Daredevil Robbie Maddison rides the waves in latest stunt
SAN DIEGO (AP) – Although daredevil Robbie Maddison has done plenty of crazy stunts, people thought he’d really lost it when he proposed riding his motorcycle on water.
Like his preceding death-defying tricks, he pulled it off.
The result of his aqua exploits in Tahiti is the short video “Pipe Dream,” which premiered Sunday night in Surf City itself, Huntington Beach.
“It’s the most challenging thing I’ve done to date. Just the fear,” the 34-year old Australian said about the film, which shows him riding his motorcycle across the waves in Tahiti, with the help of ski-like devices around the wheels.
This from a guy who had previously backflipped over the open Tower Bridge in London, leaped 300 feet across the Corinth Canal in Greece, jumped close to 400 feet over a boat inlet on San Diego Bay alongside snowmobiler Levi LaVallee, and jumped 351 feet over the Melbourne F1 Track.
His most famous feat was jumping onto the Arc de Triomphe replica on the Las Vegas strip on a live broadcast on New Year’s Eve 2008, and then jumping back down.
Then he came up with the idea of riding a motorcycle on water.
“People see it two ways. They either think I’m high and I’ve totally lost my mind, or they think it’s a great idea,” Maddison said. “This is something I wasn’t going to let go. The more people laughed in my face, the more it drove me to make this happen. I’m glad we reached this point.”
Jeff Taylor of DC Shoes believed Maddo could pull it off and backed the project. And, of course, DC is launching a new Maddo shoe.
Filming took three weeks on two different surf breaks in late April and early May.
“I knew this thing would never work easily in the water. It was a struggle,” said Maddison, who lives in Temecula. “The film makes it look easy but behind the scenes shows the struggle we had.”
Maddison devised ski-like devices to wrap around the wheels to allow the bike to plane through the water. The front ski was shaped like a snowboard and the back ski like a surfboard.
“The skis were the deciding factor that makes this possible,” Maddison said. “There was no magic, just clever thinking. I just wanted to get a motorcycle to ride across the water. You need some form of ski working to do that.”
Maddison said he tested his concept on San Diego’s Mission Bay last fall, when he made three laps for a total of 7 1/2 miles early one morning “before the birds were up.”
Still, someone captured it on video and posted it on YouTube.
“She was talking like she was looking at a UFO,” Maddison said.
He continued to test on Lake Elsinore. Once he and his crew got to Tahiti, it was a challenge moving from cold freshwater to warm saltwater.
The farthest he rode his bike on the open ocean was about a mile.
Maddison said he went through six bikes.
“Of those six, we sunk them and rebirthed them 10 times each,” he said.
“The water was a huge issue but we figured it out and got it to work, finally,” he added.
They were able to seal the bikes so no oil or gas leaked into the ocean.
“If the bike did sink, none of the oil or fuel leaked, but water got into the bike,” he said. “It ruined the bike but not the ocean.”
On the last day, he was wiped out by a 25-foot wave.
“I was on this mission impossible to try to outrun the wave,” he said. “It engulfed me and taught me a lesson or two.”
Maddison, who grew up surfing in Australia, said his love for surfing drove him to this stunt.
“If I weren’t a professional motorcycle driver,” he said, “I would have pursued a surfing career.”