When one thinks of “respect,” obviously the first thing that comes to mind is Aretha Franklin’s angelic voice demanding that you find out what it means to her. However, truth be told, Franklin’s iconic voice and those words were originally written and performed by Otis Redding in 1965… 10 years after my favorite season of I Love Lucy. What other dirt bike website can open up its first paragraph with a fascinating history lesson about some of the most iconic musicians of our lifetime? The answer? “Alex, the answer is: Who is none of them.”
For the kids that are now more confused, that last bit is a reference to Jeopardy. It’s a game show. On the television. You see, a television is a… wait. Screw it. Nobody reads this slop anyway. If it ain’t TikTok or your stupid Instagram reels, you are not gonna give this the time of day. Annnnnnnnnnnnd, I need to respect that.
Anyhow, respect is imperative to ones survival. You must respect your surroundings, you must respect your elders, and you must respect Aretha Franklin or she will rise from her final resting place and kick your ass. In all seriousness, respect is something that I value and find to be a strong character trait. I also find that the younger generation of people have a genetic flaw that has left them devoid of having respect for others. It’s quite fascinating and also endlessly stupid. Yeah, yeah, I realize I sound like the old man yelling at the kids to get off my lawn. And, you know what, maybe I am? Maybe I am the only hope to save the world of all the stupid it’s produced. Vurbmoto wasn’t able to send a team to the 2021 Motocross of Nations, but perhaps we can do something bigger than ourselves: literally save the world from all the stupid.
I grew up around a lot of older individuals. When I was riding and racing, I never really had any riding buddies that were my age. Everybody in my riding circle was a lot older. I do think that helped me to understand the importance of being respectful to your elders and, in general, simply trying to be a respectful individual. As I’ve discussed more than enough, when I was 18 years old, I was hired into Disneyland and worked as a ride operator (RO) at the Indiana Jones Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Jungle Cruise, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attractions. At that time, circa 2005, most of my fellow cast members were in their mid-20s or older. Quite a few (especially at Jungle) were also ex-Marine, ex-Navy, and so on. They’d all been deployed and gone through a lot of shit. And, back then, there was a pecking order. The resort ran off and still operates based off of seniority. The more seniority, the more respect you had amongst your fellow cast members, but also the more flexibility you had with your schedule, days off, etc. The new hires had to earn the respect of the older CMs.
One example of this was after I finished my training at Jungle Cruise and was officially signed off and ready to be on my own. If I was in the boat, my fellow skippers that were loading my boat with guests and then unloading my boat after a trip would purposely push my boat forwards and backwards so that it wouldn’t line up with the guests trying to enter or exit my boat. The river has a pretty strong current, and you are in full control of the boat moving forwards and backwards. So, you would have to counter the current and keep your boat evenly docked so guests could safely enter and exit your boat without falling into the river (trust me, guests falling into the river happened and still happens). When the older skips would purposely rock your boat like this, they wanted to frazzle you and see you fail. But, if you could keep your boat evenly docked, while spieling to the guests, those skippers would see that you had the “it” factor and deserved to be a skipper. Long story short, I earned their respect very early on and was considered part of a very iconic group of skippers in the early 2000s.
When I got my start in the dirtbike industry, having my credential and photo vest was so very exciting, but also very nerve-wracking. I am now rubbing elbows with some of the best stills photographers in our sport. Photographers that I looked up to since I was a kid and who had inspired me to become a photographer. These names are Garth Milan, Jeff “Kardy” Kardas, Chris “Ted” Tedesco, Simon Cudby, Frank Hoppen, Paul Buckley, TFS, and so many more. Garth, Kardy, and Tedesco, really had the biggest impact in my interest with photography. They had/have such a unique eye and captured the sport in such a creative and artistic fashion and I wanted to be like them as a photographer. Once I finally got my big break and I was able to be up close to those guys, it was very odd. I am already a shy and quiet person to begin with, and now being exactly where I wanted to be, working along side these guys that, in my opinion, are the eyes of our sport, was intimidating. For better or worse, I have never been the “new” guy that shows up and starts trying to flex on those who came before me, are far more talented, and earned everything they have worked for over the years. I’ve always been the opposite. Quiet, respectful to those who have come before me, and eager to listen when they speak. Guys like Garth, Kardy, Cudby, Carl Stone, Steve Cox, and and Steve “GuyB” Gibberson were very gracious and helpful to me in my early years. I was a 21 or 22-year-old kid completely clueless and these guys, for whatever the reason (I would like to think because I was polite, respectful, and listened when they spoke), took me under their wing and guided me when I needed help, or provided me with tips and tricks on how to navigate Washougal, Unadilla, or whatever track we may be at that weekend. It’s wild how the ride goes sometimes. I ended up working full-time with Garth Milan for over a year handling video needs at his former creative agency and to this day, he is still a great friend and colleague. Chris Tedesco and I worked on a KTM gig together only a couple of months ago, and this year at Hangtown, I was able to catch up with Kardy (though very briefly) for the first time in years! It’s rad how things work out sometimes when the guys you look up to and respect, become friends and/or badass colleagues and they also like you.
This idea can be applied to when I transitioned from stills to motion. Upon this transition, Donn “Swap” Maeda helped me out tremendously on the video side of things. To this day, I still use a few tips he taught me back in 2009. And, then we have somebody like Wes “WashedUpvurbWes” Williams, who really took me under his wing in late 2011. I don’t know if Wes has patience or not, but I am a very, very slow learner. Often, I live in a state of fear when it comes to new tools or technology because of my learning disabilities. But, for whatever reason, Wes has always been patient with me and lets me figure out things on my own terms. Granted, I know it probably drives him nuts but it’s just who I am. I remember Wes from the GoatKreation days, and then vurb (obviously). He, along with guys like Troy Adamitis, in my humble opinion, laid the foundation for the rest of us to have a path with video creation. I’m perpetually grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some of the greatest to ever do it within our sport. There are lots to be learned on the technical and creative side while working alongside guys like Garth, Wes, and Ted, however, the biggest take away I’ve learned in simply how they interact with the athletes, which is something I try to apply to the athletes I work with: BE RESPECTFUL, easy-going, and flexible.
Fortunately, the way my career has evolved, it’s meant I don’t spend too much time at the races anymore. So, even though I am at year 13 in working full-time in this industry, I’ve managed to position myself with clients and jobs that keep me away from the races (for the most part), which I enjoy. So, when I do attend races nowadays, there is a whole new crop of kids that I see. And, not all of them, but I’d say some of them have the attitude of the new kid on the block that is flexing, and coming up to you like you’re a first timer and asking who you are and who you are with. And, then you add in the fact that their work is almost always terrible and I am left with my head falling off my body and spinning in circles. I don’t know what happened, but the respect feels like it’s gone. Now, I am not saying you need to respect me. No, no. Just be polite. Why do we need an attitude? We point an overly-priced camera in dirt lots of dudes on a bike with a motor in it going in circles.
Between that and the blatant lack of etiquette on the track/shoots is just baffling. More and more I am encountering people just blatantly walking into my shots and standing there without regard that they are blocking somebody else’s shot. Or, the blatant lack to walk behind me or someone else when we are in the midst of a shot. It’s baffling to me. I realize that I am quiet, shy, and keep to myself, so maybe that comes across as me being a dickhead therefore we must ruin my shot. So, in that regard, I realize I am not doing myself any favors. But, if we could all find l little respect for each other, respect for those who have come before us and paved a path that allows us to do what we do, and a realization that we are not as cool as we think we are, it could go a long way in helping the world be a better place. And, I think that’s something both Otis and Aretha could dig.