Levi Sherwood, the world-famous Kiwi freestyle motocross rider, is also a dab hand with an excavator.
The Manawatu native’s love of heavy machinery stems from his love of motocross. He has used excavators over the years to construct his own epic ramps and freestyle tracks and build his career.
Levi made an appearance at the Civil Contractors New Zealand CablePrice Auckland Regional Excavator Operator Competition at Big Boys Toys 2019 in November, where he tried his hand at some of the challenges competitors faced.
One such challenge involved cracking open a cold one with an excavator, which was armed with a bottle opener hanging from a dangling chain.
Levi said he thought it would be the hardest challenge of the lot — which included tyre stacking, a traverse, slam-dunking a basketball into a two-storey concrete pipe and a traverse over large concrete pipes.
“Out of all of them I would probably be the most nervous about that one,” said Levi. “Well, not nervous, but I think it’s going to be the most challenging for sure.
“I was watching a few of the operators do it before, and there’s some exceptional operators here, so they’re really putting the pressure on.
“But yeah, I’m just having a bit of fun and trying it all out.”
Levi climbed into the excavator and took to the controls, carefully and skillfully maneuvering the bottle opener into place before opening the bottle with a clean pop — and without any spillage or excessive foam.
It took him about a minute to complete this challenge, but it took years of practice working soil to be able to use an excavator with such precision.
Nitro Circus’s Jed Mildon, a Kiwi who landed the world’s first triple backflip on a BMX bike, also completed the bottle opening challenge in impressive style.
“I’ve spent a little bit of time on the machines over the years, and so has Jed,” said Levi. “It kinda just comes with the territory — jump building and all the rest of it.
“I love playing with diggers, and there’s a big sandpit at home.
“But it’s a different story when you’ve gotta come and actually do the work like these fellas [the competitors] are, they’re on a whole another level compared to us.”
Levi was sponsored by Red Bull for most of his career, riding straight into the spotlight, at just 17-years-old, with a debut win at the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour 2009.
He then went on to enjoy an illustrious career, taking out numerous major titles. In 2017, his most successful year, he won at the Nitro World Games, Red Bull X-Fighters and X Games — two gold medals, for Moto X Freestyle and Best Trick.
The 28-year-old Kiwi retired from the competitive motocross scene late last year, signing off in style by winning the S-X Open in Auckland – his first and last competitive appearance on home soil.
But that doesn’t mean Levi has given up on his passions for riding and building ramps and tracks. He still owns his riding compound back home in Palmerston North and rides his home-made track regularly.
Earlier this year, he took up a role as Toyota Hiace ambassador and he has plans to create an after-market line of freestyle motocross bike parts so others can modify their bikes in the same ways he did to achieve international success.