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Zach Hensley is one of those guys who just gets shit done. If you're in touch with his digging activities, you'll know he's got his head down and his shovel deep, but when he posts photos of his latest digging exploits on the web, his commitment becomes quite clear. The photos go up and comments pack the bandwidth with praise and jealousy like a tamper on a fresh lip. I understand the praises. The work deserves praise. I don't understand the jealousy. Musings of, “oh man, I wish I had those jumps,” or “you're so lucky to be able to dig all the time,” pepper the replies to photos of manicured lips and roller coaster layouts.

Is Zach really lucky? After spending an afternoon in the hills of Northern California with him and his backyard community, I learned that luck has nothing to do with it.

PhotoLike a handful of dedicated, neurotic diggers that I've met over the years, Zach is a straight-shooter. There's no bullshit, no formalities, no small talk...what you see is what you get and if you don't like it, you better figure out a way to deal with it.  As I prodded him about all his digging spots, the first thing out of his mouth was that he unfairly gets so much credit for digging and then points to Clint [Chandler], who is putting air in completely slick rear tire, ready for riding.

“Clint is just as responsible for all those spots as I am, if not more. He moves more dirt than anyone I know,” Zach says.

Clint, who was appreciative of the gratitude, shrugged it off, removed the pump from the nozzle and ripped the backyard, flexing the vertical berms without any knobs.

PhotoZach continues, “I've dedicated my life to having places to ride. How many dudes do you know who almost got divorced because they dug too much? People always tell me I must be crazy because I love digging so much. They're the crazy ones. I don't love digging. Who wants to break their back for 8 hours a day? But if I don't do it, I won't have anywhere to ride that is actually worth riding.”

I soak up the statement and look at the backyard. This isn't Zach's actual backyard. It is Colin Fergeson's, Zach's next door neighbor. Colin is a college professor who saw Zach building and demanded he expand it one yard over. Months in the making, this backyard might be casually called a pumptrack, but it is modern rendition of that category, to say the least. The berms are deep, the rollers, jumps and trannies are big and the lines are endless. This backyard track is a creation of the soul and earth, not some design created in AutoCAD with math and measurements. This is a true piece of custom, one-of-a-kind sculpture.

“You have so many spots, though. You really don't love digging,” I ask.

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 “We have two good trails spots now and this track. All of the other places you're talking about were shut down, so we had to move on. I've learned, though. I'm not going to touch anything unless I know it will be around for a long time and the two spots we have are solid.”

The afternoon wears on. We ride and drink. Alison, Zach's wife, cooks up some incredible, gourmet barbecue with salmon, kabobs and veggie burgers. Eventually Colin and his seven year old son, Braiden get home and Braiden makes some ballsy attempts at ripping the track. A run-in with a tree doesn't slow him down and everyone cheers. Stories exchange, watering and patching of the track keep it running smoothly and a backyard community enjoys the fruits of some “luck.”
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sspomer sspomer 3/10/2010 8:41 AM

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Been weilding for awhile now. Heavily influenced by your work Zdank! Building a Dh / pumptrack in the hills of Aptos now. Yes. Dh. pumptrack. Rule of our trail is no braking and no pedaling allowed.

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zach was the first one to inspire me to make bomb trails and looking back at his stuff and how he keeps moving on has helped me keep digging.

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I have always been amazed with Zach's work ethic. I have never seen luck have anything to do with this sport, unless its bad luck. Zach has been busting his ass for years and deserves the recognition, but as is demostrated with Spomer's story, he is quick to brush that shoulder pat off and just tell it like it is, he digs, so he can ride. You build some amazing spots Zach. We have been putting tons of time into our spots and plan to use your work as something to achieve. Thanks for being a good example to those afraid to wield a shovel.

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