Lewis Jones likes nothing better than getting down and dirty — and his fiercely competitive streak is paying off. The teenage dirt-jumper last weekend wowed spectators, and the judges, at the annual Coast to Coast event in Manuka Valley on his father’s Waitetuna property.
The only Raglan rider in a field of 38 from around the North Island, he won the mountainbiking category which sees riders airborne with impressive moves such as 360s and “superman seat-grabs” as they look to impress the judges with their tricks, style, flair and consistency.
The NZ Dirt Series — at which Lewis came second in the fifth round — was teamed up with last Saturday’s Coast to Coast then it was off to Paeroa on Sunday for “some more jumps and a bit of a get-together”, says the 17-year-old whose hobby has turned into a passion over the past four years.
Lewis found his way into the extreme sport almost by accident. His penchant as a youngster for trailbike riding got too costly, so his grandfather started taking him with his BMX to skateparks in Raglan and Cambridge where he picked up a few tricks.
“I liked the jumping,” says Lewis who then went on to get a mountainbike and started to compete successfully. Two months ago he won Queenstown’s annual open dirt-jumping event, and before that came fifth in the South Island’s Red Bull series.
He’s sponsored by Backflips Clothing, Go Fast sports drinks and Transition Bikes.
Now he tries to ride two hours every day and, while admitting it’s a dangerous sport, has had only a broken leg to show for the risks. That accident landed him in hospital for a couple of months but failed to dampen his enthusiasm.
If it’s raining and he can’t dirt-jump in his own backyard at Manuka Valley — where his father Dave’s in the business of moving dirt with diggers and bulldozers — the former Raglan Area School pupil heads over the divvy to practise his tricks and skills at Wrong Skate, an indoor skatepark at Te Rapa.
Lewis has his sights set on a trip this July to the ski resort of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada, where he’ll be up against the best in the world at the ‘Camp of Champions’, a live-in eight day experience that will see him coached by pro riders. “It’ll make me step up a bit,” he admits.
He’ll get to ride the indoor-outdoor foam pits and mulch jumps used by snowboarders in the Canadian winter, and reckons he’ll hang around Whistler and Kamloops for a couple of weeks more in the hope of hooking into other dirt-jump comps.
Meantime, having completed a landscaping course, Lewis is now busy picking fruit — feijoas for autumn — to help pay his way.