Travis Pastrana can execute a triple backflip on his dirt bike anytime he wants. His pro skateboarder wife Lyn-Z wouldn’t care if he flew his BMX over the moon like E.T. But his two little daughters sure aren’t getting near this stuff.
The 34-year-old icon of extreme wheeled sports hasn’t gone soft, but his life has definitely evolved in recent years. He’s a dad to 2-year-old Bristol Murphy and 4-year-old Addy Ruth, and like any self-respecting parent would admit, motorcycles are dangerous.
Watch extreme athletes dropping jaws at Pastranaland.
“As a parent, I have a lot of respect for my parents for allowing me to chase the dream, but at the same time, my oldest, she’ll sit down and draw or color just as soon as she’ll go-kart, so I’m encouraging that,” says Pastrana. “I’m hoping they get more into the car side than the motorcycle side.”
There’s still time before Addy Ruth gets hooked on dad’s two-wheeled tricks. (She’s already skilled on a kid-size Razor electric motorcycle, and like her younger sister, started driving go-karts at age 2.) But when high school rebellion kicks in, she won’t need to run away from home to protest her father’s wishes.
There’s a place called Pastranaland, and it’s in her backyard.
At 16, an age when most of us were studying for SATs and evaluating the merits of various acne creams, Pastrana bought this 20-acre plot in Davidsonville, Maryland, near his hometown of Annapolis. The skinny teen had just won the Moto X competition at the 1999 X Games®. He knew he’d make a career out of leaping motorcycles and cars into the void. What he needed next was a place to practice.
Pastranaland started out as an innocuous playscape. By 17, Pastrana had added an enormous foam pit for cushy landings. A year later, he built a house and installed trampolines. After racking up more motocross gold medals and signing with Vermont SportsCar in 2004, he’d completed a BMX track, a skate park, and a gravel rally course to lap his $120,000 rally car. (When his team joined forces with Subaru, Pastrana had thrashed the original rally car so hard he could sell it for only 20 grand.)
Keeping after the rally course was a thankless, expensive job: Imagine pouring miles of new gravel only to see it ruined within hours. And his WRX STI has outgrown the home-built rally course at Pastranaland. So these days, he no longer races cars on the property. “Once you know the course, the top drivers aren’t going to be far off each other,” he says. “It’s all about the co-driver and communication, and that’s the biggest thing we need to learn better. I’ll go other places I haven’t been to practice new roads, so for me, just driving cars out back isn’t as helpful.”
When he does practice at home, Pastrana rides Razor UTVs to sharpen his rally skills. “The vehicles are constantly evolving,” he says. “We’d run go-karts and [ATVs] back there. Then we realized we could practice for a rally and have a lot of fun with Razors for a lot less money than with the cars.”
Pastranaland isn’t finished, not by a long shot. Together with just two guys, Pastrana builds up to 20 BMX and dirt bike ramps a year. They do all the welding and design, and help maintain the now-100-acre property split among Pastrana and his neighbors.
“We’re rednecks; we do it ourselves,” he says. “You can design it on a computer, but when it comes down to it, when you’re starting to build it, you’ll have that feel of what it’s going to do and what’s going to happen. You need to have someone there hitting the ramp who’s built it.”
Everything at Pastranaland is a backyard experiment – like pro rider Josh Sheehan landing a triple backflip after soaring more than 100 feet high. And everyone who visits knows exactly what can go wrong. Consequently, only the world’s best riders and skaters – primarily, those athletes signed under Pastrana’s Nitro Circus entertainment company – are allowed to tackle Pastranaland. It’s by no means an open facility.
“This is where you go to learn something that’s never been done,” says Pastrana. “If you take fear out of the equation, and you take guys that really like to be on the edge and push themselves, they’re gonna crash a lot of stuff, but their learning curve is going to be a lot faster.”
These days, extreme sports like BMX and skateboarding are becoming ever more popular, and are increasingly being incorporated into elite amateur sports competitions. As a result, Pastrana finds himself devoting more time to perfecting airbag technology – of the giant, inflatable mat kind you see stuntmen dropping onto. He also advises teams on safety. Action sports, he says, are constantly changing.
Even so, he always returns to the sports he loves. In Las Vegas in late September, he finished his first NASCAR® race in two years. But between competitions and the next big jump, Pastrana wants to be home for his family. He keeps busy, even if he’s not the average dad working outside on the lawn.
“I like to be home,” he says. “And anytime I’m home, I like being out there, building.”