If there's a Superman of snowmobiles, it's Paul Thacker. Like the comic book Man of Steel, Paul is known for his ability to fly—he holds the record for the world's longest snowmobile jump, an astounding 301 feet aboard his Bikeman Performance Polaris IQ 600! In addition to record-setting airtime, Paul has also booked frequent-flier miles as a snocross racer and freestyle rider, and most recently competed at the Winter X-Games. For the Best Trick competition, Paul unveiled the "No Flip," a wild new move that involves radio control—a perfect fit for sponsor Traxxas. Taking your hands off the bars in mid-air is nothing new in freestyle, but for the No Flip, Paul does a backflip and never touches the bars. Not on takeoff, not in the air, not while landing. Riding a modified sled rigged with a radio-controlled throttle, Paul simply squeezes the transmitter's trigger to launch no-handed from start to flip to finish. We caught up with Paul after the X-Games to talk about the stunt and Paul's world-record jump.
You're one of the original Monster Energy athletes. How long have you been a competitive snowmobiler?
I have been riding since I was very young. Being born and raised in Alaska, it was a mode of transportation growing up. I have been riding competitively for about 10 years. Racing, and now distance and freestyle.
Your world-record jump sled looks like it had some aerodynamic tricks. Tell us about that.
I had issues with wind and weather when I made my last couple of world-record jumps. My Polaris sleds tend to float in the air a bit due to the larger front ends. So I wanted to develop some mods to help it fly a bit truer. We made a aerodynamic nose cone and some side fins to help cut the wind resistance. It worked like a dream! The sled flew amazing and got us over the 300-foot goal.
How did you come up with the No Flip?
When I learned how to flip I wanted it to look smooth like the MX freestyle (dirtbikes) guys. Nice, slow, smooth rotation. So I learned to flip without pulling on the handle bars. Basically it started me thinking that maybe I could flip without pulling at all if I could figure out how to run the throttle. Since I own a couple of Traxxas trucks, it seemed like radio control was a perfect idea.
Did you mod the sled yourself for radio control?
I developed the idea, but Bikeman Performance did the actual mods.
It seems like it would be hard enough to get a sled to backflip even with your hands on the bars. How do you get it around?B
asically, it's all timing and the rotating mass of the track. A snowmobile almost wants to backflip. So it was a matter of getting the testicular fortitude to try it without my hands on the bars.
You've pulled the No Flip into a foam pit, but according to the judges, you didn't stick the trick at the X-Games. What happened?
Lots of folks say I landed and rode away long enough for it to count but the judges disagreed. On my first attempt, I fully took off, flipped and landed no hands. Unfortunately, I was just a tad short on the landing and the impact bucked myself and sled sideways a bit and with nothing to hang on two I rolled off the side at the bottom on the landing. My second attempt I made a mistake on take off and nearly separated from my sled. That one almost ended in disaster!
Will you continue to work on the No Flip?
I suppose I have to. I think it's very cool and innovative and I would like to perfect it for sure.
Any other plans to incorporate RC into your routine?
I would love to make my snowmobile fully RC. I think with the help of Traxxas we can do some really cool things. I definitely think its possible to add remote tricks not only in Best Trick but possibly in actual freestyle runs.
Have you perfected any freestyle moves with your Traxxas Maxx trucks?
I can backflip my T-Max 3.3 as well as my E-Maxx. I'm only successful about half the time though! (Laughs). Love to jump them! We take the trucks to the local MX track all the time and launch them. Toughest RC trucks on the planet!
What's more intimidating: lining up for a 300 foot jump, or a No Flip?
The No Flip for sure. Scariest thing I have ever done. You have to be spot-on for both, for sure, but my margin for error on the No Flip is much smaller.
When will we next see you in action?
I have another two months of shows for the Monster Energy/Slednecks Invasion Tour (go to Isocracing.com for schedule) as well as some shows over seas. After that we will film for some extreme videos and such. We have some other special events that I can't quite turn loose yet, but they should be super cool!
We'll be watching! Got any shout-outs before you hit it?
I would like to give a special thanks to Traxxas as well as my other sponsors Monster Energy, Slednecks, Polaris, Bikeman Performance, Oakley, Shoei, C&A Pro, HMK, Caliber, Stud Boy, Kicker, and Fox Shox for all of their support at Winter X Games 14.