Stampede daredevil dishes on the Kiss of Death backflip and other motocross tricks

There are lots of opportunities for danger at the Calgary Stampede, but for those not willing to be shot in the air themselves — there's also the chance to watch professionals defy gravity at the Monster Energy Compound.

'Modern-day Evel Knievel' James Carter has broken many bones doing dangerous stunts

James Carter throws himself into a One-Handed Hart Attack for a Calgary Stampede crowd at the Monster Energy Compound. (Jason Haigh)

There are lots of opportunities for danger at the Calgary Stampede, but for those not willing to be shot in the air themselves — there's also the chance to watch professionals defy gravity at the Monster Energy Compound.

That's where you'll find freestyle motocross rider James Carter.

On Wednesday, Carter stopped by the Calgary Eyeopener's live show from the stage of the grandstand, and described the perilous tricks he takes on as a part of the daily show during Stampede to host David Gray. 

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Modern-day Evel Knievel: James Carter 0:11

Q: Are you a daredevil? Can I call you that?

A: They said on the news the other day with Travis Pastrana jumping over [the fountains at] Caesar's Palace and doing all the replica Evel Knievel jumps, they pretty much considered us a modern-day Evel Knievel.

Q: Were you an Evel Knievel fan?

A: Growing up as a kid and seeing that on TV it just … anything with two wheels, a motor…that's all I wanted to do.

Q: Describe for me the kind of tricks you do in your show.

A: We're doing everything from hanging off the bike completely 35 feet in the air doing Superman back flips hanging off the bike upside down. Anything that you would ever see on TV with Nitro Circus, X Games, you'll see here.

Q: I'm looking at you looking for visible wounds, as terrible as that sounds. I imagine that this profession has taken its toll on you in some way or other.

A: Being a professional athlete, you know there's good and bad days. And now I'll take all the good over the bad, but a broken femur, broken tibia and fibula, broken left foot, broken right foot, broken right ankle, shoulder, hand. Just a year and a half ago I smashed my face and was knocked out for maybe three minutes or so.

Q: I'd love to read the job description before you took it. Now, I am told that the craziest trick you do is something called the Kiss of Death backflip. Can you describe that for me?

A: It's pretty much like that but the dirt bike's above you, you're hanging off the handlebar straight up and down, and I mean, pretty much looks like you're doing a pull-up in the air.

Q: And then you land it, of course.

A: Yeah, and I mean, of course we do have certain parts on our bike that help us with that. So whenever you're going off the ramp, then you're pulling your flip in the bike. There's flip levers that we have, so it's hitting your wrist and it's kind of bringing you back to the bike.

Q: Tell me about the bike. Describe it for me.

A: I'm on a 2018 Honda 450 and pretty much everything on it besides the motor is the way I like to have it set up. My suspension is very stiff, my handlebars, my seat shaved down. On these new Hondas I had customized the sub frame, for the cutout grab holes where we're doing Supermans in any of that grabbing the back of the bike — nobody else's bike is like that because we all have different setup.

James Carter and Brody Wilson preform the side-by-side, no-handed flip at the 2018 Calgary Stampede's Monster Energy Compound. (Jason Haigh)

Q: You're 28 years old now. Obviously you didn't start here, this is the pinnacle. You've achieved this part, but where did you start?

A: I started out at my dad's house and he had a small dirt bike there and I started growing on that, and I always rode a BMX bike so that was always my favourite thing to do.

I played baseball and all I wanted to do, though, was ride my BMX bike. So soon as I got a bigger dirt bike at 11-years-old, I just kept wanting to grow, grow, grow on it in.

Q: Because this is Kids' Day, there are a lot of kids here, and they're all looking at the parents going, 'Hey, I'd like to flip my bike, too.' Did your dad say, 'sure, keep going'?

A: I feel my family was full supportive of it.

All the guys that I'm actually riding with now here at the Calgary Stampede are guys I looked up to as a kid — they were pictures on my wall — especially like Jeremy (Twitch) Stenberg, who is here. He's very well known, he's been in it since Day 1. He was actually the guy I kept looking up to. I went to the Californian, I saw him there and got his autograph and was so excited.

Then I moved to South Dakota … and started jumping a ramp and just kept pushing and my family was a very supportive of all of it.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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