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When Australian BMX dirt jumper Dane Searls was 18, he ventured to the U.S. for his first time to check out the dirt scene. Regarded as one of the top dirt jumpers in the world, Searls won contests such as Cam White's Hillside Dirt Jam and the Big in Bavaria dirt comp, but was searching for more than the top spot on the BMX dirt circuit. "I was always chasing the next big jump, jumping bigger and bigger until it wasn't fun jumping small jumps anymore," says Searls. "I went to the USA hoping to find new big jumps, and nothing seemed bigger than what we already had back home in Australia."
"So it was time to build some really big jumps to see what's possible," he continues.
In August of 2010, Unit Clothing and Dane Searls debuted the "Giants of Dirt" Web video series, detailing what Australian brand Unit Clothing called, "the world's biggest dirt jumps." I had an idea of building a set of big dirt jumps running alongside a set of motorbike dirt jumps at my mate's property, so we could jump side by side. I spoke to Unit about my idea and they were stoked on it," says Searls.
Located on FMX rider Matt Schrubring's property West of Brisbane, Australia, 22-year-old Searls, along with Unit Clothing and the help of Schrubring, began construction on three massive, slightly downhill jumps. Gradually growing in length, the four jumps in the set measured in at 32-feet (1st jump), 35-feet (2nd jump), 50-feet (3rd jump) and 60-feet (4th jump.) "I got lucky because Matt has three machines sitting on his property ready to build massive dirt jumps," says Searls about the construction process.
The jumps were untested, and Searls took a massive slam in his attempt to clear the whole set in August. "I was really lucky," says Searls. "I just had a black eye and a dead arm when I came up short on the 50-footer." He walked away and immediately began planning another attempt. "That crash had to happen for us to figure this out," he added.
In November of 2010, Searls returned to the Giants of Dirt course for his second session, and immediately started tricking the first two jumps, including backflips, supermans and after a few bails, a perfect 360 indian seat grab over the 35-foot set. With the session now underway, Searls tricks got even more insane, and he attempted a 360 tailwhip over the 35-footer, landing back on the pedals, but coming up just short of the landing.
The impact snapped his bike frame in half, and put Searls out of commission for several days. "I had a sore collar bone after that, but it only held me back for a week," said Searls.
Searls planned to rest for a few days, build up a new bike and reconvene on the jumps later in the month, but heavy rains along the Gold Coast throughout the past few months has kept Searls from even reaching the jumps, because of flooded roads. "Right now, the jumps are flooded. Most of the roads are blocked off on the way out there, and the jumps are very wet. There's not much we can do but wait for the rain to go away," says Searls. "And every time we get hit by a big storm, it's another two days of machines and digging to get the jumps going again," he continues.
Searls hopes that the jumps will dry out soon so he can continue riding the Giants of Dirt project. "I want to jump the whole set. Just get up there, do a few warm up jumps, and get straight into it," he says.
The size of these jumps, comparable to the jumps on the X Games Big Air course (without the roll-in) could signify a new direction for competitive BMX dirt jumping, which Searls hopes to see change soon. "The contests aren't getting any better, and that's what my drive would be, to be the best you can for contests. But I'm not into them, so this is where I'm putting all my motivation," he says.
Granted, dirt contests of a larger scale have been attempted before (Red Bull Elevation, Red Bull Empire of Dirt), but nothing on par with Giants of Dirt. And with the amount of riders that seem eager to jump the gap portion of the X Games Big Air course (but not air the quarterpipe), Searls' and the Giants of Dirt project could potentially open up new doors in the realm of large scale BMX dirt contests, which is one of his aims.
"I think this will help BMX dirt in a big way. Maybe we will get more contests in Australia and big dirt jump contests around the world," says Searls.
For now, the BMX world awaits a dryer Gold Coast, and with it, Searls' return to the Giants of Dirt course.
Video courtesy of Unit Clothing/Allan Hardy