Rest In Peace Tyrone
Published Newcastle Herald 3/22/13:
THE realm of extreme sport is full of young men doing crazy things that mere mortals would never contemplate.
From motocross riders to skateboarding bowl riders to BMX-ers, big-wave surfers and batwing flyers.
All of them are motivated by an adrenaline-charged desire to prove themselves against the best that nature or the laws of physics can throw at them.
When their stunts succeed, the results are filmed from a dozen angles and uploaded straight away for the world to watch online.
But things can, and do, go wrong, as we saw so tragically on Thursday when motocross daredevil Tyrone Gilks died after an horrific accident at Maitland Showground.
Gilks had been practising for today’s Maitland Bike and Hotrod Show – an event advertised, with awful irony, by a poster featuring a grinning skull wearing what looks like a bike helmet.
The 19-year-old hailed from suburban Macquarie Hills but had recently spent time on the Gold Coast.
Had he crashed his bike on the street, or on one of the countless bush trails throughout the Hunter Valley, his death would have been a commonplace tragedy.
But Tyrone Gilks was no everyday teenager with a love of bikes.
While not as widely famous as Kurri Kurri exports Chad Reed and Casey Stoner, Gilks was a bona fide motocross hero with an international career and fan base.
Another young starter – he was riding at five and setting world records at 12 – Gilks took his aerial antics all over the world, almost always with an auspicious ‘‘777’’ on the front of his bike.
Back in the Hunter this week for the Maitland Bike and Rod Show at Maitland Showground, Gilks was planning to fly almost 100metres to set a world record jump on a 250cc Yamaha two-stroke. To put that in perspective, 100metres is the full length, tryline to tryline, of a rugby league field.
It’s a long way to fly through the air on anything, and the footage of Gilks’s final runs at the Maitland jump show him pulling out of his penultimate attempt, having just managed to make the distance at his previous try.
Gilks clearly loved what he did, but no one rides a motorcycle at speed, or through the air, without an awareness of the danger, as he made clear in some of his Facebook posts.
A photo posted on November 5 last year shows Gilks, airborne and upside down in a bush jump, wrestling to retain control of his bike.
The caption reads: ‘‘Hand blew off throwin a 3 today, body weight shifted everything went wrong turned into a out of control corked flip, so friging happy to b drivin myself home an not in an ambulance!!!’’
Although Gilks was an accomplished long-time distance jumper, most of his recent effort appears to have gone into ‘‘freeriding’’ aerial tricks, rather than pure distance jumps.
A Facebook posting on Monday said: ‘‘Hit my distance ramp for the first time in 4years today and for the first time on my YZ 250 #projectbike, one ramp movement an were at 200feet ramp gap landing at 250feet in 4th gear … Happy kid.’’
Police are investigating Thursday morning’s accident. A spokesman for the Hunter crash investigation unit said Gilks’s bike had been taken to be examined. WorkCover is also considering an inquiry.
Today’s bike and hotrod show was organised by the Maitland chapter of the Gladiators Motorcycle Club.
Club member Aub Smith said everyone involved was shattered but after talking with Tyrone’s father Kevin Gilks, he knew the show had to go on. He said freestyle motocross riders Joel Brown and Josh Hannan would perform as advertised.
‘‘I’ve known Kevin for years, he’s a member of the God’s Squad Christian Motorcycle [club] and he told me that the rest of the boys wanted to do a memorial for Tyrone,’’ Mr Smith said.
‘‘He said they know the risks that they take, and this is what they do, this is how they pay their respects.’’
Mr Smith said he had watched Tyrone in some of his early practice runs this week.
‘‘He came up to me and gave me a hug and said ‘Thanks Aub’,’’ Mr Smith said.
‘‘I’d been talking to his dad about 18months ago about how Tyrone wanted to break the world record jump in Australia, not the US, and could we do it at the Maitland Bike and Hotrod Show. The hug was for organising that.’’
Freestyle motocross legend Chucky Norris, a friend of Tyrone’s, posted this on Facebook: ‘‘This sport can be so cruel, I lost a friend today after a tragic accident aiming to break a distance record.
‘‘Tyrone Gilks – rest in peace mate I’ll never forget you.’’
A few hours later he wrote: ‘‘Laying here in my hotel room still so gutted with what’s happened today. I feel so much for Tyrone’s family. RIP you crazy little dude.’’
Norris said he couldn’t make it to Maitland because of Nitro Circus commitments but ‘‘Tyrone would have wanted nothing less than the boys to get there and throw it down’’.
The record of 94.61metres that Gilks had wanted to break was set by another Aussie, Robbie Maddison, 31, a Crusty Demons rider whose tricks include jumping his bike on and off a full-scale replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Maddison, who stunt-doubled for actor Daniel Craig in the James Bond epic Skyfall, took his world record, in turn, from yet another Aussie, the ill-fated Dale Buggins.
Buggins, born in Wales but raised on the Central Coast, was another young starter, riding from the age of nine and jumping cars on his family’s farm near Wyong.
Buggins found global fame on May 28, 1978, when he jumped over 25cars at the Newcastle International Motordrome, at Tomago, breaking a record held by his idol, the legendary Evel Knievel.
The following year, he toured the US as part of the Evel Knievel Spectacular.
For a while, Buggins was everywhere, his clean, photogenic looks tailor-made for mainstream appeal.
He was a pop idol on a bike.
But on September 18, 1981, the day before he was scheduled to appear at the Royal Melbourne Show, the 20-year-old took his own life in an anonymous motel room. It was a sad end to a high-octane life lived on the edge.
Now, more than 30years later, another young rider has lost his life. By 7 o’clock last night, More than 21,000people had paid respects by ‘‘liking’’ a RIP Tyrone Gilks Facebook site.
A member of Russell Brothers Films, who recorded many of young Gilks’s stunts, said his death had not changed his outlook on the sport.
‘‘No, it only makes me want to ride harder for these lost ones, we all know why we ride.’