King Of Dirt
Next week, after a seven-year absence, BMX Dirt makes its return to X Games in Foz De Iguaçu, Brazil. Eight of the world's best BMX Dirt and trail riders will travel to Brazil to face off against each other on one of the world's best BMX Dirt courses. That is where a BMX rider named Dave King enters the picture.
King, 37, along with a few hundred dedicated BMX individuals throughout the world, specializes in the construction of BMX trails -- intricate, hand-built BMX trails consisting of takeoffs, landings and sharp-banked turns (referred to as "berms") that are often constructed on pockets of forested land, far from the eyes of property owners and suburban dwellers.
Throughout the year, construction and upkeep of BMX trails requires that the BMX riders using the trails spend as much as time digging, irrigating and devising new layouts as they do riding the trails. And sometimes, that balance skews in favor of construction and upkeep over riding. It's a monastic pursuit -- one that could be taken away very easily if discovered by property owners.
King knows this all too well. For 10 years, from 1992 through 2002, King and a dedicated group of friends constructed BMX trails on a plot of land behind his parent's house in Northampton, Pa. They did not own the land the BMX trails were constructed on, and when the property owners discovered what was being done, the trails were plowed, with the owners citing liability as a reason. (If a BMX rider was injured on the property, the property owner was liable.)
Dave King and BMX trails construction
A 360 berm located at Catty Woods in Pennsylvania.
King and friends regrouped and started construction on another set of BMX trails in the Northeast Pennsylvania area known as Catty Woods. Located nearby the Lehigh Valley International Airport, the new trails were also built on private property. King and company knew the risks associated with their time and hard work but continued construction on the trails regardless. Eventually, the new trails gained notoriety throughout the BMX trail riding world, attracting an international scene of BMX riders from the UK, Japan, Europe and across the U.S. to small BMX-rider-occupied group houses in the Allentown and Bethlehem areas of Pennsylvania.
Between Catty Woods, King's earlier creation in Northampton (dubbed "Nam") and a nearby set of legendary trails known as Posh, the area of Northeastern Pennsylvania became a mecca for BMX trail riders. It also raised the profile of the BMX riders who were building the trails, including King.
In 2000, King was hired by X Games BMX sport organizer Mat Hoffman to work on the construction of BMX trails at an X Games qualifier in Woodward, Pa. His work continued with the X Games through 2006, when BMX Dirt was dropped from the lineup. And it created additional work for King, friend and former roommate Jeremy "Magilla" Reiss and a revolving cast of BMX trail riders from Salt Lake City, Utah, Austin, Texas, and beyond.
"There weren't really that many people who did this, so every time someone needed a job like this done, we would work on it," said King. "A lot of these jobs would just fall into our laps, so I was able to ride when I was home and every month or so I'd go work on one of these projects."
Eventually, King decided he needed to know more than how to build BMX Dirt jumps -- he needed to learn the business side of employing a team that would travel to international events and construct dirt jumps that would allow for the best BMX Dirt riding to happen.
He started a company known as Dirt Sculpt and picked up work from Red Bull and mountain bike parks throughout the States. And when X Games decided to bring back BMX Dirt for X Games Foz Do Iguaçu, King was the first person to call. Utilizing scaled clay sculptures, King was able to construct a BMX Dirt course that would allow for the world's most technical and complicated BMX Dirt riding to commence. Although he won't comment on the current construction of the BMX Dirt course in Foz because Dirt Sculpt hopes to surprise the invited riders, his work in past events has demonstrated a keen eye for challenging and progressive BMX Dirt course construction the world over.
Next week, amid X Games Foz Do Iguaçu, eight of the world's best BMX Dirt riders will converge on a course designed, built, ridden and tested by Dave King and company. It's a brand of BMX authenticity second to none in the world. And it's at X Games.