Catching up with Jolene on moving from two wheels to four, and being a part of the International Female Ride Movement.
Story and Photos By: Tyler Tate
Jolene Van Vugt is one of the most recognizable faces in the action sports community. Famously known as the first CMRC Women’s Canadian Motocross National Champion, first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike, holder of multiple Guinness World Records, and one of the most bad ass members of the Nitro Circus crew.
USM: Who was your inspiration?
Jolene: It all started at a very young age with my father. Growing up around two wheels, I would spend my time at the motocross tracks watching my dad and brother race while I played in the dirt. One day, the desire to ride and race hit me, and I asked my dad “Can I ride too?” From that point on, I got a bike, and I was racing. My dad was a good racer, he won titles and championships, but more so, he was so passionate about the sport. Everybody loved him. He never stopped working hard, and that is one of the things I love about him and others respected him for. He always had a love for motorcycles. Who I am, is a direct reflection of him.
USM: May 1 was International Female Ride Day and you were recently named to the Polaris Empowersports Women’s Riding Council. What is the message you want to share through your platform on the council?
Jolene: You can be someone who is passionate and driven, but sometimes that platform for you to fully blossom into the best you might not be there. I can use this platform to grow those areas myself, and give others the opportunity to grow and let them discover how to empower themselves. To help someone realize their goals is so important to me. Helping someone unveil a goal or a dream that they didn’t even know they had is a feeling unmatched. I try to lead by example. I take pride in being approachable, kind, and hardworking. That leads people to feel like they can speak with me, and by being myself all the time, I can inspire others. I think that is such a strong message, always be yourself. Eventually, the right people will find you, stick around you, and you will end up where you are supposed to be.. when you stay true to yourself.
Being loyal, passionate, driven, and hardworking are all amazing attributes that were instilled in me by my parents. These same traits are all found in the Nitro Circus crew that I am blessed to be a part of. When you be yourself and find your path, you can end up with life changing experiences.
USM: You have achieved a lot on the track racing, off the track with Nitro Circus, and as a stunt woman… What is that one thing that, if you could pick, you are most proud of?
Jolene: At forty years old I can sit back and reflect more now, and I am blown away by a lot of the things I have done. Each accomplishment led me to be able to achieve something else. But the one thing that stands out the most, that brought such a new life and took me down a new path, and has inspired so many people around the world was being the first female to back flip a dirt bike. Even still to this day, there are only three or four women in the world that have backflipped dirt bikes from when I did it over 15 years ago. It really was and is a big deal, and I’m super grateful to be one of the few.
Honestly if I didn’t say yes to when Travis (Pastrana) came to me wanting me to backflip a dirt bike, my life would be completely different. You have to learn to say yes to new adventures in life. Even if they are intimidating, you build a plan and you go for it. You never know where that decision will lead to. I have always wanted to show by example that you can push yourself and get to a place you didn’t think was possible. You also learn how to have gratitude. Having world records and traveling the world is great, but inspiring a new generation is the best part of what I have been able to accomplish. I always wanted to encourage others to never be afraid of attaining your dream.
“You have to learn to say yes to new adventures in life. Even if they are intimidating, you build a plan and you go for it.”
USM: You are a legend on two wheels, but you are now moving into the 4-wheel lifestyle. What have you noticed about the change?
Jolene: Driving a RZR and being a part of this community is the best. Growing up around dirt bikes and racing, you learn about the value of community and being a part of something more. When you race, everyone is there to support you even though you might be competing against them. It is the same with the RZR community. No matter what it is, be it racing or just driving around, you are a part of a community that wants to support each other. From mellow rides to pushing the machine to the limits it was built for, driving a RZR opens up the world. I love introducing people to the RZR. When I ask them if they have ever been in a RZR and they tell me no, I get giddy. Being a part of the off-road community is the best.
USM: What do you like best about the RZR?
Jolene: I love the freedom it creates. Driving the RZR is the most fun on four wheels you can have. I always tell people when they come to visit that if they haven’t been in a RZR yet, it is only a matter of time until they are in the passenger seat. I bring that same passion to the trails when I am out riding, and I meet people that are unfamiliar with the machine. I always offer them a ride.
So, if you run into Jolene on a trail and you have never been in a RZR, BUCKLE UP… You are going for a ride.