Armed with all sorts of trick artillery ammunition and in search of precious metal, Axell Hodges prepares to take to the heavens above Austin, Texas this week as part of the 2016 Summer X Games. The X Games air traffic control folks have the 19 year-old Californian set for takeoff in: Moto X Step Up (Thursday night) and Moto X Best Whip (Sunday afternoon). A stylish, aggressive young rider who seems most comfortable way up in the air (and we mean WAY up in the air), Hodges has made a name for himself via the social media airwaves, as well as a host of video shoots and special guest appearances at high profile FMX and Best Whip contests, the most notable being his impressive runner-up finish to Big Whip ace Jarryd McNeil last fall at the Monster Energy Cup Dirt Shark Biggest Whip contest in Las Vegas. In Texas to participate in his first X Games, the friendly, happy go lucky Hodges talked about being down on the upside in the Lone Star state and preparing to Step Up and Whip It good.
By | Eric Johnson/Monster Energy
Axell, before we get rolling here, can you quickly take us through your background as a motocross rider/competitor?
For sure. Growing up as a kid, I started riding when I was five, but then I broke my leg and that put an end to things for a while. By the time I was age ten, I started making videos with my buddies. I started amateur racing in the C class when I was fourteen. I worked my way through the amateur ranks in motocross and from going to Loretta Lynn's every year. After that, I just kind of realized that it's really hard to be on top of that sport. I mean you have to put your all into it, and I've been trying to keep it fun. I've always been making videos and led into the recent film The Doonies and I think that helped me a lot. That video got me a lot of play. And Best Whip, I've always been whipping the bike. I've just been working at that and making videos and trying to go big for the fans.
So what's going on with you here Austin, Texas?
Everything looks really good here and I can't wait to ride tonight. I just hope it doesn't rain.
This is your first X Games, correct?
Yeah, this is my first X Games.
Word off the moto mean streets of Southern California is that you got the 2016 Summer X Games invite via your excellent performance in the Monster Energy Cup Dirt Shark Biggest Whip contest last October. I was a judge at that deal and, man alive, the whips you executed, and with the style in which you executed them with, was something to behold. Thoughts?
Yeah, I got second in that one and I think that result helped me out a lot.
If memory serves correct, the only dude who had you covered that day in Las Vegas was that Big Whipping fool Jarryd McNeil, right?
Yeah, McNeil, he has a big whip.
Can you take him down out at the Circuit of the Americas come Sunday afternoon?
Yeah, I think I can get out there and get pumping with the crowd and I think I can toss it upside down. I've been hitting the ramps a lot, so, yeah, I feel comfortable. I think I can do it.
How would you describe your whip style as opposed to McNeil's?
Yeah, well, I've got two styles of whips. One is what they call a turn-up, and that's where I throw the front end of the bike up. That kind of came from the hills and I watched guys like [Josh] Hansen do them while I was growing up. I just kind of made my own style of it. I just kind of throw out the bike when I jump and then it just comes down in a turn-down. That's kind of a unique way to do it and that's what got me second in Vegas. Then I have the standard moto whip. McNeil, I think he just knows how to scoop it more – he gets the bike more invented. I've been racing my whole life so I'm just used to tossing it and getting more backwards. I've been working on trying to get the bike more scooped and more upside down and backwards. Hopefully, I'll just come out with a better, more stylish overall whip and take this thing home.
Who will you be up against in Moto X Best Whip?
In Whip I'll be up against Jarryd McNeil, Brett Cue, Tom Parson, Nate Adams, Edgar Torrontaras and Josh Sheehan. I'm not sure of all the riders, but there is some good competition in there.
Moto X Step Up is tonight, Thursday night. What do you make of Step Up? It's a very specialized from of Moto X competition, isn't it?
I think it's very unique. You don't really see it that much. I mean you see it when you come to X Games. It's pretty scary when you first start doing it. You're starring at that wall of dirt and it's straight up. I mean it's brutal. To be able to practice on that thing all the time, you take a beating. It's pretty hard. I'm just going to go in there with what I have. I feel pretty comfortable. I've had a Step Up set-up at my house and I'm just ready to go down there and give it my all and see if I can take [Ronnie] Renner down because he seems to be the king of it so far.
Technically speaking, have you had to anything special to your motorcycle to have it dialed-in for Step Up?
Well, we kind of tried to lower the forks a little bit and then bring in the chain and get it as tight as we can to get the tire up and make the bike a little shorter.
Can you win Step Up? Do you think you can knock Renner of his throne?
Yeah, I've been practicing for that. Renner knows how to whip the bike over the bar and I think that'll be pretty crucial. We'll have two hours of practice before the event, so I think I can take him down. I just have to use my practice time here in Austin wisely and figure out how Renner gets over the bar so easily.
Would you take any medal at Step Up or do you really want that hunk of Gold?
I really want a Gold, but if it comes down to just getting a medal, I'd be really stoked to just at least get a medal in that thing. My first year coming into it and those other guys having experience, I'd be psyched.
Okay, my friend. In closing, what do you want the X Games to be for you during the next four days? I know you want to win and achieve things here in Austin, but this event can sort of open you up to an entirely new, and much bigger audience, can't it?
Yeah, this can definitely get my name out there other than my name just being on Instagram. Instagram definitely helped me out with followers, but the X Games can help me get a bigger fan base and that would be a huge part of my career.
Before you start heading over to the Step Up area for tonight's event, do you want to give a shout-out to the people who have helped get you here? You're new to this whole X Games thing, but I can tell you and your guys have worked hard to put this entire effort together.
Yeah, for sure. My guy Cody Barbee put together all my bikes. He's been in the garage for two weeks straight and hasn't left. He's been putting his head down and making sure all my stuff is ready. And then my dad, he's been on top of all of it and just going nuts. He's a definitely a big help. And my brother Ash who has been helping me and we've just always been filming lately trying to get the best footage for the Real Moto 2016 video deal that will be going down as part of these X Games. I can't divulge much about that now, but it's going to be really cool.