Q&A: Dave ‘Big Kahuna’ Nicholas

We speak to the Xterra founder about the origins of off-road tri


When it comes to triathlon, Hawaii is plain greedy: the Big Island is the spiritual home of Ironman while the Xterra World Champs will take place in Maui this weekend.


A short island hop away in Honolulu, you will find the larger-than-life father of the Xterra brand, Dave ‘The Big Kahuna’ Nicholas.

We caught up with him at the HQ of Team Unlimited, the series’ organisers…

220: Introduce us to your sport, Dave.

Dave: Well, I invented Xterra and the first race was in Maui, in November 1996.

We already produced world cup mountain bike races for the UCI, held surf lifesaving and swim contests and did some running races. Putting the three together for an off-road tri was a natural progression.

Road triathlon is a contest of sustained output – head down, hands on aerobars, pedalling at a fast spin then turnover and pace on the run.

If you put your head down in Xterra you’re coming off the bike! Being able to negotiate the terrain is more important than pure speed.

You must climb and descend, ride ruts, roots and rocks. Our courses are never dangerous or impossible, though. We all fall and it’s no big deal.

Roadies need to come and try. No cars, no exhaust fumes and Mother Nature is your biggest competitor.

How does the business model work? 

Events are operated by a licence from Team. The cost is confidential and any individual or country can apply.

Most licences are exclusive, which means the company owns the Xterra rights for their country.

We encourage the licence holder to operate a series of races within their nation and most have been successful.

Globally, we have a combined number of triathlon and trail run events of over 200.

What are your thoughts on Xterra returning to the UK?

The first European Xterra was in Exeter in 2000 and finished at the castle. We then had three years in Wales but each year the rain simply killed the event.

I’m over the moon about it returning.


Inspired by the Xterra World Championships in Maui, Hawaii? You could qualify at Xterra England – held in Cranleigh, Surrey on the 24th August 2014 with 40 qualifying slots on offer for age groupers. More here