"The Only Downside is That, I Could Die..."
The Matt Macduff 40 ft. Loop Interview
By The Rise
On saturday march 19th, Matt Macduff sustained a terrible fall attempting to make his way around the Loop Of Doom. After over 3 year of research, determination and hard work, Matt managed to find everything he needed to make his project happen. Built in a month at the Garden Route Trail Park in South Africa, the gigantic structure rises up to 40 ft. in the sky. The crash left him with 10 fractures in his right wrist and 3 fractures in his right ankle. The story behind his stunt is as impactful as the structure itself. A real story of determination. After spending a week in a South African hospital, Matt is now home in Ontario, working on his rehabilitation. Just as he started to walk again, we catched up with him to get his version of this incredible story. In previous posts about the Loop of Doom, there was a lot of interrogations from the readers so we did our best to cover all the aspects of the project. Keep on reading to take a journey through the mind of a young man determined to leave an impact on the sport he loves.
TR : I know it’s been a long time in the making, but when did you first start thinking about one day hitting a 40ft loop?
Matt : I’ve always seen the loop as a key part of action sports history. Once I mastered the 20ft one, I came to realize the loop could be ridden at a much larger scale.
TR : So then you figured ‘’I might as well double the size’’?
Matt : No… it just worked out that way… People were so overtaken by my 20ft loop when they’d come to the compound in Nova Scotia. They’d look at all the stuff we built and the loop was their favorite, always! The loop also felt so natural for me, so much that I knew I could do a way bigger one... And I knew that it was something I could engage people in, and create interest around. Even for people who have nothing to do with bikes, which means a lot to me.
Also, A 20ft Loop is nothing new… the first loop on a bicycle was done in the 1900 by a guy known as Diavolo. That's more than a hundred years ago and his loop was 25 feet tall. That planted the seed for me to build a bigger one, one to make the originals proud… A 40 ft.!
TR : When you first told people about your idea, did they say you were crazy?
Matt : A lot of people really didn’t believe in what I was talking about. But I didn’t really tell a lot of people because I was scared that maybe someone else would do it. But yeah! of course they thought I was crazy man! I don’t know... it’s kind of crazy when you think about it.
TR : Can you explain why in South Africa?
Matt : There is this guy, Rob Dorhmel, that owns the Garden Route Trail Park. I met him when we were doing Pure Darkness 2. This guy was crazy. He just wants to have the biggest, baddest, and most insane stuff on his property. He didn’t care what it was. He just wants to have the most insane shit! And it’s hard to find a guy like that. It’s hard to find a guy willing to build the most gnarly stuff ever. When you want an 80 ft tall tower, and you want a 40 ft tall loop, that’s a lot of dirt. It’s a lot of materials and a lot of risks. You got to find some gnarly dudes willing to do that stuff. I never found someone that was really keen… And I didn’t really have the money either to make it fully happen.
Then Pure Darkness took off, and Monster Energy threw some money at the Garden Route Trail Park, to the extent where it covered half my budget that I would need to built this loop. I realized this was my opportunity, this is when it’s gonna cost me the least amount of money. This is my chance to make it happen. Who cares where it is, the world is a small place nowadays. You get on a plane for a day and you’re there. It's similar driving your car to Nova Scotia. And to be clear, I’m not even sure it’s legal to do something like this in Canada! I don’t think you can dig that deep in the ground or, build a structure that tall and freestyle… I’m pretty sure you would get shut down. And you get fined a lot of money.
Now that I think about how much it cost me, and how long it took to build it... Yeah! I should have built it in Canada, it would have cost the same amount of money, especially considering the crash… Lucky for me I had good insurance… Cheers, Northman Co.
TR : You said the loop took a lot of time to build. Can you gives us some details?
Matt : The original plan was that my guys are gonna show up, all the materials are gonna be there, and the site will be prept. It would just go quick, you know, like two weeks to build it. But, early in the project, things started happening : people were missing their flights, machines were breaking, there were no materials… So everyone showed up and it was just like ‘’Whoa man... there’s no material man...‘’ and you need a lot of material to build such a huge structure . We all realized that the process was going to be a lot more work than we thought. So we started trying to make the materials while we were supposed to make the loop and that just put us behind schedule, and raised tensions. We just wasted a lot of time on stuff that should have been done, And a lot of that had to do with my tight budget…
At the end of the day it’s all my fault because it was my project but I learned a lot from it. There’s too many factors to cover but basically it was just one thing after another, which increased the build time to four weeks instead of two. People are like ‘’It just took two more weeks’’ but that’s a big deal when your whole projects only four weeks long. On the production side, you got to shoot this thing that is never been done before in a couple hours instead of two weeks. That’s insane! You can cut it close, you can cut it tight, but now that I look back at that day when I rode the loop, the stars truly had to be aligned for everything to work out properly. They were so many unknowns, so many variables, so much unpreparedness... everything had to line up in order for me to go around it. The chances of me making it were like 1 in a million ha ha ha. But I believed I could do it, and everyone else thought so too which was super sick. I definitely felt pretty bad when I peeled off the side of the thing. There was just so much on the line you know?
Like, no one else would have crawled up the roll-in and done that I don’t think. People would have called it off like ‘’We need more time’’. But I already landed the loop in my head. The loop was already done. It was such a shock to me when I G’ed out at the bottom. To me I was already at the step up when I was going up the loop. It was just shocking man because there was maybe one little tiny ounce of ‘’maybe I wasn’t gonna get it’’ but I truly thought I was going around that thing no problem. Like, how can you go too fast in a 40ft loop? And then I was like ‘’Ah you built a 80ft roll-in...’’
"I wouldn’t tell people to go out and take risks like that cause I don’t think too many people would live that long.’’
TR : The guys told me that you can only ride at 6 in the morning or just before the sun goes down?
Matt : Yeah so, it’s really sick out there. During the day the weather is so hostile. It’s so windy, it’s so hot, impossible to ride. You sweat your body weight in seconds. The only time you can ride is like 5 or 6 am, whenever the sun comes up. That’s really sick for me because you gotta get up early you know. In the morning it’s nice and calm. With these jumps, if you want to ride them, you got to work for it. You get up real early and you shred. It just sets the tone for the whole day, it’s really rad.
TR : So you rode the loop at 6 in the morning?
Matt : Nah that’s the thing. We finished the loop super late, and got to bed just after midnight. I woke up at 5 a.m. and the weather looked like it was gonna hold. Everyone got up and everyone was stoked. We went up there and it started to rain. So we had to wait out the rain all day. The rain eventually died around 3 p.m. I was able to give it a go around maybe 7 p.m. which is gnarly because it gets dark at 8 p.m. so… an hour or two window. It’s insane! you always got to get up early you know. Early bird gets the worm.
TR : You kinda had no choice to send it that particular day? You couldn’t wait for the next day.
Matt : No we couldn’t have waited for the next day because everyone had to go back to Cape Town to catch their flights. It was either everyone extend their flights, which most people already had at this point and we were tired man, everyone worked so hard. I think everyone was pretty over South Africa. We just wanted to get this thing done, and get out of there and get on the next thing. Our resources were maxed out. We were in the negatives bro. We were in the frickin negatives man, and I was more than double over my budget. I was on a shoestring.
TR : You had only a couple hours to prepare for the loop. Do you think that the risk was higher for this stunt because of it?
Matt : The risk for the loop were absolutely colossally huge. I just put everything on my shoulders, and I was dealing with way more than I should have, in a lot less time than I should have been given. The risk that I took that day was for sure irresponsible, but I had a good gut feeling that whatever was gonna happen it’s going to be positive or else I wouldn’t have done it. That’s my personal way of dealing with it. But yeah, the risk that day was insane! I wouldn’t tell people to go out and take risks like that cause I don’t think too many people would live that long.
TR : How do you handle fear?
Matt : The bottom line to deal with fear is to understand what fear is. At the very base of it, fear is just a thought. It’s just a thought in your head. That’s it. To understand fear you have to understand how powerful thoughts are. Because fear can run a person’s life. That means your thought can run your life. You have to understand that the fear is there and it’s a good thing. Fear is there so you don’t frickin’ kill yourself. It’s from an experience that you had and it’s telling you ‘’Hey man? That experience sucked. Don’t do that again’’. There’s also this other fear which is into the future. That is bad for you. That one is more ‘’Hey that experience sucked. This one is kinda like it so don’t do that or you're gonna end up in the same place or even worse’’. That’s bad because no one can predict the future. No one knows how the future is going to be. So why should you be scared of it. Having fear, dealing with it, and understanding it is just a ‘movement’. You have to understand that it’s there and it’s OK. When fear is there you just got to look at it and get to the bottom of it. And if you can get to the bottom of that thought, a lot of the time it’s nothing to be scared of.
For me during the loop, I was more scared of not rolling down and seeing what was going to be the outcome than what would physically happen to me if I were to crash. So that’s how I was able to roll down the ramp. I looked the fear of the loop, and asked myself ‘’What are you actually scared of here?’’ Because I was scared of something. When I got to the bottom of it, that’s what it was. Everyone deals with fear differently but at the end of the day it’s definitely something built into you which makes you a better person if you learn to deal with it.
" If you live in fear you live in the past.’’
TR : So it comes down to the idea that regrets are worse than pain. If you do not drop in you’re going to regret forever and if you drop in and you crash at least your happy?
Matt : The thing with fears is that it’s a frickin’ thought in your head. Fear isn’t actually physical. Fear doesn’t exist, is just an emotion, a thought in your head. You can’t live in the present moment if you have fear because fear is a thought and thoughts are from the past. If you live in fear you live in the past!
TR : You’ve always done a lot with a little. Do you think you’ve reached your limit with the loop? Do you think the resources you can pull are lower than what you want to achieve?
Matt : You can say that it’s a lot and you can say that it’s a little. I just looked at my resources and I always realize that I had a lot of time. So I would have less money, less materials but I had a lot of time. I was able to invest my time which made up for the lack of money. But obviously you get to a point where you just need more, because you can only invest so much time into something before you’re 1 000 years old! I just took the resources that I had at the moment and I just kept my eyes on the goal and did whatever I physically could do to make it happen.
With the loop, I definitely discovered one can only invest so much 'time' and now that I look at it… that is possibly the biggest factor leading to my crash.
TR : You don’t think it’s a little dangerous to invest yourself physically that much and building up a big project like this when most people would take this time to get ready, and focus on the stunt?
Matt : Exactly! This is where we get to the limit of it. The loop takes a lot of time to build, but it also take a lot of time to train for it. You only have so much time, you can’t do both. This is where that limited resources factor starts to come into play. You can’t make it happen unless you got other resources like money and people.
TR : In all the projects, you seem to always work with the same tight crew of people. How important is it for you to have those people around you? And how does it influence the work?
Matt : It’s extremely important. I think when you’re doing stuff like this there’s so much pressure and it’s just so important to be surrounded by good positive people that can help you relieve that pressure, and help everything be the best it can be because it gets gnarly man! There’s deadlines, there’s a lot of risk, and you just want to make sure you got good people that you’re comfortable around so when it’s time to take that risk, you’re as focused as possible.
TR : Can you describe your team a little bit?
Matt : I had a carpenter, Marshall. Marc-André Locat I think he says it’s his name but I call him Marshall. He was the key component to the project. Without him there would have been no loop. This guy pretty much spends hours on the computer doing 3D renderings, drawing, and thinking about these things. I am not the best frickin’ builder when it comes to wood structures. I can do anything out of dirt but when it comes to wood, I just leave it to him. Marshall knows everything there is to know about building ramps. He just makes crazy stuff like this possible. Huge shoutout to him. And he worked with this other guy, Gunter Brainstorm from South Africa. He used to work on movie sets. That guy is a genius. Both together, I’m pretty sure they can build you anything out of wood. No matter what it is. Those structures that are there, they’re impressive man. They defy gravity. To build something like that out of wood is pretty next level.
Then I had my media team which is Louis Lhomel, who is like my best friend… Also an incredibly talented director/cameraman. And there’s Julien Grimard who is shooting incredible photos, and he doesn’t even work in action sports. He just comes and shoots my stuff almost for vacations. He’s a weird motherfucker to have a vacation like that! But it’s super sick! Both of them together they were gonna handle all the media for me, which is huge. Yeah they’re media, but at the same time they’re incredible cooks, they go get groceries and laundry, and everything. Huge support to make sure everything flows. When you have 5 guys working all day, those guys got to eat and drink. So they help out huge with that and the building. They are incredible painters as well. Which really helps when you want to brand such a large structure.
Then I had my friend Nick Clarke which was huge for me. You need someone to ride with, someone to feed of, and Nick is on that same program as me. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, he likes metal music, he likes to cut off his sleeves. It’s so huge to have a guy that thinks like you, and like the same stuff that you like when you’re doing something like that so…
One thing for sure…. I was missing a project manager man. That’s what I was missing. If you’re reading this interview and you’re an insane manager, you should send me an e-mail cause I need a 5th addition to my crew.
" It wasn’t just me in there, it was all those people that supported the project.’’
TR : The trailer starts with all the messages that people sent you via your Kickstarter. Why was it important to you to get it crowd-funded?
Matt : The cool thing about this project is that it was not just sponsors involved, it was normal everyday dudes that wanted to see something insane go down. I got so much support man. When I was talking about the idea I just knew that it was something that people could relate to. When I decided to do a crowd funder, a lot of people were shocked. They were like ‘’Why are you gonna do this? This isn’t the right way to do a project’’. Who’s to say what’s right and what’s wrong? I believe that it’s a cool way to make something like this work. Having other people invested in your project gives you so much power towards your goal, And feels incredible...
When I would look at those messages that were on the loop, it just gave me so much more power to go and give that loop a try. Seeing all these people from all over the world chip a little bit of money in, chip a little bit of themselves in. The energy that it brings is incredible. Those names and messages, they are gonna be there on that loop until that loop falls, which is so sick! I feel kinda bad because this is not the way I wanted the project to go at all. I wanted to pull this thing off and get onto the next thing. Show everyone that the money that they invested in me was well spent. I’m trying to think about something I can do for all these people. It just means so much to have the support of so many people.
The support of sponsors is rad because they think you’re gonna sell stuff. But real people… that means a lot because they truly believe in what you're trying to accomplish, and that’s priceless at the end of the day. When a sponsor sees people investing in your project, they know that people want to see this happen and they're more likely to bust out their wallets… And lucky for me they did.
TR : How I see it is that you didn’t go in alone. It’s like everybody tried the loop with you because they helped to make it happen.
Matt : That’s totally it man! It wasn’t just me in there, it was all those people that supported the project. They were all behind me man, and it was pretty awesome. There was no way I could have let them all down. Thank you all so much for the opportunity.
TR : You did what you could man. You can’t blame yourself for anything.
Matt : I gave a 110% man…. so I’m stoked.
TR : Do you remember when you rolled up the thing?
Matt : It happened faster than you can snap your fingers. I got in that thing and I was like ‘’oh my god I can’t move!’’. I didn’t know it at the time but I was pulling some crazy G’s…. As soon as I hit the top it was like an explosion… I found forces that I didn’t even know existed… I just compressed and I couldn’t control my bike. Then I remember being in the air. I couldn’t believe what happened…. But luckily the fall was so huge that I was able to come to my senses of what was happening to me. When I realized “you peeled off the side of the loop man!” My first thought was… “You shouldn’t have done that man, you’re gonna die!’’ It’s weird because time kinda slowed down a bit. I just peeked my head over, and saw where I was gonna land, I knew that this isn’t gonna feel the best… but I knew I was gonna live. I knew right away I can survive that impact, maybe I’m not gonna die, I might loose my legs. I remember seeing where I was gonna land and just prepared for landing. Just like when you jump off a 40 ft cliff. It’s the same thing just... no water.
TR : So you landed on the hard-packed dirt?
Matt : Yeah I actually landed right in the run-in man. It’s so funny because we compacted that so hard. We ran cars over, compacting plates. That dirt where I landed was probably the hardest spot I could have landed. It was ridiculous. I remember hitting it and just being like ‘’Holy fuck! That is hard! That is fucking’ hard ground man!’’ I think I landed so well that if I would have caught grass or something I probably would only broken 1 bone. I landed like frickin’ in the hardest place I could ever land. It was terrible. After I rolled over and wiggled my toes, I remember coughing blood. It’s insane, when you feel your lungs fill up with blood, that is a fucked up feeling. You feel like you’re drowning from inside. It’s nuts! It’s a feeling I will never forget, but am extremely thankful for.
TR : So you have an injury to your lungs as well?
Matt : Nah it was just some internal bleeding. Like, it stopped on site. But, dude it was insane. You can feel it. It’s like a tank image in your head, and it gets filled up. Then it gets to a certain point and you can cough it out. That was the gnarliest thing. My bones were broken and stuff but I never crashed so hard that I frickin’ bled from the inside. When I got the hospital they X rayed my entire body!
TR : What is the expected recovery time for your hand?
Matt : At first, they were saying a year. I’m trying to aim for september. Which is about 6 months. I’m trying to cut the recovery time in half. I think I can do it. I’ve just been researching about health and the body. There’s a lot of things you can do… Everytime I go to the doctor he’s impressed, so I think I can do it.
"I don’t want to be some Joe Schmo Pro Mountain Biker that doesn’t frickin’ impact the sport.’’
TR : Do you think your riding will be affected?
Matt : It will definitely be affected if I can’t hold my handle bars. But I don’t know man, we’ll see. It’s definitely gonna affect it in one way or another. I’ll be silly to say it won’t. I think it’s either gonna make me an even better rider...or a much worse one. That is what we have to see. It’s gonna be no in between that’s for sure. It’s either gonna be like ‘’holy fuck he’s insane now’’ or ‘’What the heck happened to that guy after his crash?’’. Either dude, I’m cool with it. I’m just gonna do whatever I want to do. Just stay true to me and live the rest of my life to the fullest.
TR : Maybe it’s too early to ask it but I’ll just ask it anyway. Considering that right now you are pretty messed up physically, would you consider giving it another try?
Matt : You know what man, I just want to live real present moment and not think about the future or the past. But if someone would offer me a platform where I believe I could succeed, I’m not gonna lie man... 100% I’m gonna try it again, because I know its possible.
TR : Should we write it?
Matt : You know what? Yeah fuck it! Realistically, if we have like a stuntman or a safety circus guy come in and make that thing completely safe. I fell 40 ft to the ground and got a broken bone, I’ll survive everything that can happen if I screw up and do it again. If I ever had the chance to do it again it wouldn’t be like that time. It would be a lot more focus, a lot more training, a lot more everything, you know what I mean? The margin for error would be really low. And to be honest, I don’t want to ride professionally if I don’t do it again. I don’t want to be some Joe Schmo pro mountain biker that doesn’t frickin’ impact the sport. If I get to continue to ride professionally I gotta fucking try and be the man you know? And be the best I can. Think about what can happen like, I could maybe become rich, Louis can maybe make his sick movie and get cash, Julien can paid for his photos, Marshall can get lots... The only downside is that, I can die…
"...one can only invest so much ‘time’ and now that i look at it… that is possibly the biggest factor leading to my crash.’’
TR : Since you built and rode the biggest jump with the Pure Darkness guys, you built the biggest loop ever seen, do you think there’s a certain limit that’s gonna be reached of what can be rode on a bicycle?
Matt : The only limits that we have is the limits that we put upon ourselves. Nothing’s impossible, it’s just that the resources you need to achieve higher goals increase exponentially. In terms of what you can accomplish, it’s more about how much resources you are willing to dedicate to accomplish your goal. Because with enough heart you can accomplish anything, you just need the right resources to do it.
TR : Talking about risk, there was this thing last year that they started to discuss after the Red Bull Rampage incident : at which point the risk is surpassing the reward? How does that apply to your project where the reward is not really financial? At which point the risk you take becomes stronger than what you want to accomplish?
Matt : Simple… When you are no longer enjoying the process.
At the end of the day, if you’re not enjoying this, then you can’t take the risk. Because that’s why you’re taking it. You just believe it’s something within you that you can do… it’s a big game… Sure It’s a big risk to some people... but it’s not a big risk to you because you’re trained and prepared for it.
If I’m gonna backflip a 50ft jump, that’s about as dangerous for me as a normal guy driving his car to work because I do that, and I practice that. So you get the risk down. The risk is there but it’s not the same risk that people see. It’s really calculated and fun for us. As soon as you’re not having fun, as soon as you’re second guessing yourself then it’s time to stop taking those risks because the chances of mistakes are much higher. If you’re going bigger than ever, when you do make a mistake there’s gonna be serious consequences. Are you prepared for them? Few of us are…
TR : From the start of thinking about the project to when it was finally done, what would you say was the hardest part? One thing that was way harder than you imagined.
Matt : It’s like the hardest thing and the best thing. It was seeing how much effort my friends put into it as well. It was really a overwhelming, humbling and fulfilling feeling and it just made me want to work even harder. Nobody has a better crew.
TR : So, if I can put it simple : What’s next?
Matt : Getting strong man. Putting in the work and getting my body on point. Becoming stronger than ever both mentally, and physically. That’s what’s next. And a lot of hard work. I’m so motivated to make a positive impact, Everyday I’m trying to upgrade my software and become a better person… That’s it!
We want to take a minute to give a huge thanks to everyone involved in the project. Thanks to Garden Route Trail Park, O'Neal, Kali Protectives, Azonic, Five Ten, Mud Rocker, Northman Co. and all the great humans that made a donation through Matt's Kichstarter. Thanks to Julien Grimard for providing the pictures and to Louis Lhomel for the video.
If you would like to get involved in the Loop Of Doom project, please contact the crew by email via email@example.com.