Photos by Aaron Brimhall | Words by Brett Smith
If you don’t already have a nickname, Ernesto Fonseca will give you one. In some cases, two are required.
Nicknames are more than handles; in his eyes, they’re an identity, a badge of honor doled out only to those who are a part of his crew. When Fonseca came to Florida from Costa Rica in 1992 to race in the Mini Winter Olympics, he remembers, he saw a blazing-fast redhead whose Fox boots were so tight at the calves that they were held together by duct tape. The rider’s butt patch said “Chubbs.” In later years the two became friends, and even though Ricky Carmichael became a lean and chiseled champion 10 years after their first meeting, to Fonseca he was still just Chubbs.
Nobody is spared a jocular moniker. Alex Ewing is Cheddar Bobby, often shortened to just Cheddar or Bobby. Next Level Management’s Tony Gardea became Spermie and Panzon (Spanish for potbelly); Andrew Short: Whitey; Nathan Ramsey: Jimmy Neutron; Erik Kehoe: Peter North; Lars Lindstrom: Sars. Travis Pastrana was Pastrami and Cheese, a name he didn’t even know he was given. Although the nicknames have nothing to do with the level of respect Fonseca has for you, mountain bike legend Brian Lopes may have the most desired: Chingon (a Mexican colloquialism for badass).
Entertaining has always been part of his personality. Fonseca is the type of instantly lovable person who makes one feel they’ve been best friends forever, even if they’ve only recently met. It’s for that reason people like Debbie and Robert Pastrana took him in for extended winter visits over 20 years ago to ride and race with their son, Travis; why Yamaha chose him to go to Japan to develop their new YZ250F and be one of the first to compete on it; why American Honda honored his two-year contract that ran through 2007 even though he suffered a career-ending injury in March 2006...