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Photos | Emery

“Before I got the budget to make this, the rule was that I had to make it better than the first two,” states Ash Hodges, the force behind the Doonies concept. For the past three years, the marketing team at Monster Energy has corralled some of their top motorsports talent together in the sprawling sand dunes of Southern California known as Glamis and let them run wild around the wind-blown hills for a week or so for what’s really a long form commercial of the company’s passion for horsepower. It’s a massive undertaking, with a staff of over two hundred people either participating in the film shoot or keeping things at base camp, but each time it becomes an instant hit on the internet. Was the third installment of the series a success? Ask Ash. “I rolled the dice but I think we accomplished it,” he claims just before the video went live for the collected crew of friends and industry members on Wednesday night at The Observatory in Orange County, California.

For Hodges, the video is more than just a giant Dirt Shark production. It’s a nod to the freeride films of the 1990s that he grew up idolizing, which filmed dozens of shoots of the wild antics that take place in the dunes. Phil Hodges, father of Ash and young freeride social star Axell, has told me the now classic flicks were on constant repeat at their home. Ash doesn’t downplay the importance of those videos at all. “All the inspiration comes from the Crusty videos. No one really does video parts at the dunes anymore. It’s the old school late 90s videos like the Terra Firmas, Crusty, Moto XXX, and Wrathchild that are why I’m doing this,” he claims. In fact, the location for Wednesday night’s party was the same spot that many of the premier parties that featured “pimp and ho” themes or other unspeakable acts of debauchery. “I have a lot of memories from this place, some I remember and some that I don’t. It’s cool because this used to be the Galaxy Room and they brought it back here,” joked Jeremy McGrath, a legend of the sport and current Monster Energy branded athlete. MC’s parts in Terrafirma or his own Steel Roots series show a much different time period in the sport, and he’s well aware that things have changed since his days at the top. It’s rare to see a racer get loose on camera and with online access, videos are no longer a once a year event. “Everyone is going to put their own spin on it. Ash is the perfect age to see what we did back then and luckily the younger generation is so into it,” McGrath notes.  “It’s cool to see everyone put their own spin on it. There is so much social media out there now, so movies are a whole different way.”

On to the action. The video featured almost everything with an engine that Monster Energy sponsors, from four-wheel speed machines like a rally car, NASCAR, off-road race truck, and monster truck, to the two-wheel bikes of the Unknown crew and a freestyle motocross collective. Each person had their time to shine in the thirteen-minute runtime and by the time the credits rolled, it was clear that the dunes had never had something of that size happen before the shoot. Since we’re a moto site, allow us to focus on the FMX portion. Kris Foster’s skills in the sand were surprising and we think his backflip might be the first one to be done intentionally from a takeoff and landing dune. Tyler Bereman floated through the sky with ease every time, and his MX background certainly showed in the way he raced to the face of every hit. Josh Hill, clad in baggy Shift gear, reminded everyone that he might be one of the best bike riders to ever touch the desert, while the biggest hits of the shoot went to Axell Hodges. The riding looked effortless, but according to Hill and Bereman the sand conditions were less than ideal.

“Two weeks before we got there it was super windy and it pushed everything up into razorbacks. It was really hard to find jumps and everything was super intimidating,” says Bereman. “It was gnarly but everyone came away in one piece for the most part.” Hill seconds that notion by saying, “The dunes were completely different this year and there wasn’t one hit that was the same as last year. When we came through everything was walled-out and was different. Everything we found was a full razorback and nothing was under one hundred and sixty feet.”

How do you prepare for something like that? Apparently you don’t need to as a pro because Hill went out with little seat time on a very used KX450F. “I didn’t get to ride at all before and my bike was so roached,” he jokes. “I wanted to bring my bike here to put it on display, to show what a year and a half of being used and abused in the dunes will do to a KX450. I think it had like six dunes trips on it and thirty minutes after we got there the fork seals blew out. The bike blew up the day after I rode it.”

Talk before the party was that after this the Doonies is done. With three years, three epic videos, and a lot of video views to their credit, the Monster Energy crew has made their mark. When we tried to get a straight answer from Hodges, he even seemed hesitant to confirm anything. “I don’t know. I thought two was the last one. I’m claiming this is the last one but we might just see. We have people that want us to check out some different dunes, so we’ll have to see.”