Santa Barbara’s motorcycling daredevil Clint Ewing continues to recover from severe burns that he suffered to his hands and back during an attempt to break the world record for riding through a tunnel of fire on August 7. To help Ewing pay for the costs of his recovery — estimated to exceed $50,000, and for which he has no health insurance — his friends and family are hosting a car and motorcycle show with raffle and barbecue on Saturday, October 5, at Nojoqui Falls Park.
The stunt, which was held during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, was the second blazing-ring-of-fire ride for Ewing, who set the first world record for the feat in 2008. This time, however, Ewing says that the stunt was rushed by Guinness Book of World Record officials due to foreboding weather on the horizon, causing the tunnel to reach a firestorm of such hellish proportions that he couldn’t see a foot in front of his face.
“By 10 feet in, I could only see 10 inches in front of my face,” said Ewing, whose professional riding career is more about the relatively slow-moving wheelies and tricks of street bike freestyling. “I was wearing everything I needed to; it just got too hot. There’s nothing you can really wear for 2,000 degrees.”
Though disappointed, the ever-optimistic 32-year-old, who was raised near Cold Spring School in Montecito, is still managing to look at the bright side. “I honestly don’t care too much about not getting the record,” said Ewing, who hopes to be back on a bike by the end of the year and should make a full recovery by next summer. “It put things in perspective, and I learned a valuable lesson of realizing who’s in control of what’s going on. The mistake turned into a nightmare, and at least I got out of it.”
The nightmare unfolded when Ewing entered the too-hot tunnel and then crashed through the side of it about halfway through. He walked away but was soon rushed to a burn center in Los Angeles, where he stayed for nearly two weeks getting treatment. Though not insured — finding insurance for his kind of work is a little tough — Ewing had been saving money in a special account in case of an emergency, but that was all spent during his first day at the hospital. He’s been back in Santa Barbara for about three weeks now, running a grueling physical-therapy regimen every day and wearing “Michael Jackson-looking gloves” to heal.
Doctors have said that his wounds should be almost invisible by this time next year. “For me, it’s not even about that,” said Ewing. “I make my career off my hands and my motor skills. I just have to keep doing my physical therapy. I almost feel 100 percent range of motion back.”
Given the less-than-ideal conditions, many people have suggested that Ewing should have called off the stunt that day. “It’s hard to be an athlete — I look at challenges as an opportunity to get through, not to quit,” said Ewing. “I never even thought of it.”
He’s also not thinking of filing any legal action against the organizers either. “I’m not that kind of guy,” said Ewing. “Someone probably could be held accountable, but I signed up for it. I put my name down on my piece of paper. I’m a man of my word.”
Ewing is even reluctant to ask friends and family for money to help with his medical bills. “I hate even that idea,” he said. “But I could to suck up my pride.”
Noble notions aside, Ewing’s determination in the face of disaster is probably the most endearing part of his saga. “I gotta come back and come back stronger,” he said. “I feel like I hit the reset button on my life.”
The Clint Ewing Benefit Car and Bike Show is on Saturday, October 5, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at Nojoqui Falls Park. Call 805-693-1311 or see belairranch.net for more details. To donate to Clint’s cause, visit gofundme.com/3wk6wk.