining and work hard. What my dad always taught me is that if anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.