Since he was a kid Zack Ruff always dreamed of becoming a professional motocross rider.
All he did was tear up terrain on his dirt bike.
Last year when the Canadian Arenacross Championship came to Penticton and the South Okanagan Events Centre, an event that features the top Canadian and international riders fighting for every inch of the track, amateurs of all ages and categories were welcome to join. Ruff was one of them.
Fast forward to today and Ruff just completed his first outdoor season as a pro as he competed in all the Canadian national races. Ruff finished 19th overall in MX2.
“I had a few bad motos, a few DNFs (did not finish) but my best finish was sixth in Walton, Ont.,” said Ruff, who also raced in Kamloops, Nanaimo, Calgary, Morden, Man., Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario for the final. “Travelling the country has been neat.”
Ruff now wears No. 39 at nationals as he competed in the Monster Energy Outdoor Nationals for Canadian Motosport Racing Corporation. Racing in Penticton again on Remembrance Day and Saturday for the Canadian Arenacross Championship, Ruff is now considered one of the top riders for the show. However, he knows he still has work to do.
“I learned I have to be more consistent for next year,” said Ruff. “I think I can be in the top 10 in almost every round. I have to be in really good shape, put in a lot of work practising and riding.”
He still remembers what last year at the SOEC was like as he said it went over really good.
“I think Robin Gibbs does a really good job promoting it,” he said. “He seems to put on a good show. The crowd seems to like it. He makes it fun for the riders.”
This weekend, Ruff is concentrating on getting a really good start.
“Just ride my best,” said Ruff, who will have family and friends in attendance. “I think it’s just cool to race in front of your hometown. I enjoy arenacross a little more than outdoors sometimes. I tend to do better at arenacross.”
While he knows there will be eyes on him, fans will also be watching for former Canadian Arenacross champ Kyle Beaton, a Vancouver resident who he said is a strong competitor in arenas.
“He will definitely be up there,” said Ruff.
Other top riders in town are Scott Saura, Kevin Lepp, Trevor Carlson, Kyle Keast, Jake Andretti of Washington and Josh Edwards of California. Once again, the professional riding contingent will be joined by amateur riders of all ages and categories.
“Interest level from riders is greater from the first time,” said Gibbs. “Have amazing facilities in Penticton. Good organziers. Crowd was good. We have more pro riders coming. The depth of talent, there is definitely no clear winner. It’s definitely going to be competitive.”
Gibbs is expecting to have 5,000 people in the stands during the two days.
“I always have a bit of butterflies as it’s a big undertaking,” said Gibbs. “I have not heard one negative comment. I think we have an event that is going to grow.”
On Thursday, the public is welcome to a meet and greet with the riders from 3 to 6 p.m. on the main concourse of the SOEC. Fans will also have a chance to watch the riders practice. Tickets for the Parkers Dodge Ram Arenacross are $40 (adults) and $20 (Child) inclusive of fees. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ValleyFirstTix.com, by phone at 1-877-SOEC-TIX (763-2849) or in person at the SOEC Box Office and the Wine Country Visitor Centre. For more information visit www.pentictonmx.com.