Fernie local, Zeth Ellis, rode his first bike without training wheels at the age of two, and nine years later, took first place overall in the TransWorld MX El Dorado race in Southern California.
In this tournament, points were award for race placements throughout the weekend. A first place win scored a rider 25 points, second place gave them 22 points, third, 20 points, and down two points every placement until 16 points, which then decreases by one point every placement.
The El Dorado contained two motos for each race, and five races. This meant that Ellis competed in two races a day for five days, and points were added up from both races to crown a winner for that day. Ellis scored first overall in the series for the nine to 11 age group.
Going into the last race of the series, Ellis was one point behind first place.
“I got a horrible start,” he said, speaking of the El Dorado final.
The first and second place riders passed each other on multiple occasions but the final time his competitor tried to pass Ellis, he hit the back of his bike, wiped out and secured the win for the Fernie youth.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Ellis. “Especially because it’s in California.”
Previous to this race series, the increasingly-prominent rider has taken first place in the 65cc class in Alberta, as well as first in the Fall Series.
Southern California is an epicentre for motocross riding, and people flock here from all over. In the El Dorado, Ellis competed against riders from as far away as Australia. Here, Ellis competed against 15 world-class riders over five races.
For the past three months, Ellis has been racing in California, riding at tracks near him and his family. For the past four years, Zeth, Marsha Churchill his mother and Kurtis Ellis his father, have been traveling south every winter to compete.
After training with motocross experts in California including Supercross champion Travis Preston, Zeth became a presence on the track and started to get noticed by companies. He obtained his first sponsor, Dunlop, three years ago.
Kurtis, a successful downhill mountain biker in his day, has been coaching his son for the past few years, using the advice taught to him from Preston who was only able to teach Zeth for one season.
Comparing motocross in B.C. and Alberta to California, Ellis admitted it’s much more intense in the States.
”In California, the kids are way faster, because they can ride 12 months a year. The people in Canada, they’re good, but they can’t ride all the time. And the tracks are different,” he said.
Zeth also noted that the dirt in California is also much nicer, due to the absence of clay found in Canada.
The 11-year-old’s first motocross race was when he was seven-years-old, and it was then that he fell in love with the sport. When the proposition first came to travel south to race, Zeth gave it a shot and never turned back.
“I thought that it was just going to be a few races,” said Churchill. “But it turned out that he absolutely loved it.”
Growing up, he didn’t fall in love with hockey like many of his friends. He preferred the speed, jumps and ruts (berms) and dirt that comes along with motocross. However, Zeth was a very good skier, and his parents believe this forward motion training in the Fernie Alpine Ski Team contributed to his quick learning in motocross.
There are more competitions on the horizon for Zeth, including the Alberta Motorsports Association series as well as the Canadian Motosport Racing Corp. (CMRC) Grand National Amateur Championships in Revelstoke, August 17-20. This is the largest amateur motocross competition in Canada. Zeth’s goal is to place in the top three amateur riders in Canada. Zeth is also hoping to win the Alberta Provincial Supermini Series this year, which is a 12-16 year old competition. This will start in May, and end in September.
Long term goals include becoming a Canadian pro, and in order to achieve this, Zeth will have to keep riding hard until he reaches the age of 17.