An eight-year-old Nanaimo motocross rider and his family will cross the U.S. border this week, en route to a major race in Las Vegas.
Sebastian Sulyok will have his KTM SXS 50cc and all his gear. He’ll also have, hidden, a secret weapon that customs probably won’t find – a little bit of dirt from the Wastelands Motocross Park in Nanaimo.
Sulyok has raced all over Western Canada, but the dirt he’s most familiar with is the muck of the Wastelands. Racers who can thrive in the mountain’s mud are going to be well-practised and ready for anything that the sport of motocross throws at them.
“It’s a big, gnarly, open motocross track,” said Steve Sulyok, Seby’s father. “We’re blessed to have this here.”
His son has been riding for just three years after first seeing mini dirt bike racing at Wastelands.
“What are those?” he asked his dad.
Steve looked into it and the family bought Sebastian a bike for his fifth birthday.
Was there any hesitation to let a five-year-old get into extreme sports?
“Love is blind, brother,” Steve replied.
Sebastian has thrived on the track. He races on the Vancouver Island circuit, where he placed second last season, and also on the FuturesWest Canadian Arenacross Championships series, where he came third. The trophies don’t matter to him, Seby said. It’s fun to win, but that’s not necessarily what the sport is about at this level.
“I think it’s the camaraderie,” said Steve. “There’s the racing, but there’s such a social dynamic amongst the families and amongst the racers.”
It’s interesting, he said – the youngsters will tear around the track, competing like gladiators. Then afterward they’ll be kids again, and friends, and relive wins and losses with little dirt bike toys.
So there’s a team aspect to the individual sport of motocross. That team spirit is also evident leading up to the races, as Steve and Seby’s sister Jasmine co-operate to run through the pre-race checklist of hydration, nutrition, fuel, gear and high-fives.
This coming Saturday (May 3) is the biggest race yet for Sebastian. He’s the only Canadian rider who was invited to compete at the KTM Junior Supercross challenge in Vegas, and it will be like nothing he’s experienced to date. In recent weeks, Steve has been helping his son with race visualization.
“We’ve shown him the video, we’ve done the surround sound,” said Steve. “‘OK, my friend, this is what you’re going to see: the fireworks, the big screens, your name on the screen. This is it. Remember to breathe, take it in; you’re allowed to be nervous.’”
Sebastian took time off from classes at Woodbank Primary School to practise. He’s got plenty of experience, support from family, cheers from well-wishers. And some Wastelands dirt to make the Las Vegas track a little more like home.
In his biggest race yet, he might earn a win. No matter what, he’ll gain something.
“We’re trying to build life lessons,” Steve said. “We’re building good, productive members of society that understand that in order to get to a goal, there’s a lot of hard work.”