When Austin Forkner made his pro debut in 2016 for Pro Circuit Kawasaki, expectations were high. He was coming off six Loretta Lynn Championships, and two Monster Energy Cup wins in the Super-mini and All-Star classes. In his rookie outdoor season, he podiumed 5 times with a win at the final round at Iron Man. He has shown incredible speed and has been a favorite for a championship almost every year. Unfortunately, injuries are the primary reason the top step of the podium at the end of the season has eluded him. Austin took some time while getting some tattoo work as he heals from shoulder surgery to update us on his career.
Jamie Guida - Vital MX: The last couple of seasons have been a struggle and I know that you're frustrated. Talk about the multiple surgeries recently.
Austin Forkner: Well, it was my third shoulder surgery in four months. I tore my shoulder practicing in December. I tore my labrum, and then got it fixed right after, which is why I did East Coast. Then the crash with Jett broke my collarbone and re-tore it, which I just dealt with. It really wasn't terrible. I mean, it was obviously good enough for me to win Foxborough. This time I literally just tipped over in a turn three weeks before Pala and just popped it. My surgeon told me there's no way it would have done that with how he did the surgery just from falling in a turn. He said it must have been hanging on by a thread. He asked if I’d had any recent bad crashes and I told him about breaking the collarbone in Arlington. He felt it was probably 80% re-torn from that and then popped the rest of the way with the tip over.
Vital MX: You told us preseason that you felt you guys had found something with the bike. Things were getting better and you were feeling really confident. It's just been such a roller coaster of emotions for you.
Austin: I know, it sucks. To start with a sixth at Pala while being hurt didn’t feel too bad. I think my best result last year was a sixth. Sixth is nothing to be pumped about, but last season that was my best finish all season. I felt it was a step in the right direction. But I knew it wasn't good because I was taking all the meds I could on race day and it was still sore, it was still hurting. I told my team I can be there every weekend. I can do it. But just know if I fall on it in practice, I'm probably done for the day. We decided to get it fixed. I was disappointed because I knew that coming into this year I was only going to get better. And as we got back to the East Coast tracks, I was only going to get better. I'm not a huge fan of the West Coast dirt. But I knew it's not if you crash, it's when.
Vital MX: How’s your mental state been? It has to be difficult balancing the negatives and positives?
Austin: Yeah. It's hard. I've been through it before. I'm so used to injuries. I know the whole cycle of it, but yet the cycle still happens. This is how the cycle started off. I tell myself, “I'm out for outdoors. Well, outdoors is hot, it's sweaty, and long motos. Nobody likes outdoors anyway”. And now I really want to be out there. During the initial part of being injured, you're like, “dude, screw this. I'll be back for supercross”. Now I want to be out there, you know? I miss it. I wanted to see how much better I could get this outdoor season and try to get some podiums, maybe a win. There’s a depression stage of “why me?”. Why did this happen again? I know every single part of the stage of being hurt, but it happens the same way every single time.
Vital MX: Do you have a mental coach? Or someone you talk to regularly, such as a family member or close friend?
Austin: My fiancé, Rylee. And Robbie Reynard because he's been through every injury that you can go through. Rylee really helps with the emotional stuff. Being a female, she’s more compassionate. Robbie, he's going to have a little bit of compassion too, but he's going to say, “Alright, it happened. Now let’s get better. Let's get back to it”. I go to my parents, also. Robbie is strictly from the riding perspective. Rylee is my significant other. I go to her for all problems, and she sees me day in, day out. She's been with me for almost all my injuries. So, her for most things.
Vital MX: Your contract is through 2024. Originally, you thought you were going to 450s. Injuries changed that. Is the plan to be on a 250 all of 2023, or try to go 450 outdoors?
Austin: (Laughing) Yeah, yeah. We talked about that. That's pretty much already decided.
Vital MX: I'm assuming you can't confirm?
Austin: I've never been told that I can't say so. I don't really know if I should or shouldn't, but that's definitely been talked about. All I'll say is definitely 250 for supercross.
Vital MX: So, It's possible?
Austin: Yeah, it's definitely possible.
Vital MX: Is it hard for you to watch the Nationals and not be there?
Austin: It wasn't for the first couple. I didn't watch last weekend. At first I was at home in the air conditioning and they're sweating their balls off at the races. And now I'm like, “Yep, this sucks”. I didn't watch last weekend. Red Bud is my favorite track and I knew the dirt was going to be great. I just couldn't watch.
Vital MX: Are you impressed or surprised by your teammate, Jo Shimoda’s results?
Austin: To be honest, I'm not really surprised with how he's been riding outdoors. He was really strong outdoors last year. I think he's found a little bit of aggression and that's good. It's good for him. Good to see.
Vital MX: You mentioned that it's going to be a couple of months before you can get back on a bike. What are you doing to stay busy?
Austin: Playing video games. And we got a new puppy, so I've been taking care of him. A lot of nothing really. Rylee’s been working a lot and we’ve been chilling. A lot of just relaxing. I'm done relaxing now and I want to start working out again. I want to start doing everything again.
Vital MX: Yeah, props to her. She's been doing shoots for Guess and some other people, right?
Austin: Yeah, Guess, Revice Denim, and some other people. She's been killing it with her modeling. She's been modeling for some big companies.
Vital MX: Last question before I let you go. You’ve been with Robbie pretty much your whole career. Has there ever been a thought to try something different just to see how it goes?
Austin: I like training with Robbie. I like his mindset, I like his tracks, I like everything. But as far as the team goes and them wanting me to be in California more, it could end up making sense to do something else. If I’m in California it doesn’t make sense to train with Robbie. If the team ends up making me move out here or live out here full time, then yeah, it makes sense to try something else. If it's up to me, I would really like to stay with Robbie and not live in California full time.