A Bond of Generations – Father and Sons Riding the Wall of Death
Shawn Ives and his two sons, 26-year-old Kile and 29-year-old Cody, are keeping two-wheeled history alive with their Ives Brothers Wall of Death. Creating a bond of generations, a father figure is so important in developing a family business and this particular family has a trust and belief in each other that will last them all their lives.
This amazing story began many years ago when Shawn was a stunt rider in the Globe of Death, a spherical cage in which riders loop-the-loop and perform all kinds of mind-blowing stunts. The two boys joined their dad in the globe and then moved on to the Wall of Death about six years ago.
The Ives family travel together eight months out of the year, crossing the country, setting up the Wall, performing, tearing down and moving on to the next show. Dad serves as the announcer for the show and the brothers ride the Wall. Part of their show consists of both brothers on the Wall at the same time. This requires the utmost in precision timing and focus. It is so dangerous that many Wall of Death shows do not even attempt duel riders.
Visiting the Ives Brothers Wall of Death at the Eustis Spring Bike Rally & Music Festival, I felt a bit like Kurt Vonnegut’s character, Billy Pilgrim in the novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Like Billy, I felt unstuck in time (Billy, uncontrollably, moved back and forth from his past as a soldier in WWII to the present). Yes, I was at the Eustis Spring Festival, April, 2021, but attending the Ives Brothers’ motorcycle thrill show, I could have been at a county fair in 1921. Vintage motorcycles, a huge hand-built wooden barrel, and daredevil riders defying gravity with tricks and stunts on the wall! It’s a great experience, and these death-defying walls of Death have been around for over 100 years.
The Wall of Death has its origin in the board track motorcycle races of the early 1900’s. A type of racing that was so dangerous and deadly for both participants and spectators that it was eventually outlawed. The sport evolved into the Wall of Death thrill shows that were extremely popular at fairs, circuses and festivals. The Wall is a cylinder constructed of wooden slats some 25 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. Spectators view the show, looking down from the top. Once upon a time, more than 100 Walls of Death arenas performed across the county, but now the Ives Brothers are one of only four remaining. There is little difference in the shows of today and those back in the early years.
There is nothing quite like the Wall of Death Show… you have to experience it. It will scare you, thrill you, excite you and amaze you. As the bikes roar around in the barrel, the structure itself vibrates as if it is about to explode. You’ll expect the riders to lose control and crash over the top into the spectators.
I’ve seen a number of Wall of Death shows going back to my first one at the Duval County Fair in Jacksonville, Florida in 1946. The Ives Brothers Show is as good as it gets. The legacy and tradition is alive and in good hands with these father and sons daredevil performers. This is far more than just a carnival act. And the brothers are not just stunt riders, they are skilled motorcyclists and racers. Like I said, you have to see it to believe it.
Born To Ride is proud to celebrate Father’s Day with this inspiring story of a dad and his boys, keeping an important part of motorcycle history alive and kickin’!
by Tom Rose
Learn more about the Ives Brothers at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ivesbrothers/
Photos by Tom Rose: 1. Wall of Death set up in Eustis. 2. Cody Ives, ready to ride the wall 2a. Inside the Wall of Death
Photos courtsy the Ives Brothers: 3. Kile Ives rides the wall 4. The Ives Brothers ride the wall