(Editor's note: The author of this story was also a judge at last month's Monster Energy Cup Biggest Whip competition. He is not related to Tom Parsons).
Although Tom Parsons is far from an unknown in FMX and motocross circles, he hasn't broken through to the mainstream X Games audience just yet. That may all have changed on Oct. 19, when Parsons won the Monster Energy Cup Biggest Whip competition in Las Vegas.
I was lucky enough to be at the event as one of the judges. Parsons, who was born in California but now calls Florida home, threw down one of the biggest whips any of us had ever seen. When judging a whip, I look at the jump from takeoff to landing and ask three questions: Who got the most upside down? Who held the upside down portion of the jump the longest? And, in this case, who went the biggest?
Parsons, the hands-down winner in our book, took a little time out from freeriding in Ocotillo Wells, Calif., hitting ramps with X Games legend Ronnie Renner and walking the Moto 5 red carpet to talk about his big win, what's next and his personal goal to compete in the X Games one day.
XGames.com: How long have you been riding?
Parsons: I was born in Mission Viejo, Calif. I lived there until I was about 12 and then moved back to Florida, to a town right outside of Gainesville. I didn't start riding till after I moved out to Florida, so it was around 12 years old.
Did you race?
I started racing when I was 12, but before that I rode my four wheeler around before I realized that dirt bikes were way cooler.
Do you do any freestyle at all or just whips?
Yeah, I kind of do a bunch of different things to fill out my years. I do select supercross races in the beginning of the year and in summer and fall, I switch over and do either some freeriding with Renner and I'll do FMX demos back out on the east coast - I have a few tricks (besides the whip).
Around what time did people start really taking notice to your whips?
I've always been a whipper. I always threw whips while growing up racing through the ranks. It was something that I liked to do and so I started practicing doing it opposite ways and turn downs and different stuff with whips. It was probably about three years ago I felt like I was to the point where I could compete with everyone else and people were taking notice and commenting on how big they where (whips).
Have you ever tried to get into X Games for whip?
Yeah, I tried to get into X Games for the last three years but it's a hard one to crack into. I was either late to sending in my invite request or just got shut down. I feel like the first year I tried, I may have not been able to win but it still didn't stop me from trying to get in.
So how did you get into the Dirt Shark whip?
They actually sent out all the invites, but I didn't get one and I assumed I missed out again. But then a friend had reached out to them for me without me knowing and I guess they had one spot they needed to fill and they gave it to me.
Was that the first time you were front and center on the stage?
Yeah, it was the first time being center stage I guess. I raced SX for a lot of years, so I've been in front of big crowds, but that was the first time I was on the stage in that aspect with only the seven of us out there competing.
Did you feel you had a chance to win?
You know I felt like if I went in and had a good day, and my whips were 100 percent, I'd have a chance. When you get there, you're not sure if the ramp is going to throw you good or if you'll be feeling your biggest whips. But I knew I'd do well and tried not to think too much about it.
What did it feel like after you found out you won?
It's hard to remember now because I was in shock but the moments leading up to that they told Twitch (Jeremy Stenberg) to head up to the podium and I was just sitting there and then they told me to follow him up. And when I started to pull in by the podium I asked the guy with the headset on: did I just win? And he was like, "yeah, you just won!"
Are you spending some extra time in California now?
Yeah, I'm going to try and stay the month of November. Whenever I come out this way I try to make it a full trip. I like to do as much freeriding as I can. Ronnie Renner is a good friend of mine and I like to do a lot of riding with him. So we'll see, I'd like to stay out here for as long as I can this month.
You also have a part in "Moto 5", how was the premiere in Encinitas?
We did a part at my house in Florida. I have my own compound and it was Jimmy Decotis, Scott Spinney and myself. The Moto 5 guys came out and did some filming with us. We hucked some ramps and some dirt hits I have here at my house, so they came out and did a part with the three of us.
Well it looks like you have some momentum going now.
Yeah, I thought I had a pretty good year last year but this is a whole completely different deal now after winning the Dirt Shark Biggest Whip Contest. When I got into Moto 5, that was already a huge thing for me, so for me to have both these two events happen for me here at the end of the year is good.