Hanging With A Crankworx Superstar

A few weeks ago Jim asked whether I wanted to shoot some dirt jumping at the Kali Protective HQ. I love photographing new, challenging assignments but to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve really shot anything dirt related. Sea Otter Classic doesn’t really count as shooting dirt. And I hadn’t really shot dirt jumping. I was worried about not knowing what to shoot, much like how regular photographers photographing skateboarding get laughed at by skateboarding photographers for missing the “peak” action shots which actually matter. 

But Jim also said Nicholi Rogatkin was going be in town riding with the local groms. Yes, the Nicholi Rogatkin of Crankworx Joyride fame. So I figured what the heck, yolo. It’s not every day you get to “hangout” with a Triple Crown winner of Crankworx Slopestyle who also happened to pull the World’s first Cashroll on a downhill bike.

The day started out normal enough, photographing Nicholi getting ready, portraits, moments and riding (duh). Things were going as planned until we started doing portraits. It turns out I remembered everything for the shoot, minus my case of lights. Which was a total bummer. I didn’t have enough time to drive home and grab them now. But at least I had one tiny Canon speedlite. I made the best of it and ended up utilizing this set of vintage monkey bars.

It wasn’t long before the kids started to show up. So there we were in a dirt lot turned XL pump track with a bunch of star-struck kids brushing shoulders with one of the hottest riders in the gravity circuit, bantering about tips on how to stop the crankarms from spinning midair, how to approach this one massive jump and running rider train, over-and-over, until well after sunset. 

Speaking of the sunset, someone borrowed a full-blown construction light just so everyone could ride well past sunset. And then it was a twelve-year-old kid who gave me a quick lesson on how to operate a bobcat dozer and casually pointed out what’s wrong with the choking generator connecting to the airbag at the end of the jump.

All that happened while Nicholi was busy launching flips and spins like a walk in the park. It is easy to see why he has won so many contests and is so admired by the dirt jump crowd, his riding is athletic, yet graceful and his personality is equal parts hipster and sweetheart.

At one point, a Mercedes rolled up and out popped a former Powder Puff motocross racer. She saw the riders jumping in the air while driving nearby, and decided to pull in to simply watch. 

It dawned on me that this was completely different from the other “major league” sporting event I am accustomed to shooting. There were no rope lines, no press passes, no media lounge and no pretenses. It was just a real hang amoungst people who came for the love of bikes. 

It was a damn good day, and I’m thinking I should shoot more dirt this year.