Earlier this spring, Nick Clarke spent a few months in South Africa riding bikes, filming his Welcome to The Rise video and helping out Matt Macduff with his Loop of Doop Project. As he signed up for this trip, little did he know that he was on board for the craziest journey of his life. His adventure was so inspiring that he had to put it down in words to share it with the world. Check out the Third Part below, and in case you missed them, check out Part 1 and Part 2.
Words by Nick Clarke
Photos by Thomas Sandell, Eric Palmer, Julien Grimard
Since the Garden Route is known for having one of the largest collection of great white sharks, the team tried multiple times to organize a cage dive with the beasts out at sea. Eventually we got our opening on the day of the attempt at 11am. We were told it would be a 2 hour trip so we planned to be back by four for the attempt, but after driving for a couple hours we arrived to learn we were given false information over the phone. What was meant to be 2 hours was in reality 4. With the 2 hour drive each way, this would become a full day adventure which would make us miss Matt’s attempt and that wasn’t an option. We were forced to cancel….plus pay full price in a cancelation fee. Matt was originally supposed to come with us, but after I forgot my passport and we had to turn around, he decided later to sleep instead and get ready for his attempt. Since we booked for 5, we had to pay for 5 which totaled around $850 Canadian with taxes. We didn’t want to tell Matt that we didn’t dive to give him any mixed feelings, so we stalled for the original 2 hours. At least there was a big motorcycle rally going on in Mossel Bay at the time so we had something to do while passing time. After the long unsatisfied drive back we tell Matt “We’ll tell you later man, you won’t believe what happened!” We told him later in the hospital that we didn’t actually get to go and it cost a fortune to say we did.
The Attempt was one of the gnarliest moments of my life. Seeing one of your best friends crash on that scale isn’t easy. It didn’t seem real. We were all fully confident he was going to make it around that loop and that there’s no way he could go too fast at a 40ft loop...boy were we ever wrong! The 70ft roll in with an added 10 ft deep slope into the loop, proved to be too much speed causing Matt to G out into a tidal wave of carnage. Fully committed to speed, Matt was already fully compressed before he got into the loop leaving no room for his body to handle the forces of gravity. This would ultimately be his downfall. Everyone ran over as fast as possible to find Matt laying on his back looking up, his phone in his jacket, and that same Metallica song from that morning playing out loud in his pocket. The lyrics of the song “look to the sky just before you die, it’s the last time you will” came through the speakers and Matt spoke up giving us all a sigh of relief that it was just his ankle and wrist it pain…it was a seriously heavy moment.
While Matt was in the hospital, I made repeated trips back and forth to Cape Town to the airport. The Clio rental was up, and Louis and I had to figure out a way to get Matt back from the hospital to CT. After searching online for the best deal, we found a 4 door Nissan buckkee, at least what we thought was a 4 door. This is where things took a crazy turn…Both Louis and I were running short on funds at this point and in order to get this buckkee, we maxxed out both of our visa cards. We actually had to raise the deposit to lower the cost of the truck to even it out, but we managed to make it happen and got a truck. Originally the plan was to hangout in town for the day with Ryan and the crew, then head back to get Matt, but this trip was freestyle so plans changed of course. Unfortunately Louis and I didn’t plan for this so all we had were the clothes on our backs. Cut off jean shorts, and a sleeveless vest was my choice for this trip, while Louis was smarter and brought a hoody. We had heard about these crazy music festivals called “Trance parties” from a bunch of locals, and that we had to experience one of these before we left. A seemingly innocent girl I was hanging out with there mentioned it one night, and after some convincing we went for it. It was on our way so why not right? We told Matt the idea and he was stoked that we were making it happen. She wanted to surprise her brother that she hasn’t seen in months, and this seemed to be the place to do it. After picking up a shipment of 36 bottles of fine wine from Chris’ mom as a favour outside of town, we hit the road for Vortex Parallel Universe.
Pulling into the venue after driving for a couple hours, we were greeted by a minimum 2 hour line. None of us wanted to sit in a hot car waiting for a long period of time, so I made a phone call from her phone to Justin Novela who was going as well. He rented a farm house down the street from the party so we decided to go have a few drinks there and go back when the line up cooled down a few hours later. This story is a bit to extreme to get right into so long story short, it ended up pouring rain on us while on the dance floor, we had very little clothing, no cell phones on us out of fear of loosing them, and the keys to the truck we needed to get Matt to the airport ended up being stolen by this very girl that I met up with while down there…we got the keys back, but it was one of the craziest adventures I’ve ever been on. Literally! That’s a completely other story though. After this insane night, we had a few hours of driving to get back. Stressed, tired, and looking forward to getting home to relax, we finally get to the house. Through the same sketchy broken window the monkeys broke in, people discovered they could fit through as well and walked away with our go pros, an Ipad, amongst other things. It was a hell of a weekend to say the least…
That same night Louis and I were sitting around the fire talking about how we could safely transport Matt with what we had. Since it was only a 2 seater truck, we had to improvise and lay him down in the bed of the truck under the cap. We took folding couches, all the pillows we could find in the house, and our luggage and stuffed it all in to make matt the most comfortable bed we could for the 6 hour journey to Cape Town. It was dialed, but it was missing a certain something, the disco ball! Since we were given this sweet disco ball we couldn’t let it go to waste, so we attached it right over his head to the roof of the cap on a gopro mount and dubbed it the freestyle ambulance!
I knew the boys were up to something with the Partymaster for a while, and knew that once it got out it was going to be a game changer. The crew had been friends for years, but after everything we had just been through together, it felt more like a family. At the time most of the guys on the team were hurt and couldn’t produce anything to market the frame, so I brought up taking Matt’s frame to Louis. He starts laughing saying “You know it’s supposed to be me telling people when we sponsor them, not the other way around”. After talking it through with the crew back in Montreal, it was official; I would be a new addition to The Rise family! The Rise is a tight family of friends sharing the passion of bike riding with the world, and to be welcomed into their new phase of the brand meant more to me then any of my past sponsorships in my career. I grabbed a can of white spray paint and customized my Partymaster to look like the Canadian winter we were missing here in paradise!
It was a long drive back to CT. We took things slow to make sure Matt had the smoothest ride possible so we made it to Cape Town late in the evening. Halfway through the trip a freak tooth ache kicked in that started driving me crazy. Might have had something to do with all the milkshakes I went through every time we ate lol. I’m not ashamed to say that easily 50 shakes were cleared on this trip. They were simply too good to say no too, and I wasn’t the only one that fell for their allure. I’m sure that I speak for a lot of people when I say the dentist is never a fun experience. Since I’ve built a few offices for dentists with my father for a few years, I know what they charge and was expecting to pay a fortune! Thankfully Brenda set me up with a great local dentist with a “student deal” to quickly address this pain. After a quick check up it turned out I needed a root canal and a specialist. Normally this procedure would cost well over $1500 Canadian, but I got in contact with a specialist and got the procedure done for just $200. I was dancing when I saw the invoice!! It’s safe to say that I’ll be taking care of my teeth in Cape Town from now on. Even working for dentists here in Canada, they’ll let you work for free to make their office look beautiful, but don’t expect them to cut you a deal on that filling…
Now that my tooth was fixed and my new Partymaster was built up, it was time to get to business! We had to wait till a certain time of the day to ride the Potato trails, so Thomas (Crim), Eric (Mr.Shin), Justin, Damion, and I got together at Crim’s local spot “Yabos”. Normally I ride with two shoulder braces due to gnarly dislocation issues, but today I felt like easing into things and that maybe I wouldn’t need them. This would turn out to be a bad decision later on...After getting creative and collecting some solid clips, we moved on to the potatoes! The light was incredible, the wind was down, and the motivation was high! While warming up on the line a few runs in, my bike got away from me on an un-turndown. I went down hard popping out my right shoulder, and tearing off a good chunk of my palm from the razor sharp rocks hidden in the dirt. A nasty scar I’ve named Australia due to its shape. I have been used to my shoulders popping out for a while so I tried everything in my power to get it to go back in, but it wasn’t going easy. After ten minutes of painful failed attempts, I felt it was time to go to the hospital. I grabbed a bottle of water, took a sip, and plunk…it popped in. Life has a funny way of reminding you why you should always wear protection if you have it. Unfortunately we would only get a few clips before the crash putting a wrap on day one of shooting.
Normally I would give my shoulder a minimum two weeks to recover after a dislocation and chill out for a while, but there was too much to do in Cape Town for me to sit on the couch and chill out. I took this as an opportunity to see more of the tourist stuff I neglected while I couldn’t ride. Drift racers Steve “Bagsy” Biagioni, and Jason Webb were in town for the Monster Drift city event, and everyone I have been hanging out was working the event, so I threw on a shirt and went to work with the crew at the event! Large crowds, hot weather, beautiful women and drift cars made for a great recovery. It was cool to see the behind the scenes to an event outside mountain biking and get a feel for an entirely different world! Let’s just say the SA fans love their energy drinks. Things got pretty crazy during product samples as people crowded around the truck pushing it and grabbing at us to get a free can. It was something out of a zombie apocalypse movie. Gnarly!
Stay tuned for the Final Part dropping on Friday!