Twenty year-old motocross rider Alex Harvill knocked over another distance jumping record on Saturday, clearing 297 feet on a dirt-to-dirt jump at the Horn Rapids Motocross Complex in West Richland, Wash. The jump pushed him just past the previous record of 290 feet, set by Ryan Capes in 2010. Harvill also holds the longer ramp-to-dirt distance record after launching 425 feet in May 2012 to blow past Capes' mark of 391 feet.
"The dirt-to-dirt record is actually the harder jump because there are more factors in play," Harvill said. "The bigger jump last year was with a paved runway and a precision-tooled ramp made just for distance jumping. The run-up for this jump was mostly sand, which kept dragging the bike down and making it hard to get to top speed, and the dirt takeoff can be a lot more unpredictable. It took me four attempts to get past Capes' record, and it was awesome having a crowd there giving their energy and support."
Harvill says that while ramp-to-dirt jumps involve bigger air and bigger glory, dirt-to-dirt records are for purists. He says it was important to him to chase down records in both categories.
"Last year's jump was done in private and a lot of people didn't really believe it, even after some of the sequence photos came out," Harvill said. "So this was a great opportunity to prove myself on a more challenging jump in front of some fans."
Both of Harvill's record-setting jumps have been filmed by Jay Schweitzer and Mike McEntire for a long-in-the-making documentary from Powerband Films following the long history of distance jumping, which Schweitzer has been referring to as "The Daredevil Project."
"It's amazing to be working on a film with Jay because I watched all his 'On the Pipe' films growing up," Harvill said. "To have him come out and say, 'Man, that's gnarly' is one of the best compliments I could ever get, because he's been a part of almost everything gnarly that's been done on a dirt bike in my lifetime."
Harvill says he looks up to and has been inspired by many of the riders who will be featured in the film, including Capes and Robbie Maddison, but also tries to be honest with himself about the risks involved in the pursuit of following them. Most of those riders he admires have long lists of career injuries to go with their more notable achievements, and Harvill says he was rattled by the death of Tyrone Gilks, 19, in March. Gilks died in Australia while practicing for an attempt at the 250cc ramp-to-dirt record.
"If you're not prepared to die, you're not prepared to live," Harvill said. "Tyrone was definitely on my mind in the lead-up to this jump, and in this sport you always have to accept that possibility that the worst could happen. You try to make every jump as safe as possible and make the best decisions, but that risk is always there."
Harvill had hoped to jump more than 300 feet on Saturday, but says that given the conditions it was enough to beat the record, on his fourth attempt, and call it a day.
Next up? Harvill's got several big motocross races coming up on his local Washington circuit, then has his eye on a bigger stage. "Let's just say I'd like to jump something really big, maybe in Vegas, and put on a great show," Harvill said.