Over The Lip

Mike Higgins jumps atop the roof of his race track after making his winning jump at the 2013 Pismo Beach Huckfest — raising his arms in victory

Victory In The Sand Dunes

The Underdog Does Win Sometimes
By Michael Sommer | January 28, 2014

Like many of you, I enjoy positive stories about people pulling their resources together and working hard to achieve success. Maybe this stems from being an American and the spirit of our country where we seem to enjoy rooting for the underdog. It’s inspiring to see an individual or a team rise up against all odds and extend their arms high in victory, especially against a more powerful opponent. These are the types of stories that fill us with hope and inspiration, reinforcing the belief that just about anything is possible as long as we stay focused on the job ahead of us and continually strive to reach our goals.
In a way, Sand Sports magazine has endured this type of battle on the high seas in the publishing world. Being a small niche publication in the huge automotive and powersports segment (dominated by national publishing companies with multiple titles and lots of resources), our philosophy is simple; we rely on a knowledgeable staff of enthusiasts who produce quality editorial content that’s accurate and professional. While we’d like to see a larger national distribution of Sand Sports magazine, making it easier for our readers to find at their local newsstands, we face a lot of challenges such as mainstream exposure for the off-roading sport as well as a distribution game that doesn’t necessarily favor the underdog.
Which brings us back to the topic of cheering for the underdog. We do it, you probably do it from time to time, and people in small midwestern towns are also cheering the underdog. Earlier this year, most sand enthusiasts never heard the name Mike Higgins. There’s a valid reason for that. Mike is not a high-profile star and it wasn’t his intention to seek fame amongst his fellow duners. But that’s exactly what happened as the result of his recent efforts. The owner of the B&L sponsored sand truck featured on the cover of this issue (as well as pages 28-30), some may think that Mike doesn’t fit the profile of an “underdog.” But, when it comes to the story surrounding his recent rise to notoriety, you’ll agree he overcame a lot of obstacles while striving for his goal.
Before we tell you exactly what Mike did, we should first provide some background about how everything transpired over time. We’ll pick it up from October of 2012 when photos and video of the Pismo Beach Huckfest began appearing on the internet. Being the type of guy that enjoys jumping his truck and catching major air at the dunes, Mike knew right away that he wanted to attend Huckfest the following year and participate in the competition. It seemed simple enough. However, Mike had no idea what the following months would entail while preparing for the trip and getting his equipment ready to haul out to California.
To begin with, Mike realized his race truck needed to be modified and set up for long distance jumping in the dunes. The feature article on his truck describes that in further detail. In essence, the engine was swapped with another motor he had in his garage and the gear ratios were modified so the truck performed better in the sand. After he sorted everything out and made sure the vehicle was ready for flight, Mike hauled everything to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes on the weekend prior to the 4th of July holiday, about two months before Huckfest. He thought this would be a good opportunity to do some testing, after which the truck would be disassembled, powder coated and a new body installed before heading to California.
Here’s what ended up happening, and the way many of you first came to know of Mike “Hollywood Higgins.” With spotters in place and a clear path in front of him, Mike began jumping off the top of Test Hill, which is the largest hill in Michigan’s Silver Lake sand dunes. He found a sweet table top section that was about eighty feet long, with a smooth approach up the face and a nice slope on the backside that made for a perfect landing. Mike jumped this a few times and everything was going great. Even the crew from Dune TV was on hand, shooting video and capturing the action as Mike jumped higher and farther with each launch. He estimates that he was “hucking” his truck about 160 feet. He then parked the truck for a bit and watched his friends jump their sand cars.
After about an hour, Mike buckled back in and sparked the motor and made another pass at the hill. This time, however, things didn’t go so well. He hit the jump a little hotter than previous attempts and, once the truck left the ground, he could feel the wind get under the front end and point it toward the sky. He tapped the brakes and began repeating to himself, “get on the ground,” “get on the ground.” Moments later, the rear touched down first and broke the back of the frame. This rocked the truck forward and slammed the front end down, which hit hard enough to shear the bolts on the fuel cell and eject it from the vehicle. The mishap also broke a front A-arm, spindle and a few small components.
Dune TV captured the whole event and wasted no time putting it on the internet. This is the video that many of you saw on YouTube (nearly a half-million views to date), titled “The Biggest Jump At Silver Lake Sand Dunes.” Mike told us that he hauled the truck out of the dunes, wasted no time tearing it apart and fixing the broken items, and made sure not to participate in the “chatter” from all the armchair pros who commented on the video.
Needless to say, Mike fixed the truck with time to spare and headed to California for Huckfest, this past August. Thanks to the internet and social media, he was able to make contact with a lot of friendly people who saved a camping spot in the dunes for him and his fiancé, Sharon. You can read more about this year’s Pismo Beach Huckfest and see photos of Mike and Sharon’s winning vehicles in action in the November / December 2013 issue.
It may seem as if we dedicated a lot of space in this issue to Mike Higgins and his Huckfest winning truck. But we think he deserves it. It’s not everyday the underdog travels 2,000 miles across country and beats a bunch of locals, including professional trophy truck driver BJ Baldwin, at a long jump contest in the sand.

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