Insight: Levi Sherwood

Insight Levi Sherwood

July 19, 2017 11:30am

Somebody call Oxford, Merriam-Webster, Random House, and whoever else prints dictionaries. We need a spelling revision to the word “domination.” New spelling? L-E-V-I S-H-E-R-W-O-O-D. The FMX rider from New Zealand has been on a completely new level this year, winning the Nitro World Games, Red Bull X-Fighters, and most recently at X Games Minneapolis, the Pacifico Moto X Freestyle and Monster Energy Moto X Best Trick competitions. That’s incredible. We had to know more, so we got in touch with Sherwood this week to get some insight on his recent surge.

Racer X: Wow, three-for-three. You’ve won all the major events you’ve competed in. You’re unstoppable. What’s going on?
Levi Sherwood: [Laughs] I don’t know, it’s funny. You kind of plan for this, but you don’t expect it. We’re always practicing and pushing because we want to win and we want to win everything, but it very rarely ever happens. I’ve just put in a lot of work this year with the double flips, but I wasn’t sure if even that would be enough because everyone else keeps it up too. I got one event down, then the next one, and the X Games came and I started putting a bit of pressure on myself to try and win them all. Obviously X Games is the biggest one of the season; I really wanted that one.

So you wanted both FMX and Best trick? You weren’t coming in with emphasis on one over the other?
FMX has always been my focus, I’ve never really seen myself as a Best Trick person. It just happened that the tricks I learned this year to win FMX, I could take out. I won FMX on Friday night and the pressure was off, I was just relaxed and ready to go. I knew I had a pretty good chance at winning, but I didn’t know how it was going to stack up. I knew Sheeny [Josh Sheehan] had a new trick and I knew Jacko [Jackson Strong] had his double flip as well. It’s a big guessing game—it’s really up to the judges. You just have to go out and do the best you can, I suppose.

How’s it feel to be just the third guy to ever win gold in both FMX and Best trick in the same year?
I heard that. I didn’t even realize it until afterward. It’s pretty cool. I guess it’s quite a big deal.

How long have you been doing the double?
Not long at all. I want to say April? I just started doing them at home in practice every day. I wanted to push through that before competition so it didn’t affect me. I’ve done a lot of them already, I made sure of that.

It’s crazy you’ve only been doing it a few months though. There are guys who do the double, but will probably never ever attempt any variation and you’re doing a no-handed one.
It’s something I didn’t really plan on. I really wanted to do a double flip, I wanted to have it as my banger trick this year. I started doing that, and I just kind of started getting comfortable with it. I was doing it every day and stuff started clicking. I just learned different techniques, and Jed Mildon and a couple other BMX boys taught me a lot. Just from flipping bicycles myself I learned a lot more about how to spin the bike than I did on a dirt bike. That helped me a lot, and once I put all that into play the tricks just started to come.

Talk a little more about the behind-the-scenes work it takes to put together a run like you did. It’s not like you just wake up one morning and you can do it.
It’s years and years of work to be able to put it all into a package. Three or four years ago I might have gone out and won one event and gotten too excited and not be able to keep my cool and put them all together. I think the biggest thing this year, the tricks kind of played their own role, you know?

Yeah, I guess. Well, no actually. The only times I’ve ever been upside down on a motorcycle have been accidents.
[Laughs] Yeah. But as far as the tricks go, it took a lot. I’d been working since probably February just for these three events. It’s all I’ve been doing. Get up and ride every day you can—it’s not like California where you can ride every day—it depends on the weather, but every day you can.

When you started doing variations on the double, was there ever any point where you decided you were going to do them in competition or were you just testing the waters with them?
I started playing around with Nacs, Cans, and one-handers and stuff like that, and I was trying for a couple months to do a no-hander and I just couldn’t take my hands off. Just couldn’t do it. Then one day it just happened. Once I did that I was like, “All right, you need to pick one of these tricks to focus on and it’ll be the one you take.” So leading up to the event all I’d done on dirt was the no-hander so that was going to be the big banger I’d take with me. I didn’t plan on doing more than one double flip or variation in a run at all. It just kind of happened that as I was in competition I got a little more comfortable, and that’s when I started playing around with the other ones.

Taking both hands off the bars during a double backflip. Insanity.
Taking both hands off the bars during a double backflip. Insanity. Garth Milan/ESPN Images

Wow! There’s just something about competition that you can’t get when you’re practicing….
When you’re practicing it’s cool because you want to do it and you’re doing it for something, but once it’s that time, you’re not really worried about the risk of it. It’s what you’re there for; it’s what you’ve been working for. You want to lay it out on the line. If you do enough preparation it makes the decision to just do it a lot easier.

You guys are doing things today nobody ever thought would happen, even just a few years ago. Even the double backflip, and now your no-handed version, how do you guys continue to push the limits when it seems as though they’ve already been found?
That’s a good one. I used to think there was a limit, but this last year, since I started pushing it farther and farther, what I thought was unachievable is now achievable and it becomes normal. Once I’m doing double flips, then I’m doing variations. It’s hard to explain, you just push forward and as you’re doing that you come up with new ideas. Because you’ve just achieved this, the new idea seems achievable as well. I know from the outside it probably looks like there’s not a whole lot more that can be done, but now I’m starting to understand there’s a lot more.

Like what? What’s next? Or will you answer that question the next time we see you in competition?
[Laughs] Before X Games I kind of had ideas on what I wanted to do next. Now I want to go and chase those tricks. Normally after the events I’ll go home and chill out for the next couple months before getting ready for the next year again. But now I’m excited to go home and ride more. It’s been good this year. I’ve achieved a lot and it’s also fueled the fire a lot as well.