DarkFest Ladies

What is DarkFest?

DarkFest was formerly part of the Fest Series, a series of freestyle festivals around the world, where some of the best freestyle riders are invited to participate on some of the biggest jumps in the world. DarkFest, the South African Fest, has since broken away from the rest of the series in order to have more freedom to put on a bigger and better show than ever. DarkFest is not something you can describe in words, so please head on to the link below to watch some highlights and see what it’s all about.

darkfest ladies
Riders sending the 90-footer at DarkFest 2022 | Supplied

Ladies at DarkFest

I have attended DarkFest for the past five years or so, and the one question I have alway asked is, ‘why are there no ladies riding?’ It is an invitational event, so obviously the organisers felt there were no ladies capable of riding these jumps. Could it really be the case that there was not one lady in the world that could ride this event? The number of ladies competing in RedBull Rampage would suggest differently. Well, in 2020 I was ecstatic to see a lady on the lineup, CJ Selig had approached Sam Reynolds, the event organiser, and asked if she could take part, he said yes and here she was.

One thing that is extremely hard to comprehend unless you have attended DarkFest is the sheer magnitude of the jumps, in order to clear them you need to be carrying a lot of speed and as a female, especially of CJ’s stature, as she is short and petite, you don’t have the weight to build up momentum as easily as the men in the field. This meant that CJ only attempted the Step Up and had to get super low to carry enough speed to make the landing. Bruised and battered after several failed attempts throughout the week, CJ finally landed the biggest jump of her life.

In 2021 two ladies rode at DarkFest, but this year is the first time that ladies have officially been invited to ride. Vero Sandler, a woman’s MTB Freeride legend was asked to put together a crew  of ladies to compete and a grand total of six badass women rode at DarkFest 2022, making up a substantial portion of the field.

The physical toll on the competitors’ bodies is pretty hectic as the g-force they have to withstand up the take-offs as well as the force on landing is quite intense and often underestimated by spectators. This requires a lot of upper body strength which is less dominant in females, and therefore adds another dimension to the challenge for the female competitors who have to build up their upper body strength in the leadup to the event.

Pictured above, Casey Brown, CJ Selig, Chealea Kimball, Hannah Bergemann and Sam Reynolds at DarkFest 2022. | Photo: Eric Palmer

DarkFest 2022 featured male and female categories for all the prizes for the first time, making it one of the most progressive events of its kind. Attending this year I found it really special to see how there were nearly as many young girls as boys running up to every rider asking them to sign their shirt or cap and proudly repping their cycle gear. Six badass women inspired another generation of young female riders to push the boundaries of what the world thinks we as women are capable of.

Well done to Sam Reynolds and the team for putting on yet another awesome event and allowing women a platform to show their skills too.