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From leaps of faith to life in lockdown: How COVID-19 has forced Robbie Maddison's change of pace

Robbie Maddison flies high in Mumbai last year. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Robbie Maddison flies high in Mumbai last year. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

DEATH-defying tricks and jaw-dropping stunts, all around the world, have optimised the career of South Coast daredevil Robbie Maddison.

However, neither have been possible for the 38-year-old for the past month, as he has been locked down in his Californian home with his wife and their three kids since March 19.

"We knew the lockdown over here was inevitable, after keeping track of the news," Maddison said.

"Everywhere around the world was going into isolation and we sort of locked ourselves down here before we were forced to - it took a long time for people to realise exactly what was going on.

"Fast forward to now and everyone is accustomed to it - both covering up and keeping their distance when out in public.

"The whole world is at a standstill and we're no different here in Temecula, which is known for its wine and is always popular on weekends.

"The area is generally buzzing, especially this time of year, but now it's like a crazy ghost town."

Lockdown has had its benefits for the Kiama product though.

"I had to go to the chiropractor the other week, as my lower back has been playing up after recent surgery," he said.

"Normally when I go see the chiropractor, we leave in the mornings and get home after lunch due to the traffic here in California.

"However, this time it didn't matter when we went, because the freeways were so empty - it was very surreal."

Maddison, due to the aforementioned surgery, hasn't been able to ride his bike during lockdown but his family and friend Takayuki Higashino (who lives nearby) have found other ways to keep themselves entertained during this challenging period.

"You first go through that period of being stir-crazy before you start figuring out what you're going to do," Maddison said.

He admits his wife Amy has handled the lockdown the best.

"Anyone that knows me, I need to be on the go at all times, which has been hard with the back surgery and the fact gyms have been closed - which has forced me to change my daily regime and do home gym workouts," he said.

"I've beaten my body up so bad over the years and when I sit around for too long it all starts to ache.

"I personally think it's a great opportunity for everyone to grow, especially in aspects you don't normally deal with because life is moving too fast.

"In terms of the kids, ours are home-schooled anyway, so there hasn't been too big of an adjustment for them, apart from not seeing their friends - the order of the house has stayed pretty normal in that regard.

"They can still ride their motorcycles too in the front yard, which is a massive luxury - it's a great way for them to expend some energy but also clear the head, sort of like meditation.

"Usually we have a couple of different riders use our facility but at the moment it's just Taka and the kids who have been smashing it.

"We've all been keeping busy, as I've been able to tick off a couple of jobs around the house on the honey-do list.

"At the end of the day, we're not in some crazy kind of hostile situation, we're actually quite fortunate and are very appreciate of all the good things we have."

Maddison and his family, prior to the lockdown, returned the Shoalhaven to visit family before he headed to India for filming.

He was then scheduled to head interstate and film the television show Evel (based on the life of Evel Knievel), where Maddison was lined up to be Milo Ventimiglia's stunt double.

"I was starting to get ready for filming [with Evel] but then Hollywood went into full lockdown, so that got delayed," he said.

"After quickly getting myself ready for the role, I haven't heard anything since about when filming might start, but hopefully, it's soon, as some restrictions are starting to be eased."

Those changes have seen more people venture outside in southern California.

"Previously, places like restaurants were full lock downed and didn't even do takeaways - there was no movement what so ever," he said.

"However, in the past week, things have definitely started to lighten up and it's noticeably busier compared to when no one knew exactly what was going on and was scared to step foot outside.

"Golf courses are also open again, as I know [Donald] Trump is trying to get the economy going again.

"Plenty of our friends and neighbours are feeling the pinch at the moment but I'm sure when the economy opens back up, we will all start to see some normality again."

Maddison went on to explain he believes his home country has stricter lockdown laws than the US.

"When we are back in Australia, I feel like the police patrol the roads so much - it's crazy how strict they are," he said.

"Then over here, there's nowhere near the policing on the roads - which I think has a lot to do with the vibe and mentality we have.

"Obviously there are a lot more people here but I just feel they aren't as critical and as by the book as back home - which was again highlighted during this lockdown.

"The other day, I was out riding my buggy in the hills and we passed the sheriff.

"He asked me where I lived and what I was doing out there - it's a bit of a grey area about what the rules are.

"He told me I'm not supposed to be out here, as it's normally an $800 fine but he let me cruise home - it's the second time this has happened the past month.

"In Australia, if that happened, I'm sure they would have compounded the buggy, arrested me and issued a heavy fine.

"This different mentality epitomises how they police things over here.

"They're doing a good job over here - it seems like the curve is starting to flatten out."

Robbie Maddison jumps of a bridge in Los Angeles in 2019. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Robbie Maddison jumps of a bridge in Los Angeles in 2019. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

As his community starts to head back towards regular programming, Maddison is confident his beloved sport will soon follow.

"My motorcycling industry is one that relies heavily on events and people coming together," he said.

"They're currently trying to figure out how to move forward in a different way - from what I'm hearing is they'll conduct events with no crowds and just stream it for people to watch in their homes, be that on television or their portable devices.

"At that point, it's crazy to think it doesn't matter if the tricks are CGI (computer-generated imagery) or real essentially.

"On top of that, the plan is to still hold the championship is some form, including different locations and structures - they're just going about it in a different way, which is just like any sport, to be honest.

"It seems like the motorcycle world will get back before too long but, in my opinion, the state of the world has changed and the field we play will involve different obstacles and strategy and might never be the same moving forward."

Robbie Maddison in Mykonos in 2019. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Robbie Maddison in Mykonos in 2019. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Maddison, looking ahead from a personal point of view, has a couple of goals set for himself.

"It's always been deeply rooted in who I am to chase my dreams and that hasn't changed, as there are still a couple of things I have my eyes on," he said.

"Who knows if they are going to happen or not, However, when we all get through this [lockdown] and life becomes a little more normal, it'd be nice to carve out some time to chip away at those projects."

As well as that, Maddison, who has been in the US since 2005, is also looking forward to returning to Australia once international borders re-open but only as a visitor.

"It'd be great to be back in Australia but it's all totally up in the air right now," he said.

"Short-term, my industry is based here in the US and there are so many opportunities for me, so I think we will stay here for awhile. Our family has made a life together in California and at the end of the day, as long as we're all together, we are happy.

Robbie Maddison's son Kruz wakeboarding in the Shoalhaven River over summer.

"Right now, if I'm not here in California, I feel as though I'm not in my place and until that shifts, I can't see us leaving - all the new concepts I envision myself doing are here.

"As much as I'd love to return home one day, which isn't completely out of the question, it would be a little like starting from scratch, as my whole business life is here now - something I'd built up over the past 15 years.

"It'd be really hard to leave the community, life and friends we've created - ideally we'd like to be in both places and have the best of both worlds, but at this stage, we'll have to just visit regularly.

"In saying that, I wish all the best to our friends back home doing it tough during these times and I'm sure we will all get through it together and go back to having fun soon."

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This story From leaps of faith to life in lockdown: How COVID-19 has forced Maddison's change of pace first appeared on South Coast Register.

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