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Hoyer brings his freestyle riding career to an end

Ellsworth’s Justin Hoyer is putting away his freestyle snowmobile sled for other pursuits

Last weekend the annual Winter X Games took place in Aspen, Col. It was in the X Games where Justin Hoyer put himself and to a degree Ellsworth and Pierce County in the spotlight, for the hometown boy’s success in the freestyle snowmobiling events. Hoyer has won all three medals in the snowmobile freestyle competition. He won the bronze in last year’s X Games, won silver in both 2009 and 2011 and struck gold in 2010.

But Hoyer’s sled was nowhere to be found in the 2014 Winter X Games. Hoyer recently announced his retirement from both competitive and demonstration freestyle events. He was part of a group of riders who, over the past decade (since 2007 for Hoyer), flipped modified dirt bikes in the summer and then changed over to snowmobiles in the winter and was able to make a living from it. However, Hoyer feels the moment has come to do something else full-time. He agreed to an interview with the Pierce County Herald on this decision and his future plans.

 1). Why do you feel now is the right time to conclude your freestyle career?

Honestly over the last few years I have been getting pretty burned out on it all and my heart just was not into it like it used to be. I’m a firm believer that if you have the passion for something, no matter how hard the work seems to other people, it seems nothing to you because you love everything about what you’re doing just for the sake of doing it, for the process of it all. So you love everything that comes with it, even the hard times. That to me is when you know what you’re doing is right. And when you stop feeling that way, when you start getting burned out on it, or it starts to appear to be too much work, that's when you know it’s time to hang it up and move on to the next project. To be successful at anything, I think you really need to embrace all aspects, even the pain. I just wasn't there anymore, so it seemed a natural stopping point.

2). What is your health status and did it play any role in your decision?

To date, at age 32, I have had a little over 30 bone fractures. I don't know exactly how many because I remember new ones every time I try to keep track. Some include things like a complete break of my right tibia and fibula; left tib. and fib., multiple fib. breaks - seemed to be about one every 1.5 years - both wrists more than once, (including both Scaphoid's at the same time); both ALC's torn needing knee repair surgery in both knees; a Crown fracture on my right tib. ( that's when the top of your tibia starts to split from your knee compressing too hard); a broken Navicular, (that's the small bone in your foot that kind of holds your foot in joint, which is a real pain to heal cause of low circulation); a broken vertebrae in the upper and lower back; broke both Radiuses and the most recent of the bad ones was breaking my arm in Vienna, Austria in 2010 and having to get surgery in an Austrian hospital and then having to stay the night in the same hospital which turned out to house mental patients. I had to share a room with like six of them! If that wasn’t bad enough, I went and rebroke the same arm at the 2012 X-Games Best Trick event by doing the double backflip. When it rebroke, it bent the plate from the previous surgery and it healed that way and now it’s permanently bent. Then there’s also all the small breaks in between, like fingers and toes and collar bones. 

So, all that being said, I actually feel good now that I have stopped riding. I can’t complain about that. But, as I mentioned earlier, if you don't love something enough to put up with all the bumps in the road like that, then it's time to stop because if you can't handle it you don't have what it takes to be successful any longer. That's fine. I just didn't want to drag it out even though that would have been the easy thing to do. The easiest way is not necessarily the best.

3). Did the death of Caleb Moore during the freestyle competition of last year’s X Games play any role in your decision, or the fact there was some talk of removing freestyle from the X Games altogether (the Best Trick competition was removed from the X Games line-up following Moore’s death)?

 It wasn’t a huge factor since I have already had a handful of good friends pass away from these sports, but I think it was like the last straw for me. Caleb was a great guy and a great friend. When you’re so into something it's easy to turn a blind eye to all the risk, you almost have to a little bit. But over the years my eyes are wide open now, and not just to the sport's dangers and all of that, but to the real situation in the world we live in. There are so many things wrong with the way we are living, the way we act as a society and the double standards, a government that is running our country into the ground. All these things and so many more factored into my decision, I felt that I may be of more use putting my efforts into other things to try to help turn things around, I know I am just one person but if we all do what we can, great or small, things can and will change for the better. 

4). What did you do after the 2013 X Games? 

 After the ’13 X- Games, I performed in shows throughout Europe. I went to Austria, Sweden, and Russia twice. After those shows ended in late April, a few friends and I took my truck and trailer, loaded up the bikes and went to Oklahoma to ride for a few days. Other than that, I pretty much just started diving into my next projects that I decided that I wanted to take place of my riding career.

5). Is there a usual age or ages when freestyle riders decide to retire?

I am one of the first ones from the original group of riders. One other guy retired before me about six years back but he was never really a full-time Freestyle rider like I was, so I guess we will have to wait and see who retires next. It's kind of an odd bunch, so who knows? These types of sports are typically for young guys like teenagers, but in this field if you are careful not to get injured too much and play your cards right you could carry a career into your 40's if you wanted to I suppose. I think I probably could have kept riding professional level for at least another five years, maybe not be competitive at the national level anymore but still do shows. I just didn't want to ever get stuck in a rut like that. I know I have had a lot of other interests in other fields which have been stealing more and more of my attention until I realize that I need to make the shift now before I get too old and lose the motivation to do these things. 

6). So what are your plans for the immediate future and were they plans you've thought about doing for some time? 

I am working on developing a clean energy device and I am also writing a book. The book is about self-dilution.

7). In your opinion, what does the future have in store for freestyle riders and X sports in general?

That's a good question. The only thing I can see is, unless there are new riders entering the sport and soon, it will probably plateau and fall off. 

8). Was there anything in growing up in Pierce County and Ellsworth, or even living in this area, which you feel helped make you a success in freestyle?

Growing up here made this whole experience so much more incredible because the whole town has been so supporting and so many people have helped me along the way. I wish I could list them all by name but I don't think we have enough space to do so. Also, once I left town and got out into the world a bit, I really realized just how awesome our little town is. You can take people’s word for things here, have trust and everyone is so generous and supporting. The only down side was it took me a long time to shake the mentality of “You-can't-make-it-anywhere-coming-from-a-small-town” and that is just not even close to being true. We have an incredible pool of talent in our little town in all sorts of different fields in a way I have never seen anywhere else, so never sell yourself short. If anything, you have an advantage being from here.