Last week, we checked in with 1988 125 Supercross East Region Champion Todd DeHoop on his recovery from a spinal cord injury suffered at the 2021 Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross at Daytona. DeHoop went from a grim prognosis to walking and working again within 18 months, a testament to a special kind of determination most people don’t have.
We left part one with Todd making a comeback to racing after a few years off. That led to racing Loretta’s, vet races, vintage races and more. Then came the injury, and now his recovery.
Racer X: So, my favorite racing photo, not just of you, but in general is of you hucking the Sky Shot jump at Unadilla on, what year motorcycle was that?
Todd DeHoop: A 1983 YZ 490.
That jump on that bike is insane!
Yeah that motorcycle was not meant to do that. I did that every lap too, I would just hit it. It was so weird too because that bike, you would come out of that kind of off-camber section coming to the take-off of that and I would just be like, “Baw baw baw braap.” That’s how easy it was because there is so much power on those old 490s. It took nothing to do it, it's just the frame, you’re worried about the frame.
And the wheels? Something that handles that bad should not be able to go that fast.
Yeah. I was also riding a 1970 CZ 250 with a down pipe, and you know before that there is the step up that they had after the dogleg right, I was doing that on that 1970 CZ from the outside. And then after the starting line you make a right then left and there is a step-up right there, I was doing that on that bike too. The guy that I borrowed the bike from, he was freaking out because he thought, one, I was going to break it in half, and two, because they have a belly pipe it goes underneath the bike and he was afraid I was going to smash it. But I landed it perfectly on the downside every time! But the pipe was all loose and rattly when I came off the track both motos [Laughs] but I said, “Hey, it stayed together!”
Were you always naturally a jumper? I mean you have a supercross title?
Yeah, I was always the first one to jump everything, pretty much all of the time. It was just one of those things, it was always no fear, no repercussions.
Which again going back to your injury, it’s the thing that gets you hurt, but also the thing that drives you to get better.
Yeah, it's a double-edged sword. It's the thing that defines you in racing, is that you don’t care what happens to you for the reward. I mean it doesn’t matter to you, you look at it and go, “Okay.”
Going off of that, I read an interview where you said, I mean you were obviously bummed you got hurt, but you were more upset for your wife and your daughters and how your injury affected their lives, versus how it affected your own life because you were like, “Well, this was my mistake, but they did not sign up for this.” How did it affect their lives?
One hundred percent. That was literally the first thing that went through my mind, it was not even what happened to me but what I was now going to be putting my wife… I mean, it was really emotional because the perspective immediately changes, right away. It isn’t like it takes time to set in, for me it was immediate, I was in a panic mentally because I thought to myself that I do not care about myself because I put myself in my position. All of a sudden you think, “I have put my wife and my daughters in a position where they have to take care of me for the rest of my life. So now I have basically ruined their lives by my stupidity.”
By doing something that, first off, I shouldn’t be doing because I originally went down there just to do the vintage thing and not ride the Ricky Carmichael thing [on modern bikes], but I was like, “Oh I’m already there screw it, I’ll bring my 450.” I didn’t have to do that, I could have been more than happy just riding my ’86 250, but I didn’t do that. My wife had told me, “You shouldn’t be doing this, you should just do what you came here for.” So yeah, I’ve got that going against me too.
So regardless, the perspective for me is that happening and then having to stomach the fact that I put myself in this position and now they have to spend the rest of their lives taking care of me, and you know changing my pee bag or whatever. You look at it and you go, “I can’t believe this.”
So, the question of the day, where are you now? What are you doing and how are you doing injury-wise?
So injury-wise, I always tell everybody in my mind, functionality wise, I am about 70-75 percent. I’m not normal… well I was never normal. [Laughs] I am limited on my right side, but my left side is good, my right side is slow and I don’t have a lot of strength, muscle movement and control, it's just not all there. But I get around as much as I can on a normal basis. I get tired when I try to do too much, and it will take me a couple of days to get back. Like, our mindset is just, go-go-go, do-do-do, and then our bodies are just like, “Oh, you are going to pay.”
So, I try to do as much as possible. This past weekend I probably back-pack blew three-quarters of an acre of leaves, stumbling around looking like an idiot, but I do it. I always tell my neighbors, “I swear I’m not drunk!” because I am always stumbling around. I never fall but I’m always stumbling back and forth because of the imbalance of trying to control 800 CFM of back-pack blower blowing you around. [Laughs] It just looks like you’re drunk, but I swear I am not!
So, just trying to do as much as I can, and then for work, I am the regional manager for Road Equipment for retail stores. So that entails inventory control and hiring, all of the things that come with management, lots of emails and phone calls. Sales meetings with big customers… So, I travel around and have meetings and talk with clients. It suits me well because of my history, my diplomatic skills with dealing with sponsors, talking with people from the industry, and talking with fans. For me it's easy to be involved with a lot of people because of my background with racing and always having to self-promote. And I think that’s helped tremendously with what I do. So that’s what I do—try and promote the company and try to work with all of my employees and try to make their jobs easier. I try to be a good boss. My thing is, I try to manage with diplomacy and try to fix a problem not make a problem.
How long after your injury did you go back to work?
I actually went back to work about, my wife would know this better than I would, I got hurt March 7th and went back to work in August just doing office work, sitting at a desk, answering phones and typing orders, chicken peck, chicken peck.
I was going to ask; how do your fingers work for typing?
The left side is fine; the right side is super slow. I do have the dragon software where I can talk to my computer and voice to text or whatever. But I have adapted pretty well where I don’t really need it anymore. I can type pretty quick. I type most of my stuff now.
That’s still a pretty quick return to work. Have you found anything since your accident that you have the same passion for that you had for riding?
That’s a pretty simple answer, you can pretty much ask anybody that has ridden at our level and you go, “Can you do anything else comparable or that fits that mold?” And they go, “No.”
Sorry I am only laughing because for every question you have given me such detailed answers and this is just, “No.’”
I mean I have tried numerous things, like playing golf, or I tried to get my pilot’s license because I thought it would be something fun and some intense adrenaline, and literally it's the most boring thing ever! It takes you two hours to do your preflight, you do your inspection, your instrument inspection, everything else, and by the time you get done with that you’re like, “Screw it I don’t even want to fly anymore. I’m good, I’ll just go home.”
I think if you get that adrenaline rush from flying it's probably not a good thing because you are about to crash.
Well, that’s 100 percent it, so I would do stalls, or taking off, or steep inclines, or anything like that and you’re like, “Oh this is great,” but that’s only 1 percent of the entire time. Otherwise, you’re just literally holding onto your steering controls and looking out the window. That’s it.
So, I’m actually studying sports psychology because I feel like so many riders, and not just the ones who get injured, but like Ryan Dungey who came out of retirement because, what else is there? There is nothing else that can give you the passion and the adrenaline and the feeling of racing.
The only other thing is some other form of motorsports. Whether it's NASCAR or Baja or off-road trucks, it has to be some sort of racing that is forcing you to make super quick decisions with your mind, that is constantly keeping you on your toes for focus, that keeps your adrenaline running 100 percent of the time. It’s the only way you can get that because anything else has a stall point, whether it's football, basketball, baseball, I don’t care what it is, you go-go-go, and then you are just hanging out and then you start going again. Whereas in racing you don’t ever get a break. Until the checkered flag it's 100 percent. So, I think that’s the difference between what we do and everything else is you are all in at 100 percent, or whatever your body can take until it starts breaking down. And then it makes it even more difficult because you lose focus, which also brings up your adrenaline because now you are struggling, and then you have arm pump.
So, I saw you were at RedBud for Motocross of Nations, and saw that you took your daughters riding the other day, so you obviously don’t hold a grudge against the sport because of your injury? You still love it?
Oh very much so. I mean if my wife would let me and wasn’t going to kill me, I would ride right now. [Laughs] The way I am built I really believe my mind and body function ten seconds at a time and then it hits a reboot. Ten seconds and then it's like, “Ope, forget about all of that, reboot.” I can crash or do anything and it’s like, “Okay do it again, do it better.” I don’t hold anything in, if I screwed up or had a bad moto I’d be like, “Well, you did that to yourself, you didn’t prepare enough or whatever, and that’s why it happened.” And then it's just like, “All right have to do better next time.” I have always been that way, but I think that has also worked against me because when you hold onto something, and it really bothers you, it gives you the drive to really make hard changes. Whereas if you don’t hold onto something you’re just like, “Okay…”.
Like you have already forgotten about the misery you were in in the hospital and think, ‘Oh, let’s go ride again,”?
Exactly, 100 percent. I have always been the person that says, “You got yourself into this and now you have to get yourself out.” Motocross racing and the sport, it has always been a love, and I have always said to myself that I would love to be back and a part of racing and part of the whole thing, but it’s very hard to make a living in racing if you’re not part of the top tier, whether you are a rider or a manager or whatever. It's very hard to make a living in racing in the sport. I have made way more money working as a person with a normal job than I ever have made riding a motorcycle. So, it's one of those things where eventually you have to say to yourself, “When do you decide to give up having fun and become a normal adult?” That is the toughest part, is to decide when you are going to be an adult and grow up.