Picture this: a mini Cameron Zink dressed in all black. Black denim jeans, black denim jacket. Black hat. Picture MiniCam rallying around on an old Schwinn Predator thinking he was Michael Knight and his bike was Kit. Hell on wheels at the ripe old age of 4. Knight Rider, with a BMX flare. That’s Cam’s first memory of being on a bike. With a start like that, he had to dream big. World Cups. Rampage. World Champion. Big.
Fact: There is more to Cameron Zink than meets the eye. Yes, he hits features that leave us slack-jawed. Yes, he’s seemingly unshakable when it comes to fear. And yes, he really is sorry for partying (well, maybe not). But, the man we’ve seen in every memorable freeride or slopestyle highlight video since 2010 is so much more than just another crazy dude on a mountain bike. He’s a father, fiancé, son and brother. He’s a hustler. A business man. An artist. A true renaissance man. Most of all, Cameron Zink is incredibly smart. His evolution from punk kid, to professional athlete while being an entrepreneur has given him a curriculum vitae with serious stout.
Cam’s roots in biking are deeply rooted in racing. In fact, it was racing that introduced him to the guy who’s still his best friend after 18 years. When Cam was a 10-year-old grom, he dropped his chain at an event. Sitting dejected at the bottom of the track, a kid dressed head-to-toe in matching kit walked up to him and said, “MRP, bro.” That kid was Kyle Strait. For more than half of their lives Cam and Kyle have been guinea pigging big lines, cheering each other on, and pushing each other to victories that have gone down in history. To this day Cam still insists that Kyle is the best bike rider on the planet.
As a seasoned veteran, Cam’s riding is nothing if not controversial. No one pushes the limits the way he does at every event. His 360 on the Icon sender at Rampage 2010 was, at that point, unquestionably the most daredevil trick anyone had attempted, let alone landed on a bike. Fast forward to 2012 and he had two of the biggest crashes ever witnessed with his 65 foot over-rotation of a backflip at Crankworx and his massive overshoot of the canyon gap at Rampage. Both times he walked away without even uttering a single four-letter word. In 2013 he solidified his place as the new Evel Knievel by cleaning – perfectly- a grotesquely large backflip off of the Icon sender, while his fiancé was due with their first child two days later.
People asked, “why?” What was the motivation behind doing something that dangerous when he was expecting a child? People called him reckless, crazy, and selfish. Those words came without knowing Cam’s side of the story, though. “I have to do the things I know I can do, even if it comes off as being selfish. I have to provide for my family.” What seems careless to many is essentially another day at the office for Cam, including his world record-breaking backflip earlier this year that he landed so clean it actually looked easy. Kurt Sorge once called him “the most confident man in mountain biking,” and Amanda agrees. “He is so confident,” she says. “He just doesn’t let anything get in his head. I do get really scared, but he is constantly telling me that he won’t do anything that he isn’t sure he has the ability to do, and that’s always really nice for me to hear.”
Cam’s penchant for essentially being freeride’s stunt man goes beyond just providing for his family. He has an internal drive that keeps him planning the next big thing. Around the time Kranked 2 came out, he remembers watching Brett Tippie and Richey Schley competing and thought to himself, ‘I could beat those guys.’ At the time, though, he was racing world cups and winning dual slalom titles. It wasn’t until after his best racing finish in 2006 at Mont Saint Anne (a respectable 54th place) that he decided to commit to slopestyle and freeride, realizing that there wasn’t really any pay out for 54th place and, quite simply – he was just better at tricks. Shortly after his Mont Saint Anne race he competed in the slopestyle at Crankworx in Whistler and won his first of two Crankworx titles.
There are few riders who have been able to achieve the successes that Cam has, and he’s done it all with an entrepreneurial spirit. “It’s hard to manage a career and stay at the top. I don’t go to bed like most people,” he says. In addition to his riding career, Cam’s side business, Sensus Grips has been a labor of love that has proven to be a cathartic outlet for him. Cam’s creativity and artistic side shines through in everything Sensus does. He single-handedly produces all of their creative, marketing, and graphic design. His motivation was simple. “I just knew I could make a better grip,” he says. Sensus has given Cam more than something to do in the off-season. It’s been his equivalent to business school and has taught him a ton about how to create and run a company from scratch. It even allows for some clever fun: the company’s signature grip, the Swayze is homage to – you guessed it- Patrick Swayze. “He’s pretty much the most bad ass dude that ever lived,” laughs Cam. Cam’s business sense is rooted in Sensus, but will soon be growing with his involvement in YT Industries as the brand is set to expand its market to North America in early 2015.
Whether Cam is setting more world records for amazing feats on his bike or creating products that we can all benefit from, you can rest assured he’s never going to walk away from the sport that has given him everything. “I want to be remembered for pushing the sport, and I want to make sure I get more out of mountain biking than it gets out of me,” he says.
As daughter Ayla giggles and screams, “Dada,” while chasing him around the house, it’s pretty obvious that biking has nothing on Cam’s real life.