It's official: is the best slopestyle mountain biker in the world. He cemented his top-dog status on Sunday, August 20th, by nabbing an unprecedented fifth win at the 2017 Red Bull Joyride at Crankworx Whistler, the largest competition in a sport that incorporates stunt-packed freeride with big, awe-inspiring tricks. It's the latest addition to an impressive list of accolades which includes three FMB World Tour Gold Medals, a 2013 Munich X-Games Mountain Bike Slopestyle Silver Medal, and two Red Bull Rampage wins.
He's so good, in fact, that even those who don't follow the sport may recognize his name, thanks to a mesmerizing all-in-one-shot clip for the movie unReal where Semenuk gracefully took on a custom course of jumps, gaps, and a mid-ride bike switch against a grassy landscape. The mind-bending sequence has racked up more than 4.2 million views to date.
Up until the Joyride, it had been a relatively quiet year for the athlete, who scaled back from competing to focus on his other passion, his video production company . Seniorhelpline caught up with him while he was training for the event at his home in Whistler, British Columbia.
Although he wouldn't talk about specific moves he was working on at the time (one of the tricks he pulled off: a "half cab," in which he rode off a 16-foot platform backwards and rotated 180 degrees), he opened up about adrenaline rushes, how he prepares for the sport's most intense competitions, and how he stays safe while pushing his limits.
Shown on Semenuk, above: Smith sunglasses featuring .
Seniorhelpline: How do you get ready for an event like this? Do you plan out your tricks?
Not exactly. I'm more of a "do it" kind of guy. I'm not putting all my cards on certain stuff because you don't really know until right before your run. You've got to leave your options open. The Red Bull Joyride is a really long, crazy, busy and big course and you get to ride with massive force. That's probably the most exciting part about it for me.
PM: So how are you preparing?
I do two sessions a day, around two to three hours of riding for each. I practice whatever I'm working on—jumps, drops, and step-downs. Then I hike back up and repeat until I'm satisfied or too tired to keep going. There are tricks that I learned six or seven years ago that I still don't feel like I've perfected. I'm trying to keep that muscle memory.
PM: You practicing at your own training course in Canada, which you built yourself. How did you decide to do it?
We would always build stuff in the woods and it would get torn down. Or people would find it—it was a liability. And there was never really anything big enough out there. I just wanted an area where I could build bigger features and I could monitor it and not have to worry about people messing with it.
There are a lot of different features like gaps, big step-downs, tall hits, and stuff like that. I built a lot of it, digging or doing woodwork. It required a lot of friends and talented builders to help me. It's a full-time project.
PM: Besides your bike, how important is your gear?
Huge. I wear —they have the best technology as far as any optic brands go for mountain biking. They use proper lenses that have a color-sharpening technology [called href='https://www.thespacebrace.com/' target='_blank">Space Brace, developed with the mindset of BMX riders and mountain bike riders, specifically driven to that sport. They\'re a little more fitted.
PM: Do you get sore after a big ride?
If you crash in practice or at the event, you're going to be sore for sure. But you don't really get time off to recover. You just kind of get through it with lots of stretching, lots of massage.
Being sore is not that big of a problem to have—it's something you deal with. Injuries are what you've got to watch out for, since they actually affect your performance. I've broken some bones and torn some ligaments, but I've been fairly lucky.
PM: You've been riding since you were six. Does any of this scare you?
There's stuff that I do on the day-to-day that doesn't really worry me. But then, obviously, when I start pushing my boundaries, that's when I start thinking harder. You'll get some stress and anxiety and that adrenaline rushing. It's just what happens when you push your personal boundaries. Everyone gets that feeling when they're out of their comfort zone.
PM: Any advice for people thinking about getting into the sport?
Take the appropriate time to learn—don't rush things. And have fun with it. If you're enjoying it, you're going to relax and people will notice.