Interviews 9 Oct 2012

Catching Up: Levi Sherwood

Makker catches up with the 2012 Red Bull X-Fighters Champion after his Sydney win.

When Kiwi FMXer Levi Sherwood stood on top of the podium in the middle of the Sydney Harbour, the 20-year-old kid became the youngest-ever competitor to hold the Red Bull X-Fighters trophy above his head.

The entire championship boiled down to an epic head-to-head between France’s Tom Pages and Sherwood. Unfortunately the wheels fell off Pages’ usually consistent form in the finale (two falls, a dead sailor and a repeated trick), but Sherwood rode with wisdom beyond his years to capture his first-ever title. caught up with Sherwood as he celebrated with some close friends back in NZ, and found out about his pre-event nerves, tweaking his back, life in the USA… and that terrible rats-tail.

Levi Sherwood celebrates his Sydney win and 2012 Red Bull X-Fighters title. Image: Red Bull.

Levi, congratulations on an epic win, bro. How were the nerves leading into the event?

I was pretty nervous eh – probably more nervous than I’ve ever been. Once we wrapped up qualifying and I was top of the field I settled down as I knew where I stood compared to everyone else.

I’ve been riding a lot in the wind back home, because I knew after last year that the wind could be a big factor on the Sydney harbour. I was still pretty nervous going into Saturday’s finals, but I no more than on Friday.

The whole championship boiled down to a promoter’s dream, with the two top riders – you and Pages – going against each other in the final. What was your game-plan heading into it?

I just wanted to give it 100 percent. I knew Tom could throw two body varials, the 360 and the Flair in his run, and he wasn’t going to die wondering, so I needed to do everything perfectly and not have any loose ends. If we both did our best runs I knew it was going to be real a close call.

So when Tom screwed up his run, did you tone your riding back and play it a bit safer?

Yes and no. I didn’t have to go out and risk it all like I’d planned to, but I still needed to put in a really solid run. I changed a few of my tricks while I was out there – if Tom had put in a perfect run I would’ve done a couple of different flip tricks over the dirt double and thrown in a couple of no-hander landers. I basically did a run I knew I could finish without getting too excited and over-jumping stuff.

Speaking of over-jumping, you had a pretty big moment in one of your head-to-heads when you overshot the landing on a Ruler Flip.

Yeah that was a bit hairy, eh! [laughs]. I actually hurt my back when I over-rotated that Ruler Flip and put it all out of place. It’s pretty average at the moment.

I’m going to get a scan on it this week and get it checked out; I don’t think there’s any major damage, but it’s not going to be fun riding the four shows I’ve got lined up in Europe with it how it is.

How does this win compare to winning an X Games medal?

Oh man, this is 10 times better than anything else I’ve won. It’s a lot easier to win a single event than to stay motivated and consistent all year over an entire series. The X-Fighters title means tonnes more than any single win.

Is it just me, or does the series trophy look like a huge wang?

[Laughs] yeah, everyone says that! The trophy is a rider doing a superman off a muffler, but when got it my first thought was “why is he holding onto a rocket?” [laughs]. It’s all good: the trophy’s got ‘First Place’ written on it, so I’m not worried what it looks like.

Sherwood flies high on Cockatoo Island last Saturday. Image: Red Bull.

How have your motivation levels been this year? And be honest.

Yeah, at the start of the season I was pretty over the competition scene and was pretty unmotivated to ride freestyle. Even after I came home from the last X-Fighters round at Munich I didn’t ride freestyle for two or three weeks – I spent all my time building jumps and riding tracks. I’m not an over-driven rider and I burn out and get bored of just doing FMX all day. It’s important for me to enjoy myself.

Even during an X-Fighters practice I spend pretty much the entire session goon-riding and doing mad Taunts. I don’t want to waste all my talent in practice, because after I start doing tricks three or four times I start getting worse.

We do tricks every other day, so it’s like you writing a story or whatever – when you need to get it done you just do it. As long as your bike is set up right and the jumps are consistent, it’s all good.

Fair enough. You’re living back in New Zealand now – why don’t you base yourself permanently in the US?

I was based in the US between the Dubai and Germany rounds and I got burnt out – all we did was ride, eat sushi and race RC cars. After X Games no-one rides any more, so I got frustrated with not having anyone to ride with? I was over it.

So I came home where I’ve got a big home compound that I’m getting close to finishing. It’s got a heap of poppy freestyle jumps out to 90ft, and over the past few weeks I’ve built a bunch of freeride jumps. It’s looking pretty sick.

Can’t wait to see it! Finally, when are you going to get rid of that manky rats-tail?

Oh bro, it had its one-year birthday the other day, so I can’t get rid of it yet! I’m going to grow it some more, thin it out, then plait it and go for the real mongrel look. If I’m hanging with the locals I’ve gotta represent and do my country proud.

[Laughs] classic. Thanks for the chat and I’ll catch up with you again soon.

Churr. Speak soon.