It’s easy to believe Robbie ‘Maddo’ Maddison is a bit of a nutcase, hell, Robbie has probably believed it himself in the past. After all, this is a guy who’s jumped 30 metres onto a 10-storey high replica of the Arc de Triomphe and holds three world records for jumps. He is Australia’s very own Evel Kneivel.
But although he does insane things on a motorbike, risking life and limb for our entertainment, Robbie Maddison is far from nuts. He’s smart, calculated and unbelievably dedicated to his sport.
“A lot of people say, ‘this guy must be crazy,’ but you really can’t be. It’s all well and good to go out there, take a risk and beat the odds, but honestly, to make a job of it and be the guy who’s expected to do that all the time, you’ve got to understand that it’s a risky game,” says Robbie.
It’s been a fast, exhilarating and brutal few years for this motocross rider from Kiama, who went from being a Port Kembla electrician to international superstar in just five years. Undefeated as the King Of The Coast champion, Robbie went on to win the Planet-X Summer Games gold medal in 2004. The next year, he turned his destructive powers to breaking world records, starting by jumping a 125cc bike a massive 221 feet (67 metres). Days later, Robbie stopped the blood of thousands of fans when he soared 246 feet (75 metres) on his Honda CR250cc while doing a “heart attack”. He still holds the record for the longest jump with a trick.
On New Years Eve 2007, it was a more famous, more focused Robbie Maddison who took a deep breath, brought his Honda CR 500 up to 150km/h and jumped into the record books again at the first ever Red Bull Experiment. As the ball fell in Times Square, Robbie cleared the length of a football field (and then some), beating the previous record of 277 feet to make it 322 feet, 7½ inches (98 metres). Robbie dedicated the record to Evel Kneivel, wishing his hero were there to see that jumping a football field could – and now had – been done.
If you think that’d be enough for the Aussie daredevil, then you don’t know Robbie Maddison. Just months after his amazing feat in Las Vegas, he went on to break his own world record not once, but twice, on the Crusty Demons Night of World Records in Melbourne. Robbie’s record now stands at 351 feet (107 metres) and it’s something he’s keen to defend.
“There are a couple of guys out there challenging for that record and I want to go out and set the benchmark higher again,” he says.
For New Year’s 2008/9, Robbie reached even greater heights, performing another hugely dangerous stunt at a time when most people are singing Auld Lang Syne. He leaped 30 metres onto the replica Arc de Triomphe outside the Paris Las Vegas casino hotel, then plunged off the monument, lacerating his hand, but landing perfectly to the fevered adulation of the 300,000-strong crowd.
As impressive as these feats are, Robbie is not just a stuntman. Now based in the US, where freestyle motocross (FMX) is a hugely popular sport, he has proved himself again and again in FMX competition. Robbie went into the 2009 Redbull-X-Fighters series with a strict game plan – “I came into this year with a whole new work ethic on training hard and riding hard. I knew I could ride at the level needed to win,” he says.
After missing out on the first round, he rode into Calgary, Canada, “all guns blazing” and won the stop. Tragedy struck in the third round in Texas, when Robbie landed a trick hard and dislocated his shoulder. Amazingly, after such a serious injury, Robbie popped his shoulder back into place and went on to wow the crowd with another run. “You already know you’re out of the event when your shoulder’s dislocated, but I wanted to show the crowd what I had,” says Robbie. “I couldn’t believe what I’d worked for so hard was torn away from me so quickly.”
Robbie finished the round fifth, but managed to pull in some respectable scores for the remainder of the series to finish second place overall. “I learned a lot. The Redbull-X-Fighters is such a great championship, it’s got exotic locations, the best riders, the best FMX courses to date. Everyone involved is the best at what they do – hopefully, next year I can come out and win the thing!”
Despite his injured shoulder – and Robbie has more scars than a crash-test dummy – he managed to pull off another awe-inspiring jump in July. With London’s iconic Tower Bridge open for river traffic, Robbie flew from one side to the other across a 7.5-metre gap – with a no-handed backflip thrown in.
Robbie makes it look so easy, but a lot of hard work goes into these stunts. “On the night, people get to see a gnarly jump and a benchmark set in the sport, but the lead-up to that jump is involved and takes a lot of training and dealing with fear,” he says, adding that the fear is a huge factor in preparing his mind for these feats.
“You get yourself to a point you never thought possible by taking it in increments and having the guts to play with the fear, to keep challenging yourself,” he says.
Robbie is inspired by people who achieve great things – “People who set out to do something, to go out there and be better than everybody else.” He counts Michael Schumacher, Valentino Rossi, Thorpie, Kelly Slater and Ricky Carmichael as heroes, and of course Evel Kneivel.
“It’s cool that people make the connection, calling me Australia’s Evel Kneivel, it’s good to have recognition on a world level. But I do want people to realise that I’m different – I’m Robbie Maddison.”
So only one question remains –why does he do it? Is it the fame and the glory? The hotels and hot spots? It’s certainly not the chicks and parties, as Robbie likes to keep his head screwed on, and always has fiancée Amy by his side.
“Riding a bike is an escape for me,” he says. “But I get my biggest buzz from the crowd. When you’re going into a trick and the crowd’s behind you and you’re on fire, it’s amazing. The crowd is what makes it and Red Bull does a great job of attracting a big one. When you’ve got 300,000 screaming fans, it’s a pretty good excuse to go for it.”