Kai Mukai, 19
Sponsors: MX/ATV, Moto USA, EKS Brand Goggles, Function Clothing, RXR Protect MX, the Barrett Family and my mom and dad.
Most of us as dirt bike riders are fortunate enough to live in Southern California because this is the heart of the industry. People from all over the country move to sunny So-Cal in hopes of bettering their chances of becoming professional motocross racers, and the same goes for Kai Mukai and his family. However, Mukai's situation is just a little different. The Hawaiian native would actually fly out to California on the weekends to race on a bike that he had purchased and stored at a friends house. Once he was done racing for the weekend, he would then hop back onto a plane and fly home to Hawaii in time to attend school during the week. It's that kind of dedication that's turning Mukai into one of So-Cal's fastest amateur racers, so keep an eye out for the young Hawaiian as he prepares to take the next step towards professional racing.
So how long have you been riding?
I've been riding for about 13 years, now and I started racing when I was eight years old. I recently moved to California about a year and a half ago, and I'm trying to make it to the professional level. I moved out here simply because I'm now so much closer to the the rest of the industry and the racetracks.
You're from Hawaii and that's where you just moved from, too. Is motocross a big thing over in Hawaii?
No, not at all (laughs). That's why I made the decision to move over here.
So you're one of a kind, then?
No, not entirely. There’s definitely some talent in Hawaii, but in order to turn this into a career you almost have to move to California. Hawaii’s motocross scene isn’t nearly as big as it is in California.
Since motocross is a rare thing in Hawaii, what ultimately sparked your interest in the sport?
I actually saw it on TV for the first time. Call it love at first sight (laughs). I think it was even James Stewart, so ever since then I've been a huge Stewart fan.
When you were still living in Hawaii, how would you go about racing here in California?
Yeah, when I was living in Hawaii, I'd fly out here on the weekends to go racing. Basically, I met some guys that lived here in CA and they told me that I could live with them or come out whenever I wanted to, so I bought a bike and left it here during the week. That was when I was still in high school so I'd obviously have to go to school during the week. My mom ended up getting a job with Hawaiian Airlines, so she'd let me use all of her airline miles to fly to and from CA. I'd fly out for here to race on the weekends and fly back home for school during the week.
When you started racing, did you jump into it head-first or was it something that you gradually grew into?
It was definitely slow in the beginning. It was more for the fun of it as opposed to looking at it as my job. However, it didn't take long before I was a full-time racer. I just couldn't stop doing it.
Were you into any other sports when you were younger, and then completely drop it once you got into motocross?
Yeah, I used to play T-Ball when I was a little kid. Like I said, I saw moto on TV and told my dad that I wanted a dirt bike and he said that if I hit a home run he'd buy me a bike. So I think it was the last game of the season and I was first up to bat. I swung as hard as I could, ran as fast as I could and I didn't stop till I made it to home plate (laughs). I didn't quite hit the ball out of the park, but I still got a home run. I called my dad after the game and said, "Dad, you owe me a bike!" (laughs). We went out a few days later and he bought me a LEM 50. Ever since then, I just couldn't stop riding.
Do you have any goals set for yourself to accomplish by the end of the year now that you ride in the A class?
I don't really have plans for the rest of this year except for riding as much as I can and racing whenever I can. For next year, though, I'll be attending the Road To Supercross races to get my points for Supercross. I might hit a few outdoor Nationals or something, but my first goal is to obtain those points for SX.
Being that you're a full-time racer looking to turn this into a career one day, do you have a riding coach or training regimen to keep yourself in shape?
Yeah, I do. Sometimes I train with Jay from Galaxy Fitness. We'll work together sometimes four or five days a week with rest days in between and then I do my normal riding during the week for practice.
You attend the TWMXRS pretty regularly. What is it about this series that you like?
I like it because there's always a good turnout of fast guys and the people that put the race on do a really good job. The days aren't super long and it's just a good time to be out here.