Open Letter to Steve Romaniuk

Words Cam McRae
Photos Long Nguyen
Date Oct 21, 2015

A little background for those of you just tuning in. Both Brandon Turman of Vital MTB and Lacy Kemp wrote pieces this week asking questions about Rampage. They asked about rider safety, compensation, insurance and the potential for serious injury. And in particular the disparity between the risk and the reward. Steve Romaniuk, the retired pro rider, took issue with Lacy and Brandon speaking out in any way, and I have posted his words below. And below that you’ll find my response.


Hey Romo,

You said some things on social media that I wanted to address. You said some wise things and some that I felt were… less so. You can probably guess which ones I am writing you about.

Brandon Turman cast the first stone, and Lacy Kemp unleashed her thoughts shortly after. They put words to what many of us have been thinking about Rampage for a long time; riders, media and spectators. Not everyone shares their views but many top riders hailed both Brandon and Lacy for voicing their thoughts. You probably know a few of these dudes; Cam Zink, Geoff Gulevich, Ryan Meyer, Jeff Herbertson, Mark Matthews, The Coastal Crew to name a few. They appreciated the words and sent props to Brandon and Lacy for expressing them.

You however, a notable former Rampager, took issue with their pieces, despite not addressing them by name. You went after “all this redbull rampage negativity.” While you weren’t on hand for this year’s event to my knowledge, I realize you know a little about Rampage. You were once a Rampage regular. You were 5th in 2003, on the podium in 2004. You could have gone higher in 2010 if you hadn’t come up a little short in qualis on your creative step down transfer, which was later used by Gee Atherton who added a kicker, riding the line to second place. Your voice is an authoritative one to be sure. Your words are passionate and strong. In your Facebook post you refer to a “9-5 bitch that comes home to a gf that runs your show.” Clearly you long for the days when you put your life on the line, inspiring and amazing many of us in the process.

steve_romaniuk_2010

Steve missed this – literally  – by a few inches. Otherwise he would have been in the finals in 2010. I was there and cheering him on as loud as anyone. Sequence – Long Nguyen

I have no issue with your passion nor your longing. And by all means challenge those who are speaking the loudest – particularly when you are informed about the subject. But you also suggest that people like Brandon and Lacy should keep their opinions to themselves – that they aren’t qualified to speak out and should therefore keep silent – and I have a problem with that.

If something is worth doing, indeed if it’s so worthwhile that young men will put their lives on the line for it, then it’s sure as hell worth questioning. Otherwise we’ll just be following along blindly. The riders themselves have questions and issues, but for them – who want to be invited back – speaking up isn’t always possible. Particularly if they wear Red Bull headwear all day every day.

You also said, “But don’t judge us crazies when your a web writer. Your not qualified.” To start off with you can just call us writers. Our words don’t have less value because they won’t be recycled after they are read. Then you went further to say “The people writing these articles aren’t even the riders riding. So why are you speaking?” If we take your statement further, would you also say that private citizens shouldn’t comment on politics – since we aren’t politicians? That makes just as much sense. The idea that only those competing should be able to comment is, frankly, ridiculous. The judges aren’t riding either, and they have the final say, for better or worse.

The athletes and sponsors should be thankful that there are writers (web and otherwise) who care enough about the sport to write about it, and that there are fans keen to read these thoughts. Intelligent and thought provoking commentary exists in every established sport – and this commentary is a sign that mountain biking is continuing to mature.

The truth is that Brandon and Lacy (both riders) put their reputations on the line because they felt strongly about Rampage. And they did it for their friends as well – people they care about. Obviously you are free to disagree, and you did so eloquently and passionately, but don’t belittle the risk they have taken by speaking out.  It would have been far easier for both of them to say nothing.

Lacy was at the event this year – on the hill with the athletes while they were digging – documenting their sacrifices before the event. And Brandon was there the year before, shovel in hand. These two know what they are talking about, although from a different perspective than you or others who have competed at Rampage.

Clearly people have opinions about this and it’s worthy of discussion. All of us would be singing a different tune if someone had died at Rampage this year, and it’s only luck that kept that from happening. Hopefully our luck will continue, but if steps can be taken to make that less likely, without compromising the event, wouldn’t that be better?

If you’d prefer the mountain bike media to be obedient, to follow the purse strings and to never rock the boat, that’s your prerogative. I’m a fan of the shit disturbers. Those willing to speak their minds when they care about something, potential consequences bedamned. In fact I’d say writers like Brandon and Lacy have more in common with you than you think. You weren’t one to blindly follow, to play by the rules or to shy away from something that scared you. And they aren’t either.

Sometimes the risk takers, the legends and the crazies, ply their trade with their thoughts and words. And their efforts are no less valuable, worth no less respect.

Long live Rampage, and long live those willing to rock the boat for what they believe in.

Still hoping for your comeback,
Cam McRae


Are you a shit disturber?

 

Trending on NSMB

Comments

reformed-roadie
-1 Chris Lawrence
reformed roadie  - Oct. 25, 2015, 6:58 p.m.

Most disturbing is the missuse of 'there' and 'your'…

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Pediclescrew
0
Big D  - Oct. 25, 2015, 3:19 p.m.

I agree with a lot of what Steve said, not like we didn't see this coming. Look at the sharp end of Rock Climbing and Surfing, there is a body count far bigger than there is in Mountain biking and there are even more guys doing the dangerous stuff with little or no compensation. Considering the segments we have been enjoying for the last few years I am stunned this hasn't happened sooner. When it's all said and done things may change at rampage but regardless the guys that want to make a buck or make an indelible mark will, no, MUST, keep pushing the envelope. Those are the ones we watch.
Semenuk just showed us that rampage is more about insane lines than style.

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dan
-1 Chris Lawrence
Dan  - Oct. 24, 2015, 1:47 p.m.

Oh good. Someone wants to repress someone else's freedom of speech. Nothing to see here. Also, Romo, time to start using that apostrophe key. If you want your opinions to be taken seriously, do like all good "web writers" [sic] do and use good grammar.

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extraspecialandbitter
0
ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Oct. 23, 2015, 8:53 a.m.

Pushing the boundaries will always be hard wired into some people. It is when they feel the most concentration. They forget about everything else and become so focused that they reach a sort of meditative state. As the boundaries get pushed fewer and fewer people will be able to complete what is the top of the sport. The two "internet writers" have realized that Rampage can kill you, so maybe they should invite fewer people and keep the invites secret so that there's no pressure on the riders. I expect there to be change for next year, but I hope they continue pushing the limits of what is humanly possible. If people are upset about internet culture and glorifying the sport then I think they should be critical of our society and not of the riders who I would consider to be the ones keeping our world from being filled with the same boring Instagram pictures of people's boring food selfies. Alpinists (and ski alpinists) push the limits and search for those lines that are at their limits. A mistake or even just a stroke of bad luck could be the end of them. Yet those scary lines are the ones they dream of. A beautiful nightmare.

Rampage has always been capable of killing people and if people didn't realize it, then yes, they should. So, professional riders, realize that Rampage can kill you. If you go, realize that you may not come home or you may have immense medical bills to pay for and no way to pay them. And realize that we will NOT judge you for backing down. What you are doing is 'effed up" and we know it. We are amazed at what you can do and if your gut says no, then we respect you even more. Do not feel pressured to do what you do not want to do. Be brave enough to say no and back away. Follow you own path, no one else's. If you set your own path then you are in control of your own destiny. If you are true to yourself you will never have anything to regret. Oh and invest in a really good insurance plan.

"I do not go to the mountains to die. I go to the mountains to live, because that is where I feel most alive." - Andreas Fransson

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kain0m
0
kain0m  - Oct. 23, 2015, 5:53 a.m.

So would Rampage be OK if Red Bull put on a big prize? Would the riders then not just be "in it for the money"? I think out of all the people out there Roamie would be on of those "most entitled" to speak - he's been pushing the sport for quite some time, and while he may be out of the media's attention mowadays, there is no doubt in my mind he would still hit Rampage style obstacles if the chance presented itself.

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jay
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jay  - Oct. 22, 2015, 7:50 p.m.

Am i the only person here that thinks that posting an article is the worst part of this??? steve has some valid points and some not so valid points, but in the end hes just some dude posting a fuckin status on his facebook page. who gives a fuck? was it really necessary to write an article about how "wrong" he was and call him out on the front page of your website?? like the writers of those articles need sticking up for or something? dispite the fact that you clearly disagree, this would have been a good time to be the bigger person. some of the most immature childish shit ive seen to date.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 22, 2015, 8:10 p.m.

Yes, I think you are the only person that thinks that posting an article is the worst part of this.

Steve is not 'just some dude'. He knew that when he wrote what he wrote, and Cam responded because of that fact. Romo's thoughts on the subject are absolutely valid, but that doesn't mean they're all correct, or put another way, that they're not eligible to be debated.

I think it's worth re-stating at this point that Brandon, Lacy, and Cam all wrote their articles because they care about this sport, the athletes in it, and the future of events like Rampage and the sport as a whole. You may not agree with what they think, but dismissing the importance of this conversation? You might as well just ask for the status quo to remain. And if you've read what some key people in this conversation have to say, that is exactly what we can't afford.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Oct. 23, 2015, 2:15 p.m.

You might be, but Steve writing some incredibly stupid things, demonstrating an extremely narrow range of experience, and not really understanding the articles he was responding to sets a very, very low mark in this whole thing. I wouldn't say I'm ready to celebrate this article though.

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0
Amanda  - Oct. 22, 2015, 6:26 p.m.

Well said. Rampage IS a different animal these days and, going solely off of the current competing athletes' statements, fighting both inconsistent judging and just to stay alive are the main draws for rampage these days. How is that fun?

When the current high-level, super-human athletes are the first people to begin using hashtags such as #fuckrampage, I would say a much closer look is owed by all outside parties, and that includes former athletes and bike media alike. Lacy and Brandon gave excellent views on the subject and their opinions are just as valid as Romo's -- this bullshit habit of dismissing the people we don't agree with is going to fracture and destroy our community. It's time to have real dialogue without criminalizing anyone.

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poo-stance
0
Poo Stance  - Oct. 22, 2015, 1:45 p.m.

What is the prize money breakdown?

Rampage seems to be one of the wildest events on the planet. The "safety nets" built into the activity are non-existent besides an invite, a bike and a helmet on. Compare build time of the Crankworx Whistler SlopeStyle course to a Rampage line and SS is looking down right safe. SS was cancelled due to rain, who is making the call on event conditions?

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poo-stance
0
Poo Stance  - Oct. 22, 2015, 1:34 p.m.

What is the prize money breakdown anyway?

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0
Ted Roome  - Oct. 22, 2015, 1:02 p.m.

I remember in 2011 the NHL lost 3 enforcers in a row. Rypien and Belak(Suicides) and Boogard (Brain Damage). A few former enforcers went public to decry fighting in the NHL. Don Cherry called them Hypocrites and told them to shut up. Cherry has said a lot of stupid shit in the past but this really took the cake. These were the guys who had been in the role. Why would we not listen to them?
Brandon and Lacy's articles are an attempt to raise awareness. The choice to compete is the riders alone but starting the conversation will help them make more informed choices. If enough riders do the math and start taking a pass on Rampage, then Rampage may have to address things like lines and insurance to get them back. To me, this would only result in a better more respectable event.
I'd like to take this opportunity to self identify as a 9-5 bitch. While I respect the skill and hard work that goes into being a pro, I get a hell of a lot out of riding with my wheels on the ground and without the knowledge that a big cooperation is using me to promote a drink.
Romo, congratulations on being better than me.

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giles-rowe
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Giles Rowe  - Oct. 22, 2015, 10:16 a.m.

Calling out the dude, who called out the dudes, who called out the dudes redbull?

Seems a little overly protective writing an open letter to a facebook comment. Opinions are like arseholes, everyones got one. As an ex professional rider and one of the most influential in our sport I feel his opinion is valid wether you like it or not. Many people unfortunately die or are seriously injured participating in the sports they love. Scores of BMXers getting paid nothing, motocross riders, surfers, base jumpers, even football players and marathon runners. I myself fractured my neck riding this year riding a bowl I have ridden dozens of times.

I understand hat the pressures put on these athletes and the format, pay, insurance coverage is extremely poor in regard to redbull rampage, but I also feel a percentage of them go to test themselves in the most extreme competition possible and even without this would be out there doing these things anyway.

How something like Paul Bas' injury hasnt happened sooner I do not know but perhaps this will be our Stephen Murray moment and a time to acknowledge the risks the riders are taking and have in place some protocols and services to help them after a terrible event like this.

Anyhow, just my two cents.

To all the shredders, keep on shredding!

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alex-shiskin
0
Alex Shiskin  - Oct. 22, 2015, 9:54 a.m.

There was a time when these contests didn't exist. The riders were super excited to have an event where people could see what they were doing in the mountains. Redbull stepped up and really contributed to making a successful event. The sport is hyper competitive, and if a rider chooses not to ride because they don't feel safe, or the prize money isn't enough…well there is a line of guys waiting begging and pleading to their place. As long as the supply of riders is greater then the demand for change, don't expect sweeping changes. That is the reality of the industry.

If the pro riders weren't getting paid, do you think the bikes would get dusty in their garage. I don't, I think they would still be out riding, and they'd just have to find other ways to finance it. The fact that redbull is presenting and environment to get paid for going big so that you can ride full time, and can make a name for yourself to get sponsors and endorsements, is amazing.

Rampage is a high risk, high reward, contest. If you win rampage people in the industry will take notice. If the top riders no longer think the risk is worth the reward, because they already have a name, endorsements, etc….well they can always step back from the table and let some hungry new kid roll the dice. That new kid is probably doing stunts like this in the woods behind his house with no medics on scene, and nobody watching right now.

I don't blame redbull for wanting to make money, that is what businesses do.
I don't blame riders for being wary of huge risks, but I am also very aware that if they are not willing to roll the dice, someone else will…welcome to the industry.
To those who have never had the butterflies in their stomach before a first time or a first line…thank you for watching, but the contracts around these contests is an issue best left between the athletes and the organizers.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Oct. 22, 2015, 1:36 p.m.

I've been waiting for someone to make an argument for Redbull's right to make money. We do live in a capitalist society after all. Where would all the people be without the corporations? If there wasn't a system where a small group of people could accumulate massively disproportionate amounts of money by exploiting people and resources, what would all the people not in that small group have to aim for?

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mammal
0
Mammal  - Oct. 22, 2015, 9:52 a.m.

I would like to add that in the Facebook comment section below, there is a great response from Brandon to Romo's post. Even better, scolling down from that, is a response from Kyle Strait's wife. A very important opinion, in my mind.

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dingledoink
0
dingledoink  - Oct. 22, 2015, 11:38 a.m.

Since not all of us are 'friends' with said folks on FB, how about the highlights?

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mammal
0
Mammal  - Oct. 22, 2015, 4:20 p.m.

I'm not either, but I Brandon has a link to his post at the bottom of this page (in the FB comments). The other opinion is then attached to his comment, once you are directed to FB by the link. It should be public if I can access it.

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GladePlayboy
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Rob Gretchen  - Oct. 22, 2015, 7:31 a.m.

Good article Cam… us plebians giving a shit about athletes and their well being is the most important thing. And freedom of expression can never be or should be suppressed. The biggest takeaway I got from Rampage is listening to the riders say "how making it down safely" was the most important factor in the event. How does that make it an event when survival was the main criteria? That's kind of bullshit.

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Brocklanders
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yahs  - Oct. 22, 2015, 7:17 a.m.

What a tool.

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MADMANTOURS
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Marshall Paul  - Oct. 22, 2015, 7:14 a.m.

i have read enough stupidity for one day. So many people who love watching athletes die and will defend that stupidity to the grave. THE ATHLETES ON THAT HILL do not make REAL $$$$$. I make more $$$ as a roadie. Ask Zink or Strait what their entire career as a cyclist has earned them after a deduction of taxes and hospital bills….most are in debt. Give your collective heads a shake and RE_READ Cam's thoughts. RESPECT ZINK. preyers going out to Bizet, Rogation and Paul B……and the un-named injured.

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alexblanks
0
AlexBlanks  - Oct. 22, 2015, 6:46 a.m.

Alot of us take huge risk, and ride hard, but we're simply not good enough regardless of will or effort to play with the best. To dismiss us as 9-5ers who dont have the good fortune or luck to be in you position is arrogant and self centered. I cant ride like Steve, but that doesnt let him dismiss me.

While there is plenty of substance to his comments, there is also a huge pile if 'Im better than you'

No, you're not; and without fans and writers and people interested in you, there would be no job, no glory - you earn that by virtue of us valuing it.

Dont get yourself dismissed; In the big picture we can consider Steve Mr 'Never 1st' and dismiss him in kind?

Will we? Only the arrogant ones.

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pudskies
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Pudskies  - Oct. 22, 2015, 6:24 p.m.

I took the 9-5 comment in the context of Steve saying it about his own life currently. I assume that now he is no longer a sponsored rider and has a 9-5 job and a girlfriend that runs his life. He is reminiscing about the fact that he used to ride his bike for a living and it was worth risking it to do so, but now he is "washed up." I guess getting a real job and having a family after being a pro rider could be a bit of a downer, but there are lots of ex- pro biker, snowboarder, skiers, etc that have to deal with that reality eventually.

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naveed-nasir
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Naveed Nasir  - Oct. 22, 2015, 6:27 a.m.

I applaud this article by @cam - in all honesty I felt for too long that Cam Zink was virtually taking on this type of debate single-handedly, but thankfully more courageous people are finally stepping forward and making their feelings known. Appalling prize money coupled with insurance issues is just not morally acceptable and I just applaud those who are putting their careers on the line and speaking out against the big boys - this is the spirit of mountain biking personified.

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daniel-watling
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Daniel Watling  - Oct. 22, 2015, 4:46 a.m.

I love Rampage but find it a bit soulless in the current format. It is a different beast to Romo's day. Now you have a live TV schedule to keep and FMB points on offer creating unnecessary pressure to be riding for someone else's agenda and taking away from the original format.

Romo's message seems to be that there will always be risk takers and the reward for these guys (and gals!) will be worth it however crazy it looks. I'm all for crazy people pushing the boundaries but the real issue Cam Z and others seem to be raising is that it isn't something they feel they have the same control over as they once did- it's all got a bit out of hand and dare I say it, "corporate". That's not an issue of money or insurance or judging or any specifics like that…. just that there are added risks and pressures now Rampage is less rider led.

The Live TV aspect has to go and the riders have to shape the event again. It should be a standalone showcase of "the crazies" riding and passion, i.e. no FMB points. It will always be nigh on impossible to appreciate what you are watching so that lack of Live coverage could open up more of a "lifestyle" and "behind the scene media coverage" a bit like Nine Knights perhaps. It has been said a ton of times but I really believe Rampage needs a looser time format. The live format puts way too much pressure on the build and riders adding unnecessary risk. It sounds like FEST but that isn't what I have in mind. Rampage can exist as a "competition" and will always be stressful for the riders so I guess the message is, why add to it?

Another thing to consider is how it may affect the riders to "back out" under such pressure. I can't believe it is a simple as don't ride if you don't want to. Again, maybe in Romo's day, but this is the FMB, Live TV era. Pilgrim got no end of abuse for deciding to sit out the X-Games finals due to wind (and his confidence the next season to a massive hammering) and Benderoni (the crazy Russian dude) has only just got on a bike again since showing up to Rampage after a good media following and being over-whelmed.

I fear these guys feel they are no longer really doing it for themselves at Rampage and I think this is the main issue to be addressed. Maybe some better placed people could comment?

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brad-scholl
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Brad Scholl  - Oct. 22, 2015, 8:05 a.m.

Unfortunately, the live TV and FMB era are here to stay. This is what drives sponsorship dollars through the roof and in turn brings large corporations to the table. Do you think Polaris would want any part of sponsoring this event if their RZR logo wasn't on the step up and being broadcast to millions? Or called out a thousand times during the feed, that's what marketers want, it's easy and quick marketing for a product. The FEST series has definitely made us aware that rider driven events are possible and they are pushing the sports back to roots, which I can definitely appreciate, but large corporations outside of the action sports community seldom view the FEST as a return on investment (which is honestly too bad!)

Do you the riders deserve a larger piece of the pie? Hell yes they do, Zink has been pioneering that for ages, but the only way to get these riders paid, or even covered by insurance is to keep broadcasting this as a Live feed and on TV. I am friends with many riders, most of them make next to no money, they are all doing this for themselves. But we are at a tipping point in the sport, where the prize purse, insurance, and other rider expenses are either going to have to increase or most of these events will be dissolved and MTB will become what BMX is now, media focused.

The FMB and Red Bull have pushed our sport in the right direction in my opinion, making it easily accessible for riders globally and bringing the talent pool together collectively. Although, now they need start pushing it towards rider safety and keeping these high level athletes safe. How will that happen? I'm not entirely sure, but I am sure they will figure it out. I know safety is a huge concern with the FMB, but they still have a show to put on. Your X-games example is right and wrong, the finals were delayed due to wind and riders were given the choice to ride or not, there may have been some pressure to put on a show for the world, but I know a lot of those riders felt it was necessary for our sport to put on a good showing, since it was the inaugural slope event in the X-games. I know for a fact that all of the riders wanted to be there and ride that course, no matter how poor it was, because most of them have been doing it for themselves for years and felt it was an opportunity to show how gnarly our sport can be. Yes, Sam was ridiculed, which is unfortunate and unfair to him, he made a decision, the option to ride or not ride was given to him, I have my doubts he felt any pressure from fellow riders and event coordinators.

Now back to Rampage, I expect there to be changes in contest format due to the unfortunate circumstances of Paul. But how do they regulate those changes? I saw claw post about how there are revisions underway already. So only time will tell. Rampage, in my opinion, is the greatest sporting spectacle on this planet, but like many have expressed, I too feel some changes need to be made to benefit the riders. Long live Rampage and long live all the riders who compete! My thoughts are with Paul Bas for a speedy recovery

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kowalski-jan
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Kowalski Jan  - Oct. 22, 2015, 4:38 a.m.

The pride and honor of being the best is for these people everything. They don't give a monkey about what you think about their safety. If skills and hard work were determining athletes wages, it would gymnasts, wrestlers, DH, Rampage and a few other sports making top money, not some fat geezers hitting a golf ball. They do deserve a huge respect for what they are doing. I found this somewhat funny post about what Red Bull Rampage is 🙂

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 21, 2015, 11:10 p.m.

also as a reminder, mitchell scott wrote this two years ago. I guess we all forgot.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Oct. 22, 2015, 9:35 a.m.

Thanks for linking that Mike. I always enjoy Mitchell's writing and that's an excellent summation of the precarious, terrifying and beautiful nature of Rampage.

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 26, 2015, 1:07 p.m.

yup, and again, not targeting your article - just a reminder to us all. rampage has been around over 10 years, and it's been pretty high risk (and freaking awesome) the entire time… if we see the same or similar reactions next year? well, it's becoming a bit like the boy who cried wolf… even as far as health insurance, shouldn't mark mathews (sp?) experience be instructive by now?

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 21, 2015, 10:49 p.m.

isn't Zink the guy that started the "hate" in the first place, talking about risking his life and complaining about the judging, and then with his

fuckrampage hashtag regarding Bas' recovery?

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MADMANTOURS
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Marshall Paul  - Oct. 22, 2015, 7:15 a.m.

you are vilanizing a hero. way to go.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Oct. 22, 2015, 8:54 a.m.

Lots of unknown unpaid surfers die surfing big waves.

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Pediclescrew
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Big D  - Oct. 25, 2015, 3:22 p.m.

Yeah Cam was clearly pretty emotional there, I think Rampage has been pretty good to him no? His winning run was the only reason a lot of people will remember his name for many years to come.

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