Ricky Forbes

The tornado hunter on the po­etry of down­hill moun­tain bik­ing

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CYCLING CELEBRITY - By David Mcpherson PROFILE

When we chat­ted, Ricky Forbes had just re­turned from a trip to Panama. His days were spent learn­ing Span­ish, surfing and vol­un­teer­ing. The three-week va­ca­tion was a needed break be­fore the start of storm-chas­ing sea­son.

Yes, Forbes is a pro­fes­sional storm chaser. The ti­tle even graces his busi­ness card. The Saskatchewan na­tive is the driver for one of North Amer­ica’s top pro­fes­sional storm­chas­ing teams, which ap­pears in the cmt Canada show Tor­nado­hunters. He’s also the host of Wood­scanada’sgreat­est Ex­plorer, a web se­ries that fea­tures 12 ad­ven­tur­ous Cana­di­ans fac­ing out­door chal­lenges across the coun­try.

Forbes, 30, has al­ways en­joyed adrenalin-boost­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, such as snow­board­ing, sky­div­ing and down­hill moun­tain bik­ing. Six years ago, he grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan hav­ing stud­ied fi­nance. He worked in sales and mar­ket­ing for a while, but more ad­ven­tur­ous work that suited him bet­ter was also in the mix – north­ern fly-in mines, for ex­am­ple.

A lit­tle luck led Forbes to meet some storm chasers – in­clud­ing Tornado Hunters co-star Greg John­son – who were look­ing for a driver. He fig­ured he would give it a try for a week. If noth­ing else, Forbes could add a cool job to his re­sumé. “I saw my first tornado and I was hooked,” he re­called. “They told me it was just like Twister; I didn’t be­lieve them. No­body storm chases for a liv­ing, but this guy said he did, so I gave it a shot.”

Forbes’s first storm-chas­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was in Ok­la­homa. For seven days, he said his team kept miss­ing the wicked weather. Then, on their fi­nal day, they caught a me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal mon­ster, un­like any­thing he had ever seen.

“It was rain­ing down base­ball-size hail and the truck was get­ting pum­melled, which in it­self was a bit ter­ri­fy­ing,” Forbes said. “Then, we popped out on the other side of this hail­storm and about 100 yards in front of us was a mile-wide tornado rip­ping up the fields. It was so sur­real. You want to stay there and watch it, but at the same time you are ter­ri­fied. That tornado was the long­est tornado I’ve ever seen. It lasted for over four hours.” A pro­fes­sional storm chaser was born.

Cy­cling, for Forbes, of­fers a sim­i­lar rush to his day job. A trip to the Rock­ies at 11 years old hooked him on moun­tain bik­ing. His first bike was a Gary Fisher bmx. Grow­ing up, dirt bik­ing was his first love; he has many bro­ken bones from these early days in the sad­dle to prove it. To­day, Forbes finds down­hill moun­tain bik­ing more “po­etic.”

“You are com­ing down the moun­tain and half­way down, as you are go­ing along re­ally tight trails and thread­ing the nee­dle be­tween trees, ev­ery­thing dis­ap­pears out of your life,” he ex­plained. “You have to be so in the mo­ment. Put the horse blin­ders on, and just focus on the trail. You get to calm down; you hear a creek run­ning by or see a deer on the trail, and all the green­ery, and it feels like you are one with Mother Na­ture.”

Get­ting to travel the con­ti­nent is an­other as­pect of his day job Forbes loves. “We get to travel more than 130,000 km across Canada and the U.S. ev­ery year dur­ing the six months we are on the road,” he ex­plained. “The road trip it­self is awe­some, along with the thrill of see­ing the tor­na­does and get­ting to cap­ture, pho­to­graph and video some of big­gest storms on the planet. It’s a dream come true.” Even af­ter track­ing 85 tor­na­does dur­ing the past five years, the thrill of the chase never fades. “You never know how wild the next one is go­ing to be,” Forbes con­cluded. “Some storm chasers will tell you they watched Twister grow­ing up and they knew that’s what they wanted to be, but I never thought it was a pos­si­bil­ity. Even now, it feels sur­real to call my­self a pro­fes­sional storm chaser, but I ab­so­lutely love it.”

Age Home­town Pro­fes­sion Bike 30 Saska­toon

Storm chaser, ad­ven­turer, tele­vi­sion host

KTM Ly­can LT

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