A Story About Kelana Humphrey
Video by Cameron Goold | Words by Nathan Myers
The bike was just there. Whenever he was ready for it.
By four years old, Kelana Humphrey had already been around motorcycles a lot. Two years earlier his dad, Dustin – better known by his surf photography credit “D. Hump” – had opened the Bali division of a new surf and moto brand called Deus ex Machina.
The shop was a monument to all of Dustin’s passions: custom motorcycles, hand-shaped surfboards, live music, photo studio, full bar, and even a barber shop. Surrounded by rice paddies and waves, the shop became a lightning rod for the town of Canggu, transforming the once-quiet village into one of Bali’s hottest travel destinations. They called it the Temple of Enthusiasm.
Kelana grew up in The Temple, surfing his skateboard between the clothes racks and eavesdropping on the pro surfers, moto-riders, musicians and other adult children perpetually passing through on one journey or another. The placed buzzed with adventure. And Kelana was enmeshed. Raised on enthusiasm.
But the bike just sat there.
“One day when he was about 6,” says Dustin, “me and some friends were going for a ride on the beach and Kelana says, ‘Can I come?’ After that, he never got off the bike.”
A few miles outside Canggu, there was this overgrown little motocross track by the beach. The Deus crew cleaned it up, and before long it was their daily spot. They’d surf in the morning, moto in the afternoon, then jump into the ocean for a sunset bodysurf and ride back home along the sand.
Within the year, Kelana – now 7 years old – began competing on the fledgling Indonesian racing circuit. His mother is Indonesian, but dad was born in Huntington Beach, California. Dustin moved to Indo two decades earlier where the exotic waves and vibrant culture became the hallmark of his photography. Traveling around the islands came naturally to him, so they made a run at the national racing circuit.
“I’m no stranger to hard travel,” says Dustin, “but spending 24 hours on the road just to reach some tiny village with a really bad track was not much fun. Especially when there’s no ocean to jump into at the end of the road. Just dirt. And not even good dirt.”
But their efforts paid off. After his first year of competing, Kelana was the 50cc Indonesian National Motocross Champion.
Sorry. That’s not true.
Kelana finished Second. But the kid who won was too old for the division, and Dustin always resents the kid’s cheater parents. Kelana shoulda won. Whatever.
The following year, Dustin took Kelana to California to train with professional coach Sean Lipanovich. It was intended to be a father-son experience, but just before the trip Dustin broke both of his legs on an overly ambitious jump, so it turned into a one-on-one training session for Kelana.
“He’s a smart kid,” says Lipanovich, who’s still coaching Kelana three years later. “He remembers everything. I like how he acts mature when he’s around adults, but still acts like a kid around other kids.”
During this period, Dustin connected with Huntington Beach moto-surfer Forrest Minchinton. Forrest’s dad Mike used to shape Dustin’s surfboards back in the day. Now his son was evolving into a talented shaper/rider … which Deus was looking for. Soon enough, the Minchinton father-son duo was on their way to Bali.
“It’s funny thinking back to when I first met Kelana,” says Forrest, now a Deus team-rider. “He was shy and quiet. I mean, he was only 7 years old. But then he took me to his track by the beach, and that’s where I really got to know him. He reminded me of myself at that age.”
Before he left Bali, Forrest told Kelana he’d show him his secret spot when they made it back to America. Kelana had no idea what that meant.
As Kelana grew, so did Deus. The brand expanded to America, Japan and Europe. And Dustin — always more focused on creating imagery than stocking clothing racks — took on the roll of Global Media Director. These days he directs films, runs photo shoots and dreams up wild events. And Kelana — child of the Temple — is along for the ride.
It’s a unique opportunity. He’s been raised by pro-surfers like Harrison Roach and Zye Norris. Mentored by motocross guys like Forrest and Sean. He’s camped, paddled out, fixed bikes, designed boards and absorbed the strange rhythm of getting the shot. And while he’s focused on motocross, he’s had equal experience riding enduro, flat-tracking, vintage bikes, and just riding the beach at low tide.
And then he found the desert.
Painted in Dust was a Deus film about Forrest and his survivalist compound deep in the Mojave Desert. Dustin’s team spent a few weeks filming Forrest’s spot, where he was shaping surfboards and riding dunes whenever the waves are flat in Huntington. Kelana, of course, came along.
But the desert is no day care center.
“If you wanna ride with the big boys,” says Forrest, “you better be able to keep up. If you can’t start your bike, you can’t ride it. When you fall out here, your daddy ain’t gonna be there to pick you up.”
Forrest isn’t being mean. He’s teaching Kelana the only way he knows how. The hard way. The desert way. “If you can’t take care of yourself out here,” he says, “you’re going to be in real trouble when something goes wrong.”
Keeping up with Forrest is no small task. This desert is his second home. His ultimate playground. Kelana spends the week with his little 65cc pinned across the shifting sands, climbing hills like mountains, and hopping boulders bigger than his bike.
Eventually, he goes down. Over the bars and into the rocks. Splits his face wide open. Then stumbles around. Knocked silly.
Four hours later, Kelana knocks on the door of Forrest’s cabin and asks him if he’s ready to ride again.
“That right there is what it takes to be a champion,” says Forrest. “You gotta fall down and get back up. And each time you get back on the bike, you’re a better rider for it.”
At night, when the adult-children gather ’round the fire drinking beer and shooting guns at the stars, Kelana hangs in the cabin watching a weathered VHS of On Any Sunday for the 327th time. It’s no accident that the only cassette out here happens to be his favorite. It’s Forrest’s, Dustin’s and Mike’s as well. The machines may change, but the heart of moto remains the same. On Any Sunday knows this best.
Back in Bali, Deus throws these parties. They’re technically “races” or “festivals,” but anyone who’s attended will tell you it’s a party. There’s the annual “Dress-Up Drag Races,” “The 9-Foot & Single Surf Festival” and, topping the list, “Slidetober Surf-n-Moto Fest,” which includes a beach-n-jungle enduro race, Indonesia’s first flat-track course, and a motocross event at Kelana’s home track. While the racing is competitive, the vibe is all about shenanigans and laughter.
Kelana grew up around these events. Even before he could ride, he sat on his dad’s gas tank. He’s become like a mascot. The only kid there. The only kid competing. Cute and well-mannered. Hanging with the adults. He learned to love an audience. After winning this year’s moto-event, Kelana one-hand claims the final jump, then victory dances in the straightaway. The crowd eats it up.
“That’s just where I grew up,” he says. “Everyone there is like my uncles and aunties. It’s a family reunion.”
But Bali is Never-Never Land. To the outside world, the lost boys of Deus ex Machina are more fairy tale than real racers. So when Kelana shows up at “real” competitions, it’s always a bit unsettling. Where’s the music? Where’s the foul-mouthed commentary? Where’s the joy?
Dustin feels it, too. The last thing he wants to become is another motocross soccer mom. He does not want results to determine our overall experience at the races. He says “it’s a balancing act; I want him to win and at times I will push him to be his best, but I don’t want his race results to determine our overall experience at the races. We all know the percentage of kids who actually make it, so we have to enjoy this time.”
“You see a lot of these young kids burn out after years of living out of a motorhome,” says Donny Elmer, marketing director of FMF racing.
“It’s cool how Dustin and Kelana are approaching it, because they’re taking it seriously, with coaches, training and all the racing … but at the end of the day, their focus is still on having fun and being a kid. Kelana’s got the skill and the speed to take it to the next level; the trick is just sustaining that high level of motivation.”
“We founded Deus around the idea that motorcycles are for fun,” says Dustin. “That’s how we feel about ’em. You ride alone, but you ride together. It’s a community.”
But the racing is in Kelana’s blood. When he puts on his helmet and goggles, the sweet little boy is gone. Out on the track, Kelana throws a block pass, wheelies through the braking bumps, then hits an 80-footer. “When I’m racing,” he says, “everything else just disappears. It’s just me and my bike. And I love that feeling.”
As much as Kelana is gunning for the big leagues, Dustin’s wary of holeshoting his childhood. “We raced motocross when I was a kid, too,” he says, “but then my parents had to sell our bikes to pay the rent. This sport isn’t cheap. We’re not rich, but I can afford to give Kelana the opportunities I never had. And, yeah, maybe parents live our dreams through their kids … but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. I had my time, and this is his. I can enjoy watching the journey and being a part of it.”
So they move back to Huntington Beach. Dustin never imagined he’d be back, but now it makes sense. Life moves in circles. Here, he’s closer to coaches, sponsors and real competition. Kelana puts in four days a week on the track, as well as gym and cardio training. Posters of Roczen, Bereman and Dungy decorate his walls. Rows of trophies line the dresser. He’s been winning local races and cracking the Top 10 of the nationals, but equally important are the bicycle rides to the beach and sunset skate sessions. Homework and tutors. Just being a kid.
“It’s a lot of commitment for a 10 year old,” says Dustin. “So, I let him decide if he wants it or not. At the end of the year he gets to choose if we continue or not. If he makes that commitment and he’s in 100 percent, then I’ll be there 200 percent. But it’s his choice. And we also make sure to keep it in balance. Keep it fun.”
Recently, they put the bikes away and spent a couple of months in Dustin’s favorite little Indonesian surf town. Off the grid. Long, gentle pointbreaks out front and a skate park up the road. Here Kelana goes surfing, skimboarding and skating. To be just a normal kid.
Because that’s what he is.
And because maybe there’s more to life than riding motorcycles. And if not, the bike will be right there for him.