Robbie "Maddo" Maddison

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Story & Photos by Holtzy
This story and interview was recorded by me in Temecula, California a couple of years ago when I spent a few weeks living with Maddo and his then fiancee Amy as they battled hard to crack the US market. At that stage Maddo was in the early stages of preparing for his first crack at the world record distance jump and was still relatively unknown to anyone but hardcore FMX riders. Since then he's gone on to break the world record longest distance jump several times (including 378ft in practice which is the unofficial world record) plus backflipping the river Thames in England and of couse his amazing step up and step down jump on the exact replica of the Arc de Triumph in France.
Maddo is the modern day Evil Knievel. He is a classic Aussie Underground Legend gone huge and a damn fine human being. Legend is too small a word to describe what this man has achieved.

Robbie "Maddo" Maddison is Australia's best FMX rider and the first Australian to have a significant impact on the world stage. He 's a bloody legend and one of the toughest characters you could ever meet. Holder of two World Records ( longest jump on a 125cc bike and longest jump with a trick) his list of injuries is beyond comprehension to most mortals. Words cant fully describe the talent, dedication and sheer balls Maddo has and in my eyes he's a true Aussie hero. Recently Freerider MX magazine published my story based on this interview but I had to cut far too much of his incredible life story to date out for my liking so here's the full unedited interview for your enjoyment. It was conducted in Maddo's new hometown of Temecula, California late 2006 during the last bit of filming for Homegrown Maniacs 4: The Curves Of Mother Nature.

HGM: So tell us a bit about your background.

Maddo: I'm 25 yrs old from Kiama Australia. Down on the south coast. I was born in 1981 in Sydney. Started riding dirt bikes at 4 yrs old, started racing motocross at 6 years old. I grew up banging bars with guys like Chad Reed and Aaron Gobert, Jay Marmont, Luke Urek, Dayne Kinnaird. There's a bunch of us grommets who grew up racing together that have made an impact on the sport. So it's kind of good now that we are all older to look back on those days. Here I am living in Temecula, California. Living the dream so to speak. It's been a lot of hard work but some of it is paying off. It's been a tough year this year but now I'm starting to get some international recognition. I'm starting to make some money out of the sport which is the goal I set myself four or five years ago. So it's good now to sit in the back of my truck with my bike in the back and have a roof over my head and know that next week I'm not going to be struggling for some coin so things are going well.

HGM: Tell us the story behind why you wanted to come to America?

Maddo: I decided to come to America half way last year. The start of my freestyle career was so scattered. I had so many ups and downs. There was times I thought I was succeeding and times when the media and internet really messed with me because I put a lot of emphasis into what other people thought and it wasn't until I realised that it doesn't really matter what other people think. Well it does but not to me. I've been through so much, I've been nearly killed before a few times and I'm just thankful that I'm here now. I've met a great girl who has really changed my life and once I met her things just started falling into place and I got some clarity and understanding and I wasn't just searching for myself anymore. I found myself and got happy within and it's just crazy what that does to a human being. For a long time there I was Just a lost soul, I didn't know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, I didn't know who my friends were but all that time without mew even knowing I was learning key stuff that now where I am it's really helping me out. I understand stuff and I make decisions based on what I have been through so I don't regret anything at all that has happened to me. A lot of it's been tough. People think here I am living it easy in America well it's so far from the truth you know. I have paid my dues. I've done my apprenticeship, I've had close friends to me die, I've had family struggles you know and if it wasn't for my great family and some key friends in my life there's not a chance I would be here right now. I guess growing up is all part of it and it's true the older you get the wiser you get. Now I'm here the hard work we put in is really starting to pay off. Now that I have my girlfriend to support me it's defiantly made coming here a lot easier. Coming to America is a tough job. It's not just coming out here and riding it's all the other things like getting a social security number, getting bank accounts, getting from A to B and getting to know everyone. It's never ending. It's good to be here but I defiantly miss Australia.. I cant wait to get back home but I've got to make the most of it while I can. So her I am living next door to "The Destroyer" Nate Adams.

HGM: So take us through some of the hard things about being in America

Maddo: It's been tough coming here to America. First of all when I landed I didn't know anyone. I knew of people and people knew of me. I was part of the Metal Mulisha which has been a good thing. The Mulisha have been the backbone to a lot of good things that have happened to me here this year. They've been just that bit more than friends , they have helped me out. If it wasn't for the guys like Twitch, Faisst, Deegan and even Larry Linkogle. I've dropped into a super competitive scene. I'm friends with guys that hate each other and that's hard. Then there's been a bunch of stuff that's happened in the middle of all this just to throw a spanner in the works like a couple of weeks ago someone burnt my truck out. They decided to come up here into this peaceful little wine country, to this little shack here I have amongst the grapes and set fire to my old truck. It kind of really hurt. It hurt me financially and wrecked some plans I had with Holtzy to film a killer movie and it also burnt my spirit. You know here I am competing at the highest level and the tension is already there. I'm doing my best to keep it all level and for something like that to happen it just really stuffs you up because you haven't got your mom or dad, brother or best friend to run you around and help you out. It was a definite struggle we went through but it's all panned out, we got our insurance and I got a new truck and only had to spend a few more grand to upgrade so I'm pumped. It's tough someone comes in in the middle of the night, invades your personal space and sets fire to your truck. It's scary. Sometimes my girlfriend is here alone while I dart off to Europe for the weekend so I couldn't live here. So not only did my truck burn down but we had to go hire a car and then move out and start the whole mission again

HGM: So What Happened the Night The Truck Burned down?

Maddo: The night my truck burned down I was asleep. I had been awake all night and I guess now that I look back there was something in my head. It was weird like normally I go to bed about 9 or 10 oclock and here I was 1am and we are up watching a movie and then I go to sleep and Amy is restless. She kind of knew subconsciously that something was going on. Then 2.30 she shakes me and says "Robbie someone's outside the house. I can hear voices" and I kind of woke up going "Nah nah your tripping because a few times we here noises outside from the squirrels and rabbits running around, sprinklers coming on and rattlesnakes and stuff. Then my car alarm goes off so I recognise that and open the door in my underwear and heres my car just totally engulfed in flames with flames just bursting out through the wheel arches. I could see through the grill the motor is just an inferno so I pull out the garden hose and start cranking it. The hose wasn't doing anything. The heat was so intense in there it wasn't doing down at all. Holtzy came running down and pulled out a hose and jumped on the other end. Here we are fireman Sam one and two (laughs) and the fire still wasn't going out. Les who owes the winery came out with a dry chemical extinguisher and pumped it full of dry chemical and took the oxygen out of the air. The fire dies off and we could get in there with hoses and get the rest of it out. Then it was like "What the f@#k's going on!" you know. I'm tripping, my chicks bawling, I was shaken up. Then I had fire in my eyes and I just wanted to find out who did it and why. You start asking why has someone done this too you, Am I a fool? Have I trusted someone too much? For as many questions as I could ask I didn't have an answer to any of them. I didn't believe I had done anything wrong to anyone. It's a mystery then and it's still a mystery now. There was one time when I was in Europe and Amy was stalked by a guy on a motorcycle so it could be something like that but who knows. We just got the f@#k out of there. The next weekend I had to fly out to another event so we are up there and I've got a sore back from a recent crash and I've got my truck burnt out, our residence is up in the air (and he caught the flu off Holtzy) and here I am competing against the best guys in the world. I hadn't ridden all week because not only was I injured but my little fire had gone out. I got through that event but coming into it I was fourth and now I'm sixth with one event to go.

HGM: What's it like competing in America and the level of competition you face?

Maddo: Well to come out here and face the competition I have I'm actually pretty surprised with how I have handled it all. There's been times when I first started in Australia when I couldn't even handle the pressure of riding at Sydney Superdome at the Supercross and here I am at X Games going worldwide and seeming pretty cool and confident about it all. It's amazing what time does to you and the more events you do the better you get at it. I really believe I was born to do this so I don't think about it anymore. So to come out here and compete against the guys I am, although it's a struggle for some reason I don't get the stress a lot of the other guys do and it's really stressful you know. The shows out here are so professionally run you know. They are not held up. If the riders aren't feeling it they miss out because TV's on, it's live with NBC and if your not feeling it there's nothing you can do to slow the event up. If your sixth on the list your sixth on the list, you get a one minute run so within six minutes of the event starting you are out there on the course. So it's been a struggle but I just take it one step at a time. I was nervous about doing the Dew Tour before I left Australia so I suffered all the nerves back then and when I stepped on the plane in Sydney I went "Alright, tunnel vision from here. The mission has started and I'm going to ride this pony till she falls over"

HGM: What's the judging like? Do you have to prove yourself to them being an unknown Aussie?

Maddo: The judges aren't guys outside the sport. They are guys within the sport. So if they see you mess up it's not like "I wonder if the picked that up?' They pick everything up so you really do have to do a perfect run to score and you also have to be a known rider because you could come out and stick a sick run but if your not really known it's a new style that no one has really seen before or used to so it might look weird to them. Who's to say who's style is better. A guy might come out and do a double nac and they go "That's how you do a double nac" and you come out and do it differently and it could be more extended and more crazy but it looks different so you get scored down for it. There's so many variables in our sport and it's not who crosses the line first obviously so it comes down to personal opinion and with that comes being known. It's business out here and it's a big learning curve in a big, bad, tough world. It's not so glorious. I feel like I have lived here for a while now and you get to know all the guys in the sport and see what they go through. To sit back at home last year and watch guys like Nate, Twitch and Faisst and you think they're killing it but it's far from the truth you know. They are all individuals and they all have their own personal struggles and their just real guys you know. They are athletes that are trying to be the best they can be and still feel they haven't reached their peak yet. They are focused individuals and it's good to be around that. It's inspiring.

HGM: What are some of the good things about being over here?

Maddo: Some of the good things about America is that especially in Southern California if you want to go riding and someone doesn't want to hit it you can just drive over the hill and there's someone else with a sweet compound that you can ride with. The economy is good. It's easy to go get a good feed. With such a big population there's good people and bad people. Here in Temecula it's not home that's for sure but it's good to be here in the heart of the industry. Pro Circuit is up the street, Metal Mulisha is just around the corner and LA is only an hour and a half drive away. So all that really helps. If you need a part you just jump in the truck and you are back riding again. So it's got it's pros and cons.

HGM: Why America?

Maddo: The initial reason I came to America was because I believed in myself and I wanted to be the best freestyler I could be. I want to achieve my maximum goals in life. I won every competition I entered in Australia. Obviously I had some stiff competition back there with Schuie and Bilko and all the boys that I tell the world about that have what it takes to run in this field. I came out here because I wanted to get that international recognition and with that comes making a living. I don't really want to be an electrician again. Staying at home I can be busy and have a good life but I could also dedicate myself a lot harder and come to America and take on a big goal. As hard as it is I can push myself and if I don't make it at least I tried and I can go back and be an electrician. I came here to prove to myself what I believe deep down inside and that's that I can be the best so I'm just doing everything I can to get there.

HGM: You've embraced the media over here and got some interesting TV roles

Maddo: I've got some TV roles coming up and that's why I'm here. It's bigger and there's more opportunities over here. Next month I start a month long project to do a Crusty's reality TV show called Camp Crusty. I got that through just being myself and when you are yourself people will either like it or not and I guess the Crusty guys liked it.
They like who I am and the boys who are involved in it- Seth, Bubba, Trigger, Mad Mike- they are all my good friends out here. They're the guys that I click with and they're the guys that I'm in the show with. We are going to spend a month in LA. We got a freestyle compound up there with Pro Riders Association which is the union of riders out here. It's got a supercross track, motocross track, enduro, freestyle compound, big dirt hits and now they have built a house out there too, which is what we are staying in. There's six of us and there's six grommies who are competing to be the next Crusty Demon and we are going to pout them through some tests like riding the track, racing each other and a few activities to see how mentally tough they are. We are going to push them through some stuff that is good for the public to see on TV and hopefully no one gets hurt. It should be good fun.

HGM: There seems to be a good Robbie and bad Robbie. You were a wild ratbag when you were younger but these days seem to be an intelligent, determined individual. Tell us a bit about the bad Robbie.

RM: That's funny. The old Robbie. I never really thought of it like that but I guess I have changed a lot lately and really dedicated myself. Starting off in the freestyle scene a lot of the crew back home would know how I used to be. I was pretty much just one of the boys I guess you could say. Up for anything at any time and I was probably the guy that would take it to the point where somebody got hurt or someone was arrested (laughs) but we've had some good times. We used to party really hard and when freestyle motocross movies came around we would watch them and go surfing and the boys used to say "Why don't you start riding Maddo. You used to ride sick back in the day. I'd be like "Yeah yeah one day but never got around to it. Four years later I finished my apprenticeship and I was thinking about going to WA to work in the mines to earn some good money. There was a period there where I was pretty depressed in my thoughts going "What am I going to do?" and the whole time partying so that didn't really help my train of thought and then I realised well I do ride dirt bikes and I want to start jumping them. I made a conscious decision one day I wanted to start jumping so I bought a bike, jumped it, learnt seat grabs, indian air and a double nac all in a day. That's where it all started and where I got the passion for it and everyone would say "Man your killing it" and I would always compare myself to Travis Pastrana or someone (Laughs) and go "Nah I suck!" I didn't know it back then but I had no self confidence and I was always bagging myself and it was my friends pushing me saying "Dude you got to go in a competition. Your gonna kill it" Then they hired a car because I didn't have a car or license- that's another story- and 12 of me and my buddies jumped in this car and drove to Melbourne and went to Bacchus Marsh to the Freestyle pro am competition. I entered in the amateurs, we drove down there drinking beers all the way and got there loose and it was windy and I went out and rode in the wind and I guess that's when it all started. But from then on I didn't change, I was still this crazy guy. Someone back flipped a 50 so I had to do it and just put my teeth straight through my head. There's so many stories. When I first did a flip at home it was straight to dirt. I had a year off after I broke my arm and just didn't flip. I was scared of it after breaking my arm so badly twice. When I finally got over that and broke the hoodoo I was stoked and jumped in my hilux and started tearing around the compound doing burnouts and started jumping over the landing ramp and then started hitting it fast and casing hallway. I said to one of my friends "Do you think I can jump this and he's like "yeah if you hit it fast enough". I hit it pinned but it jumped out of gear and I lost all my momentum and put it back into third and bogged all the way up the upramp but still just committed. I got about 5 feet of air over the flat section and the back wheels cased the top of the downramp then the front dug in and I cartwheeled the car, landed on it's roof and still just kept on riding. I broke my neck. I didn't know I broke the C@ vertebra in my neck. It wasn't until 6 months later when I did this (Spits out his two false front teeth from a crash on the Crusty Tour)) that they X rayed my neck and said "Shit your necks broken. I was in a cast all night waiting for a cat scan and the CAT scan come through "Nah it's been broken 6 months you can go now"

That's just one of many stories. I crashed a jetski in the river, swallowed a bunch of dirty water and a week later I collapsed, all my major organs shut down, caught viral encephalitis, viral meningitis, got paralysed, I was in hospital for nearly two months on life support, the left hand side of my body all shut down, I had double vision, I was sick, grey, withered. The doctors said only 4% in the world make a full recovery from the disease I had. I was fortunate to make that full recovery. When I was at High School the school nurse used to say I was a cat and that I had nine lives. I'd be up there injured from something getting stitched up all the time. I'd go in and it would be " Robbie Maddison!! I can't believe you. You are always hurt. That was back in high school. Now I'm 25 and it still hasn't changed (Laughs). Well it's been better lately now that I have changed my mental attitude but for a while I didn't care about anything, I didn't think logically about things. Like one day I stood on top of a buddies house that had just had renovations and there was this big gap to another house. I looked at it and thought "If I ran fast enough and jumped I'd probably make that other veranda or at least cling onto the other veranda." So I bet all my buddies some money and I'm thinking "Ohh I'm going to get 20 bucks here!" I put on my pushbike helmet and went running across the deck of his house and jumped and did the big Carl Lewis running in mid air, closed my eyes and just slapped into the neighbours veranda. The chick's come out screaming and all my friends are laughing well of course they didn't pay up but I cleared the gap (laughs). I guess I just changed with my chick screaming at me to snap out of it. She just said "You're an idiot and sooner or later it's going to kill you" so I guess the new me is created from my lovely girlfriend.

HGM: So Amy's had a lot to do with you settling down

Maddo: yeah totally before I met Amy I was still a loose cannon but that's what brought us together. Her Dad used to see my antics and he laughs at this sort of thing. He talked a bit about me to her and we lived so close so one day we were introduced and we just clicked from day one. She only wants the best for me and I know that so I listen to her. She has defiantly helped me become a better athlete.

HGM: What's your injury list?

Maddo: Shit. Well to the best of my knowledge my injury list. It all started when I was three years old and I got my pushbike. I would ride it around the house and I went to ride off a drop and didn't know you had to pull up so I went straight over the bars and split my chin. By the time I was aged five I had a file at the hospital a foot thick. I'd be in there for stiches all the time, I'd go ride at a 50 at a mates place and his mum would bring me back in the back of the car cut or hurt and be back down the hospital. I had Croup as a baby and died for 32 seconds. It's where your throat swells up and you cant breathe and I actually suffocated to death. They revived me in the ambulance. So hospitals and me just worked together (laughs). The people at the local hospital knew me really well. We started counting how many stitches and it just got too many. I broke my finger jumping out of a moving car. I've had a lot of crashes racing dirt bikes, broke wrists, ankles, dislocated both knees and my shoulder, I broke each collarbone once then had a crash where I landed on my head and broke both at the same time. All in all it's around about 25 bones. It could be in the 30's but I don't really count fingers and toes. People used to say I was accident-prone but that used to really rub me. I wasn't accident prone I brought it on myself. I wasn't walking around like a klutz I was doing stupid stuff and getting what I was going for (laughs)

HGM: What are your world records?

Maddo: I have two world records. One is the 125cc longest jump, which is 221 feet, and I also hold the longest jump with a trick, which is a hart attack at 246 feet. They were both broken in 2005 in Ipswich, Queensland on the Crusty Tour. Since then Ryan Capes has gone out and broken Trigger Gums overall world record which was 277ft and Capes pushed it to 310 ft. He doesn't mind talking about it either so I want to shut him down. I want to be the first person to jump 100 metres.

HGM: How do you deal with your fear?

Maddo: I defiantly get fear jumping these big jumps but I've established a way of blocking that out. I do it from what I have learnt personally so. I've been through so much already and had some really bad crashes that put people out of the sport. People that have crashes like I've had go "I was so lucky to get through it. I'm not going to take that risk anymore". I've had people come up to me like Trevor Brooks from Humps, Bumps and Jumps who's been in the sport forever. He saw my crash in New Zealand on the Crusty Tour and said that w3as the worst crash he had ever seen where I put myself in a Coma for three days. I totally spear drove the ground head first from 90 feet you know just straight to my head and frothed at the mouth and flipped around like a fish out of water. Three days later I woke up like I had just been asleep for five minutes. They're like "Man you are so crazy your stupid" but I see it as a personal error and I know where I went wrong and I learnt from it so. To me fear is as unknown factor and if you push yourself to the limit you can kind of get to know all those things that scare you and woke it out in your head then it's no longer fear it's a calculated risk. You've just got to get your calculations right (laughs)

HGM: What are your ambitions for the future?

Maddo: Well first and foremost just to continue that steady progression of just getting better and better. I want to jump a motorcycle as far as it can be jumped. I have the opportunity now with my sponsors backing to break Ryan Capes's record next year in January 2007 in Prague. After I break the record I'm going to do my own project which is to jump a bike as far as it can go. After I accomplish that well if someone comes up and breaks it well I'm always willing to step up. I just want to get it over and done with and then wash my hands of it and come back and be that best freestyle rider. In 2008 I'm going to dominate (laughs)
More photos of Maddo can be found here
Pic Above: Maddo in Temecula. Pic Below: How does he make it? Maddo crazy Nacflip at Perth Gravity Games

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