Ever since the emergence of Evel Knievel in the late ‘60s, North Americans have been drawn to performers who put themselves in harm’s way to accomplish feats of immense daring.
Now, more than 40 years since Knievel jumped a crate of rattlesnakes to begin his career, Yukoners have their own daredevil to boast about.
Whitehorse resident Ross Mercer, 27, riding his 800 cc Ski-Doo has landed in the 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of Records.
On March 11, 2007, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Mercer launched off a ramp and flew 80.3 metres through the air, setting a new world distance-jumping record for snowmobiling.
“I started to work with Red Bull (energy drink) and it’slalldldl project we came up with together,” said Mercer. “They backed me on it as far as funding and whatnot.
“And it was something I wanted to do, so we went for it.”
The record jump was not as theatrical as some of Knievel’s, such as his leap over a cage of lions or the fountain in front of Caesar’s Palace.
Mercer simply crossed a gap between two ramps.
“It’s kind of the same thing, just on a snowmobile,” said Mercer. “(Knievel’s stunts) were so long ago; I mean, we’re jumping a lot further than he ever jumped. It’s a lot different and more calculated — it’s kind of a whole different ball game now. But I definitely respect what he did.”
It seems highly plausible that Mercer’s name will grace the pages of more editions of the record book, considering he beat his own record last March in Ume, Sweden, jumping 84.4 metres, a record that still stands today.
“I’ve got plans to break my record and go further,” said Mercer, staying tight-lipped about the details.
“I’m not done yet.”
However, Mercer’s Swedish jump will not go down in the pages of Guinness since he chose not to publicize it much.
“It was not really publicized over here,” said Mercer. “It was for a live show over there, so I just kind of did it and I didn’t bother letting Guinness know or anything.”
As a professional rider of seven years, Mercer undertakes more than death-defying distance jumps.
He also does freestyle riding, ramp shows and occasionally some filming with a snowmobile film company, Sled Porn.
Despite his success, it has not been all smooth sailing — or landing as the case may be. Mercer has had his fair share of broken bones.
“Nothing too exciting,” said Mercer, brushing over the topic. “There’s been a few bumps and bruises along the way.”
The sport’s potential for “bumps and bruises” has forced Mercer to settle more than just his own nerves.
“They’re more supportive all the time,” said Mercer, of his family and friends. “My girlfriend has been with me 100 per cent right from the start. Of course, my parents were not too pumped on it when it first started out, but I think they realized that I take it pretty seriously and it’s what I want to do. I am as careful as I can be and whatnot, so I think they’re happy about it now.”
Although Mercer will continue to try for new distances, a hometown attempt in or around Whitehorse isn’t in the cards.
“You need the right spot,” said Mercer. “It takes a lot of room. So it’s hard to find somewhere that is perfectly level, that’s got that much room that you can have a setup there long enough to make it happen.”
Although Mercer’s memorable flight was completed more than a year ago, his name did not reach the pages of Guinness until the 2009 edition because the newest edition of the record book is put together the before the year to which it is dated, causing a bit of a lengthy turnover in some cases.
Does he have this year’s?
“No, I haven’t got one yet; I probably might as well,” said Mercer.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org