Photos and Words by Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
Colby Raha is a name that you may have heard here and there over the past year or so in free riding, but made a big splash just a couple weeks back at his very first X Games by winning gold in QuarterPipe Big Air. Raha is a breath of fresh air into the scene and brings with him a no bullshit approach that is turning heads just as much as his talent on the bike is. Repping the Metal Mulisha under Larry Linkogle’s wing, it’s not hard to predict that you’re going to see more of him going big on his dirt bike in the future. We sat down with him to hear his story and what he’s all about…
You just made a big impression on a lot of people, and this was only your first year X Games –talk about getting to this point, man.
Yeah, I’ve always been trying to get to this level, free riding a lot for fun or whatever. Once Larry [Linkogle] had me come to his house and I started hitting the quarterpipe, within a week I was going really high and feeling really good on it. Then Nitro came up and no one really knew I was riding the quarter and then I pretty much held it down there. Then I think it was kind of a combination of a few guys calling the people at X Games to recommend me for it. I think Travis Pastrana might have called, Twitch said he called, I know Larry [Linkogle] called; I heard Josh Hill even called for me. So yeah, after the Nitro thing I actually got the call from X Games and I was like, ‘this is really good, I’m feeling really good on the quarter.” And I had a month and half to get ready for it.
So it happened quickly.
Yeah, so with three weeks to go before X Games I went to Pala and started hitting that quarterpipe and that’s an 18 footer. I was used to the 22 footer at Larry’s, so it’s similar but a little different. I ended up having a pretty bad crash and compressed my back and got a couple hairline fractures in my lower vertebrae. I went and saw Dr. Nevarro and he did some stuff like that stim treatment, and told me to stay off it and let the bones heal the best they can. So I really didn’t get to ride the Pala setup that much, but I had ridden quarterpipe enough. But yeah, I was really stoked to get this opportunity to come to X Games and the way it worked out was really cool.
I’ve been seeing your name and footage pop up here and there before the X Games
I grew up racing, and raced until I was about 14 or 15 years old. Then it was just a bunch of chaos, I lived with my mom and rode BMX and kind of got out of racing. Then I got a DUI when I had my permit at age 15, then I ended up losing my license until I was 18 so that put a big damper on my racing. All I did was ride BMX that whole time and I pretty much gave up on racing. That was my new favorite thing, but then I bought a 450 just for fun when I was working construction. I met Colin Morrison a couple weeks into riding again, and started hanging out with him and he was pumped on my right off the bat when I started riding again. I gave racing another shot, but with no help from anyone. I went out and got gear through my friends, rode with zero sponsors, and I wanted to race Supercross. I didn’t even know free riding was a thing, like I knew it was a think for fun but I didn’t think it would ever be anything that would help me. The second I decided, “Hey, I can’t pull this racing shit.” I kept on free riding. Like I gave it a shot for a year and started doing pretty good in racing; I won the 450 open classes at the TWMX Race Series at Glen Helen against a bunch of fast kids. It was just too much though, so I was like, “I’m just gonna ride for fun out in the hills and head to Beaumont with my friends.” Then I linked up with all the NoNamers guys and got some footage with them, and that escalated into getting some real sponsors and I was pumped on that. Things just started escalating and this all came together naturally without any serious work or grind.
Kind of like the opposite of your experience with racing moto?
Yeah, moto was all grind and no real reward. Even when I would do good it was more work than it was worth for me. Then the free riding stuff was all reward with a little grind. Just like, put some gas in your bike, go to the hills with your ice chest and have a blast all day. Whether your digging all day or riding, you’re still hanging out with a bunch of cool dudes. Shit just started escalating, like one thing after another things just started coming together.
You became the new kid on the scene quick, kind of.
I got to meet a lot of cool people, and that’s where I met Larry Linkogle. I met all those guys like Axell [Hodges] and them, and they didn’t really give me the time of day. They were pumped on my riding, and they were cool as hell to me when they were out riding the stuff we worked on, but nobody really gave me the time of day or hit me up to ride –just cold shoulders. Then after a while I was just free riding for fun and filming stuff and making little edits with my boys Arik Swan, Justin Mulford, and Bereman and Durham. Then Larry [Linkogle] hit me up personally and was like, “Hey, come out to my yard –don’t bring any camera fags.” [Laughs] That’s what he said, like come ride his yard and not come for photos. He didn’t know me personally either at the time so I was like, “cool, let’s just go meet Larry and ride his yard.” I wanted to take advantage; I always looked up to Larry since I started doing free riding shit that was my motivation just following his footsteps. I told him I wanted to ride his whole yard, and within a week I was there and that’s when I started hitting the quarter and all that. It just all came together quick like that.
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So Linkogle has been a huge help to you.
Yeah, if he wouldn’t have hit me up and have me come to his yard I wouldn’t have had that kind of backing or have anyone to allow me to really progress on ramps or access to the quarterpipe. And it wasn’t even like a sponsorship; I just came out and became good friends with his son Lincoln. He’s a riot; he’s funny as hell to hang out with. Then like through the next couple of months I did that train gap, then Hostility offered me a deal like some money and stuff like that. I was so broke, and I was like, “let’s do this” because I was struggling to pay my phone bills and stuff. Then Larry was like, “No, we got you dude. You’re not riding for them.” That was basically how that whole thing came together. It came together with friendships, and that was the most important part. If you’re friends first then you have each other’s backs. The Mulisha is about to be back to their roots with a tight crew, they just terminated their contracts with the corporate backers and regained control. Keep your eyes open for what’s to come…
That’s rad. You’re definitely a new face in the free riding scene beyond all this X Games quarterpipe success, it’s cool to see.
I think it’s what this sport needs, new shit. This is the social media generation, like a lot of the kid’s nowadays barely even know who Deegan is. A lot of kids growing up just sit around and watch cartoons and play with their fidget spinners. They don’t even know.
Take us through that X Games QuarterPipe final. That was nuts.
So Jarryd was last, after me. My whole strategy was that I knew I had three jumps. The first jump I just wanted to stomp something pretty good and do a pretty high air, like a routine jump just to get a height on the board. Then it was gnarly pressure, I’m not used to being in front of a crowd even though I could block it out. Then I saw Jarryd crash and that was gnarly, but I had to try and not think about it. Then Bereman went high as hell, and I knew I had to go higher. My whole strategy was to go higher each jump, and then go for broke on the last one.
I thought it was sick how when they put the camera on you, you were pointing up like, “We’re going up.”
It’s funny because they’d have the camera on my for like three minutes and like only 15 seconds were shown on the screen. And I talked to Kenny Bell and told him, “The last jump I’m gonna shoot the moon man, dude. I’m going f*%$ing up.” I just wanted to go for broke, and that was the time to send it if there ever was one.
And Bereman gave you a big hug – you dudes were stoking. It was cool to watch.
Yeah that was cool. We were both psyched to be in X Games and I know he wanted gold, but he was stoked for me and he’s a really cool guy. He’s always been cool to me.
Talk about the spikes. You’re bringing punk rock back.
So the whole spikes thing was just kind of linking up with Larry and just seeing where he comes from, and his style. It was just to kind of show what’s to come, and let people know I’m going to be a Mulisha guy. That’s just paying homage to the OG’s who started this whole thing, and keeping it core how it used to be. Showing that the working-class man can win against the corporate guys that try and control the industry. That’s what Linkogle is about and that is the reason the Mulisha started. Me personally, I just like the show too. I always looked up to Deegan and Twitch, so when I got the opportunity to run the spikes –hell yeah I was gonna run them.
So what’s next?
I’m just gonna be back out in the hills riding and having fun, maybe make some video stuff happen. I mean, Nitro Circus might have a quaterpipe event coming up –if they’re doing that I’ll be there. Other than that, really now I want to get myself more dialed in. I’ve just been couch surfing and haven’t really had a program, I’ve just been out in the hills getting by and now Larry is talking about me moving into one of the guest houses on his compound. If I could get a serious program together then I would like to do that. I still want to ride BMX too, like I want to try and maybe one day get into BMX dirt and park contests.
So who else besides the Metal Mulisha is helping you out?
Yeah, so SKVI is like family, Brass Knuckle OG –they make that weed pen, Smokin’ Barrel guns –they’re a gun company out of Simi Valley, then Hellbent Holsters –they make wallets and holsters, and Brags designs…
You may have the most gangster list of sponsors I’ve ever heard.
I rep the shit I like, man.
For more, follow Colby on his Instagram: @colbyraha