This article comes straight from Issue 23 of FreestyleXtreme Magazine. You can get a printed copy of the magazine for free with any order placed in our online store (don't forget to request one at the checkout) or read the digital version below. Words by Simon Makker.
Photo: Simon Makker
The 2018 Farm Jam in New Zealand was by far the biggest, most successful installment in the event’s 11-year history… and that’s just talking about the moto side of things.
It’s no secret that Southland, at the bottom of New Zealand, is one of the wildest, weather-prone areas of the mountainous country. Big Antarctic storms can rage northward and unleash on the coastline at any time, yet it can also bake in weeks of sunshine and fine conditions. Planning any sort of action sports event here is always a gamble.
The weather chips came oh-so-close to falling the wrong way in 2018. Two days before the 2018 Farm Jam was due to be held, an ex-tropical cyclone clashed with one of those burly Antarctic fronts and dropped close to 80mm of rain on the picturesque Frew Farm in just over 24 hours. Dirt jumps and that much rain don’t mix, but with such a massive contingent of world-class riders – including American freeriding and whip master Tyler Bereman and 2012 Red Bull X-Fighters champion Josh Sheehan – descending on the 2018 event, the pressure was on to get the courses dried and ready in a matter of hours.
Large swathes of polythene covered the jumps and protected the fragile, carefully manicured lips, but the water run-off turned the transitions into a sloppy goop that could only be fixed by scraping the mud away with a tractor and replacing it with loads of fresh soil.
Pesky heavy showers continued to maraud the Farm until 2pm on Friday, meaning the rider (and photographer) favourite freeride contest had to be delayed until late in the day to give the jumps as much time as possible to dry out.
But as luck would have it, the clouds gave away to fine breaks, and the wind dropped to a whisper just before golden hour set in. It was game on.
Upping the States
As hefty as the Farm Jam FMX line-up has always been, the field has almost always been limited to Australian and Kiwi riders, with the exception of Spanish wildman Andreu Lacondeguy in 2013 and Brazil’s Freddy Kyrillos in 2014. There has never been an American rider until 2018, when the Frews managed to attract one of the biggest names in freeriding, Tyler Bereman, to their little corner of the world.
“Tyler’s been following us on social media for a while and we got chatting to him to see if he’d be keen to come out for 2018,” Dan explains. “He was super-keen, and managed to make it work with his sponsors to come out for it. He’d never been to the Southern Hemisphere before, so it was a great opportunity for him to visit a new part of the world.”
Natural terrain mini-flip specialist, Jimmy Hill was also initially confirmed to fly over, but a viral illness landed him in hospital just days before getting on the plane.
He wasn’t the only last-minute scratching from the line-up. Long-time Farm Jam competitor, Kiwi hero and 2017 champion-of-everything, Levi Sherwood unfortunately had a clash of dates with another commitment at the other end of the country, and with only one complete FMX bike, there was no way he could get to both events.
Countering that, Double Backflip king, Josh Sheehan – who hadn’t ridden Farm Jam since winning the event in 2011 – locked himself in for a return to the green rolling hills, and brought his perfect array of tricks to the comp.
When you added Australian racer Lewis Woods, fellow Aussie FMX OG Jake Bowen, and Kiwi shredders Callum Shaw, Stephen Smith and Andrew Jackson to the mix, the roster was bulging with talent.
Head for the Hills
With the summer afternoon sun drying the hills, it didn’t take much encouragement for the boys to get geared up and head for the two freeride areas: the first consisted of a reshaped natural quarter-pipe and an all-new gigantic hip at least 25ft larger and a lot steeper than what was offered in 2016, and the second was the iconic cone-shaped hill with an assortment of hits to a completely revamped, smoother landing area.
With a who’s who of MTB and BMX a-listers watching on, it didn’t take long for Tyler Bereman to have everyone scooping their jaws out of their socks as he threw the biggest turned-up and upside-down whips that have probably ever been thrown in the entire country, while valve-bouncing the bejeezus out of his borrowed bike.
As if that wasn’t enough, the 24-year-old Californian proceeded to boost into the stratosphere out of the near-vertical quarter-pipe, snap his bike 180 degrees and land just metres from the up-ramp.
The tone was set for the rest of the session as Woods, Bowen and Sheehan tried their best to match Bereman on the big hip jump. Meanwhile fearless Kiwi freerider Caleb Delacy more than held his own in a head-to-head session with Bereman, where the pair tried to out-boost each other out of the quarter.
With the sun starting to set and a whole other area still to ride, the riders reluctantly left the first location and headed further into the Frew farm hills.
The hour-and-a-half session that followed is one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The wind had dropped completely and golden evening sunlight bathed the area as every rider threw a mixture of whips and tricks off the plethora of dirt hits surrounding the conical hill. Footage of Bereman’s ridiculous golden-hour turn-ups have literally gained millions of views on social media, but towards the end of the session local Suzuki rider Andrew Jackson stole the show with a completely blind backflip over the hill to a landing he couldn’t see. It came as such a surprise that none of the 15+ photographers and filmers managed to get footage of it.
Then on the last jump of the day, Jackson’s good mate Stuart Ewing attempted the same move. But he rotated too slowly and crashed hard - he was lucky to walk away with nothing more than a couple of bruises for his efforts.
As seems to have become the norm for Farm Jam, the event day dawned as a moody, dull day with a thick layer of grey cloud. Hardly ideal for photographers, but at least the wind was nothing more than a slight breeze.
Due to the earlier rough weather, only a couple of riders had had an opportunity to sample the flowing dirt-focused FMX compound prior to event day, but after a solid practice session as the crowds poured through the sheep gates, everyone was fired up for the contest proper.
No-one was more fired up than Andrew Jackson, however. It was obvious from the very first session that the understated 24-year-old had worked his arse off over the past two years. While his inside-out whips and perfectly executed upright tricks were all on-point, it was his silky-smooth Underflips and his ability to consistently flip a long-and-low dirt-to-dirt double that really caught everyone’s attention and earned him a memorable Farm Jam victory.
After keeping fairly quiet in the hills the previous day, it wasn’t much of a surprise to see Sheeny come out swinging in the FMX comp. While none of the jumps were suited to his trademark Double Flips and 360s, Sheeny gathered a head of steam as the comp wore on, chucking his signature Ruler Flips and Double Grab Flips to finish second behind Jackson, while also claiming the Best Trick award.
Tyler Bereman and Lewis Woods combined to put on a hell of a show for the 5,000-strong crowd that turned up to witness the action, and apart from a hairy moment where Bereman over-jumped the freestyle set-up and had to partially ghostie his bike off the second step-up, the pair rode flawlessly and seemed to feed off each other’s energy. It was no surprise at the end of the day when Bereman picked up Best Whip and Woods was voted to have the Best Style.
That’s a Wrap
With the awards dished out, bellies full of quality farm-cooked food and the beers starting to flow freely, it was time to sit back and reflect on two days of riding that surely would have to go down as some of the defining moments in Farm Jam’s 11-year history.
“Every year we say this Farm Jam was the best ever, but yeah, I think 2018 would have to be right up there,” laughs Dan Frew. “It’s always a lot of hard work to bring our vision to a reality while juggling our day-to-day farming and family lives, but 2018 was a true highlight.”
Bereman was also full of praise for his first-ever trip down under.
“Man, I couldn’t be more stoked to have had the opportunity to come and ride here,” he grins. “The vibe, atmosphere, the friendliness and positive attitudes of the Frew brothers, the beautiful countryside and the jumps are all on point. But I think the thing that stands out for me is the fact that this is truly an event that’s ‘by the riders, for the riders’. It’s easily the best, most unique event I’ve ever attended.”
With Bereman already singing Farm Jam’s praises and his videos going viral, international interest in the 2020 FMX events are already at an all-time high.
“Twitch, Carey Hart, Jarryd McNeill, Axel Hodges, Rob Adelberg…”rattles off Dan. “We’ve already had all of those guys and more expressing interest in coming over for the next event. So yeah, we’ve got a lot of thinking to do about what happens in the future. Can handle having all those guys at Farm Jam, or do we try something else in addition to Farm Jam? Whatever path we take, we’re super-excited about what the future holds for 2020 and beyond.”
1 Andrew Jackson
2 Tyler Bereman
3 Jake Bowen
4 Josh Sheehan
5 Stuart Ewing
Best Trick: Josh Sheehan
Best Whip: Tyler Bereman
Best Style: Lewis Woods
Photo: Simon Makker
MTB // Did the tragic passing of one of the biggest stars in mountain-biking lead to an explosion of 26-inch popularity at the 2018 Farm Jam?
Two years ago the global mountain bike community took a sucker-punch to the solar plexus when larger-than-life Kiwi legend Kelly McGarry suddenly and tragically passed away while riding the trails of his beloved home of Queenstown.
While McGazza’s sudden death in 2016 rocked the industry, it came as a sledgehammer blow to the Farm Jam organisers Dan and Brett Frew. As well as being close friends with the larger-than-life, golden-haired icon, the tragedy unfolded just three days before the 2016 Farm Jam and the brothers had to somehow balance finding time and space to grieve the loss of their good mate with having to organise an event for hundreds of riders and thousands of spectators arriving on their farm.
“It was a really tough time, and looking back, Farm Jam 2016 was quite surreal,” reflects Brett. “The whole vibe was quite heavy over those few days, and everyone came with the intention of sending it for McGazza. For Dan and I, we wanted to mourn the passing of our good mate, but the show still had to go on as well. I don’t know how we got through those days because we were devastated to have lost Kelly.”
From a star power point of view, the Farm Jam’s mountain bike contest was consistently the weakest of the three disciplines on offer at the unique action sports event. The moto and BMX contests always attracted solid fields featuring some of the world’s best riders, but with the exception of Farm Jam regular wonder-kid Matt Jones (UK) and the addition of the occasional international heavy-hitter such Andreu Lacondeguy, the MTB comp was usually a mostly-Kiwi affair since the event began in 2008. While the level of riding was never lacking, the MTB comp was a place for homegrown riders such as McGazza, Conor Macfarlane and Phil McLean to put on a show for the thousands of vocal spectators and push each other to new heights.
How things can change in just two years. Where the field had been dominated by Kiwis in previous years, 2018 saw a complete reversal, as internationals filled three-quarters of the 24-rider line-up, and just eight Kiwis throwing down on the immaculately shaped jumps.
We’re not just talking any internationals either – we’re talking the likes of Red Bull slopestyle shredder Carson Storch, whip- and style-master Ryan “R-Dog” Howard, American powerhouse Tyler McCaul, the inventive and always-stylish Matt Jones and hard-charger Ray George, among a swathe of others.
So why the sudden change of demographics? There are a couple of factors.
The stunning alpine town of Queenstown – just two hours up the road – has become the new go-to destination for riders looking to escape the northern hemisphere winters. McGazza’s (and Conor Macfarlane’s and Emerson Wilkin’s) home town has a vibrant atmosphere, incredible scenery everywhere you place your eyeballs, a vast range of mountain bike trails from spectacular all-mountain loops to burly huck-and-hope lines, and of course, the surreal and perfectly sculpted Gorge Road jump park. The likes of R-Dog, Antoine Bizet and Bernard Kerr are summer regulars in town, with Howard spending several months soaking up the long summer days and getting ready for the first round of Crankworx at Rotorua.
At the same time, the Kelly McGarry foundation – of which Carson Storch plays an integral role – now holds the McGazzafest in Queenstown over the summer months.
Basically the McGazzafest is a relaxed three-day riding, drinking and partying extravaganza to honour the big guy, have fun with like-minded souls, session the incredible Skyline and Gorge Road jump parks, and ride until you drop.
After just two years (the first McGazzafest was held in 2017), the weekend has become a real magnet for slopestyle riders. With the 2018 installment being held just a week before Farm Jam, there were suddenly two very, very good reasons to make the trip to New Zealand, and as a result, the fire-power of Farm Jam’s MTB line-up was bolstered significantly.
The final result though, was the same as it had been the past two years, with Matt Jones putting on extension, amplitude and execution clinics for an appreciative 5000-strong crowd.
Although he didn’t throw the Double Backflip like he did in 2014 and 2016 (the soft run-up to the big trick booter meant speed and bike movement was slightly more unpredictable than previous years), Jones still managed to also claim the Best Trick award for a perfect Tuck 720.
But even though he’s claimed the first-ever Farm Jam hat-trick, Jones vows he’ll return to Farm Jam 2020.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Jones states matter-of-factly. “There’s just something about Farm Jam that’s so unique and special, and it’s easily my favourite contest to come to. Where else can you follow a BMX rider on a mountain bike through a beautiful set of jumps, while hearing freestyle bikes’ engines and the crowd going crazy just over the hill? But the great thing is, it’s still a contest, you know? You still want to throw your best tricks, but you don’t feel the pressure like you do in a normal two-run contest. You’ve got up to an hour to prove your variety, skill and style, and to make the riders themselves the judges, it’s kinda like an action sports democracy.”
Storch, who popped his Farm Jam cherry in 2018 agrees: “I think getting everyone on two wheels together to watch each other ride in each discipline is really inspiring. It makes for a new experience for most people, and fills the divide that sometimes exists between our wheeled sports. It definitely allows for good vibes.”
Storch was so stoked on the event that he’s already locked himself in for 2020.
“I will 100% be back in 2020, not for better results or anything like that, just to be involved!” the 24-year-old enthuses. “I think these events are so good for our sport, and something our sport lacks. It’s core, and gives a chance for talented young riders to compete with/get to know some of the top pros from around the world. There aren’t any events these days that are like that. Farm Jam just has the perfect recipe to showcase some great shredding and good times.”
With two of MTB’s biggest names already confirming they’ll attend the next Farm Jam, 2020 is already promising to be massive… and we’re still more than 18 months out.
1. Matt Jones (UK)
2. Lewis Jones (NZ)
3. Ray George (USA)
4. Carson Storch (USA)
5. Conor Macfarlane (NZ)
Best Trick: Matt Jones
Best Style: Ryan Howard
Photo: Simon Makker
BMX // Every year the BMX contest at Farm Jam blows both the other contests out of the water, and thousands of people’s minds in the process.
As amazing as the freeride, FMX and MTB contests are at the Farm Jam, there’s one discipline that never ceases to amaze the vocal, appreciative (and by this stage, fairly lubricated) spectators and push the boundaries of what can and can’t be done on two wheels.
The BMX contest is consistently the highlight of the entire day, and, as it’s always the last event, ensures the Farm Jam always finishes with a hell of a bang.
Although Farm Jam organiser and trail sculptor-in-chief Brett Frew spends roughly equal amounts of time riding BMX and MTB (when he has spare time after mustering sheep and kids), the two lines of trails that he’s meticulously handcrafted tend to suit the 20-inch brigade.
The lines traditionally roll very quickly, and are littered with hips, step-ups and off-set take-offs. From the moment the riders drop in until they swing out of the big catcher berm at the bottom of the hill and begin the walk back to the top, both sets never fail to make the lads (and lady, Ellie Chew) smile.
This year, though, the 77mm deluge of rain in the lead-up to this year’s event had organisers and riders scrambling to get the jumps into a somewhat rideable condition; it was literally all-hands-on-deck from the moment the rain stopped on Friday morning until the gates opened at midday on Saturday. Transitions had to be scraped clean, then fresh, dry dirt added, the upramps and downramps needed attention (although weren’t as badly affected thanks to being covered in tarps during the downpours), and the sides needed to be slapped and moulded back into shape.
Brett Frew says the superhuman efforts of the army of volunteers was the only thing that ensured the event went as smoothly as it did.
“Everyone who turned up early was all too happy to get on the end of a shovel and help get the jumps tidied up in time, and without their help, I don’t think we would’ve been able to hold the Jam,” he admits. “It was a real team effort. Everyone was in the same mindset – most had driven or flown a long way to ride, and they wanted to give the Farm Jam the best chance possible of happening.”
The huge clean-up meant the BMX riders didn’t have a chance to practice on the jumps until Saturday afternoon, just a couple hours before they were scheduled to drop in in front of thousands of spectators. No pressure or anything.
As good luck – and no small amount of good management – would have it, the sun broke through the clouds just before the pushy contests were due to start, the show went ahead on schedule, and the jumps held up remarkably well. They were still a little soft and ran slower than usual, which meant the usual ground-breaking tricks weren’t thrown down on the final big dirt double sender as they were in the past.
Despite the constant efforts of some hard-working volunteers, the transitions between the bottom two jumps also broke down a little during the comp, as hundreds of pairs of highly-pressurised tyres swooped through.
“Those two transitions were a bit like a motocross track towards the end of the comp,” laughs Aussie BMX legend and best trick winner Kyle Baldock. “They developed some ruts as they were still soft from all the rain, but that’s part of the fun of a dirt event like Farm Jam, though. You need to ride to the conditions and we still managed to throw down some of our biggest tricks, the riders were psyched and the crowd was right into it as always.”
As was the case in 2016, the contest boiled down to a head-to-head clash between good friends Baldock and UCI BMX World Champion – and defending Farm Jam champ – Logan Martin. Every time the pair dropped in, thousands of eyes were glued to their every move as they whipped, spun, flipped and contorted their bodies and bikes down the picturesque trails. There was no doubting these two were head-and-shoulders above the rest – it was just a matter of who would come out on top. Once the rider votes were tallied after the hour-long riding session had wrapped up, it was that Martin was the clear favourite. Baldock crashed several times trying to send super-technical bangers, while Martin was at his robotic best, clicking off perfect tricks off every jump on the course.
“It definitely means something when your fellow riders are enjoying what you’re doing and vote you as the best rider of the day. That means a lot, and the vibe of the contest is always pretty special,” Martin grinned afterward. “The thing I love about Farm Jam is that it just feels like a session with the boys and to come away with another win there was amazing.”
There were tonnes of highlights from riders across the board throughout the event: crowd favorite and long-time supporter of the Farm Jam, Michael “Hucker” Clark seat-bounced almost the entire way down the course with his feet off the pegs on his way to a surprise third place, and Australia’s Mike Ross had the crowd gasping with his huge, picture-perfect Seatgrabs and ludicrous Nacs over the final trick booter. During a break in the session to give the transitions some love, Jason Watts boosted the dirt quarter-pipe to heights that have probably never been reached off that feature, while USA’s Kris Fox summoned his past life as a top-level racer to scrub and whip his BMX down the trails on his way to the Best Style award.
At the end of the day, as the sun began to set and the prolific round of podium “shoeys” had been knocked back, everyone to a man had a smile plastered on their face as they caught up and relived the epic action they’d seen across the different disciplines. Despite the worst the weather had thrown Southland’s way, the 2018 Farm Jam had again been taken to the next level, the heaving crowd had witnessed some of the biggest names in action sports send it hard and everything had gone without a hitch. You couldn’t have wished for more.
There was just one more matter to attend to: a huge after-party that’d keep everyone’s appetite for beer sated until about 2020…
1 Logan Martin (AUS)
2 Kyle Baldock (AUS)
3 Mike “Hucker” Clark (USA)
4 Mike Ross (AUS)
5 Joe Simpson (NZL)
Best Trick: Kyle Baldock
Best Style: Kris Fox (USA)
Where To From Here // After such an epic 2018 event, what’s the future for the Farm Jam? Organisers Dan and Brett Frew chat with us about their thoughts on 2018 and what we could see in 2020.
So here we are. After two years of anticipation and eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the legendary Farm Jam, we’ve seen one of – if not the – greatest Farm Jam of all time, and all we’re left with are full memory cards, big smiles, and memories that’ll have us fizzing until 2020.
For organisers Dan and Brett Frew, it’s time to take a few deep breaths, take stock of the situation, reflect on another incredible event, then return to their normal lives of looking after their sheep and beef farm and spending more time with their growing families.
So how would they describe 2018?
“Honestly, we’ve run out of words; every year is the best one and they just get better and better,” Dan chuckles. “As always, the weather did its best to screw up our plans, but we’re pretty used to dealing with that now. We’ve improved the drainage on the jumps a lot, and everyone helps out to make the event happen, and when they see that their efforts have got the jumps completed and ready to ride in time, it just makes them more stoked.”
Brett agrees: “On Friday, there were probably 30-40 guys shovelling and tonnes brought their own to get stuck in. The sound of slapping was just incredible. We were lucky that our jumps were 100% ready earlier in the week, so all that was needed was maintenance to get them ready in time.”
But as far as the absolute highlight of the entire weekend, both brothers are unanimous. The Tyler Bereman show during the late evening freeride contest was by far one of the gnarliest things either of them had ever seen thrown down on their farm. And after nine Farm Jams, multiple on-location filming sessions and a lifetime of riding themselves, that’s saying something.
“I can’t express the amount of yank that Tyler could get off that 160ft jump; I was absolutely beside myself watching him hit that jump at that speed, then throwing the bike around like it was nothing.”
“Yeah that was the highlight for sure,” concurs Brett. “Usually the BMX contest takes the cake, but this year it was absolutely Tyler. It was golden hour in the hills, everyone was happy, the jumps were drying out, and all the pushy riders were there watching and having their minds blown. I think they were quite humbled by the sending that went down on Friday night. They’ve never had the opportunity to see that side of the Farm Jam before as they’re usually practicing; the cross-referencing between all the riders was high, and that’s what we’re all about.”
So, where to from here? What could 2020 hold, and how can the event step up even further from the quantum leap that took place from 2016 to 2018?
Truthfully, even the Frews aren’t sure, and just quietly, they’re not too worried.
“We used to change things up all the time, but we’re at the point now where everyone loves it so much, they’ll come back even if we left it the same,” elaborates Brett. “We could just roll the same thing out again and people will still be as excited as they were this year. But we haven’t hit perfection yet, so we’ll keep striving for that.”
“When you watch BMX dirt at X Games, the courses are so simple and they never have anything different,” adds Dan. “If you’re lucky there’re four jumps in a row, and man, we’ve got 25 jumps over the two courses, which is plenty, and none of the riders can ever get enough of them.”
Don’t get the boys wrong – they’re not stepping aside and letting Farm Jam trickle along for future events, but they’re aware there’s not a lot of room for expansion, especially when it comes to the man-hours that are needed to create some crazy new feature or idea.
“It’s more about changing other parts of the experience,” says Brett. “This year we changed up the catering, which was a massive thing for us. We had our own lamb being cooked, but we were worried about bringing someone else in to do the food and still keeping it cool. It’s like owning a café and making your own muffins, which everyone loves. But then you start buying muffins in to make life a bit easier, and there’s a risk that people won’t like them as much. We were kind of in the same boat!”
Managing Interest & Growth
Already though, there’s been a massive international interest after Tyler Bereman’s whip and freeriding videos spurred the action sports industry into a frenzy.
“Carey Hart, Axel Hodges, Twitch, Doug Parsons… they’re all guys who’re lining up for an invitation in 2020, but how do we capitalise on that?” muses Dan. “Truthfully, I’m not sure Farm Jam is capable of handling that sort of level, both from a riding and a crowd capacity point of view.”
“We’ve also always placed an emphasis of keeping the event grassroots and for the locals as well as the internationals,” adds Brett. “That’s what Farm Jam is all about, and Jackson winning this year played a key part in something like that. Could we have a pro comp and an amateur comp? Or a two-day event? Or leverage off the growing popularity of the freeride comp and opening that up to the public? We don’t know yet. There’re plenty of options and we need to do some thinking about what we want to do in the future.”
Meanwhile, the Frews have seen requests for their farm to be used as a location venue for films in the past. As well as the Anthill Films 2013 production #NotBad, last year saw the biggest name in MTB, Brandon Semenuk, use the picturesque hills to film his insane video Simplicity.
It’s a side of their venture that the Frews are keen to explore more in the future, but not at Hollywood blockbuster level just yet.
“We’re really keen to step that side of things up, but we don’t want to stick our hands up too far until we have better facilities that are needed for big-budget stuff,” reveals Dan. “Our hands are definitely up for things like catalogue shoots, specialist films like Simplicity, #Notbad, and things like that. We want to create the hype, and we know we have a destination that’s a fantastic place to ride.”
Regardless of what happens in the future, you can guarantee the Frew Farm will always be heavily focused on providing good vibes, a great atmosphere and incredible dirt.
“We’ve always steered our events towards good vibes and it’s always turned out pretty well,” explains Brett. “While we’re open to options in the future we’ll always try and keep the integrity of Farm Jam, so it’s about dirt, the mingling of local and international riders across different sports, and keeping them happy. Happy riders and good dirt is a good recipe we don’t want to change.”