Nitro Circus is on their way to South Africa pretty damn soon and the cities of Cape Town, Joburg and Durban will finally get to see real danger, real close up and personal.
I phoned up Aaron Fotheringham (better known as Wheelz) and we had a little chat. And by “phoned up”, I mean I phoned the poor dude awake very early in the morning. The time difference between South Africa and Las Vegas can be a bitch…
griff: When did you become a part of Nitro Circus?
Wheelz: I’ve done the tour since 2010 and to be able to join them and to be with some of the craziest athletes in the world, you know? It’s great!
griff: How did they come across you? Did you approach them or did they find you somewhere performing? How did you end up in Mr Pestrana’s team?
Wheelz: Nitro Circus contacted me. They sent me an e-mail and they were like “Hey we’re looking for people to jump this big ramp and we heard you were looking to do it in your wheel chair” and I just went “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
griff: Shit man, that’s crazy. These days you’re jumping 50 foot ramps, right? So what was the biggest one you’ve pulled off before then?
Wheelz: Before Nitro Circus, the biggest ramp I did was… I did some big ramps, some pretty tall roll-ins and jumps and stuff but I mean at some point you gotta just go for it and try the Nitro ramp. It is unlike anything I ever did before. You just gotta go for it, I guess?
griff: Did you make the first jump? Did you shit yourself? What happened?
Wheelz: Well, the first one was into foam so I was just happy I made the jump, the gap into the foam pit. Once you make the gap, you’re happy.
griff: And back in 2010 or 2011, I think in New Zealand, you pulled off the first ever front flip in a wheel chair? How the hell did you pull that off?
Wheelz: A front flip is something I’ve always wanted to do and people told me it is impossible and you can’t do it because this or that. It made me just work harder for it. I tried it without foam pits on the Nitro ramp and after the third try I finally landed it.
griff: And how many times have you done it since? How many times have you landed the front flip?
Wheelz: I’ve landed the front flip a lot. I’ve become pretty consistent, which is good, haha! I’ve been landing most of my front flip attempts.
griff: Hectic. That’s cool. So you guys are on your way to South Africa. Any thoughts on that?
Wheelz: I’ve never been to South Africa, so I am really pumped to be able to mark it off my map.
griff: Anything planned while over here?
Wheelz: I am really not sure of our schedule. I don’t know what they have planned for us but hopefully we’ll be able to see some cool stuff.
griff: What can we expect from you guys when you visit? You’ve got some crazy stuff. I mean, you’ve got shopping trollies, a Barbie car… Anything special you’re doing extra on this tour?
Wheelz: Well, let’s just say the whole show has progressed a lot and it is always changing. When we come to South Africa everyone can just expect a top, crazy show because there is always so much going on and I am really excited to come out there and do some flips.
griff: Some high risk stuff, so tell me – are there injuries during the show itself? Do things sometimes go bad during live shows?
Wheelz: It always depends on… we’ve definitely have had injuries during shows. When you’re doing some of the biggest tricks in the world… things go wrong. But you know, not as many as you would think.
griff: From all the stuff, yourself included, what is the most amazing trick that we can look forward to in South Africa? We’ve never had something close to Nitro Circus over here.
Wheelz: Definately Josh Sheehan. He does double back flips and it is the craziest thing in the world! Like the biggest trick in action sports and he can pull it off. It is so inspiring and crazy to watch. Its really awesome!
griff: I can’t wait! While you guys are pulling off these stunts – there’s a shitload of fireworks and bombs and what-not going off. Do you guys get distracted by that at all?
Wheelz: No, if anything it pumps us up even more. The pyro doesn’t really affect us and we try our best just not to get burnt by it, haha!
griff: Haha, I suppose you just sort of go into some tunnel-vision mode where you don’t see anything else but your landing area?
Wheelz: Yeah, that’s pretty much how it is. Once you go over the edge of the ramp, you just kinda block out the whole crowd and you do what you gotta do. Focus.
griff: Haha, damn! So what is the craziest experience you’ve ever had with the fans?
Wheelz: We’ve had fans jump into the stadium and running around and they always get tackled by security and…
griff: That’s actually kinda shitty because it makes it more dangerous.
Wheelz: Oh with the people jumping in?
Wheelz: It is more dangerous for them than it is for us… but one time I was at the top of the ramp with some friends and we’re getting ready to do our sections and some fan had snuck up to the top of the ramp and he was getting ready to drop in on a bike without a helmet.
griff: Oh fuck.
Wheelz: Probably had no experience. Its a good thing we noticed he didn’t “belong”, haha!
griff: Haha, that’s fucking crazy! Do you still get scared? You’ve broken an elbow, Travis Pestrana has basically broken the whole of Travis Pestrana. How do you prepare for something like this?
Wheelz: It definitely gets the adrenaline pumping. We do some scary stuff. It is natural, but if you build a sense of confidence after a little while. You always have to have a little bit of fear in the back of your mind and you need to pay attention and weigh up the consequences. You gotta push yourself.
griff: We are really looking forward to seeing you guys over here. Sorry for waking you up so early. One last question: What advice do you have for kids who would like to get into this kind of extreme sports that you are in?
Wheelz: We’ve been doing it for a while. We didn’t just start with the bigger stuff, you know? Start small and build your way up but definitely wear the appropriate protection like helmets and padding. That’s the best way to go about doing it.
griff: Some solid advice. OK, I’m gonna let you get back to sleep. Nice chatting to you and see you in South Africa soon.
Wheelz: Hey, thank you, buddy. Enjoy the show when we come there!
Better get your tickets over here. These guys tend to sell out pretty fast worldwide:
February 15th – Cape town, Cape Town Stadium (tickets from R280)
February 19th – Durban, Moses Mabhida Stadium (tickets from R180)
February 22nd – Johannesburg, FNB Stadium (tickets from R300)