Taking it to the XTREME
Meet the Hidden Hills native & resident who has taken the crashes to the masses. The “P.T. Barnum” of adrenalized motor sports, Jon Freeman.
by Brielle Fraser
Today’s society thrives on the concept of taking all things in moderation. Extremes are often perceived to be unnecessary and potentially harmful to many. Even the word itself carries a less than desirable connotation, misconstrued as moments to err on the side of caution. But some embrace “extreme” as a way of life, and for Jon Freeman, the extreme has no limits.
Jon Freeman is a native of Southern California. Having grown up in the Hidden Hills community and graduated from Calabasas High School, Freeman is no stranger to his current surrounding community. Freeman attended college at Pepperdine University where he was recruited for the golf team. After playing on the team for awhile, Freeman decided he needed to challenge himself in a more physical sport, which is when he took up surfing. Soon thereafter, Freeman found himself missing practices for the golf team in order to catch the perfect wave with fellow Pepperdine students, and was no doubt made a member of the surf team shortly following.
Freeman’s major throughout his Pepperdine years was Broadcasting & Communications, to which he owes his skills with the camera. Throughout his major coursework, Freeman was challenged to capture moments through numerous lenses and a variety of angles, which translated into a passion for telling stories. He learned to not only operate behind the camera, but also learned techniques to edit footage and compose it into a product others would be willing to sit down and savor until the very end. He began his journey with filmmaking through checking out a camera from the film department at school to shoot footage of his friends and him while surfing.
After composing a few short sure films, the doors of film were sung wide open for Freeman due to his vast talent for capturing sport through the camera. He was approached by Richard Woolcott, owner of Volcom clothing, to make a promo him about Kelly Slater, who was at the time just beginning his renowned career and is now a world champion. After Freeman’s film, Kelly Slater in Black and White was released, Slater went from professional surfer to winning his first contest at Trestles beach. Woolcott offered Freeman the opportunity to take the film to the next level by traveling to numerous exotic locations including Fiji and Hawaii to show the finished product.
“I didn’t have anything,” said Freeman about the equipment required to shoot footage underwater.
Despite this obstacle, he took full advantage of the opportunity he was given, and made certain it would not slip from his grasp. He built his relationships with other photographers and filmmakers, and borrowed their cameras until he could eventually buy his own.
After filming numerous videos on surfing, Freeman switched his gaze from the surge of the open sea to the surf of the snow, otherwise known as snowboarding. While filming, he met current partner, Dana Nicholson, who shared Freeman’s passion fro extreme professional sports. This later propelled them to document the awesome, exhilarating nature of snowboarding. As a whole, snowboarding was not popular at the time Nicholson and Freeman started filming, largely in part because of the rivalry between skiers and snowboarders, but this only enticed the two partners to continue filming. The pursuit of the surf and the snow eventually led to fascination of the dirt, which is where Freeman’s brand baby, Crusty Demons, was born. Freeman had always had an affinity towards dirt based sport ever since he was seven years of age riding around on his grandfather’s cattle ranch in Ojai on his YZ60 bike, which is why he was thrilled to begin on this new endeavor.
Nicholson introduced Freeman to a few dirt bike riders who loved the work he did on his snowboarding films, and asked if he would be willing to shoot footage of tricks they were mastering in the Dumont Dunes, just north of Baker. Freeman accepted the offer, which is the day he knew he wanted more than anything to feature the athletic artistry of these so called “demons” of dirt. The name “crusty” originated from the dirt that would accumulate on each of them when they would campo out in the desert, making them crusty, while the “demons” came from the fearless speeds they would reach when trying to one-up the other.
Distributing Crusty Demons of Dirt, the first of the installments of the Crusty Demons franchise, was not an easy sell at first. In fact, almost no surf or skate shops would carry it because they were not aware of the awesomeness enclosed.
“Instead of calling and getting a no, I started going with my snowboard distributors and they started putting it out to the surf, snow, skate industries and it went gangbusters,” said Freeman. “All of the sudden, we had a marriage of introducing motorcycle people that are doing theses crazy things to the crazy surf, skate, snow industry guys, which hadn’t happened before.”
Some of these notable riders who were featured in theses short films were Travis Pastrana, Carey Hart, and Seth Enslow.
The industry was not on board at first, according to Freeman, since they wanted a more clean-cut representation of extreme sports professionals. However, Freeman reserved his determination to expose these racers in their most raw, honest form. With the introduction of Go-Pro cameras, filming the racers involved in these extreme sports has become more intimate, and has also allowed the audience to attain a better understanding of how much physical and mental preparation goes into the sport.
Throughout the years, Freeman and his Crusty Demons have traveled to Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and even scaled Machu Picchu in Peru. One of Freeman’s most memorable times filming was when he rented out a volcano in New Zealand in order to shoot footage of his riders performing their tricks.
“It was my first and last cologne rental,” said Freeman.
The Crusty Demons brand has made over 18 movies, one video game, two different short televisions series, two Wipeout compilations, and most notably, have a raveling tour that could be quieted to Cirque Du Soleil on motor bikes. The riders have been featured in the X-Games since 1999 when their high-energy shows began.
Crusty Demons, and Jon Freeman, in particular are responsible for exposing the sport of Freestyle Motocross to the public, which then became a competitive and integral part of the X-Games. Although other extreme sports featured in the X-Games are dangerous to perform, Freestyle Motocross, or FMX, typically ends with a rider, or multiple riders walking away with injuries, but as professionals of their field, they have learned to fight through the pain and ride it out until the audience is wowed beyond belief.
Fast forward to the present day, Freeman resides in Hidden Hills with his family and has recently wrapped up his latest film, “UNCHAINED, THE UNTOLD STORY OF FREESTYLE MOTOCROSS.” The film, which took Freeman and his team over seven years to complete and is narrated by actor Josh Brolin, was finally debuted October 16, before Supercross at a private event at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.
Living life to the extreme has become second nature to Jon Freeman. He has made a successful and inventive career based on breaking those physical limits, and allowing the possibilities of each extreme to be boundless, which makes it all the more exciting to see which extreme he will encounter next.