Wyatt Waddell | Back in the Saddle
By Billy Rainford
It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since we’ve seen young Ladner, BC racer, Wyatt Waddell, line up at a race. Wyatt and his dad, Laurie Waddell, have been staples in the British Columbia motocross scene for a long time and it was tough to see them forced away from the sport they love so much.
In March of 2016, just before what was to be his rookie season as a Pro, Wyatt over-jumped a tabletop at Popkum Motor Park and managed to completely destroy his knee without even crashing. It took a few months for the 20-year-old to get in for the reconstructive surgery and by the time he was ready to get back in action, 2 years had passed.
Wyatt and his dad were at rounds 1 and 2 of the Future West Moto Canadian Arenacross Championships in Armstrong, BC last weekend. Although he’s not quite up to the pace he expects, there’s no hiding the fact that Wyatt and Laurie are happiest when they’re at the races.
We grabbed Wyatt for a chat to get his thoughts on the injury and how good it feels to be back in the saddle where he belongs.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Wyatt. Welcome back! Let’s give people a little bit of information about you. Can you tell us how you first got into the sport?
Wyatt Waddell: My dad started racing and riding when he was young, living on a farm, he had a track in his garden (Laughs). He started going to the races with his cousin – Mike Aire (sp) from Richmond Motorsports. They used to go to the races, back in the day, and I was just born into it, really. I got my first bike when I was 16 months old and I started racing when I was 4 at Mission, BC. I’ve been doing it ever since.
And my other stock question, how did you choose your first racing number?
My first number was 77. I really didn’t even get to pick it. It was just the easiest one to make with tape (Laughs). That’s really how that happened. I went with that for a lot of my amateur career, until one year someone got it before me. I took #57 which was my dad’s number. Then my number became 573 for my 3-digit number and that’s kind of where I’m at.
Can you take us through the incident that took you out?
I was out at Popkum and had just switched over to Yamaha with GA Checkpoint and I got to ride that bike probably 2 times. There’s a tabletop kind of a step-down in the back section, for people that are familiar with it, and I jumped too far down it…I jumped all the way to the bottom and just hyper-extended my knee.
I tore my ACL, MCL, LCL, and my meniscus. I completely did them all in. I didn’t crash, luckily, but I rode over the next jump and as soon as I landed I knew it wasn’t good.
I was going to head down to California 3 days after that and ended up doing that, so I had an MRI right away and it didn’t look good.
So, for this whole last 2 years…I had my surgery on September 15th of 2016, I think, and so after that I’ve just been recovering and going to physio almost twice a week for that whole year and I’m just working on getting back.
Where was you head when you found out how bad the injury was? Were you discouraged or motivated?
At the time, I was really unsure of how everything was going to go. Once I got the surgery done and it started to get better…this whole injury has been, more or less, motivating for me. It really showed me what we have in this sport. It was just motivating to get me back and to show everyone what I can do. I feel like I never really got the chance to prove myself to a lot of people. In a way, it was a good thing and I was really able to get in-tune with my body and really mature more. I just feel like I’m at a better place now than I was before. I’m really looking forward to this season coming up. It should be good.
Was that the biggest setback you’ve had to over-come in the sport?
Well, before that, the last couple years I’ve had some bad injuries. The year before this injury in Raymond, Alberta, for the WCAN, I crashed pretty hard and tore my spleen. I tore my spleen and that put me out for 6 months.
I got back and I had 1 season and I ended up doing my knee. The last few years for me haven’t been the best. I’ve struggled with these injuries but, hopefully, I’ve just gotten that all out of the way. I’m feeling pretty good on my bike now, so hopefully, the years to come should be good…and injury-free!
How has your dad been, going through all this?
He was definitely upset as well, but he’s seen me working hard to get back to it. My family and everyone who has been supporting me has been really motivating for me and really wanting to see me get back to where I can be. Everyone has stayed very positive.
I’m with some great people at my local physio at Sungod Physio. I’ve been working with a trainer downtown in Vancouver, Jim Deal with Compound Conditioning. He’s been a great guy to work with my knee. He’s kept me very motivated and positive.
But my dad has been great and he’s just been positive the whole time. He’s just happy to see me finally get back to racing. It’s been great. It’s been really good.
Has he been sneaking away to races without you?
(Laughs) No. I think we may have gone to the Kamloops National. In a way, it was good to take a break. My parents have this Canine Country Pet Resort and they’ve been really busy with that. It was a really busy year for them. In a way, it was good to also focus on that and make sure the business is still running good.
How happy and excited were you to get back in action last weekend in Armstrong, BC?
I was really excited. It’s been almost 2 years since I had been racing. I’ve been riding quite a bit. Once I got cleared to ride, I rode my bike about 4 times, and then I ended up, on a street bike, I ended up crashing up in Kelowna and I broke my collar bone pretty bad. So that put me out for a couple months and just before Armstrong I got back on my bike and I rode just about 2 months, I think.
I didn’t come in as prepared as I would have liked to have been, but overall it was really good to get back racing and get some gate drops, and just get the first race out of the way, ya know? It was really good.
So, let’s talk about the actual races. How did you do on the weekend?
Well, the first night I was really nervous but it went good. I didn’t have the best finishes but I was feeling really comfortable out there, considering how tight it was. A lot of people were unsure about it but it went great. I’m not 100% sure of my finishes. I think I got 10, maybe an 8th but it was good the first night.
The second night was a lot better. We made some suspension changes and it really helped. I was feeling a lot more comfortable out on the track and I was able to corner a lot better. I had some better finishes and some good battles with some of the guys. It was good to get back racing.
Do you remember who you were dicing with?
I had some good battles with Davey Fraser. We had some good ones going. I also had some good battles in the last Open Main with the guy from Alaska, Kraig Riese. We had a good battle going. With the track being so short and the top guys going so fast, they would come up on us so quickly to lap us and me and him managed to stay close together the whole race while we were getting lapped. I got him right at the last corner. I got on the inside of him and made the pass right in the last corner.
That was the part that I really did miss – the racing and the close battles and stuff, so that was really good to be back.
Were you impressed with the pace of the top guys?
Ya, definitely. Carson Brown was really impressive with his speed. (Jess) Pettis and (Shawn Maffenbeier) Maff were really good. And Jeremy Medaglia. Those guys were really fast. (Adam) Enticknap, too. And (Ryan Lockhart) Newf, he was going really goo, too. It was good. Everyone was going really quick. It was just tough with how short the track was and if you didn’t get a good start or if you got tangled up in the first few laps, those guys would be on you so quick and you’d be trying to move over to let them by. It was difficult to try and keep your own race going, but it will definitely be a lot better in Chilliwack. I’m looking forward to getting there.
So, is your plan to do the entire series?
The plan is to do the full Future West series. I’m thinking that after the December rounds I may go down to California for a couple months and keep riding and try to work on my speed and my technique and just get back to where I’m feeling really good on my bike again. I’m continuing on with the rest of the series.
How about your summer plans?
I’m trying to work on getting support for the Jetwerx series for outdoor. I definitely want to try to do the full series. That’s my whole goal. When I did break my collar bone, I started a real estate course and I’m just finishing up. I have an exam in November and then once that’s finished I’ll be back to full training and focusing on the riding and trying to work towards this coming year.
It’s definitely something I want to do. I’m going to try to get some good support and some funding that I’ll be able to do the whole thing. That’s been a dream of mine since I was young, to go all the across, so hopefully everything works out and I make it across.
Well, welcome back and thanks for the chat. Best of luck and who would you like to thank?
Thank you. I’d like to thank, GA Checkpoint, Yamaha Canada, Fox Racing Canada, Canine Country Pet Resort, 100%, Mobius, Matrix, Rekluse Canada, Mongoose Machine, MP1 Suspension, Bulldog MX Training, Compound Conditioning, and the Carlson Racing Team, they’ve been helping me out a lot letting me ride at their private track.