On May 12, 19-year-old motocross racer Alex Harvill blasted past Robbie Maddison's 392-foot motocross distance jump record and Ryan Capes' previous 391-foot mark -- as well as snowmobile rider Levi LaVallee's 412-foot record -- while filming at Steve Eilers' Toes MX Park in Royal City, Wash., pushing the new distance mark to an astounding 425 feet. Then he managed an even more incredible feat: keeping the jump a secret until now.
"I've been racing on and off my whole life, but this really did come out of nowhere," Harvill said. "It's been an awfully big secret to be sitting on."
The first published photos of Harvill's jump hit stands this week in the September/October issue of the Australian magazine Freerider MX, and footage shot by Jay Schweitzer of Powerband Films and Mike McEntire of Mack Dawg Productions will be featured in their six-years-in-the-making distance jump documentary (code name: "The Daredevil Project") due out in 2013. Because Harvill is a mostly unknown rider without support from major sponsors, Eilers and Schweitzer urged him to hold out for a big reveal.
"When you see somebody with that much talent and bike control and confidence, it's hard not to get behind him and give him all the support you can to help him meet his potential," Eilers told ESPN.com.
Eilers and his friend Derek McEntire provided the bike and helped set up the ramp and landing for Harvill, a family friend who grew up riding with Eilers' nephew. "If we hadn't had a headwind that day and he could have hit his top speed of about 108 mph, I think he probably could have jumped at least 460 to 470 feet with the setup we have now. To get to 500 is going to take some work, but that's where he wants to take it."
Eilers, who had served as host for several of Capes' world-record jumps, recently had a Boeing engineer help him design a patented new takeoff ramp for a big jump of his own he'd been planning. Harvill first started messing around on the ramp in February while he was training for this year's race season, reaching as far as 266 feet before Eilers suggested calling in Schweitzer and McEntire to document any bigger jumps properly. According to Freerider MX magazine, Eilers had a survey crew measure the jump distance accurately.
"Alex has put himself into the ranks of Robbie Maddison, Ryan Capes, and Jason 'Bird' [Sinkpiel] in his first attempts at distance jumping, and filming Alex when he went 425 feet was surreal," McEntire said. "He did not even do a speed run! Got on the bike first thing in the morning, turned the corner, and pointed it with his throttle pinned … He wanted to keep jumping but Toes, Jay, Derek and I had to convince him to wait until the world got this news before he went for another record."
Schweitzer -- best known for his ongoing series of "On the Pipe" FMX films as well as this year's Metal Mulisha film "Black Friday" and the freeride film "Twitch's 420% All Natural" -- said he sees Harvill as the future of distance jumping.
"Alex had a 354-foot clear gap, which is the largest ramp gap in history, and that was probably the gnarliest, scariest thing I had ever witnessed, let alone put my eye behind the lens and film," Schweitzer said. "Now they've got some top-secret bike with a crazy motor they've been working on. … I think we'll see him go far past 500 in the next few years."Be sure to check out this interview with Alex Harvill for another in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the set up for this record-breaking jump.