Freestyle motocross pioneer Carey Hart will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the RAD (Riders Above Dirt) Awards on December 18 at the Pala Casino Event Center in Pala, Calif. Hart is credited as the first rider to land a backflip in competition, at the 2000 Gravity Games, and his signature trick, the Hart Attack, has become a staple of FMX competition, although he's now perhaps even better known as co-owner of the Hart and Huntington tattoo shop, the star of the A&E series Inked, and the husband of pop star Pink.
"Hart was pretty much the first guy in FMX with any style," says Jeremy Stenberg, who founded the RAD Awards to fill the gap left by the AFMXA (American Freestyle Motocross Association) Awards. In the first two years of the AFMXA Awards, the Lifetime Achievement nods went to Mike Metzger (2009) and Mike Cinqmars (2010). In January Stenberg signed with Hart & Huntington Off Road team for the 2011 Lucas Oil Off Road truck racing series. "Hart's been an inspiration to me from the beginning," says Stenberg, the Fan Favorite winner at the AFMXA Awards in 2010 and Best Video Part winner in 2009 for his video Hoodrich. "Hell, he's been an inspiration to everybody in FMX."
Stenberg will also be following in the AFMXA's foosteps with a new amateur FMX competition, the RAD Amateur Nationals, December 17-18 at Pala Raceway, and says he's hoping to similarly inspire the next generation of riders. "There's no future for FMX without developing some good amateur contests," says Stenberg, who will be judging the contest along with Robbie Maddison, Ronnie Faisst, Nate Adams, and Chris Ackerman. "We're going to help hook the winners up with some good sponsorships and hopefully get them on the road to being able to make a living on their bikes, just as we have."
He's been spending a lot of time thinking about the future of FMX, and news of the new RAD events comes with a startling announcement from Stenberg, an X Games competitor since 1999 and this year's Moto X Best Whip gold medalist. After recovering from his most recent round of injuries (including a broken tibula and heel, as well as a back injury), Stenberg says he's retiring from freestyle competition for the foreseeable future. "I'd still like to compete in the Moto X Best Whip, Step Up, and Speed & Style events at X Games, and I'll still be riding and filming every chance I get, but I'm going to be taking a long break from the straight-up freestyle events."
Injuries plagued the sport of FMX in 2011, with nearly all of the top competitors -- Stenberg, Travis Pastrana, Nate Adams, Mike Metzger, Adam Jones, Dany Torres, Andre Villa, Robbie Maddison, Blake Williams, Jackson Strong, Mat Rebeaud, Josh Sheehan, and more -- missing major events this year. Several fatalities also marred the year, with the death of Stenberg's former teammate Jeff "Ox" Kargola in May and the death of Jim McNeil in early November.
"Ox and McNeil were two of the best guys ever -- there isn't anybody with a bad word to say about either of them -- and they're going to be missed, for sure," says Stenberg. "We're putting together tribute videos for both of them to show during the RAD Awards." The posthumous tribute video has become something of an FMX awards tradition itself, unfortunately: The first AFMXA Awards were held in 2009, following the death of Stenberg's close friend Jeremy Lusk. The AFMXA itself was founded that same year, with a mission "to organize, protect, and develop the sport of Freestyle Motocross in a collective and collaborative manner," but has quietly disappeared from the scene. "The AFMXA pretty much ceased to exist about four months ago," says Stenberg. "I guess they just couldn't make it work."
Metal Mulisha, a presenting sponsor of the previous AFMXA Awards, will not be sponsoring the RAD Awards, according to Susie Stenberg, Jeremy's wife and the co-producer of the new event, which lists Fuel TV and Stenberg's new company, Dirt Bike Kids, as presenting sponsors. Stenberg split with Metal Mulisha, his longtime sponsor, in December 2010, and the company's lack of involvement with the new awards show means one change sure to rankle FMX fans: The ceremony's top honor will no longer be named the Lusk Legacy Foundation Rider of the Year Award. "The categories are different now that it is an entirely new event," explains Susie Stenberg.
Nominees for 2011 Rider of the Year (Pro) and Rider of the Year (Am) will be announced later this week, according to Stenberg. Other categories at the 2011 RAD Awards include Sickest Viral Video, Behind the Scenes, Money Shot (both the athlete and the photographer will be honored), Biggest Get Off, Fan Favorite, Big Nutz, Steppin' Up Your Game, and Big Steaze.