If you were to guess what sport the average high schooler plays, you’d probably give a more conventional answer like football or basketball. Motocross would usually be very far down your list. Gabriel Valdes, however, isn’t your average high schooler.
Valdes has been riding from a very young age, and his inspirations are his dad and grandpa, who both rode motorcycles throughout Valdes’ life and introduced him to the sport of motocross. Now a junior, Valdes hopes to introduce his community to the world of motocross that he has come to know and love. Gabe said he fell for motocross because, “I love the competition, I love the speed; it’s different and not that many people can say that they do motocross.”
Although Valdes is already an experienced and accomplished racer, most of his peers aren’t aware that he takes up such an odd hobby. “I’ve been here for 25 years and I’ve seen that we have a lot of great students who do a lot of amazing things that no one ever finds out,” said Mr. Frazier, his math teacher. “Here’s a guy, great kid, comes to school everyday, but nobody knows he’s a motocross racer going 60 miles an hour flying through the air.”
Valdes races at an isolated track on Krome Avenue that’s just about the last place you can find people in before you’re in the Everglades. Every weekend, he makes the 23 mile drive so he can ride the course he’s come to love. “When [Gabe] races, he’s very driven and very focused,” said his dad, Joe Valdes. “He does what he has to do to get on the track: it’s his passion.”
Motocross hasn’t only affected Gabe physically, but also mentally.
Valdes has seen crazy things throughout his days in the track, from freak crashes to someone getting struck by lightning mid-race! He has even been injured while racing, one time so severely that he was airlifted to the hospital. Despite all these crazy crashes and injuries, he carries on because of his love for the sport. Motocross continues to show Valdes how fragile life can be and how important it is to be thankful for everything that his life has given him.
Valdes is trying now to introduce the Columbus community to the world of motocross after it has been such an integral part of his life for so long. With the help of his math teacher that has shown clips of his races in class, Valdes hopes to show people an addicting sport that they may not have even known existed. Most people think motocross might be an individual sport, but he doesn’t think so. “I think motocross brings everyone together: everyone who’s involved loves it, it’s a great community and a great sport.” As more and more people get a first hand look at motocross, Valdes hopes that they’ll try to find out more about it and hopefully give motocross a try for themselves.
Created by Alexander Ramos, with contributions from Ralphy Rodriguez, Aidan Chacon, and Kenny Debs.