Wakatipu Wednesday - Frew Farm Jam Special
Dirt New Zealand reporter Jimmy Carling gives us the low down on the Frew Farm jam which includes FMX, BMX and MTB.
As you drive south out of the Wakatipu on State Highway 6, you notice the nature of your surroundings changing very quickly. The hills around you descend from steep mountains with rocky peaks to more mellow rolling countryside. The stop/start nature of Queenstown streets is replaced by a long straight road that passes gently and quietly through small towns. The journey is quaint, mellow - relaxing you could say. By the time you get to Winton the only thing that lies between you and the southern-most city of the British Empire is 30 kms of meandering Southland highway. You could be forgiven for thinking that nothing ever happens around here. But every year, just north of Winton, hundreds of cars take a turn east and head along an even quieter road towards a family farm, the Frew farm.
The soil in the Otapiri Gorge isn't just used to grow feed for the thousands of sheep that stand upon it. Just up the hill from the family house, the dirt is farmed and sculpted into a giant playground for boys and their toys. This is no gash production. The Frews are highly experienced and incredibly meticulous with their setup - they haven't just built a few hits here and there. They've worked with the lay of the land to create a dream arena of FMX jumps and, further down the hill, a perfectly sculpted hip line for BMX and MTB with a nice big set of doubles running down alongside it. When you combine all of this with copious amounts of hard work and some major sponsorship from the likes of Unit and Red Bull, you end up with something special, something unique, something worth travelling a long way for. The Frew Farm Jam really is all that.
Last year saw my first Farm Jam experience end before it had even started. As designated driver I ended up looking after a good friend who broke his collarbone in practise, which subsequently saw us return to Queenstown early on the Saturday. This year was different; I was determined not to miss it after so many good stories from the year previous. Upon arrival I knew straight away we were in for a good day... You tend to get that feeling when the sound of four strokes are stroking your ear drums before you've even got out the car. As we paid our entry and made our way up to watch the riders practise, that buzz was replaced with a horrid sick feeling. Just as we approached the dirt jumps, we heard an almighty thud, followed by a collective "Ooooh" and as we got to the edge of the trails, we saw young Phil McClean lying on the ground convulsing, spasming in some kind of rhythmic fit. I glanced over to his bike, it told the whole story. His steerer tube snapped in two, he had taken the full impact of a big case straight to his head. During his fit he was biting down on his tongue so hard that one of the good guys beside him jammed his fingers between his teeth to prevent him biting through it. It was horrible, and we had to walk away, but he must be a tough bugger, a few stitches in his tongue was all he needed to check out of hospital and come back later that night for the celebrations.
Back to the schedule and the motos took the honours in getting things started with some pit bike racing action around the FMX course. As the grass became greasy there were inevitably some very funny crashes amidst what was essentially a bunch of grown men battling it out on two wheeled go carts. The crowds were in fits of laughter, and once the dust had settled, it was time for the big bikes to come out. At one point it looked like a crosswind might have been affecting their tricks as there were lots of straight airs going on, but the flip variations, whips and combos soon made a comeback. The most crowd pleasing line passes right through the spectators in the form of a monstrous step up. One guy in the crowd got so excited he took his clothes off and ran about the track with his pecker out, only to be deliberately sprayed with roost moments later. Token streaker - check.
As the motos wrapped things up the crowds wandered over to the dirt jumps to watch both 26'ers and 20'ers do battle. Had I known the nature of things to come I would've brought an air horn or cow bell along with me, although simply screaming my head off was just as exhilarating. The MTBers went first in the rider judged event and two characters very quickly stood out form the rest. Within minutes Wellington’s' Luke "OG" McCombie and Invercargill’s' Connor "All Smiles" MacFarlane were stepping their tricks up so quickly that soon it was evident that for everyone else, the battle was going to be for third place. Both the hip line and the big doubles were being sessioned, but it was on the latter that these two boys laid it down. There are two lines into the big set, one from the rider’s tent and the other from a ladder bridge drop in. Luke would lay down a tuck no hander flip, Connor would answer with a one footed x-up flip. This went on until Connor made his way through the crowds and up to the wooden drop in. He rolls in, 3 off the drop; flip off the second into front flip off the third - his first in competition and the first I've ever witnessed in the flesh. Luke responds with an equally solid run, but this time not quite rolling out of his front flip attempt. Naturally, he attempts the trick of the contest next time around with an absolutely huge no handed front flip.
I didn't even know they had been practicing them so you can imagine I was buzzing off my tits when I saw this. Again, he didn't quite stick the landing and eventually, after an adrenaline packed contest, Connor took the win. However, there was one thing still to check off on Macfarlanes farm jam list. His last run of the day saw him attempt to front flip the drop in, but a slight under rotation saw him peel off the bike, dislocating his shoulder in the process. An unfortunate end for such an amazing day for the southland rider. Did you know Connor once raced Junior World Champs in Fort Bill... In cross country? Versatile is an understatement. Congrats to these two on an epic battle, and of course to Kelly Mcgarry stomping home in 3rd with his trademark McGazza style. For me it was the best DJ jam I've ever seen.
Full results are as follows:
1. Connor Macfarlane - Invercargill
2. Luke McCombie - Wellington
3. Kelly McGarry - Nelson
4. Elmo Cotter - Wanaka
5. Lewis Jones - Raglan
1. Paul Langlands - Cambridge
2. Jake Prebble - Motueka
3. Anthony Neopolitan - USA
4. Jed Milton - Taupo
5. Louis Bolter - Auckland
1.Josh Sheehan - Perth AUS
2. Matt Schubring - Qld AUS
3. Rhys Hillier - Melbourne AUS
4. Steve Sommerfield - Qld Aus
5. Blake O'Connor - Riversdale
1. Brendan Gow - Winton
2. Luke McNeil - Melbourne AUS
3. Brent Scammel - Winton
4. Steven Smith - Gore
5. Kyle Hartley - Winton
1. Elliott Harnett - Invercargill
2. Shane Sexton - Invercargill
3. Kris Frew - Queenstown
Southland put on a beautiful day for the Farm Jam. As the dust settled, the bonfire was lit and the beers really got flowing. There's an expression once made famous by Ali G. "Keep it real". Without sounding cliché or kiss ass, it's a phrase that I think most fits the manner in which the Frews go about setting up this event. Stood around a raging bonfire with some of the greatest people I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with, drinking hard and toasting marshmallows whilst the Black Keys serenade us all into the night, after a day of FMX, BMX, MTB, helicopters and mullets... To those who were there, an explanation isn't necessary, to those who weren't - none is possible.
All photos from Dave Coulson and Jimmy Carling.
Here's the preview vid, I'll update with the event movie when it comes out.