At Race-Dezert, we partnered with onX Offroad to highlight all the offroad racing and tell stories at King of the Hammers that happened throughout the week. From race coverage to the stories, we wrote about unique people and vehicle builds that make the culture of King of the Hammers so great. Our goal was to be a one-stop for all things King of the Hammers, and with OnX Offroad and their superior mapping technology – it made our job traversing the barren desert to shoot these stories a whole lot easier.
King of the Hammers is often referred to as the toughest offroad race in North America, and it deserves that title without a doubt. The King of the Hammers is home to Ultra 4 where 800 horsepower rock crawlers with Trophy Truck-like suspension take to Johnson Valley. They make their way through the roughest boulders and desert to prove who is the King of the Hammers. But KOH isn’t just one race; no, it is a week-long event that gathers nearly 100,000 people to the lake bed to spectate all other forms of racing and events. There is a racing class for just about everyone, from unlimited trucks and class 1 buggies to UTVs, Class 11, and Motos. In recent years, it has become one of or if not the largest attended offroad race in the world.
As a photographer and writer, if I was going to shoot the entire week at KOH, I needed to know the racecourse and surrounding areas like the back of my hand. Knowing where to go to catch the perfect corner or where the best light will be and even know how long it will take me to get from each photo location. Using the onX Offroad app, I would usually have to upload the course GPX file, but this year the team at onX had the entire Hammer Town and courses mapped out automatically for the whole week. So if you had the onX Offroad app, there was no way you were getting lost in the sea of RVs and trailers we call “Hammer Town.” One of the most difficult parts of KOH is not having any cell service, so if you did not plan ahead and download the offline maps, you could not do much. But you could reference the paper map as if you are Christopher Columbus navigating across the Atlantic Ocean, but that is not fun. It is simple: plan ahead and download the offline maps.
In the desolate dry desert of Johnson Valley, telling someone to meet you next to a bush or a rock is extremely difficult, especially if you plan a photo shoot with someone. Dropping waypoints on where our shooting location was vital to share with the team. Once they had the waypoint, they could navigate to that location utilizing the “go-to waypoint” feature. It draws a direct line of sight path, so you are aware of the general direction of the waypoint. Whether it was planning a shooting location for the trophy Ultra 4 King of the Hammers race or meeting up with Joey Leers and his incredible Jeep Lj to tell his story, onX Offroad had us prepared. We were even able to utilize the 3D mode to find the highest peak we could drive up for a shooting location or view some of the most intense canyons on where to stand.
But it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows shooting King of the Hammers, like the racers will tell you, it is the most difficult offroad race. And I will tell you it is one of the most physically challenging races to shoot, not only taking a toll on your body as you hike nearly a mile into a canyon and wait for the race cars to show up. Then to only realize that you left your water in your car and don’t want to risk going back to it to grab it because you might miss your shot.
Shooting KOH is difficult on your vehicle as well; I snapped a CV axle on day three while shooting the Class 10 vs UTV grudge match – UTVs lost, as did I. Luckily, I was utilizing the onX tracking feature and just followed my tracks back the way I came for an easy limp to my campsite. Just a day later, I blew up my rear differential and trailered my Lexus home that night 117 miles to borrow a friend’s Jeep, so I can have a vehicle to drive around the lake bed for the next day of shooting. It was indeed a long night. These are just some of the trials and tribulations in order to get our job done as a photographer and writer to bring the best possible story.
Luckily I had no issues with my friend’s Jeep as we went on to shoot throughout the rest of the week in Johnson Valley at KOH. As the week came to a close, we watched Randy Slawson become crowned King of the Hammers amongst many other competitors who prevailed in their own classes, and unfortunately, others would not do so well. We would meet new people and tell their unique stories because that is just a part of what makes the King of the Hammers just so great. It is an event that brings the offroad community together for the good of the sport. There truly is no other event like it, and with the support of onX Offroad, we were able to make it one of our most vital tools at King of the Hammers to execute our mission of telling stories.
Try onX Offroad today, free for seven days at Onxmaps.com. Get outside, go farther, and go explore local trails near you.