Have you ever missed a flight? I have! Five, to be exact. Two were because I partied too hard at a contest the night before, another because I chose to get a sausage roll rather than board the plane and two more because I got the date wrong. On this particular occasion I was supposed to be boarding a plane to Moscow. It was the start of winter and hibernation was high on my agenda so I ‘accidently’ slept in. After numerous phone calls from my manager, I dragged myself out of bed the following morning and headed to the airport.
Russia had never really been on my radar as a place to ride. In my eyes it was a cold, gloomy place, especially in winter. And with a culture that’s very different to home, I was a bit scared, to be honest. It probably didn’t help that I’d played the game Hitman prior to going – I felt like I was going there to take out a mafia boss!
I eventually arrived in Moscow and was picked up in a blacked-out van. My driver had a shaven head and a leather jacket, and didn’t speak a word of English. Nerves were high – I now felt like I was in the game, ready to do the job. My job, however, was to ride a skate park demo, not climb a ladder with a silenced sniper rifle on my back. Eventually I calmed down and cracked on.
Because I was a day late, I was taken straight to the event arena to get ready and ride in front of thousands. When we pulled up, there was a line of bodyguards either side of the door. I came out and was immediately shielded like I was Putin. They walked me to a small room just inside the main entrance to build my bike and get ready for the show. The walls were shaking from the crowd’s chants and it felt like we were at the Champions League final. It was insane.
With my kit on, I walked out with my bodyguards and the place erupted. What an entrance that was, but believe me, I was bricking it. Not because I was scared to ride, but due to the noise and mayhem of it all. Surrounded by what looked like mostly hooligans in patched jackets, I did my best to blank it all out and get ready to send. Luckily, I tend to ride better under pressure.
In the skate park there was a huge quarter pipe that almost touched the roof, with just enough space to get a bike length above it for a fufanu – a trick where you land on the back wheel on the lip of the ramp and 180 back in. I went as fast as I could, launched to the top and pulled it off first try. What a boss move that was. And yep, you guessed it, the place went off again, but this time I saw red in their eyes. Now I was really shitting it!
After the demo had finished, my bodyguards came to shield me again, and thank God they did – because the crowd stampeded towards me and I braced myself for death. What I didn’t realise is that this Russian crowd didn’t want to kidnap me and skin me alive, what they actually wanted was to shower me with joy and vodka. Saying “no thanks” wasn’t an option.
Russian culture is a tough nut to crack and, after all the nervous build-up and my heart pumping at full speed all day, I realised in the end that they were just stoked to have me there. The next morning, after a few too many winter warmers, I found myself back at the airport (on time for once). Putting on a mock Russian accent, I said, “I Moscow!”, and off I went. What an experience that was!
About Chopper Fielder
Grant and his brother Ollie grew up near Southampton and studied dirt jumping at the feet of the master, Steve Geall. It wasn’t long before Chopper was making the podium at local comps – he was the UK King of Dirt between 1999 and 2004. He then started making waves internationally, winning the prestigious John Cowan Backyard Jam in 2004, earning a segment in the seminal New World Disorder video series and taking second spot at the 2008 Les Gets Slopestyle. That year, Chopper gave his first school talk and was overwhelmed by the response. He went on to set up a company, Star Cycling, to run school clubs, demos and talks. In addition, Chopper rides in photo and video shoots for his sponsors, including Muc-Off and Lapierre. He’s also the subject of an upcoming documentary, High Stakes.
This story originally appeared in MBUK issue 391 (February 2021). Subscribe here to get MBUK delivered to your door every month.