Travis Pastrana holds a copy of the Upper Keys Weekly from January, when he made his last trip to the Keys. Pastrana’s return to the islands to finish shooting his latest Gymkhana film was delayed when a base jumping accident landed him in the hospital with a broken pelvis just days after the first shoot. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

He’s an X Games gold medalist, a championship-caliber motorsports competitor and an absolute legend of the industry. He’s made the rounds on smash hit TV shows, online videos and even movies. And somehow, he still has more to prove.

38-year-old Travis Pastrana doesn’t come across as someone whose name is synonymous with extreme motorsport stunts. He’s humble, warm, welcoming and incredibly down-to-earth, strolling around the prep site for his eventual jump over the Boot Key Bridge without so much as a single security guard and joking about needing to finish the stunt in time to get home to his wife and kids that night.

Ahead of the jaw-dropping feat on June 11, Pastrana was kind enough to sit down with Keys Weekly to discuss the jump, his legacy, and what keeps him going after already securing his place among motorsports royalty. Here’s what we learned (answers edited slightly for language and clarity):

How psyched are you for what’s about to happen? Honestly, the whole reason that we even thought of Florida was looking at the Seven Mile Bridge and this bridge. We started talking here, and we didn’t really get a “no,” so generally if it’s not a “no” at first it kind of comes around. I was like, “For this video to be successful, we have to have this bridge,” so we’re very appreciative.

You’ve been in talks to make this happen for months. How does it feel to pull it off? I’m having a lot of fun, and these things are always great, but one of the beauties of doing what we do and having a budget that’s bigger than what we normally have as rednecks having fun is being able to give back. The last thing we ever want to do is make a negative impact on wherever we go. When we leave the towns we come into, we want to make sure they’re as good or better than when we got there. We try to present it in the best way we can.

We’ve seen you do some crazy things before. How wild is this stunt? This is the opening shot (of the next Gymkhana film). This not only sets the tone, but you see something that is going to make you go, “I need to see this. I have to watch that.” We need something like that for every film. Unless you really love cars and a lot of the technical stuff, if you see a car jumping a bridge, with no landing on the other side, jumping over a helicopter, that alone is a cool visual. 

With everything you’ve already accomplished, what keeps you going? Do you feel like there’s still more you have to prove? I’ll tell you a story. We were filming a video and we were already three times over budget, so it was coming directly out of my pocket. I had always wanted to do this trick, a double backflip with a full twist. It was just me and like 10 of my buddies in the backyard. I hit the first time so hard, I knocked myself out and I literally pooped my pants. My wife was like, “You’re not getting paid for this. Nobody cares if you do this. We’re already over budget, and you’re now gonna have a medical bill. What are you doing?” I’m like, “I think I can do it.” She’s like, “Well, go out there and (expletive) do it.”

So you still look at things and just say “I can do that, so I’m gonna do it?” Yeah. And the risk and reward changes every day. It changed when I had my kids. It changed when I got married. You don’t do this kind of stuff because of the money. This is because you have a chance to have a car build that you’ve dreamed up your whole life, and to jump something that’s never been done, like Evel Knievel. I once had an opportunity to meet Evel’s family and to jump Caesar’s Fountain on a custom-built old-school motorcycle that Roland Sands built. I’m like, “check off all my childhood dreams.”

Do you realize that for a lot of people, your name is going to get passed down like Evel’s? I just want to go out and live the best life that I can and have the most fun that I can. I want to show my kids what hard work is. My kids will see a side that no one else will, and no one needs to know what goes into making this stuff work. If it’s motorcycles, it’s being in the best physical shape. If it’s cars, it’s going over so many notes for hours and hours. It’s surrounding yourself with the right people and being able to perform under pressure, and if anything, I just want to pass that down to my kids. It takes hard work to play for a living.

How do you get locked in for something like this? Do you have a pump-up song or routine? No, to be honest. It’s knowing I’ve done my homework. When I get to the jump or whatever, I shouldn’t be nervous, because I should have already come with my homework done. People say, “How do you overcome your nerves?” Practice.
What’s your daily driver? A Subaru STI. If my wife wants to get somewhere fast, she drives. I drive like grandma on the road. For me, to have fun, I’ve gotta be just absolutely sending it, and that means I’m probably gonna go to jail. I learned when I was 18 that that probably wasn’t going to work. That’s why I love racing, because I can scare myself so much that by the time I get home I just crash.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.