'Maddo' the mad motorcyclist takes aim on bay jump

Dec 29 2011 - 12:48pm

For those of us who can't make a bed without stubbing a toe, and fear things like moldy containers in the back of our refrigerator, Robbie Maddison is hard to fathom.

The 30-year-old stunt motorcyclist actually seeks out tricks that endanger his life -- and performs them, not just because they make him money and get people to mutter admiring swear words, but because they fulfill some core desire in his soul.

"I don't want to come across as reckless," said the man known as "Maddo," about three weeks before he risks ruining everyone's New Year's Eve by attempting a 400-foot, world record jump over San Diego Bay on national television.

"I just want to make the impossible happen. It's the way I live my life. It's what makes my life -- staring fear in the face and pushing through it."

Maddison will be joined by snowmobile racer Levi LaVallee for the "Red Bull: New Year. No Limits" event on ESPN, as the two plan simultaneous, side-by-side, ramp-to-ramp jumps from the north side of Embarcadero Marina Park to the south.

Maddison will be riding a modified Yamaha dirt bike for the 100 mile-per-hour-plus sprint up the ramp and 70-foot high flight.

The men have been practicing on ramps set up at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. They haven't disclosed exactly how far they have flown in practice, but Maddison told ESPN.com this week that he surpassed Ryan Capes' official world record of 391 feet.

There will be only one jump -- no practice -- in San Diego.

Maddison has stared down fear many times before. In addition to his "straight" tricks, such as setting distance-jumping records, the Australian native has used landmarks as props. On New Year's Eve three years ago on ESPN, he soared 100 feet vertically off a ramp to land atop the Arc de Triomphe monument at Paris Las Vegas, then rode his bike off the edge, descending about 80 chilling feet straight down to another ramp.

In 2009, he did a back flip over the open ramps of the Tower Bridge in London. In 2010, he flew more than 300 feet over the Corinth Canal in Greece.

"The Corinth Canal was the scariest," said Maddison. "(The landing) was 100 feet down -- and 300 feet if I didn't make it."

Yes, the daredevil does have the fear gene.

"My heart's in my throat -- there are even tears," he said of the moments before a stunt. "I mean, the reality is that if something goes wrong, you're a dead man."

Maddison has to answer to family members, including his wife of four years, Amy, and their 1-year-old son, Kruz. Maddison always has been a stickler for details, math calculations and practice until he feels confident about success. Now others have to feel as safe as possible, too.

"I trust that he knows what he's doing," said Amy Maddison. "He trains really hard with his guys."

And just to make sure he does, she joked, "I nag. I definitely get in his head ... it is not an option to not succeed. We have a baby. Kruz needs his daddy."

Maddison, whose riding skills also have made him a star on the freestyle motocross tour, said his toddler has made him more aware of future work options, beyond risking life and limb for a paycheck. But not just yet.

"It's been my calling, my whole life, taking risks," he said. "I won't walk away. I still have goals and I can't say, 'I can't do it because I have a son.' That's not the natural flow of life."

For Maddison, the appeal of the New Year's Eve jump is breaking the 400-foot barrier, as well as the exposure he will get, again, in front of millions of party animals.

"Some part of me does want to put on great entertainment, and create a buzz," he said. "I like to hear people say, 'That was sick!' and see smiles on their faces. But it's not my main purpose. The attraction for me is fresh ideas."

But even if his preparation is impeccable, it doesn't guarantee anything.

"A live event, you don't have complete control," he said. "Elements change. If something mechanical fails, there's nothing you can do. There isn't any way you can know for sure you'll make it."

But he does it anyway, which makes him Maddo. And most of us not.

(Contact Gregg Patton at gpatton@pe.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com)


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