KAILUA-KONA — After dedicating many years of his life to teaching Big Island kids how to play in the mud, Erik Ashley had a chance to get a little dirty himself last weekend.
Ashley, a dedicated Kailua-Kona motocross rider who used to compete in semi-pro events on the mainland, competed in his first Supercross event on Saturday at Aloha Stadium on Oahu.
For the 50-year-old rider, it was a dream come true.
“It was something that I have wanted to do ever since I was a little kid,” said Ashley. “I had competed at some smaller venues, but never in a stadium with thousands of people in attendance.”
His girlfriend, Stephanie Scarbrough, was able to provide details on how big of an accomplishment this really was for the humble Ashley.
“Generally, old in motocross terms is 30 and he was able to place eighth out of 23 riders,” she said. “He had dreamed of this moment since he was 5 years old. Now, 45 years later, he finally made it to his first Supercross.”
It had been 20 years since the last Supercross event was held in Hawaii. This year’s event was put together in only seven weeks, allowing riders very little time to prepare.
For Ashley, the timing of the news was not ideal.
“I had just had hernia surgery so I wasn’t even sure I would physically be able to do it,” he said. “I tried to ride once before the event and I suffered a bit of a setback. After that all I could do was try to heal up and work out at the gym. I was not able to really practice.”
Competing in a three-race event called the DeSoto Cup, Ashley earned a good gate position in practice, but a couple of riders went down on the first turn and Ashley was unable to avoid the chaos, crashing himself.
“They were watering down the track during the entire event and it made the mud as slick as a ice skating rink in some parts,” he said. “In the first race of the night, it was super slippery and two or three people crashed in front of me on the first turn, and I ran into them. I think eight guys went down on that turn.”
Ashley was able to get up and passed several riders before a couple more dirt bikers went down in front of him again. He got up but finished 14th in the opening race.
In race No. 2, Ashley did not have an ideal gate, getting pushed to the outside. After an OK start, the Big Islander was working up the field when disaster nearly struck.
“The race promoter ran out on the track by accident and I nearly hit him,” said Ashley. “I think he came out to help out with another accident. Luckily I was able to dart around him.”
After finishing eighth in the second race, a poor start pushed Ashley back in the pack at the start of the final race.
“I was a little tight to start with the nerves of performing in a stadium, and in front of 20,000 to 30,000 people,” said Ashley. “But then I started to loosen up a bit and started passing a lot of people.”
Ashley worked his way up to sixth and was grouped in with the lead pack as they crossed the finish line.
“The entire lead pack was one corner in front of me. I was right there,” Ashley said. “If I had any more time I think I would have been able to pass more riders but I came away with an eighth place finish overall. I am pretty happy about that considering the surgery and the short notice.”
Ashley has lived on the Big Island for 30 years and has been heavily involved in teaching kids motocross.
For about eight years, Ashley helped run Keiki Motocross in Waimea. On some occassions, 200 to 300 kids turned out to race, according to Ashley.
Keiki Motocross also had adult pit bike racing to add more interest for spectators. Adults competed in two categories: amateur class and pro class. Ashley competed in the pro class.
Keiki Motogross eventually lost its place to compete, but Ashley is determined to find a new place in West Hawaii for kids to play in the mud again.
Ashley has started the Big Island Motocross club, which has an Instagram account and Facebook page. Ashley also has filled out all the paper work to get the club going and is closely working with the Hawaiian Motocross Association. There is only one piece missing to the puzzle.
“Basically, we just need a piece of land with someone who can work with me and the Hawaiian Racing Association,” Ashley said. “I have a few viable things popping up and I have had a few positive meetings. We are working toward the goal.
Ashley added that the Supercross event helped bring much needed publicity.
“It got people talking about motocross and they seem excited,” he said. “This would be huge to a lot of kids on the westside. It could give someone else a chance to dream”
Supercross and the DeSoto Cup
Supercross is already looking at returning to Oahu next year.
That could include a return of the DeSoto Cup, which is named after AMA Motocrycle Hall of Famer John DeSoto, also known as the “Flyin’ Hawaiian.”
DeSoto was a top motocross racer in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. He was part of the group that helped make the 2019 Supercross event in Hawaii happen. At 71 years old, DeSoto was at Aloha Stadium for Supercross and even hopped on his Honda 450 to do a lap around the track during opening ceremonies.
Oahu won the DeSoto cup with Donovan Canionero, Garret Lee and Bodhi Wong placing first, second and third respectively. Competing for the Big Island, along with Ashley, were Trey Cox (11th), Mason Kron (14th), John Lopez (17th) and Jade Leitner (21st).
The Hawaii Supercross event featured amateurs, professionals and freestyles. The pro field used a three-moto format with Ryan Sipes dominating all three races. Others pro standouts in the field were Justin Brayton, Jimmy Decotis, Mike Alessi, Kyle Chisholm, Alex Ray, Adam Enticknap, Tyler Bowers, Josh Hill, Ben LaMay and Austin Politelli.