Hitting ramps on a freestyle course all day has never been a bad thing, but anyone who rides instinctively waits for rainstorms to come and transform the areas where they freeride from dust bowls to hard-packed terrain parks. This is especially true in Southern California, where many of the best freestyle riders happen to live, and where rain is a seasonal event.
Traditionally, the rain doesn't start falling here until November or December, and some years riders wait until January for a major storm. When it finally does come down, it needs to come down heavy to soak through the layers of dry, crusty clay and make it good for riding. But this year, the locals were in luck, as the first storm of the season hit hard in late October.
As soon as the forecasters even hinted at the possibility of rain, phones began blowing up, text messages flew, and plans were made to capitalize. When over an inch of rain doused the hills of the 909 area code, Dan Pastor made the call: Reche Canyon.
Located just outside of Riverside, Calif. in the small town of Colton, Reche has hosted some of the most legendary freeride sessions in the history of the FMX. It was the the cauldron that spawned the "Crusty Demons Of Dirt" video series and remains a fixture of today's "On The Pipe" movies.
When we pulled up to the canyon, Pastor and his crew were already armed with shovels, busy scraping away at every lip and landing in sight. There was even some heavy equipment in the mix, helping to give the mostly natural terrain jumps some even better kicks and transitions.
Joining Pastor was 19-year-old ripper Jarryd McNeil, fresh off his Best Whip contest win from the Dew Tour Championship. The 120-pound rider from Yarrawonga, Australia is on a major come-up right now: besides the Dew Tour win, he took home a silver in the same event at X Games this past summer.
"I'm in the States for a little longer than I first thought I'd be, maybe another month or so, so I've been trying to hit as many of the spots out here [in Southern California] as I can. I've always heard of Reche Canyon and seen all the footage and photos from here since I was a little kid, so it's a real treat to be out here finally, especially with the wet dirt," said McNeil.
McNeil was the first to rip into the dark soil, hucking the notorious Reche Canyon step-up with ease on his first attempt. Pastor got his two revving right after, and within minutes the pair were destroying the hit. The canyon was alive with locals, all doing their own thing with the wet dirt, shaping massive hits, including a massive double jump being built with a tractor just 100 yards away.
"Man, it's literally been months since I've ridden," said Pastor, who spends his summers paddling into waves across the world while waiting for the rainy season. "The summers around here [in Southern California] are really not even worth riding in. It's usually over 100 degrees, the dirt gets so hard and dry, and the lips blow out with just a couple jumps, so I'm pretty much over it as this point in my career. I just wait for days like this. If rain is in the forecast, I drop everything, dust off my bike, air up the tires, and head out to the hills."