VIRGIN, Utah – Josh Bender clearly isn’t afraid of heights. He’s got flip-flops on, a phone in one hand, and a bucket hat tilted slightly atop his head. Oh, and his young daughter is strapped into a Babybjörn, and she’s taking sips out of a Camelbak, unfazed by the mountains around her, the fact she’s more than 2/3 of a mile high at elevation, or that her dad has broken just about everything a person can break by biking off cliffs over the years. She must have caught her dad’s sense of adventure early.
Bender surveys the rocks and manmade jumps a day before Red Bull Rampage’s 2017 installment. There’s a quiet sense of satisfaction at seeing what has been built. Even if he gets nostalgic for the days when there were no rules and it was just a few friends who all shared the lack of a fear gene, he’s quick to admit how damn cool it is that Rampage has grown to this level. More people than ever want to scale these cliffs and risk their bones – and lives – to chase the ultimate thrill. More people than ever want to watch it, through a Red Bull TV livestream or an NBC broadcast on Sunday, Dec. 24. And more people than ever are making the pilgrimage to Utah to see it in person.
“People were like this event isn’t gonna last,” Bender says. “Nobody’s going to do this. But people saw this was a pretty cool event and it got a momentum build.”
Bender stops a second to readjust his hat and hand the Camelbak nozzle back to his daughter.
“Now it’s like who’s going to start riding backwards down these things. It’s gonna happen. Who’s doing it first?”