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Photo by Luca Cometti

2015 marks the Tenth Edition of the Red Bull Rampage. Ten times these incredible athletes have come together to compete in the gnarliest freeride mountain bike event in the world. Ten times these athletes have defied gravity, accomplished death-defying stunts and shocked the world. I have attended Rampage three times now as an athlete's significant other. This allows me a unique vantage point to witness the unbelievable hard-working people who make this event possible. Over the past couple of years I have come to truly admire the diggers. Each athlete is allowed to invite three diggers and one team manager for the week prior to the event, to help sculpt and create their lines. The Diggers are not paid, and often put in a solid week of 12-hour-plus days in the unbearable heat and dust of the Utah desert. You will often see them standing on ledges that would make your tummy turn attempting to pack a perfect landing or take-off. Most of them are willing to work this hard because they know that the quality of their dig will impact the safety of their rider and the success of his run. This year I set out on a mission to give a voice to some of our unsung heroes of Rampage. - Rachel Throop

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Daniel Henshall

Who do you dig for? Remy Metailler

Where did you travel from? Manchester, United Kingdom

How many times have you dug at Rampage? First time digging. It is amazing here. It really is. I haven’t seen anything like it.

How did you become Remy’s digger?

Basically, I had seen a message he had posted on Facebook, responded to it, and that was about three months ago. Since then it has just come from there to here. Really quite cool.

What do you do back home?

I’m a plasterer by trade. Coming out here is more of a holiday really. Something I have always wanted to do. Well I guess a working holiday, ha. I do a bit of filming, so it has been nice to come out here and meet people. Hard work for sure, back-breaking days, and the heat is wicked.

What is the most memorable feature you’ve helped create at Rampage?

Remy's line is completely new this year. The hardest part was the berm at the very top. It was insanely difficult to get it started. The slope was really steep making it hard to start. It took us over three days work to complete the berm. Really hard work.

Spade or flathead? Spade

Pick-axe or McCleod? McCleod

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Oszkar Nagy

Who do you dig for? Reece Wallace

Where did you travel from? Budapest, Hungary

How many times have you dug at Rampage? This is my very first time being at Rampage.

How did you become Reece’s digger?

I am on Chromag as an athlete and he is the team manager for Chromag. I knew that he needed a hand to help and I was down to just experience Rampage in any way, either as a rider or a digger or whatever. Just being here is amazing.

What do you do back home?

I am a slopestyle rider, competing on the FMB tour. I had some good results this year, and I had always thought that Rampage would be just too gnarly for me, but I realized you could build a line that is more mellow at first. I would be very down to compete here, for sure. It is such beautiful scenery here. I love the vibe even though it is hard work.

What is the best quality you bring to your dig team?

I have a backyard at home, like a slopestyle course. I have learned how to really shape a landing and perfect the jumps. How to do all the finishing touches.

Spade or flathead? Flathead

Pick-axe or McCleod? Pick-axe

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Jeremy Witek

Who do you dig for? Cameron Zink

Where did you travel from?

I’m from Wisconsin, which has been home my whole life, but for the last five years I started a company called G.A.S.S. Parks (Global Action Sports Solutions) which has me traveling a lot.

How many times have you dug at Rampage?

I have been digging for six years at Rampage. This is the second year I have dug for Cam. The previous three years I managed the Red Bull dig crew and then spent one year digging under Patty K for Rampage.

Tricks of the trade. Gators to keep the sand out. Photo by Ella Skalwold

How did you become Cam’s digger?

Haha, that’s a long story. Basically, I started building jumps at Woodward West and helped develop the mountain bike program over there and ran the mountain bike program as the director. Cam had come out to shoot some stuff with Mike Redding when he worked for Troy Lee. Cam was like, "this place is amazing," and he was really pumped on it! I had a 70ft dirt-to-dirt jump and a bunch of other features. Cam ended up filming maybe half of his part for New World Disorder 10 there and we became friends and it evolved from there. He is actually the reason I got into digging as a part of the Rampage crew. He vouched for me and that's how I got my in. He had my back.

What is the best quality you bring to your dig team?

There are a few of us that have some tricks. I definitely put a lot of time in learning what minerals are in the dirt here and how it works. How carbon and hydrogen can bind together and make the dirt tighter, and that is part of the reason you are seeing bigger jumps and people not tomahawking over the bars as much. It’s been fun. I really take my experiences from outside digger through construction and art to really accomplish something great.

What is the most memorable feature that you have created?

I mean, there’s so many. It’s just the same when you become so passionate about anything. It’s not only about what you build, but about pushing yourself to do something better and achieving the unknown. So I would say that the (Oakley) Icon Sender was one of the biggest ones. Then last year carving out the top of Cam and Kyle’s line at the top was insane. I was just tied off on a harness, having never climbed or rappelled before. You just have to just have to teach yourself as you go. It can be really dangerous work.

Spade or flathead? Flathead

Pick-axe or McCleod? Oooohhh, that’s a hard one, but if I had to choose, pick-axe.

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Tom Ghelli

Who do you dig for? Tyler McCaul

Where did you travel from? Park City, Utah

How many times have you dug at Rampage? This is my 3rd year digging for T-Mac.

How did you become Tyler’s digger?

Random luck. I run the GT bikes West Coast demo and athlete support. We ended up digging for him the first year after he approached me and have been digging ever since for him. Last year was an easy year since Tmac was injured, but we were definitely scouting lines.

'Pony Boy' (aka 'Sticker Boy') strikes again. No one can mistakes this tool's owner. Photo by Ella Skalwold

What is the most memorable feature you’ve helped create at Rampage?

The step down two years ago until we build this drop, El Presidente. It has been a solid four days of building this landing. The amount of dirt we had to move to build it was really hard since the landing next to it was built last year, taking most of the dirt. Stacking all the rocks and the sandbags was a lot.

What is the best quality you bring to your dig team? I’m more of a workhorse. I move a lot of dirt.

Spade or flathead? Spade

Pick-axe or McCleod? Pick-axe

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Eliot Jackson

Who do you dig for? Bernard Kerr

Where did you travel from? Thousand Oaks, California

How many times have you dug at Rampage?

Two times. Each year you learn something different. Finally figuring out how to stack the sandbags out here and keep our rock walls up. Digging out here is something entirely different. I have built tons of dirt jumps, but building a jump out of pebbles is pretty weird.

How did you become Bernard’s digger?

We are good friends and teammates both racing on the World Cup circuit. We have the same ideas on what to build and what you could pull up on and jump, making working together easy. We both get along really well.

What do you do back home? I'm a Professional mountain bike racer.

What is the most memorable feature you’ve helped create at Rampage?

This year Bernard had a really ambitious shark fin stepdown thing, and he had to convince us all on it. We were all like, "No, no that’s not going to work." But we got it done, it’s almost done now and I think it will work! Bernard is really good at taking something impossible and making it happen.

What is the best quality you bring to your dig team?

Well obviously I’m good at everything (chuckles)... I guess maybe shaping stuff. Ya, definitely shaping stuff. I probably have the most experience digging, so maybe knowing how a lip needs to be shaped and packed.

Spade or flathead? Flathead

Pick-axe or McCleod? I don’t even know what a McCleod is hahaha, so I’ll take a pick.

Photo by Luca Cometti

Sean “Griz” McClendon

Who do you dig for? Kyle Strait

Where did you travel from? Alpine, California

How many times have you dug at Rampage? This is the third time I have dug for Kyle. What can I say? I’m a good friend.

How did you become Kyle’s digger?

Well, I have been digging jumps for over 50% of my life and I have known Kyle for roughly the same time. Kyle has ridden a lot of stuff that I’ve dug and he trusts me basically, so that's how it came together. When I was healthy enough to be able to dig again after my big crash I was there for him.

Kyle Strait and his dig crew trying to beat the heat lounging in a berm they dubbed *Party Way*. - Photo by Luca Cometti

What do you do back home?

I am the Brand Manager for the Bicycle Division at Maxima Racing Oils. I definitely have bitchin' bosses that understand the importance of me being here.

What is the most memorable feature you’ve helped create at Rampage?

There are a couple. One of the most memorable is in 2013 when Kyle won it and we built that freeway into that big-ass drop that he and Cameron hit. That’s really memorable because that was such a life-or-death feature for them. I mean, in all reality, that wasn’t the most technical build but it had to be perfect because those guys needed all the speed they could get. We had to move a lot of dirt. It was nerve-racking. We had to make sure that they didn't case or crash.

What is the best qualities you bring to your dig team?

They kinda lean on the back end of stuff, like bringing 5-gallon buckets, bringing water sprayers, and bringing tools. When it comes to the actual physical labor part of it, I’m probably the weakest link out there and I understand that so I work smarter, not harder. This is brutal work and there’s a lot of work. There are some riders I know whose dig team just straight bailed. You pretty much just sweat out whatever water you put into your body because it is so hot.

Spade or flathead? Flathead

Pick-axe or McCleod? Pick

Photo by Ella Skalwold

Alexander Chisholme

Who do you dig for? Brandon Semenuk

Where did you travel from? Whistler, British Columbia. Drove on down to Squamish, jumped in Brandon’s truck, and headed to the airport.

How many times have you dug at Rampage?

Last year was my first year at Rampage and also my first year digging at Rampage. So this would be my second year digging at Rampage. It has been a super eye-opening experience and I hope to come back for many years to come.

How did you become Brandon’s digger?

Well uh, I think I got pretty lucky. What I normally do for the summers is work for Joyride at Whistler Bike Park under Patty K. Brandon has been pretty involved in the course building there in previous years and that was where I first met Brandon. I competed in the amateur event at the Bearclaw Invitational and got to hang out with him a little more there and we spent some time riding in the Air Dome. Next thing I got a text message asking if I wanted to come out for the dig last year.

What do you do back home?

In the summer I work for Whistler Bike Park helping build the Joyride course and in the winter I work as a paramedic for a company out of Alberta. The oil fields can be quite lucrative work which allows me to finance this passion that I have.

What is the best quality you bring to your dig team?

One of the most important things about being a digger is putting the effort in. Don’t settle for something less than ideal. Like, ideally this berm needs to be out here, so let’s take the time to make it right instead of cutting corners. Overall I like to think that I bring the persistence and try to continue to put out the most amount of effort. I feel like here I can really focus in finishing things off and really be there for the team for anything that needs to be done.

Spade or flathead? Spade. A flathead is kind of a fine-tuning tool, and where I grew up in the Yukon, we have such terrible dirt we are almost forced to use wood ramps for lips, so I was always about my spade because the dirt came with lots of roots and rocks.

Pick-axe or McCleod? Pick-axe for sure. I think the McCleod is too much in between. You can move a lot of dirt but the spade would probably work just as good. The pick-axe is just so key to chippin' away at hard rocks.

James *Slim* Patterson shows off what a week of digging in the desert does to your hands. - Photo by Ella Skalwold

About the Author

When Kyle Strait's fiancé, Rachel Throop, asked to prepare this piece for Vital MTB, she was hobbling around on crutches just weeks after a big crash. Despite the setback and likelihood of difficultly in getting around the Rampage site, she said she wanted to recognize the tireless effort the dig teams put in to help make the event a success for many riders. That's commitment. Rachel is a professional enduro rider for GT, loves a good beer, enjoys crocheting, is a former Junior Expert National XC Champion, and always has a blast while shredding on her bicycle. She was assisted by her friend Ella Skalwold, who rides for Transition Bikes.

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