2018 NITRO WORLD GAMES | COMPLETE COVERAGE

IMAGES | TATE-NITRO CIRCUS

We’ve made the trip to Utah for the 2018 Nitro World Games, the third running of the action sports event organized by the Nitro Circus. The event has progressed and changed in just a few short years, including a move from downtown Salt Lake City to the nearby Utah Motorsports Campus (formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park) to allow for the new Nitro Rallycross competition. But because this is a Nitro Circus event, freestyle motocross remains a critical feature and this year’s schedule includes FMX Best Trick and FMX Quarterpipe, two of the most specialized formats in FMX. Two of the heavy favorites for the top spot in the FMX Quarterpipe competition are Colby Raha and Axell Hodges, riders that have both won the X Games. We had a few moments with both riders to learn about their plans for Sunday’s competition, which will air live and for free on the TransWorld Motocross Facebook page.

2018 Nitro World Games | FMX Broadcast Schedule | Sunday September 23rd

FMX BEST TRICK FINALS | 2 PM EST/11 AM PST
FMX QUARTERPIPE FINALS | 7 PM EST/4 PM PST

AXELL HODGES | FMX QUARTERPIPE

You've really excelled at quarterpipe. How did you start hitting these ramps?

A couple of years ago at Pala Raceway they had a thirteen-footer set up there, so I started on the smaller one there and then went to the eighteen-foot jump because I knew X Games was coming up and they had the ramp at Monster Energy Cup. I didn't think I was going to be a huge quarterpipe rider, just because I'm little and was scared terrified of it, but I started hitting it and going bigger ever since. I just try to keep it fun.

It works with your riding style because it's super technical. What's your technique to hit one? It seems like you don't go very fast but there is some timing.

Everyone hits it differently. I sometimes go into it too fast and that pushes me through the ramp and that's when I knuckle it on top of the landing. The last couple of days I've been going slower up to it and then hit the gas harder at the bottom to pop me out more. When I go up I drop my butt off the back of the bike and look over my shoulder. By doing that it whips the bike. It's like doing a big whip off of a steep jump at Ocotillo.

When you are in the air, is there much that you can do?

It depends. Sometimes I come off too hard and I feel the bike over whip, which gets kind of scary. I like to go up, lean over the bike, and stall it out so it won't over whip. When coming to land I turn it back as straight as I can.

With you being a BMX rider, are there a lot of similarities?

Kind of, but as soon as you start hitting it big it becomes different. Learning the concept of it, BMX definitely helped.

This one is much different than the one that was used at X Games, which was a regular ramp to dirt landing. How do they compare?

This one is twenty-seven feet tall to the knuckle, so you have a lot more time going up. With the eighteen foot jump, you hit the tranny and preload really quick, but with this one you wait a little longer and tug up. You have a lot more time to think about it.

You and Colby are two of the favorites here. Things have gone back and forth between you two over the last few years. Is this an intense rivalry or is it not a big deal?

I know people saw all of that stuff on social media a couple of years ago but I never had a problem or said anything. We're all good now, riding out here and having fun together, just want to have fun and push each other to put on a good show for the fans. I say that me, Colby, and Creed are the guys to watch this weekend. We're in the same range and I don't know how they'll judge it, because I kind of whip it more and my head is lower. So I don't know if that will affect me on my total height, but I just want to have fun with these dudes.

What's the rest of the year look like for you?

After this I'm going to Monster Energy Cup for the Best Whip competition that they will have there with the 120-foot ramp for the first time. That should be interesting [Laughs]. After that I will go to Australia for the Australian X Games for Best Whip and Quarterpipe, will take November off, and then I have a show in Italy at the Turin Supercross in December.

COLBY RAHA | FMX QUARTERPIPE

When was the first time that you hit a quarterpipe?

It was at the Metal Mulisha compound in Larry Linkogle's backyard. I met Larry out in the hills a couple of times and he reached out to me on Instagram and told me to come ride at the yard. I asked if I could hit the quarterpipe because I saw the High Rollers contest that was happening at Monster Energy Cup and wanted to get in. I started riding it and within a few days I was going really high off of it, probably in the twenty-foot area. When the Nitro Circus quarterpipe got setup, no one knew who I was outside of the riders, so no one at X Games knew me. I went to the Nitro Circus ramp in Perris before the X Games and did well, higher than the guys that were there that day. I think that impressed the guys at the X Games because right after that I got an X Games invitation, which was a dream come true. I never thought I would get into that. After that, I started riding the ramp a bunch at Larry's and I showed up ready at X Games. Axell got hurt before that one and wasn't able to ride, so we didn't know who was going to go higher.

You and Axell are two of the favorites here. Things have gone back and forth between you two over the last few years. Is this an intense rivalry or is it not a big deal?

All year there was a lot of stuff on Instagram, a lot of hype and stuff. It was fun and funny but it got out of hand. We don't really have beef with each other. If anything it was the crew at Mulisha, which is my crew, and then his crew were beefing. I get all of the flack because I'm the one riding. I've never said anything bad, but it's whatever it is. Axell impressed me at X Games, he was going really big and we were really close. He ended up taking the win and props to him, I gave him props then. I know how gnarly it is to go this big and he's going just as high, we are neck and neck. He's a gnarly guy that rides well. I'm just stoked to be in the X Games and Nitro World Games, riding where I am. I don't like getting beat by the kid but it's competition and it is what it is. We all want to win and there is a lot on the line.

This one is much different than the one that was used at X Games, which was a regular ramp to dirt landing. How do they compare?

You have to adapt your riding style. I guess you could relate it to riding a BMX quarterpipe. If it's a small quarter, your technique is snappier and quicker and the timing is more precise. But on the bigger ramp, you float off of the top and the technique is slower but you go a lot higher. It's insane and this is the most fun ramp that I have ridden.

Axell goes in slow and hammers the throttle hard off of the lip, but I carry quite a bit more speed going in and coast off the top. I tried going slower at it and then hammering it at the top, because at X Games we had to do that or else we would case, but I like going into it faster.

For a kid that grew up in the Inland Empire and saw all of the guys riding in the Mulisha and Crusty videos, this has to be the coolest shit ever.

It really is. I'm blessed and grateful to be here. To think I would be considered in the top bracket of a category at X Games or something, you always dream about that as a kid and work hard at it, but you don't know if it's ever going to work out. I'm grateful to be where I'm at and will keep working to see where I can take it.

Everyone at this event has a different program because some will go on tour with Nitro Circus, others will do demos and competitions. What will you do for the rest of the year to make a living?

I talked to Dirt Shark and I think I'm in for Monster Energy Cup Best Whip. I keep it fun and I ride a bunch, but when it's crunch time I get ready for competitions and buckle down. A lot more competitions have come up, like Monster Cup and then the Australia X Games that are in October. Companies like Brass Knuckles are the big sponsors that keep me fed. I'm working with Fox and SHIFT and I want to do well so we can see where it goes. I'm on the Mulisha program and those guys are like my brothers.