Dusty Wygle Does It All | Featured Rider
At Nitro Circus, we get to work with athletes performing the biggest stunts in FMX, BMX, skate, and scooter, but our show is also pretty well known for all the, let’s say, less traditional junk we ride down the Giganta ramp. We’ve launched kids’ tricycles, rocking horses, boogie boards, bathtubs, wheelbarrows, and so much more. So it’s not surprising that one of the most common reactions we get is: “What were you thinking?” The Crew member who’s perhaps most qualified to answer that question is Dusty Wygle, Nitro’s resident renaissance man.
Most Nitro athletes are among the best in the world at one, sometimes two action sports. Almost all of them dabble in a few more just for variety. But Dusty is a rare athlete who is willing to try anything, including the weird stuff, and he’s somehow great at all of it. We caught up with him in Florida, where he’s taking a much-needed break before our upcoming European tour, and asked him what goes into creating a Nitro contraption that’s fit for the Giganta ramp.
“The majority of contraptions just come out of egging your friend on into something that’s a horrible idea that you think might work a little a bit,” he said. That’s where we get things like bathtubs with wheels, rocking horses, and, of course, the land boogie board. Dusty says the idea for that one came from a joke during the earliest stages of planning the Nitro Circus Live show. He and a few of the show producers were talking about how funny it would be to ride a boogie board over the big ramp. The next day, someone showed up with one.
“I went, ‘Oh my gosh, my big mouth, there’s no way this is going to work.’ And funnily enough, I actually had fins and board shorts in my car, because I live by the beach, so for body surfing and stuff I have them in my car. So I said screw it, just chucked those on — it’s gonna be so ridiculous anyways. I went and jumped it, and it kinda worked.” They cracked up, of course, but land boogie boarding was born. “The rest is history,” he says.
So, does he ever boogie board, you know, in the water? “I am strictly a land boogie boarder,” Dusty says, noting hopefully that perhaps some day he won’t be the only one. Maybe sharing the feat of engineering responsible for such a contraption will help grow this sport.
“There’s no overthinking the boogie board. It’s meant for the water, and if you’re trying to put wheels on it, we literally just take a metal plate and bolt wheels to it and basically just duct tape it to a boogie board,” he says. This is the part where we tell you not to try this at home, and Dusty is probably the best person to explain why: “It’s a death trap. In all honesty, it’s a frickin’ death trap. It shouldn’t go, and you fight it and wrestle it the whole way to the ramp to make it go straight, because it doesn’t steer; they’re fixed wheels.”
Not surprisingly, the way they came up with land boogie boarding is the same way most of our contraptions are born. “I would say the start of most things in Nitro comes from bad jokes or just kind of daring your friend to do something that is just so ludicrous and just shouldn’t work at all,” he says. “Then somehow someone finds a way.” But not every contraption’s construction is as simple as duct taping wheels on. The tricycles, for example.
In the beginning, the athletes used to get tricycles from the local toy store, Dusty says, but that didn’t last long. “We were getting to the point where we were doing things on them that were too gnarly and too big, and they would end up breaking.” The solution was to use stronger materials but copy the toy-store trike design. “That’s why people enjoy it, because it’s exactly what you rode as a kid.”
The rocking horse and penny farthing are other examples of things that take a little more engineering to work. “Those things are also complete death traps,” Dusty says. But they’d be even more so if it weren’t for the modifications that have been made. “The rocking horse, we found a way to construct it so it wouldn’t completely disintegrate on landing or just steer the wrong way. And the penny farthing, you have to reinforce it and find a way to make it stronger so it can withstand things that it was never meant to encounter. So the contraptions go both ways. Some of them require a lot of thought and ingenuity by our mechanics.”
Dusty’s been into action sports since he was a kid, but he didn’t start out taking crazy contraptions over ramps. In fact, when Jeremy Rawle, Gregg Godfrey, and Jim DeChamp first met Dusty, back before Nitro started the live shows, they had no idea the type of versatile athlete they’d found. To them, he was fearless and amazing on a dirtbike, and that was enough. Yep, Dusty is one of the only Nitro athletes who performs on both the Giganta side and the FMX side of the show.
Jeremy, Gregg, and Jim had come to film some clips during a pitbike race in Vegas, and a mutual friend introduced them to Dusty, who was competing in the race. They asked if he had extra bikes they could use, and he was pumped to help out. He was a fan of their work; these guys were making a living doing some of the crazy stuff that Dusty and his friends had also been doing for years. Then it got even better.
“They asked me if I wanted to jump in. That was a no-brainer. Of course I wanted to jump in and be silly and do some crazy stuff,” he says. It went well, and the guys immediately recognized a kindred spirit. “By the end of it, they were like, ‘I think we found a new guy.’ I kind of just laughed it off and was pumped on the experience.” Two months later, he got a call to film Thrillbillies.
Even then, it took some time before they realized just what Dusty is capable of. “Our only experience together had been dirtbikes when they called me,” he says. But over the course of filming together and then starting to develop Nitro Circus Live, it became clear that Dusty was going to be one of the more versatile athletes on tour. Rawle eventually started calling him a Swiss Army Knife.
Teammate Matty Mac had this to say: “Dusty, the kid can do it all. He has a different head on him, that kid. It’s not that he can do almost anything he puts his mind to — it’s the fact he can’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be able to.”
Dusty’s humble about his versatility. “I’ve never really been great at one thing, I guess. In my eyes I’ve never been exceptional, but I’ve been pretty decent at a lot of things,” he says. “I see something that could be done. That’s kinda always been where I lock into things and where I get excited. ‘Oh, I’ve never seen this done on something like that; I’d like to try it, because I think it might work.'”
Which is why he fit in perfectly with the Nitro Crew and became one of the original members of the live show cast. “I think it might work” is exactly how this show developed. In the early days, the whole thing was a bit more chaotic. “When we first started the tour I think all of us were kinda blown away that it was even happening,” Dusty says. “It was just mayhem. Basically, they let loose like 40 of us that were hyped on adrenaline and just pumped on the possibility that we could do pretty much anything we wanted and had all the toys available.”
That initial mayhem is one of the reasons he was able to hone his skills at so many different things, how he evolved into the Swiss Army Knife he is today. “I would just run in the back and grab things and jump them and try tricks that I just dreamed of.” The crowd loved that manic energy, he says, but it wasn’t sustainable. The athletes and the audience got worn out with the frenetic pace. The show has evolved to fix that.
“Of course I wanted to jump in and be silly and do some crazy stuff.”
“Now the show’s definitely smoothed over; it’s more refined,” he says. The producers and athletes have found the sweet spot where pacing makes the biggest tricks feel even bigger, so the audience still gets all that chaos but in more digestible form. “We kind of know what works and doesn’t work physically, what you can withstand and what even is possible — or at least possible night after night. And we kind of play in and out of those parameters.”
Through all that, Dusty has taken learning on the job to new heights, literally. “Being around all these people that are the best in their field, I’ve been exposed to a lot of things I might not have ever really been able to.” His favorite discipline right now is the mountain bike, something he had never really done before Nitro. Watching him during shows and talking with him about his job, it’s clear that he’s having a great time. “That’s the whole fun of the show, just goofing off with your friends and trying silly things that probably shouldn’t work but you find a way to make it happen.”
Nitro’s had a roller coaster of a year in 2015, and Dusty says the highs and lows have really brought the Crew closer than ever — and they were pretty close to begin with. “We’ve all spent the last at least five years together for the majority of the time; we’ve just been together traveling, seeing all these cool places, so to find out that we could all get closer and just become a tighter group and learn more about each other and find out we’re capable of things none of us thought we were capable of, I think, would be the highlight,” he says. But that by no means is an indication that they’ve peaked.
“We haven’t hit the ceiling yet; we’re still going, and there’s a lot to be done. We have a lot in store for the shows in 2016, so I suggest coming out and enjoying the ride,” he says. That’s advice you should take very seriously coming from an athlete who already does it all.