Cam Zink and the Mammoth backflip
Countdown to launch time
In preparation for his world record mountain bike backflip attempt at Mammoth Mountain in California, Cam Zink and brother Howie put some final touches into Zink's bike prior to practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, Zink landed a 100-foot, 3-inch backflip on a dirt-to-dirt jump for "World Of X Games" on ABC, adding his name to the Guinness Book of World Records in the process.
Cam Zink jumps out of the back of a Gator (his uphill transportation) en route to his starting point at Mammoth Mountain. Although Mammoth is best known as a winter resort, it also has a long history in the world of mountain bike riding. Mammoth actually possesses 80 miles of single track as part of its extensive bike park.
Top of the hill
The run-in is 910 feet long and starts at about 8,540 feet above sea level. To achieve the 100-foot backflip, Zink estimates that he will need to be hitting 49 to 50 mph at the takeoff point.
Zink practice run
Zink became an official Mammoth Mountain team rider within the last year, and he and another sponsor, Monster Energy, approached the resort with the backflip idea early in 2014. "They were stoked," Zink says. "Right away, they wanted to do it."
Surveying the jump
The takeoff is 15 feet high, 8 feet wide at the top and has a 32-degree angle at the lip. It features 50 cubic yards of dirt covering a base constructed of 30 pine logs bound together. The jump is a dirt-to-dirt gap jump built on level ground -- it is not a step-down jump.
Tape Measures This Long Exist?
Cam Zink measures the gap with friend and longtime course designer Jeremy Witek for the Mammoth Flip. At 80 feet, that's 10 feet wider than the big gap on a MegaRamp.
Before this week, Zink had taken about 20 practice jumps from the takeoff, landing into an airbag, and roughly half of those practice jumps had been backflips. This week, just a day before the event, he's feeling out the gap during practice, without an airbag in place.
Even without the airbag in place, Zink is nailing the distance, with style to boot, on reentry.
Here, a radar gun gauges Zink's approach speed at 52 mph. Zink estimated that he would need to be between 45 and 50 mph to complete the 100-foot distance, so he may need to slow down a bit.
After some practice jumps, Zink's crew got to work on the course landing. As a seasoned rider at Mammoth, Zink knows the intricacies of the local terrain well, and his crew is attentive to his needs.
To keep the take-off and landing in pristine shape, the dirt is continuously smoothed out and watered after each practice session. Here, as the day wraps up, the landing is watered. This keeps the landing solid and wind-resistant.
Cam Zink, fiance's Amanda, and baby Ayla and dog Zader inspect the jump prior to the actual event. "Amanda and Ayla are the most important part of my life, and I wouldn't do these things unless I felt really confident. I try to keep everything as safe as possible," says Zink.
Zink joins the on-air talent and other ESPN department coordinators for a production meeting prior to the event.
Former X Games BMX Vert and Big Air competitor Kevin Robinson (right) speaks with Zink and family about his personal experiences on long-distance jumps. Robinson is on sight at Mammoth to offer on-air commentary for ESPN during the event.
Zink's crew assembles at the end of the day and everyone checks Instagram while Zink discusses specifics.
X Games support
Winter X Games athletes Kelly Clark (center) and Sage Kotsenburg (right), both Mammoth residents when the time permits, were on hand for Cam Zink's backflip.
Zink rolls in
Amid gusty wind conditions, a crowd gathers to watch Zink roll down his approach for the Mammoth backflip.
Moment of truth
After waiting out wind gusts, and undergoing a speed check, Zink dropped in and threw the historic backflip with ease over the dirt-to-dirt jump. In the end, his official jump record stood at 100 feet, 3 inches. "Cam, welcome to the Guinness World Records family: you are officially amazing," said Guinness World Records representative Alex Angert, after verifying the backflip length.
Zink's backflip was about as perfect as backflips can get. He landed on both wheels at the same time, clearing the gap and rolling away as smoothly as possible from the jump.
Zink skids to a halt following his landing of the historic backflip at Mammoth.
"It's like a dream. I mean, just popped off and I was like 'holy moly' I forgot how long I'd be in the air," he told ESPN's Alyssa Roenigk moments after the jump.
World record achieved
Zink holds the plaque presented to him by the Guinness Book of World Records following his backflip. "That's going to be the best plaque I've ever had on my wall, that's for sure," said Zink.