Travis Pastrana added another World First to his resume yesterday when he became the only person to ever backflip from barge to barge floating unmoored in the water. The stunt took place on the River Thames in London in front of the legendary O2 Arena, as a PR event for the upcoming Nitro Circus YOU GOT THIS TOUR, set to hit Europe in 2018. But the historic backflip was way bigger than the term “PR stunt” could ever prescribe.
Travis called it his scariest single flip since the very first one he ever tried. The unmoored barges were susceptible to the movement of the water, making the takeoff and lander unpredictable. And because the lander is sitting on a barge, Travis had finite run-out space if he wanted to stay dry — 36 feet, to be exact. So to recap: He had to hit a moving target from a moving takeoff and have the presence of mind to get the bike stopped before he came to the end of the landing barge. To top it all off, the famously grumpy English weather meant high winds and rain leading up to the stunt. At breakfast the morning of, we were talking with Travis about the conditions when he interrupted himself mid-thought as he looked out the window. “Well, it’s raining,” he said. “It’s raining sideways.” Indeed, at 8:30 a.m. — 30 minutes before he was set to go warm-up on the bike and two hours before the jump attempt — it was pouring down rain with winds almost 20 mph.
About that bike: Travis casually mentioned that the purpose of that practice two hours before the main jump was that he had never ridden that particular bike before. He was going to backflip it on a standard setup a couple times to make sure he had the feel of it down. But the rain derailed his practice time. “Guess I’ll just go one and done,” he said, adding that it wouldn’t make much difference to practice on a normal setup anyway, as the variables with the barges made the actual attempt completely different. He was going to be attempting the stunt on a bike he’d never ridden.
The clouds cleared up and the wind died down, and so after a couple ferry boat rides to get the bike and the man himself out to the barges, everything was in place for the attempt. Global media had gathered on the shore across the way, and a few random on-lookers were lucky enough to stumble on the top-secret location just in time. Travis checked out the ramp, then fired up the bike and rode a few laps around the takeoff barge. Then he sent it.
It was a picture-perfect backflip that looked way too easy for how much difficulty we now know was going on beneath the surface. “The takeoff felt squishy,” Travis said afterward. He described the G-forces that are produced when the bike hits the transition as being so great that he could actually feel that he wasn’t on solid ground as he came up the ramp. He said he immediately felt like he was going to come up short because the pop off the lip wasn’t there. Instead, he got it around clean and landed perfectly, and the rest is history. Congrats to the legend on another World First!