American Bullfighter/Paddle Boarder Episode Recap

Richard Hammond‘s crash course for this week was a mighty one. Not only did the Hamster have to muster up the strength to go face-to-face with a hearty thousand-pound bull, but he had to embrace the cold ocean waves to walk on water as a paddle boarder. Wowsa!

First up, Richard was in Snook, Texas, where he teamed up with skilled bullfighter Clint Hopping, who broke down the nitty gritty of what exactly a bullfighter a.k.a. the rodeo clown does. He’s the hero of the ring, really, as it’s his job to distract the bull. Um, sounds pretty scary right? As Clint explained in the show, “Whenever I call to get health insurance, it’s in the top two dangerous things you could ever do.”

Here, in this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, Clint discusses the safety precautions on set. Watch as Richard comically chimes in with his concerns.

Unfortunately for Richard, he had to change up his classic cowboy gear for a T-shirt and shorts, as it was time for a little Bullfighting 101. Clint and his bullfighting colleague, Charles, introduced Richard to the “barrel,” a makeshift bull constructed out of a wheelbarrow, plus explained what “Shooting the gap” is all about–the classic safety maneuver where if a rider falls off a bull, the bullfighter only has a minute to get between them and the bull. A human shield, if you will. To ease Hamster’s nerves, Clint assured him that he does has have one ace in the hole — the bull cannot turn as quickly as a human, thus a bullfighter’s agility works in his favor.

Before he could run for the hills to hide, Richard got decked out in some protective gear so he could experience the real thing–a real live enraged bull. It didn’t matter how much paddling he was suited up in, Richard still felt “very small and very English.” And in a matter of seconds, a lighting-quick Hamster bolted into the ring without as much of a blink of an eye. Phew! A second and much feistier bull was close behind and Richard just barely missed this bull by the horn. Eek! After his nail-biting tutorial had concluded, a frazzled Richard wondered how does a bullfighter relax after risking their lives in such a manner? Well, nothing soothes an adrenaline-pumping bullfighting mind like a little fishing.

Once back at the arena, a nervy Richard knew it was time to buck up and face what was coming for him. Clint, however, was concerned about his “Hollywood face getting mutilated on his watch,” so Richard was saved by the bell. He would not be going one-on-one with a 1,400-pound bull after all. A relieved Richard opted to watch the craziness from the stands and observe Clint work his magic as a “true American bullfighter.”

On the island of Maui, Richard prepped himself to master an ancient Hawaiian watersport called stand-up paddle boarding, as he would be required to compete against some of the sport’s best competitors in the grueling eight-mile Gorge Paddle Challenge on Oregon’s Hood River. Definitely not “Baywatch,” my “Crash Course” friends.

So what is stand-up paddle boarding? Well, as Richard said in the show, “think of it like surfing with one long canoe paddle.” But when it comes to water and Richard, he doesn’t really fancy himself “a water baby,” as he’s mostly used to water “falling on his head” in his native England. His mentor, surf legend Dave Kalama — who invented modern paddle boarding as we know it with fellow surfer Laird Hamilton — assured him that it’s a bit easier than he thinks.

As we’ve seen throughout “Richard Hammond’s Crash Course” so far this season, Richard doesn’t shy away from a new task, regardless of how skeptical or nervous he might be. Picking up the paddle boarding techniques was easy peasy, and dare we say, Richard looked pretty darn content gliding on the glistening ocean water. But while this test-run seemed promising, being race-ready for the Hood River’s choppier waters would be the real challenge.

To get a better understanding about his friendly paddle board, wide-eyed Richard was schooled on what it takes to bring one of these bad boys to life — from tracing around the board template and breaking out the saw to sanding the board. This moment was seemingly just the thing Richard needed to get geared up about his big race!

Now at Hood River in Oregon, Richard’s pre-race jitters were front and center, mostly thanks to the “mad” wind setting in. Dave assured him the day was absolutely perfect. Two-time world champion paddle boarder Kai Lenny also stepped in to offer Richard a few tips, but Richard only wanted to know if he’d make it back in one piece.

And the blown horn sounded and a wobbly Richard was on his way in the amateur group while Dave and Kai jetted off in the elite category. However, standing on his own two feet would prove difficult and Hamster attempted to maneuver his board on his knees… as the water allowed. Frustration set in for the exhausted Englishman, and a lifeguard soon came to the rescue to help him to shore. Despite not crossing the finish line, Richard’s respect for the sport was unquestionable. He showed extreme courage as a paddle board newbie and that’s incredibly admirable.

Tell us: How do you think Richard did in the rodeo ring? And do you think he gave it his all on Hood River?

MacKenzie Wilson