Travis Pastrana masters fatherhood in the fast lane

Annapolis native and action sports legend Travis Pastrana has landed a double back flip on a motorcycle, jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, won the Moto-X Freestyle event at the X-Games and recently crushed the historic Mt. Washington Hillclimb motorsports race in under six minutes. But he admits that nothing compares to the thrill of when he became a father for the first time four years ago.

Travis Patrana Cover W“There are so many things I love about being a father,” Pastrana says. “That first time when your kid says ‘I love you’? That rivals any sporting event or any medal. Your parents tell you about it, but you don’t really know what that means until you have kids. Now I get it.”

Pastrana still lives in the Annapolis area with his wife, professional skateboarder Lyn-z Hawkins, and kids Addy, 4, and Bristol, 2. Several months of the year, however, he tours as the leader of Nitro Circus, an action sports collective that showcases motocross, BMX and skateboarding.

“Home is where family is,” Pastrana firmly states.

He has sold out shows in some of the largest arenas in the world, but the self-professed “homebody” cherishes the time he spends with his wife and two daughters.

“So many of my friends are still here. For me, being back here is like the good old days,” he says.

This past July, Pastrana brought his Nitro Circus Live tour to Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, an event he calls “a dream come true.” We caught up with him recently to talk about family, sports and what he loves about his hometown.

Q. How did you get into motocross?

Both of my parents rode motorcycles when I was a kid and we were a very close family. My parents always supported that and my life growing up was about racing.

Travis Pastrana race WQ. What do you love most about what you do?

I wake up every morning with a passion, so for me it’s not about winning. What I love most is this family we’ve been able to build with Nitro Circus. We have 25-45 of the most passionate people in the world on this tour. Half the crew has kids of their own now, so when we travel we are one big family. My girls love it.

Q. Do you worry about the danger of what you do now that you’re a parent?

Things definitely go wrong, and we lost one of our good friends a year and a half ago [in a parachuting accident]. We know that stuff can always go wrong, but I also have to think about the fact that anything can happen in life. I don’t want to stop doing what I love, and I want my kids to see that it’s important to love what you do. But I can work to make the sport safer, and as I get older, I definitely have begun weighing the risk against the reward.

Q. Do you think you’ll ever retire?

I still do the shows, but I haven’t competed in a motocross event for four years. These days, I’m more focused on the creative side and my job has become more about safety. Now that snowboarding, BMX and skateboarding are in the Olympics, so much safety is involved. I am also working to help others in the sport through training and education. We have training camps in Australia, Europe and California, and I’d love to put one here in Maryland. The only way action sports will grow is if we can help athletes get there safely.

Travis Pastrana Slide WQ. What do you love about your hometown and how do you think it has shaped you?

The coolest part is meeting like-minded individuals and families. My Dad was a marine and there is so much military in this area. The people are down-to-earth and can appreciate risk and action sports.

Q. How has growing up in Annapolis shaped your career?

There are not a lot of places that are tougher for training than the summers in Maryland. I like the heat and I love that no matter where you go in this area you’re close to the water. My family is in construction, so they have always helped build my ramps so I’m lucky to have that resource. And being near the water, I’ve been able to try anything in terms of stunts. Most people in action sports don’t have access to boats, bridges and water in addition to the land sports.

Q. How do you and your wife balance your careers and travel?

It’s really tough when my wife and I have to juggle our schedules on the road, but one of us is always with the girls. The most important thing is that when we do have the time, we still have a lot of fun together as a family. And when I’m home, I’m completely with my kids.

Q. What are some of the favorite things you all like to do together as a family when you get some downtime?

Both girls can now get on bicycles, which is great. We ride a lot and sometimes we head up to Chesapeake BMX. My girls and I take rides through the forest and just hang out. To be honest, I’m a serious homebody.

Travis Patrana BikeQ. What’s your take on the increasing amount of pressure in kids’ sports?

I feel like a lot of parents who put too much pressure on their kids may not realize that their goals are not the same as their kids’ goals, or maybe they are trying to make up for an opportunity they didn’t have. Many great athletes have burned out because of this mentality. I was never pushed to do anything. My parents always told me they weren’t expecting anything out of me except good grades. But they gave me a great work ethic, and they taught me that if you love something, then it’s worth the hard work.

Q. Why do you think it’s important for kids to take risks?

Any sport these days comes with a certain amount of risk. I feel like we are living in a world where people want to put a big safety blanket on everything. But there is skill in everything and parents should encourage their kids if they have interest and teach them the skill, which will in turn cut down on the risk. It’s important for kids to make mistakes because that’s how they learn. I want to give my kids the opportunities to make mistakes now while they are still small mistakes.

Travis Patrana candids 009Q. People may not look at Maryland as a hot spot for action sports. What kind of advice do you give a kid who wants to get into action sports?

Maryland is actually great for action sports because we have one of the best BMX tracks on the east coast right up in Severn. And take the opportunity to develop your skill set. If you want to get into freestyle, then start taking gymnastics classes. The younger guys in action sports are doing so much more these days but the most important thing is to have passion for what you do. I feel like no matter where you are in life, if you are passionate about something, you’ll find a way to make it happen

Q. You and your wife are both X-Games gold medalists and action sports stars. Do you think your daughters will follow in your footsteps?

I hope not [laughs]. I just want to give my daughters the opportunity to chase their dreams. If they want to do what my wife and I do, then we will support them 100 percent. Everyone thinks you have to be fearless to do this, but if you use your head, you can do anything you put your mind to. The one thing my parents gave me was a work ethic. To me, that is the most important thing. Respect and a strong work ethic is what I want to instill in my own kids.

Q. Why do you think it’s important for kids to stay active in sports?

So much of the world is virtual now and kids are a lot less physically active.
I couldn’t imagine growing up like that. I don’t even watch TV unless it’s a sporting event. It seems like all kids want to do these days is be in front of a screen playing a video game, and they don’t realize that they are really missing out. I am actually living a video game each and every day. So when I see that I always think, why would a kid be inside when they could be actually outside doing it?

By Katie Riley

Photos by Dunks Photo