When Josh Boothby saw the backflip at the Red Bull Ride + Style last year, he saw his future.
The trick was performed by Kohei "Kozo" Fuji, of Osaka, Japan, who was the first to attempt it in competition.
“I’d never done a backflip before, and when I saw Kozo do one, I immediately knew what was next for me,” said Boothby, who finished second in 2011 in the freestyle contest.
Boothby worked on the trick for months, and last Saturday at Red Bull Ride + Style 2012, under a beautiful blue sky, he broke out three separate backflips in each of his runs -- landing all on the first try.
Even more impressive? It was the first time he had performed the trick without using a foam pit or resi.
“I constantly want to keep pushing the limits of fixed-gear riding,” said Boothby.
The backflips were more than enough for Boothby to secure first place in the freestyle contest. He was followed by Tyler Johnson from Seattle in second and Joe McKeag from Long Beach, California, in third.
Red Bull Ride + Style, which drew more than 5,000 spectators and competitors from all over the world to Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco this year, is a unique event that combines high-level fixed-gear riding -- in two categories, freestyle and track -- with urban contemporary art.
“The level of competition was pretty much unimaginable." --Addison Zawada
Unique ramps built by Jeremy Witek adorned the site, serving as creative canvases for some of San Francisco’s most dynamic artists, including Chor Boogie, APEX, Max Ehrman and Jet Martinez.
In the track competition, 20-year-old Addison Zawada from Jacksonville, Florida, qualified for Saturday's race by coming in first place in the Red Bull Mini Drome held last Thursday.
In Saturday's finals, Zawada was up against Walter Brush, of San Francisco.
Zawada bobbled the start of the race and tucked behind Brush to wait for an opening. But Brush deftly held him at bay for most of the race, blocking Zawada’s attempts to sprint past him on the straights.
On the final turn, Zawada pushed hard, and the two connected -- Brush’s foot coming into contact with Zawada’s front wheel. The impact -- slight as it was -- was enough to cause Brush to slide out, giving Zawada the victory. Brush secured second place and Hernan Montenegro, also from San Francisco, took third.
“The level of competition was pretty much unimaginable,” said Zawada. “Everyone was just so fast! In the end, I think the way I was able to come out on top was my focus, motivation and drive. Drive is everything."
Drive can also describe Josh Boothby's continued determination to push fixed-gear freestyle riding. His technical prowess and contagious energy made him a crowd favorite on Saturday.
And he hints the best is yet to come.
“I’ve been working on double backflips and flairs and lots of other stuff," said Boothby. "I just want people to understand -- we haven’t reached a plateau, this is just the beginning.”