It’s the world’s biggest big-jump spectacle. It takes place every year in South Africa. It couldn’t take place in February 2021 because, well, Covid-19. But it’s on again, just a bit later. Find out more about Darkfest 2021 and why it matters to South Africa.

By Sean Badenhorst

The thing about Darkfest, presented by Monster, is that it’s not a formal, structured competition. Well it is sort of formal and has a bit of structure, but it will frustrate you if you try to classify it as any kind of traditional bicycle contest.

The home of Darkfest, since 2018, is a farm called Hellsend on the slopes of Simonsberg, which is close to Stellenbosch and overlooking the Banhoek Valley. It’s ridiculously beautiful there. But the scenery is just a bonus and probably not even noticed that much by the riders. But damn, what a backdrop to the world’s most spectacular annual big-jump session!

Darkfest is essentially a gathering of invited riders from around the world and South Africa who send a series massive jumps and execute seriously high-risk tricks that are spectacular to witness. Commitment, talent, creativity and big balls are the cornerstones of the event, which runs for a few days, but which has a three-week build-up.

The main oke is Sam Reynolds, a 29-year-old Englishman who is one of the world’s best freeride and slopestyle riders. Once he arrives, the build-up begins in earnest.

You can check out the video above, of the work progress and some riding this week. South African Ike Klaassen features and Reynolds confirms he has a career as a presenter after retirement. The guy is a natural!

We are in Week 2 of the build-up phase right now (12 May 2021), which involves the preparation of the jump lines in general and each feature in particular. It’s a physical hands-on process that sees Reynolds personally involved in every single element of the preparation along with his Austrian sidekick, Clemens Kaudela.

But while Reynolds is the Darkfest kingpin, he is part of a team of local and international trailbuilders, media, shuttle drivers and riders that each year commit to making Darkfest more impressive and more memorable than the year before. This usually comes in the form of a new feature or changes to an existing feature which requires experience, time, the right machinery and the ability to feel approaches, take-offs and landings.

The team on the ground this year comprises mostly South Africans, due to Covid-19 travel limitations. They are: Builders: Sam Reynolds (ENG), Celemens Kaudela (AUT), Justin Novella, Duran van Eden, with support from the Hellsend Bike Compound trails crew. Organisers: Denzel Ulyate and Ryan Franklin. Production team: Thomas ‘Crimmy’ Sandell, Kevin Schnieder, Hayden Brown and Tim Ferreira (Drone). Photographers: Ryan Franklin and Eric ‘Mr Shin’ Palmer.

The riders for Darkfest 2021 were announced on Thursday, 13 May. They are: Sam Reynolds, Clemens Kaudela, Ike Klaassen (RSA), Theo Erlangsen (RSA), Adolf Silva, Bienvenido Aquado, Sergio Layos, Kade Edwards, Kaos Seagrave, Sam Hodgson, William Robert, Vinnie T, Tom Isted and Szymon Godziek.

Because of Covid-19 limitations, Darkfest 2021 won’t be open to the public. Practice begins this weekend (15-16 May), with the action building to crescendo from around 23-26 May. Monster Energy is making sure nobody misses a thing with loads of media content scheduled for Instagram, Youtube and TREAD Media’s platforms.

To whet your appetite, check out last year’s Darkfest highlights here.