EXPANDING THE LEGENDARY SLAYGROUND SERIES
Adding to the pressure, expectation levels were riding high for the third entry in the Slayground video series. That’s putting it mildly: The first Slayground video leaves some big shoes to fill at over 5.3 million views, while Slayground 2 has garnered over 3.7 million views. What’s more, Axell Hodges is a high-profile personality on social media, with over 1.1 million Instagram followers hungry for the latest news from the set of Slayground 3.
Keeping these expectations in mind, what was the process behind adding the next chapter in the iconic series?
“We didn’t have much of a concept going into the new video,” said Axell Hodges. “For this one, I was mostly just stoked to finally get my own compound and having the chance to build all the new jumps, build something new and scary. We just wanted to make a cool dirt bike video and do something gnarly.”
Over the months prior to the video’s release, Axell shared regular clips from the set, including some nerve-racking mishaps and close brushes with slams on the newly constructed obstacles. “Didn’t give it enough pepper the first time jumping this,” he captioned a clip of a 100-foot gap jump, slamming into the lip of the landing right at high impact. Enticed by the level of realism, fans ate up every single update, and Axell’s #Slayground3 videos generated hundreds of thousands of views on Insta.
In September 2020, Axell asked followers on Facebook a contentious question: “Should we make Slayground 3 or come up with a new name?” The verdict across hundreds of comments was clear: ‘Slayground forever!’ So Axell and crew went ahead with part three: “Ultimately I decided to just stick with the Slayground name and complete the trilogy.”
Another variable that can be the make or break of a successful action sports video is the soundtrack. But in the mellow sounds of “Stone Love” performed by Pepper and “Rolling Stone” by Slightly Stoopid, the crew had found the groove to tie all elements together.
“Picking the music is always the hardest thing. But my brother and I really love reggae music, and the guys with Slightly Stoopid are always down to let us use their tunes. So we had that whole reggae vibe going,” said Axell Hodges, adding that his father, Phillip “PH” Hodges, has a cameo in Slayground 3: “My dad always likes to play the harmonica, so we gave him a little hit in the video as well.”
CONSTRUCTING A NEW SLAYGROUND VIDEO SET
While the reggae music vibe is mellow, the motocross action in Slayground 3 goes hard in the paint. Expect Axell’s signature contorted whips, twisting the bike’s front wheel into the opposite direction in mid-air, as well as a barrage of high-speed transfer airs and wheelie combos never caught on film before.
As in previous videos, the boundary-pushing level of riding directly results from the visionary course design behind the jumps and obstacles built on the set.
In Slayground 1, Axell can be seen attacking a suburban neighborhood injected with dirt tracks and freestyle obstacles. Next up, Slayground 2 introduced the world's first-ever dirt half pipe at Jeremy McGrath’s Ranch in San Diego and a whole new magnitude of airs. This time, Slayground 3 features a unique course designed by Matt McCall at Trick Factory agency, replete with steep turns, quarter pipes, kicker ramps, wallrides, manual pads, and dirt jumps on a massive scale.
Speaking on the course design for Slayground 3, Axell said: “The main focus was to be able to get a BMX-style line and piece all the elements together in a single run. Connecting all the jumps and get it all together with speed and flow.”
Going into detail, the two-time X Games gold medalist said: “The entire course is really tight and technical. The furthest gap is 130-feet long and built inside a really tight canyon, so everything looks really big. But you really have to be quick to hit all the jumps in sequence.”
Standout features on the Slayground 3 course include a street-inspired wallride, featuring stylized Slayground artwork by designer Taylor Reeve, who also gave Axell’s boots a custom paint job. The wallride is just one of several obstacles based on influences outside the realm of motocross, including the large-sized mega’ constructions pioneered by skateboard athlete Danny Way.
“It was in part inspired by skateboarding with all the manual pads and things that they have on the Mega Ramp, like rainbow rails and wheelie pads,” said Axell Hodges, adding: “I’ve always done a lot of wheelies and nose wheelies. So this time I wanted to make it a little gnarlier with a little more consequence.”
PUSHING THE LIMITS ON AXELL’S SLAYGROUND
The level of consequence is definitely at an all-time high in Slayground 3. A lot can go wrong upon balancing a heavy dirt motorbike atop a long table, or ‘manual pad’, in a nose wheelie position, only to pop off head-first into a 28-foot-high bank below. “You definitely don’t want to go over the handlebars on that one,” said Axell Hodges, allowing that some of the set-ups are even gnarlier in real life.
“As for the manual pad, the video never does it justice. That thing is about 8 feet tall and sits on top of a steep bank. It was pretty spooky to ride over it for the first time. I didn’t have it aligned properly with the lip on the bank below, so I kind of got bounced over. It definitely took some time to get it dialed.”
Another unique feature consists of a tall quarter pipe for launching aerials high into the air and into a banked landing on either side. Axell purposely built the two-way landing for a trick that he had first successfully conquered in 2020: An alley-oop aerial, taking off into a right-side aerial but turning into the opposite left-side direction in the air.
Again, it’s a trick with lots of potential consequences…
“Standing there in person, the landing is close to 28-feet-tall and really steep. You really don’t want to hit the deck and bounce right to the bottom. It’s a big drop. This was the first time I used the right-side landing and was stoked to get my second alley-oop on video.”
And finally, the wallride connected to two banks is a feature often seen in BMX or skateboarding videos, but rarely in motocross. That’s for a reason, as the sheer weight of the dirt bike and velocity create challenging conditions – and leave little room for error. “On the first time I hit the wallride, I shot upright to the top of it and thought I was going to bounce right off the side, but somehow stuck the landing,” said Axell Hodges upon the video’s release.
WATCH SLAYGROUND 3 NOW
Now that Slayground 3 is officially released, what’s next for Axell Hodges? “Right now I want to focus on stacking some more clips and filming at all these new spots. Not just riding spots on my own property. So I’m hoping to get an edit together with all-new footage by the end of the year.”
So ultimately, only one question remains: With Slayground 3 in the books, is the trilogy over – but will Axell Hodges follow up with another installment?
“I think this might be it. Like, third time’s the charm. I don’t know if I want to keep this going until Slayground 20,” said Axell Hodges with a laugh.
With that said, the latest entry in the Slayground trilogy is officially here! Go watch Axell Hodges in the new “Slayground 3” motocross video presented by Monster Energy, live now on YouTube.
Be sure to check out the insane previous videos!