COURTESY PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS
Bull riding attracts some 104 million viewers annually in more than 250 events worldwide.
Twenty of the world's best bull riders gather in Honolulu to compete for an $80,000 purse
Sometimes a hyphen makes all the difference. The Professional Bull Riders show is coming to Hawaii -- but are these professionals who ride bulls, or riders of professional bulls?
Professional Bull Riders
Cheeseburger Island Style PBR Hawaii All Star Challenge
Place: Blaisdell Center
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Tickets: $20 and up, at Blaisdell box office and Ticketmaster locations, online at ticketmaster.com
Also: Cheeseburger Waikiki, affiliated with Cheeseburger Island Style, at Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue, offers live-music bull-riding celebrations at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 941-2400.
At any rate, they'll be tearing up the Blaisdell Center on Friday and Saturday and that's no bull. It's called the "Cheeseburger Island Style PBR Hawaii All Star Challenge" and features the top 15 bull riders winnowed out by an earlier competition -- the Built Ford Tough Series -- plus five riders determined by fans voting online. That's right, the dusty, macho, sweaty sport of rodeo has gone Internet.
Just in case you're wondering, Cheeseburger Island Style is not a particular method of staying atop a bull. It's a sponsor.
Riders include two-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes of Brazil, Chris Shivers of Louisiana and Justin McBride of Oklahoma, competing for $80,000 in prize money. That's a lot of cheeseburgers. Last weekend, Maui saw the bull riders compete at War Memorial Stadium for a $50,000 purse. Want fries with that?
Are you getting the idea that doggin' bulls is a serious business? According to the sport's publicity wranglers, professional bull riding is given more than 500 hours of prime-time televised programming a year, with 104 million viewers following more than 800 sanctioned bull riders in more than 250 events, including those in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. No wonder they need the Internet to keep things straight.
We caught up with rider Chris Shivers on Maui to get the word, as it were, straight from the horse's mouth.
"Never seen scenery like this before. If I had to go somewhere on vacation, this would be the one!" said Shivers, who was the first PBR champion to earn more than $3 million, and so doesn't have to save up for vacations. He's considered one of the best bull riders in the history of the sport.
On non-bull days, Shivers is into "hog hunting" and rides horses every day on his ranch in Louisiana, overseeing about 200 head of Black Angus cattle.
For food or for fun? "Aw, nobody grows cows for fun," said Shivers.
COURTESY PROFESSIONAL BULL RIDERS
Riding bulls isn't anything like riding those mechanical machines in bars, says bull rider Chris Shivers. "Look at a bull, it's always movin' forward; a buckin' machine stays put. You're only fightin' yourself on a buckin' machine."
How does one get started bouncing on bulls?
"Grew up in Louisiana and had an ol' buddy who was into ridin,' and so that's how I got started," says Shivers. "I was only 13 and my folks didn't care for the idea of me gettin' on a bull, but I finally bugged 'em enough so they had to do something."
Once he got on, he held on. Pretty soon he was going the full eight seconds on "four, five bulls a week. Discovered that it's something I just love.
"Always liked the big bulls, but I've also ridden little amateur bulls that just hop around, nothin' that would try to knock you off and then try to eat you. The thing about our practice is, it's not really practice. Or it's the hardest practice in the world. Nothin' for it but to get on and stay on as many as you possibly can."
How about those bull-riding mechanisms in bars? They sure could throw Debra Winger.
"Aw, those buckin' machines ain't nothin' close. Look at a bull, it's always movin' forward; a buckin' machine stays put. You're only fightin' yourself on a buckin' machine."
The bulls are pros, after all. Shivers said the bulls travel with the riders, coming over on an airplane a few days before a show. Must have been a real cattle car.
"These bulls is tested. They ain't right out of the barn. They been up and down the road and they know the deal. That's what they're here for. They're here to work," said Shivers.
"I know a lot of these bulls by name. We see maybe 85 percent of these bulls all year long. Go to the East Coast, you'll see some East Coast bulls; same for the West Coast. But pretty much all the time it's the same old bull."
So, after the rodeo dust has settled for the night, do the professional riders and the professional bulls go out for a beer?
"Ha! Might come to that someday, it might."