The Humboldt region of Northern California seems like it would be a great place to grow up as a kid. You've got the coastline, huge redwood tree-infested forests, and acres of lush land to pretty much do anything you want. But, for a kid profusely obsessed with a sport that nobody acknowledged, Humboldt County couldn't have been any worse of a place to grow up.
Today, Humboldt's Julian Dusseau is a well-respected professional FMX rider, but his quest to stardom was anything but peachy. I hit him up for a little Q&A to find out more about his quest for FMX fame and I got to tell you ... this dude has heart.
Alright, let's get down to business. Dude, you've been pestering the crap out of me recently, all like "What the hell do I have to do to get on ESPN.com/Action? Do I gotta backflip the Empire State building or something? Come on guy!" [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah man, what's the deal?
Well, you know what crazy is that like five months ago Steve Haughelstine went out to go film you for ride sesh/interview video and as it had turned out, he had been talking to Wes Agee over the phone the entire time, thinking it was you. So he rolled out to what he thought was your place and he ended up at Wes's house. So, that was basically our last attempt to film with you. [laughs] You're all illusive man like you're never where the filmers and photogs are.
Yeah whatever, excuses, excuses.
So, what the heck's going on with the one and only Julian Desseau right now?
Oh you know, just trying to keep the dream alive out here. I've just been doing little shows all summer up in Oregon, Washington and California. I've been staying at my mom's place in Humboldt during the week in between shows so that I don't have to keep coming back down to So Cal. It's way nicer up here anyways, I'm not a big Southern California desert fan.
The track in Southern Humboldt got shut down because of the hippies, so that made racing even harder, but that's when my freestyle career kind of began.
-- Julian Dusseau
You're still based out of Menifee right?
Yup, I'm still here in Menifee with the best bitch in town, Sugar.
You've met Sugar. She's my pretty little white pitbull.
Awe yes, how could I forget the beauty. Dude, so you used to live at Mike Metzger's house ... how long did you live there for?
I rented his house for about eight month's when I first moved down here to Southern Cali.
Dude, so you must have had so many crazy-ass tweakers and super-fans ringing your doorbell looking for Metz, like "Yo man, is this Metzger's house? Where's he at? Can I ride my three-wheeler on the course? Got any signed jerseys? Can I have his helmet?" [laughs]
[laughs] Yeah, totally. That's one of the reasons why I got out of there. Not only that, but people would show up and be like "Hey, is Mike here? He said I could ride his course." Like he'd send people over there and be like "Yeah man, you can ride, just show up and go for it." Then the dudes would try to hang out and it was just weird. I mean, it was cool to have a nice course to ride, but it just wasn't providing the quality of life I was looking for.
Dude, I bet! So let's take it back to the early days. What was it like growing up in the Humboldt forest and being a motocross rider? Were there a lot of tracks up there?
As far as growing up there and riding, it's probably one of the worst places in the world for that. There are absolutely no tracks in the entire county. Like when I started racing when I was 11, a track had just opened in Stokesville, which is in Southern Humboldt. So I grew up racing there and I started going through the ranks, getting all the basic bike skills down and then I started to take it more serious and I began traveling to all the West Coast amateur national races like the World Minis, Loretta Lyn qualifiers, Hangtown and Washougal. Then the track in Southern Humboldt got shut down because of the hippies so that made racing even harder, but that's when my freestyle career kind of began.
Mark Burnett's tour came through Eureka when I was like 16 and ditched school at lunch and asked them if I could ride. They told me that I had to have my dad sign a waver, but if I got that, it was all good to ride. This was like when Twitch, Kenny Bartram, Colin Morrison, Dan Pastor and all the old school guys were still riding it. So I called my dad and I was like "Uh ... hey dad I ditched school to ride this FMX contest, but I need you to sign a waver for me." So he went down there and signed it for me.
Becoming an FMX rider was a no brainer. I was like, "Well, I don't have to work as hard, don't have to spend as much money, and I can party more.".
-- Julian Dusseau
It was the first time I had hit steel ramps, but I could do some tricks, so it was all good. I was doing McMetz's and some other decent tricks for the time being and I ended up doing pretty well. I got to meet up with all the guys like Twitch and Cameron Steele ended hooking me up with Dragon after that contest and I just made connection, which ultimately helped me get down to Southern California. At that point, racing was so hard for me and it cost a lot of money, so after riding that show I decided that I wanted to shift my focus from racing to FMX.
So before you rode that contest, did you have any plans to get into FMX, or did it just kind of happen?
Yeah, I was pretty much into racing. I wanted to race, but at the same time I just loved riding my dirt bike. I'd be the guy on the track doing tricks on the track and all that and I cut my plastics so I could do seatgrabs and all that, but I was still racing. Then I realized that I was paying a lot of money to race, I wasn't winning any money ... I didn't have any money, so once I got paid for jumping I was like "Uh, this is a no brainer." The whole freestyle lifestyle fit my personality better anyway, so like it all kind of snapped together at that time. I was like "Well, I don't have to work as hard, don't have to spend as much money, I can party more and have less pressure riding."
Wow, so you owe your entire career to Mark Burnett's tour! Where would you be if that contest never happened in your hood?
[laughs] I'd probably be out in Humboldt still, living out in the woods in a greenhouse or something. [laughs]
What did you parents think when you ditched your racing dreams and decided to become a rebel FMX rider?
That's actually a really good question because my parents hated dirt bikes. But, when I was a kid growing up, dudes would rip down the back roads on dirt bikes and I once I saw that, I wouldn't quit bugging my parents for one. But they were all "No, you're going to hurt yourself! We're never getting you a dirt bike ... you're playing soccer and the piano!" So, I played all the ball sports and what not, but by the time I was eleven, I was staying consistent with my plea for a dirt bike.
So, finally at age eleven I got my first dirt bike and from there on out, I pretty much didn't get off of the thing. It was a 1979 Honda XR80 with a steel gas tank and fenders and it had a tire rack on the back, but I didn't care I'd just moto the thing around all day. So, within a year or so, my dad saw how seriously I was taking it and so he ended up getting me a Kawasaki KX80 and then as soon as I got that thing, I was out racing every chance I could get.
My parents started supporting me a lot more when they saw how much passion I had for the sport and how much effort I put into it. I had to keep my grades at a B average, so that was motivation for me to do good in school. I also had to get a job so that I could help pay for the racing and my bikes, so I ended up getting a job cleaning portable toilets. [laughs] They definitely gave me the opportunity to ride, but they didn't hand it to me and I think that's why I'm where I am today. I had to work hard for it and I wanted it so bad, so I have that work ethic engrained in me.
They were right though, I did end up getting hurt a lot, but they're super proud of where I've been able to take it traveling, supporting myself since I was 16 basically and making my own money and not needing anything from them. I think there's a lot to be said for that.
I get burned out watching contests and riding contests and hearing about the same people over and over again with the same style, the same tricks and all that.
-- Julian Dusseau
Were your parents tree-loving hippies and that's why they didn't want you getting into motocross?
[laughs] No, they're just straight edge, hard working folks. Like my dad worked in the timber industry doing harvest plans for logging and stuff and my mom was a soccer coach at Humboldt State University and so it just wasn't their thing. It was nothing that they knew about or wanted to know about, so that made my job of trying to get a bike even harder.
So are people in Humboldt all stoked for you, like "That's the freestyle motocross pro from Humboldt who made it big!"
Yeah for sure. There's definitely some respect there I think considering that motocross wasn't a big thing up there and not many people did it. Also, to come out of a town where there's not a whole lot of opportunity for exposure and media outlets, all my family and friends respect that I was able to do it and they're all pumped for me and think it's a cool deal. I basically just made it happen out of will and heart and just wanting it.
How sick do you get of people saying "Oh sick bro, you're from Humboldt!? Hook it up with that bomb bro! I know you guys got that sticky icky up there!"
Yeah, I pretty much get that everywhere I go in the world. Humboldt Nutrients is one of my new sponsors, and they're actually my best sponsor right now. They're doing a graphic deal with me. They're a nutrient and hydro shop, so I've got big Humboldt Nutrients stickers on my bike and I've got the whole rasta rims thing going, so it definitely draws some attention. [laughs]
You're a really dope rider, but how difficult is it for you to keep your name out there since you're not riding any of the big contests?
That's actually one of the things I'm learning to hate about freestyle. It sucks because it's not as open and diverse as other action sports. Like you look at skateboarding or BMX and there's the full contest scene and then there's an entirely different diverse crowd that's just out filming and creating their own exposure. I think that if FMX can adopt those ways, then that's what will make the sport grow, stay new and stick around the longest. I think the different types of niches in those action sports actually keeps everything fresh. Like, I get burned out watching contests and riding contests and hearing about the same people over and over again with the same style, the same tricks and all that. I mean I still ride contests because you have to get out there and show people that you still got tricks and you're killing it, but I'm just kind of getting bummed out on all that. Unless you're going to be one of those mainstream contest guys, there are not many other options for FMXer's to make a living, you know?
Julian's sponsors: Humboldt Nutrients, Dragon, Osiris, Troy Lee Designs, Controversy Clothing, Shoei, Precision Concepts, CTi, Uni Filter, Leatt and Visual Concepts.