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Assets from Slayground 3, filmed in Ramona, California


Feb 182021

When Monster Energy athlete Axell Hodges releases a new entry in the Slayground video series, the entire motocross world is watching. That’s because the 24-year-old from Encinitas, California, never fails to deliver new tricks and cinematic experiences that push the boundaries of freestyle motocross to new levels.

So far, the Slayground video series has racked up over 9 million views on YouTube – and counting...

Now Axell Hodges is back with the latest entry, Slayground 3. And it’s a banger! Filmed on location at his private motocross compound in Ramona, California, the third Slayground video packs all the ingredients that keep fans coming back for more.

“Look forward to lots of new tricks, plenty of new jumps, some big whips, and technical wheelies. We tried to cover it all and created an entirely new course for the video. So there are lots to get excited about,” said Axell Hodges about the release of the Slayground 3 video.

Filmed in stunning high-definition video, the 7-minute video set to reggae tunes by musical artists Pepper and Slightly Stoopid was over three months in the making. Keep reading below to go on the set of the Slayground 3 video, featuring exclusive commentary from Axell Hodges.


Just by looking at the Slayground videos, Axell “Slay” Hodges seems to have it made in the shade. The videos usually start with Axell living the lavish life of a motocross champion. We see him lounging with his supermodel girlfriend, cooling in the lap of luxury, right before casually climbing on his dirt bike to lay waste to some of the burliest jumps and obstacles caught on film.

But behind the scenes, making the magic happen takes serious effort, and the support of a sizeable team comprising dozens of experts in track building, mechanics, and cinematography.


“A lot of work goes into it. We had to build the brand-new course, which took a solid three months to get right. But when we started filming in late December, we ran into some adverse conditions with the weather,” said Axell Hodges.


Speaking on the conditions on set, Axell said: “It was just so dang windy every day that it was hard to hit the jumps and get a feel for the course. That made for a really frustrating experience because once the wind stopped for a day or so, I hadn’t been riding the jumps for a few days and wasn’t fully feeling it. But then the wind finally let off and we got to start shooting and it all came together.”


Then again, capturing the motocross action on film is not only hard from a trick perspective. It also involves a ton of variables – aka ‘things that can go wrong’ – when helicopter-mounted cameras and cameras on rafter trucks are involved.


“It’s always hard getting the action right. Especially that first shot of the whole line through the compound was hard to catch from the helicopter. It’s a one-shot take featuring more than 20 jumps. And the first time I made it all the way through, the camera had cut my head off,” said Axell Hodges. “So we had to do a retake, and I’m in my windbreaker just sweating away. I was getting pretty gassed towards the end of it, but I’m really stoked it worked out.” 


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.”



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.”



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.



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!