Let him talk: Dakota Roche Q&A

Dakota Roche, June 2010. Justin Kosman

Right this second, it's hard to go a few minutes without someone discussing the new Cult video, "Let 'Em Talk." And for good reason. Barely nine months ago, Cult was nothing more than an idea. And now, they have product, hype, and thanks to the Cult team, a groundbreaking video that's got everyone talking.

Part of the allure behind Cult's quick ascent is Dakota Roche, a 22-year-old native of Huntington Beach, Calif. Dakota burst onto the SoCal scene in the late '00s and was brought up through the ranks of the Fit Bike Co. team. Following impressive sections in "Brighton Ain't Ready," and the Levi's video, Dakota had the BMX world talking. His name adorned a signature line of frames and bikes at Fit, and he was given signature colorways from Lotek Footwear. The stars seemed aligned for Dakota's pro BMX career. But things aren't always as they seem.

In October of 2009, Dakota, along with Chase Hawk, Chase Dehart and Robbie Morales left Fit, arguably one of the biggest BMX brands in existence, to start Cult. In the team's words, Cult was "their own thing," and that meant more to them than a monthly pay check. Then, in mid-June, Dakota walked away from a signature shoe deal with Lotek to ride for Vans. According to Dakota, it was a tough decision, but one that ultimately provided more opportunities for his career as a pro. It's a now-familiar storybook tale: getting sponsored, getting signature products and enjoying life as a pro. But Dakota Roche prefers the road (or wallride) less traveled, and that's just one of many reasons why everyone is talking about Dak (along with his ridiculous part in the new Cult video.)

Recently, we caught up with Dakota to discuss the Cult video, rail technique and riding street in a contest environment. As usual, Dakota produced.

The word on the street right now is the Cult video. Considering how new the brand is, how did that come together so quick?
It's actually a cool story. We were planning on going on two trips and getting a little promo video done, to maybe throw on the Web or maybe a five or ten minute DVD to give to kids whenever we saw them. And basically, at the end of the second trip, we were going over footage with Ryan Navazio (Cult filmer/editor) and everyone on the team was present. We realized that everyone had a really solid amount of footage. We decided to edit this up like a normal video and see how it goes. Navaz started messing with the video and it was looking really good. I flew out to Navaz's house in Philly and helped a little bit with some editing and we were psyched on the progress. I think it came together so easy because on all the trips, the vibe was right; it felt like we were just riding with our friends. The result was actually coming out with a video when we were just planning on doing a promo, which was awesome.

Did working with someone like Navaz also contribute to the overall production rate of the Cult team?
Yeah, I've been chilling with Navaz since 2006. He helped a little bit with filming some of my "Fit Life" stuff and he asked me to film a couple clips for "Left/Right" as well. Ever since I've filmed with him the first time, I realized how good his work was, and it got me really psyched to continue to film with him. Because he was mainly in charge of this project, I knew we were in good hands for filming and editing. It definitely helped.

So do you think that the vibe wasn't with Fit as much as it is with Cult?
Yeah, I feel like the vibe is more here with Cult than it was for Fit. I'm not saying it wasn't present at all with Fit though. I just feel that vibe more now than I did before.

For me, the one trick that stood out was the rail to wallride, and I was wondering how you stumbled onto figuring that out? Or was that something that you have been planning on doing?

Well I found it probably a year ago in Newport, Calif. I looked down the way from a spot we were checking out and we noticed this kinked, curved rail. And we're looking at it and saying, "Man that thing would be good, but there was a wall right after it." So you can't really hit it. Then I thought, "I wonder if that would line up for a grind to wall ride," and I actually took a few people by it to get their opinions. To be honest, it didn't seem like it would line up. But I decided to try it and see what happens. Nathan Wiliams was in town staying with me and we went down there with [Ride BMX photographer] Jeff Z. Nathan actually filmed that clip, and it definitely took a couple tries. I was getting killed pretty bad trying to get into the wallride.

You can see those in the credits.
Yeah, in the credits. The one where I hip checked the wall, I had a bruise that took up my whole side for almost two weeks. That was pretty gnarly; I almost went to the hospital.

It definitely seems worth it though. I watched that and it seems like that one trick may change the way a lot of people look at rails.

Wow thank you. That would be sweet.

You recently made the switch from Lotek to Vans, and people didn't seem to react too well to the news. How do you feel about receiving Internet backlash for something as simple as switching sponsors?
I think people are just misinformed. They don't understand the whole situation. They get a whole bunch of little tidbits and base their opinion off that, and that's never a way to do anything. People can say, "Oh he got a signature shoe and then he quit," but they don't know the whole situation and until they do, they should probably keep their opinions to themselves and not dis people on the computer. I'm sure people have better things to do anyway.

Even though you're in direct competition with all these dudes, you don't really care because they are doing cool stuff and you are just stoked on it.

--Dakota Roche

I know you're sort of infamous for being super frustrated on camera and I wanted to ask you about that.
Ha, I just get really frustrated sometimes if I'm trying to film a trick that I feel should take less time than it really does. Maybe I set my expectations too high? If I think a line will take 15 or 20 minutes to film, and it turns into 45 minutes or an hour, I don't understand why. It just kills me, so I start screaming. I feel like I've been doing a little better with it lately. At least I hope.

I think you can even see that in your crashes in the Cult video.
Yeah, even if I'm frustrated, I'll keep it to myself these days.

It seems like you have the ability to ride street on a competition level as well as a video part level and I want to know what you think it takes to do both, because not many people can.
That's a hard question.

Well some people can produce an amazing video part, but if you put them in the X Games street contest, they wouldn't really want to ride.

I guess it comes down to motivation. I'm not just motivated to film a video part. I like to try new things in a contest setting, because that's fun too. If I do decent at the X Games, I'm real psyched, and it's the same with a video part that I might be working on. It comes down to being satisfied with whatever I'm doing.

Does the competition aspect even matter to you?

Not necessarily, basically I'm friends with everyone that's riding in street contests. I would get just as stoked if Sean Sexton, Nathan Williams or Corey Martinez did well.

To me, the fact that everyone that rides street at the X Games is good friends with each other comes across more than any other discipline in the X games. There's more of a sense of camaraderie than other events.
I would definitely agree with you. Everyone is giving high-fives when someone does something cool and even though you're in direct competition with all these dudes, you don't really care because they are doing cool stuff and you are just stoked on it.

To close, what's next for you this year?
I'm planning on going back to the East Coast at some point. Pretty soon we're gonna start work on a promo video for Cult video that we are going to have on repeat at Interbike. So everyone is just trying to film a couple of things for that. I think I'm going to stay out with Navaz. Every time I go out to the East Coast, I've had a good time, so I'm definitely looking forward to that.

That works for me. Thanks.