THE GRIPS Sean has been working really hard on these grips for a while, I mean his schedule is pretty tight as well. He wakes up, drops off his roof as he doesn’t have a front door, does a rail with no bitch run on the way to the shop to buy milk and probably spends the rest of the day in a graveyard. So fitting in time to design his own signature grips was something quite unique, a lot like Sean. Material new „pruven“ elastomer/compoundrubber | Hardness 30° | Size 155mm x 29mm | Colors matt black, matt olive, matt neon yellow, matt reflex blue | Specials incl. éclat nylon corkx barends designed in conjunction with Sean Burns | non-parallel shape designed for hand comfort | subtle contact areas for control | flange removal marking | Weight 100g (3.52oz : 0.22lbs) (per pair without barends) | RRP £7.99
SEAN BURNS | ASHLEY CHARLES | CHESTER BLACKSMITH | DARRYL TOCCO | RANDY TAYLOR
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Contents — Issue One, April ‘11. Edwin De La Rosa’s NYC ......................................... 30 The life and times of Edwin in and around New York City.
People Hate You When You’re Changing...... 40 Steven Hamilton opens the door to his sort of life.
The United House .............................................................. 50 United at their new winter reteat.
Free Bird ....................................................................................... 62 Two wild weeks with Eddie Cleveland.
The Mat Hoffman Interview.................................... 74 Inside the mind of the Condor.
Gazza’s Paradise ................................................................... 90 The DUB team double the population in Majorca.
Cake Or Cat Sick ............................................................... 102 Moving on with the Fit team.
Strays .............................................................................................. 114 Photography with no particular home.
How To Start A Cult ...................................................... 140 An informal chat with Robbie Morales.
History: A Penguin and a Mole ............................................................... 14 The Greatest: Dan Cox’s favourite halfcab ............................................. 18 Extended Family: Shanaze Reade ........................................................... 20 Geoff Slattery: Bowl riding ..................................................................... 24 Colts: Shayn ‘Shanky’ Steels .................................................................... 26 Video Days: Shaun Butler ..................................................................... 132 Quitters: Caleb Kilby ............................................................................ 136
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Departure — Josh Bedford kick starts the first issue of The Albion, although he probably didn’t know it at the time. It seems like such a long time ago that I tagged along with the Mutiny crew for a week in Barcelona. It was early November to be exact. I knew I wouldn’t try and get a trip article out of it, but at the same time I knew it would be a shame to miss some good riding with those guys. Most of all I wanted to start shooting for The Albion. This trip was the first thing shot for the magazine. It was so early on we hadn’t even got a name. The team would ask me about what I was shooting for. “Erm… Not sure yet” I’d cagily reply. “Is it for this new mag?” “Yeah, I think so”, again, being very vague. “What’s it called?” Someone else would ask. “Don’t know yet.” There would be a bit of a silence after that then someone else might add “So when is it going to be out?” “I’ve got no idea” and this last part I genuinely meant. After months of travel, preparations, phone calls and late nights we finally got it together. Josh gets the ball rolling with this 360, at a new spot in BCN and in our brand new magazine. Enjoy! Photography by DANIEL BENSON
History: A Penguin and a Mole — The history of BMX happens to be one of those tales that has many beginnings. With that precept I will now reveal a little of what I know personally about how we all came to be the children of the BMX bicycle. Words by TIM MARCH
Lets first of all get back to the basics and look at the history of Motocross, a pastime that our sport of BMX is named after. The first recorded organised and official off-road motorcycle event was in the UK and put on by the ACU (Auto Cycle Union) and took place in 1904. By 1909 the first Scottish Six Day Trial had taken place and the evolution of the motorcycle as an off road weapon of choice was well on its way. Soon the delicate balancing and strict scoring of Trials were dispensed with in favour of a flat-out race to be the first rider across the finish line. This was called a Scramble, as in ‘a rare old scramble.’ Scrambles quickly spread to the continent and this resulted in the birth of a new word. The French word for motorcycle (motocyclette) or Moto for short was combined in a portmanteau with ‘Cross Country’ and the name Motocross stuck for good. UK Scrambles launched the off road race phenomenon worldwide. The very first official Scramble took place at Camberley in the county of Surrey GB in 1924. The very first beginnings of the sport of BMX were in these young roots, from our little island where the young fans of Scrambling began copying their heroes. Speaking to my Dad recently (he was born in 1934) he remembers racing
around tracks, and jumping off piles of dirt on bicycles. He was doing this with big groups of mates in 1944, most of it done on 26 inch wheeled bikes with race plates. They used girl’s frames to make the bike slide easily as you could lean through the frame. This off-road bike ‘tracking’ had apparently been going on for years and he remembers his dad telling him that he was doing the same kind of thing around the turn of the century.
Now that takes care of how off-road bicycle riding would’ve initially started to imitate the motorcyclists but it does miss out another very important aspect of what the word BMX has come to encompass today. The stunt riding element that is now a whole lot more popular than BMX racing. Stunt riders need some roots, so here’s one of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ proportions. Circus was big business at the turn of the century with the owners always looking for unusual and crowd pulling death-defying acts. In Nimes, France, bicycle stuntman Allo “Dare Devil” Diavalo attempted and pulled off what he claimed to be the first ever ‘loop the loop’ in 1900, in front of a packed audience. He was an instant hero and a man in demand; the news reached Circus owners world-wide and within a year Diavalo performed his amazing stunt to another packed house in Madison Square Garden NYC. By 1905 there were several bicycle riding stunt riders who were performing daily in circus’s on ramps feasibly as big as Danny Ways’ mega ramp (not as wide but as big in transition). Lets not forget, all this is happening 105 years ago. These amazing feats of daring and courage were then repeated and expanded upon by the legendary ‘Ancillotti Brothers’, ‘D’ZiZZi’ and my favourite, ‘Volo the
Volitant’ who rode his bike down an enormous 80ft long 40ft high incline before launching himself and bike 56ft in the air, landing on a separate platform and riding away totally unharmed as early as 1904. Now we have covered the seeds and the water and the formative years of this road less travelled, we can finish off this piece with the leaves and flora of the story. This is where California and more importantly Californians, with the incredible energy they have for creating global business empires out of having fun really comes into play. It involves how we ended up riding 20 inch wheeled bikes instead of another. Let’s roll back the years to the late 50’s and very early 1960’s and focus our attention on California’s southernmost city, San Diego. Here we’ll find a ‘kid bike cult’ that was emerging out of the melting pot of influences that led to kids customizing and modifying their bicycles to emulate and copy MX racers and also chopper and dragster riders. These kids were hip to trends and fashion and whilst not old enough to own a motorcycle themselves they were cool enough to pretend they were riding one. This cult of the custom bike was growing at a rapid rate in Cali. The kids were riding heavily modified 20 inch wheeled bikes which at the time were to become known as “Riser Bikes.” Southern California was a place that was already home to a thriving surf, skate and hotrod culture as well as being a Dirtbike haven. People were having some serious fun in the sun, with ladies doing their shopping in two piece bikinis and in the blink of an eye you could get your
burger, fries and a shake delivered to the side of your car by a Marilyn Monroe lookalike on roller skates. Without doubt you’d think you were in heaven, which of course you were. Up in Glendale the young son of a bicycle parts distributor named Pete Mole was scratching his head wondering why they had been shipping out hundreds of “Ape Hanger-Butterfly” handlebars, knobby tyres and Banana (solopolo) seats down the coast from their offices in Glendale to his San Diego dealers (130 miles away) at a ridiculous rate. He wasn’t and couldn’t sell that stuff anywhere else in California at the time and he had no idea why the sales on these three items were going mad down there. What was going on in San Diego that wasn’t going on anywhere else in California? He took a trip down the coast to check out what was happening. What he witnessed down there blew him away. Pete Mole hung around the area for a while speaking to his dealers who kept telling him about the ‘Riser Bike’ kids. Eventually Pete spotted these kids on their individually modified 20 inch wheeled bikes
This bike that was created originally by the kids came before any mass production model of bike. There was nothing like a “Riser Bike” before it came along. Being in the right place at the right time had been some good luck. Add to that Pete Mole’s vision and we have the beginnings of “Bicycle Motocross.” Now the majority of heads out there still think that the Stingray was the bike that kick started the Nationwide craze of BMX and whilst it might have been the most popular bike of that period it for sure was not the bike that was first to the start line. Pete Mole and his Dads company ‘John T Bill and co’, beat Schwinn to bring to the masses a bike that was not the ‘Stingray’, but a bike they commissioned and licensed Huffy to make on their behalf and for them to distribute. That bike was called the Huffy ‘Penguin’ and it hit the streets of California in March 1963 and it beat Schwinn hands down in the race for putting a ‘Riser Bike’ within reach of every young kid in the USA at a cost of $48. Schwinn very quickly copied this bike and called their version the Stingray.
with tall ape hanger bars, knobby tyres and banana seats riding round in big groups. Every time he would get down to San Diego over the next year or so and bump into them they’d be way more than the last time. Pete had a plan. The plan was to manufacture and sell complete bikes based on the “Riser Bikes” the San Diego kids were riding and his Dads company would distribute them. He thought the bikes would take off Nationwide. Good ole Pete, thank god for those SD kids.
Once these bikes were made and the kids of California got hold of them there was no turning back. The next ten years of bike riding on a twenty inch wheeled bike stateside would eventually spawn a huge worldwide industry whose home is still in the zip code of California (maybe twinned with Taiwan if you want to be really picky). From those humble beginnings of the Huffy Penguin in 63’ to 17 years later in 1980, we would have BMX tours by major US teams in the UK and the rest, as you know, is history.
The Greatest — Rollback maverick Dan Cox talks us through his favourite halfcab.
Photography by JOE COX
nvented by skateboarder Steve Caballero and originally performed on pools in the late 80s the ‘caballerial’ consisted of a fakie to forward 360 degree spin. By performing only half this spin the ‘half cab’ was born (thanks Wikipedia). Fast forward a few years and as an inescapable part of the most basic of tricks, the 180, the halfcab is one of the first tricks many riders learn. However, being one of the first tricks you learn does not make it redundant in possibility, as what keeps riding interesting (in my eyes at least) is putting the basics to use on as many different obstacles as you can find.
Anyway, being a fan of the halfcab myself The Albion asked me to pick out my favourite and write a little piece about why I liked it and its significance to me. Bob Scerbo was instantly the first thought in my head and I finally decided on the halfcab into the wedge in Barcelona (R.I.P) first seen in an Animal advert in Props 48 then on his unsurpassed ‘Can I Eat?’ section. I chose this half cab for a few reasons; I remember it being one of the original instances of the halfcab being used as a trick in itself, as opposed to just finishing off another trick and it was across a five foot gap into a thin as
fuck steep wedge! Having been to the spot you can’t even see the wedge until the last second so going at it backwards was enough to blow my young impressionable BMX mind. The fact that Scerbo also has an inimitable classic style means he therefore gets the small honour of holding a place in my BMX heart with my favourite halfcab. Honourable mentions; Ratboy after the ‘feeble to 180 full of picnic table CHECK!’ when he halfcab to barshags into the face of a passing college girl! Also Paul Osicka, Luc-e, Ian Schwartz and Patrick King all have to get a mention for pushing the boundries of half cabbery.
Extended Family — An afternoon with Olympic BMX racer Shanaze Reade.
Interview by RHYS COREN Photography by DANIEL BENSON
n California in the 1970s, it was a legal requirement for BMXers to have to pursue all the different disciplines involved in BMX. As the BMX craze permeated across the world, kids would be forced to race, jump, boost, air, cruise, balance and grind their way through every individual aspect of a single, unified ‘BMX’. But times and laws have changed. BMX has branched off into specific niches. One branch of the BMX family tree became an Olympic event. It also seems that we, as a nation, have one of the best of these Olympic-shaped BMXers. So, The Albion took a trip to Platt Fields Race Track in Manchester to meet this human bullet and grill her a little about freestyle’s long-lost racing ancestors, what it was like being on Blue Peter and see how heavy the expectations of a nation’s hope really felt on her lovely shoulders. So, I’d like you to meet Shanaze Reade, BMXer and Olympian.
Albion: OK. When I read your name, I didn’t know how to say it. How do you pronounce your first name? Shanaze: Go on, how would you? A: Shah-nayze? S: Yeah, spot on! A: Well, I’ve learnt it now. But what was your nickname at school? I thought ‘Shanaze the Graze’ would be good because you probably fell off your BMX a lot? S: Eh, no, it wasn’t. People called me ‘Speedy Readey’. A: SPEADY READEY! That’s awesome. I’m writing that down. My nicknames at school were all based on being ginger. S: That’s not very nice. A: Can you do any tricks on your BMX? S: X-ups, one handers, one footers, erm, table tops… That’s about it as far as my tricks go. A: What about that Olympic animation? You can do back flips on that! [There’s an ‘official’ cartoon introducing some of London 2012’s Olympic hopefuls that depicts Shanaze doing a backflip in front of a family, then encouraging them to do tricks too.] 20
S: Yeah! The granny was doing 360s. A: They were goofy 360s. S: What’s the difference? A: It’s kind of frowned upon. S: Is it? A: Yeah. Maybe. Anyway, on the train on the way down, we talked about how you were at the peak of physical prowess. S: Ha, urgh, rephrase that! A: Ok, in order to go that fast and jump everything you have quite an insane training regime? S: Yeah. A: What does that involve? What’s a usual week for you, say? S: I generally do two days a week in the gym, and that’s both leg stuff and upper body stuff, working on conditioning and training for speed. A: What time in the day? Do you get up at 6am like Rocky, drink some eggs and go for a run? S: Yeah, I chase a few chickens, jump a few fences on the way… A: Carry a log on your back through the snow? S: Exactly that! Then, in the winter, I do road rides for fitness and stuff and then three days a week at the BMX track.
A: How good do you think we could get at freestyle BMX if we had your trainer, coach and your Personal Assistant for a month? S: Er… A: I mean, we’re all fairly injured, decrepit, bad postured and self taught. S: Really? Does anyone in freestyle do gym work? They must train? A: Dave Mirra probably does. S: I know Nyquist used to. A: If freestyle ever got in the Olympics, though… S: It was meant to be. A: I’m really glad it isn’t… S: Me too. A: Yeah, the Olympics should be about the fastest, strongest humans… S: Yeah, you say that, but what about diving and trampoline? A: Nah. S: Do you not think? A: Boring. S: Well you guys, the freestyle guys, were supposed to be in the Olympics and not BMX! A: What? Wait… did you call us freestyle and you BMX? S: Ha, yeah. We’re BMX!
S: I HAVE GOOD GENETICS BEING HALF JAMAICAN AND HALF IRISH. I THINK THAT’S A GOOD BLEND. R: AND I BET YOU ARE PROBABLY QUITE GOOD AT DRINKING WITH THOSE GENES? A: We’re BMX. S: We’re BMX. You’re freestyle. A: You’re race. S: We’re BMX! A: Ok, ok, then I think this (pointing at the track) is the only form of BMX that should be in the Olympics. You have to be fast. S: And train… A: There’s no subjectivity in who wins. Whoever gets to that line (pointing at the finish line) wins. S: There’s no judges. A: Do you think that if you weren’t so pretty, you’d be doing as well? I mean, would you be doing so well if you were a bit of a trout? S: Good question… er… how am I supposed to answer that? Ha. These days, I agree, you might have to be the whole package. A: “I might be fast but I’m fucking good looking too, I’m Shanaze the full-package…” S: Shut up! A: Haha! I saw you were on the National Lottery. What other TV have you been on? S: Um, I did something for… A: Coronation Street? S: Yeah, Corrie! I sat in the pub and had a little appearance! A: Well, I was actually on The Bill once as a drug dealing BMXer. S: I know a load of people who’ve been on The Bill doing BMX stuff. A: Oh. S: Who else was with you that day? A: My mate Gay Dave. S: No, I don’t know Gay Dave. I’ve been on the news a lot, Blue Peter, children’s TV. Presented loads of stuff about other Olympic hopefuls and stuff. A: Why do you think you are so fast? S: So fat? A: Fast… S: I thought you said ‘fat’ then. I, um, 22
train exceptionally hard. A: But I mean naturally. What about you made you fast in the beginning? S: I have good genetics being half Jamaican and half Irish. I think that’s a good blend. My dad’s family is quite good at sport. A: And I bet you are probably quite good at drinking with those genes? S: Yeah, yeah I am actually. [Shanaze’s friend Levi and P.A. Corrine shake their heads.] A: Do you drink Vodka mixed with protein shakes? S: Vodka and protein? That sounds awful. A: Training whilst having fun! You should try it. What is an average night out with Shanaze? S: A night in on the sofa. A: Come off it? S: It is. A: Really? What are you, 24? S: 22! A: At the next Olympics do you think you’ll be able to enjoy it a bit more? S: Exactly, that’s what I want. A: Do you show off a bit when you’re there? Throw your weight about with your riders pass? S: Riders pass? A: Yeah, there must be some sort of elite Olympian pass that gets you all access? S: Do you know what? I just keep myself to myself and ride. A lot of the others do stupid stuff in the hotels and things. A: If you do win, do you think you’ll wear your medal everywhere? S: Yeah, every day. I’ll get it tattooed. I’ll have two big, black bodyguards next to me at all times. A: What do you say your job is when you’re getting chatted up? S: I just say I ride bikes. A: Really? You don’t say: ‘Well, I’m an Olympian’?
S: No, if they ask if I am any good, I say I am, yeah. But I never really brag. A: I once told a girl I was a big animals vet. S: Really? A: I told her I operated on a whale at medical school. She turned out to be a vet too and had pictures of herself operating on a giraffe. S: A whale? A: Yeah. Have you got any vices? Booze? S: Maybe. But because I train so much I don’t really drink. I don’t really miss it. But, when I get a chance to drink, I really go for it. A: We quite often can’t ride because of hangovers. S: Really? Do you guys have real drinking problems? How much do you drink on a Saturday? A: Usually more than on a Friday. The more I drink the better I get, just like you and your training. S: Hahaha. A: Do they do drug tests in BMX racing? S: Yeah, as well as random testing, you have to fill out a form telling them where you are for an hour a day every day of the week for the rest of your careers. Like, I have mine set to between 7am to 8am every day at my home. A: What if you aren’t there then? S: Then you get a strike. Three strikes and you are out! A: Ok, thanks. Where do you get the bus from to get back into town? S: You can get the 142 or 143 from just over there. A: Thanks, you’re not going to get asked this calibre of question by The Sun later are you? [The Sun newspaper was booked in after us for an interview.] S: No, I’m doing page three though. A: Are you!? S: No, you really will believe anything I say won’t you!?
Geoff Slattery — A casual conversation on the art of bowl riding. With his perfect blend of original lines, breakneck speed and butter smooth flow, Geoff Slattery is regarded as one of the world’s best bowl riders. After winning the BSD Bowl jam at Unit 23, The Albion sat down to talk to Geoff about riding bowls whilst eating burgers.
BOWL RIDING IS A BIT LIKE PLAYING CHESS.
” Interview by JAMES COX and STEVE BANCROFT
Albion: So how come you’re so good at riding bowls? Geoff: Well, I’ve always loved riding concrete. Nothing beats dropping in a bowl for the first time, not even airing anything, just pumping around feeling out the corners and lines. James Cox: It seems like the tricks you do are what you do while you’re waiting in the air before you hit your next line. G: Well I don’t really do tricks. A: So do you plan your lines exactly before you drop in? Are your runs premeditated or do you just wing it? G: Bowl riding is a bit like playing chess, you gotta be thinking a few moves ahead.You need to know where you have to land and what direction you’re going next. But sometimes you have to think on your feet, sometimes you’ll mess up and get off line and you’re just pointing at something going fast, you have to deal with it and that can often lead to new lines. A: Or bad crashes [Laughter.] G: Yeah, hopefully not, but that’s not unheard of. A: Obviously the bowl at Unit 23 is a replica of the Little Devil bowl that you’ve ridden a lot, so I guess you kind of had an advantage there huh. G: Yeah, on the way over, Van Homan and I were wondering just how similar it was going to be. It turned out to be pretty much the same, just with a few differences. We’ve ridden that bowl so many times that we have our lines. So we just dropped in and did what we always do. So yeah, it was almost like being on home turf, home away from home. A: Give us some tips on being an excellent bowl rider. 24
G: Well it’s just about feeling the thing out, picking out your lines and making sure everything lines up. JC: Why haven’t you eaten that yet? [says Coxie holding up Geoff’s cheeseburger which was sitting on the table in the hotel room.] G: Because I’m talking here. JC: I can’t stand it just sitting there. G: Well you can’t eat it? JC: Well I’m gonna eat it! G: [An argument breaks out and Coxie doesn’t get to eat the burger] Sorry about that, where were we. A: Just talking about planning runs and figuring things out. G: Oh, OK. Well yeah, it’s just picking your spot and figuring out what works. Like it’s often good if a bowl has graffiti, you can use certain parts as reference points. Like you can pick a letter out of a word and know that if you hit that part of the lip then it’ll put you where you need to be. Some gaps are blind, so reference points are really helpful. And if there’s no graffiti then sometimes I’ll put a sticker on the coping, just to lay down a marker you know. A: Are you scared of bowls? G: No, why. A: Are you scared of 12ft high transitions with pool coping? G: Oh, like huge bowls.Yes and no. I don’t like going full speed into a quarter pipe. I like to have something to jump before hand so I know my speed. But nah, I’m not scared of big bowls. A: OK cool, let’s eat burgers now.
Colts — Joe Cox introduces the enigmatic Shayn ‘Shanky’ Steels. As I sat down to write this, I was adamant that I wasn’t going to mention how good Shanky’s name is. However, I can’t resist. Shayn Steels has the best name I’ve ever heard. I’m amazed he hasn’t moved to Hollywood on the basis of his name alone. Producers would love that name on their movie posters. He could have been a magician too. ‘The Amazing, the Mysterious, the Conjurer, Shayn Steels.’ Or a Los Angeles detective. “Steels you crazy bastard, she’s the governors daughter!” ‘Maybe I didn’t play by the rules this time boss, maybe I am a bit of a maverick, but I think I’ve got this case pretty much solved. And yes, I can apologize for how I’ve done that, but I could never apologize for telling the truth. And the truth is this woman is evil, so help me god and let the lord be my witness!” No, for all his name would suggest otherwise, Shayn is a very humble lad. Humble, but a nutter on a bike. The first time I saw Shanky was on the original Slack video (or possibly Meshbacks and Mullets, I cant be sure), when he uttered the immortal line, “Anyone want a bit of scab?” after he’d just pulled a steak sized scab off his arm. The scab was still in one piece, which I thought was pretty impressive. Anyway, I assumed I’d never see anything from him again, as I thought it was a case of him riding for a year or so, then getting into cars or something. He then re-appeared a few years later, with a 1950’s greaser style going on. This is when he started going crazy. Words and Photography by JOE COX
I’M AMAZED HE HASN’T MOVED TO HOLLYWOOD ON THE BASIS OF HIS NAME ALONE.
Sequence by DANIEL BENSON
Feeble hard 180, Lisbon, Portugal.
I’ve never seen anyone take crashes like Shayn. I mean crashes where you think, he’s definitely dead now. For a long time I didn’t really ride with him at all, and I’d always be hearing stories of how he did this or that, things that I thought weren’t possible, or I’d looked at and thought, if that goes 28
wrong it will be a long and painful night. Then it turned out that Shayn took the long and painful night, ate it for breakfast, went back to the top of the stairs and pulled it. I’ve since hung out with Shayn a fair bit and been to Lisbon with him, on a riding trip, not a romantic holiday,
and found out he’s a down to earth, proper cool guy. He’s recently moved to York, so I wont be able to witness any ludicrous manoeuvres, which is a shame. But I still watch his Slack part (vimeo.com/2909284) and I don’t think magician or maverick, I think Shayn Steels: Madman.
EDWIN DE LA Rosa's NYC It would be easy to start taking regular riding shots with such a solid group of riders around you, against the backdrop of New York. Instead Edwin decided to document the everyday life of himself and those around him. This in itself reveals a lot more about his friends and the situations they get themselves in than riding shots alone. Sure, we know theyâ€™re all good riders, but weâ€™ve seen that all before. The photos are refreshing in their haphazardness, snapshots in every sense of the word, but I think that this is the perfect way to document his lifestyle in the chaotic city of New York. Photography by EDWIN DE LA ROSA
(top) Brooklyn. (bottom) Manhattan. 32
(top) Lower Deck, Manhattan. (bottom) Summer birds, Brooklyn.
MIKE HODER, Rail hop, Brooklyn.
MIKE HODER, Brooklyn.
(top) Opening day, Coney Island. (bottom) Ratman and Bob, Queens. 36
(top) Hoder getting Booger high, South Philly. (bottom) Coney Island, Brooklyn. 37
(top) TYRONE WILLIAMS, Bed-Stuy. (bottom) GARRET HOOGERHYDE at the old Animal building R.I.P, Clifton, New Jersey. 38
Hate you When You're Changing
THE STEVEN HAMILTON INTERVIEW: IT APPEARS THAT BEING ONE OF THE LAST TRULY ORIGINAL DUDES ON A BIKE COMES AT A PRICE. At the dawn of the last decade, with his signature blend of creative lines, flat-out speed and uncanny bike control Steven Hamilton single handily revolutionised street riding. Back then it was all about big rails and gnarly gaps, Joe Rich and Jimmy Levan. That was until Hamilton’s front wheel antics and flatland geometry combined with his quirky skids, bonks and slides opened the door to an entirely new style of street riding, one whose influence is still evident to this day. But then, just as quickly as he’d entered the scene, he dropped clean off the BMX radar and it would stay that way for the next few years. Then, among a barrage of misguided and speculative rumours, Steven’s face began to surface once more. Videos he had filmed began to appear on the internet. Edits featuring psychedelic colours and disjointed demeanors began to paint a picture of a Hamilton that was far removed from the cheeky faced, clean cut innovator of the early 2000s. Now, after the emergence of this new Steven, the cause of such a dramatic change has been the topic of conversation the world over. It’s been said before that a creative mind ‘plays with the objects it loves’ and that’s certainly true with Hamilton. But creative minds are rarely tidy and it seems that this revolutionary is living proof that there really is a fine line between genius and insanity. Words and photos by STEVE BANCROFT
know it’s the door to his apartment because it’s the only one without a number. It’s a simple process of elimination. It’s right at the far end of a dimly lit and musty smelling corridor. I knock a cheerful three times in quick succession. ‘Knock n knock!’ There’s no answer. I leave it 30 seconds, stood alone in the cold hall. I knock again. This time I give the tatty but otherwise featureless wooden door four escalating raps to signify a positive and good-natured visitor. ‘Knock n knock n knock!’ The sharp sound echoes around the empty walls, piercing the thick silence of the narrow hallway. There’s a muffled noise from inside, maybe human, maybe not, it’s hard to tell. “Hello” I say loudly in a ‘honey I’m home’ kind of tone. It’s taken me all day to reach his hometown of Columbus, Ohio and I’m relieved to have finally arrived at my destination. I shout my name. Nothing back. “I’m a photographer from England, we’ve been emailing.” There’s a shuffling sound from behind the door, the sound of things being moved out of the way, paper being swept aside. The latch clunks free and the door opens in a slow jerky motion as it’s forced over old T-shirts and piles of junk mail. It only opens half way and from around the side of the door timidly peeps the sole inhabitant of the apartment. With his eyes dark and hollow, face drawn and gaunt, lips puckered and cracked I’m unsure at first if I have the right address. The street names and house numbers add up but I struggle to believe that what stands before me is the same young soul who single handily revolutionised street riding not even 10 short years ago. There’s an awkward silence, it’s to be the first of many over the course of the preceding odd days spent in his company. I try to be cheery as I offer a hand and introduce myself. Although he’d emailed not 24 hours before – confirming addresses and arrival times – he seems completely oblivious to who I am and to the intentions of my visit. I’m talking for what feels like half an hour, still stood out in the hallway, not getting any discernable response, him still peering around the door with cold dark eyes. It’s not until I gesture that maybe I could come in to his flat, with a kind of forward movement and a further opening of the door, that he snaps out of his trance-like state and steps aside to let me in. In his bulky duffle coat, baggy chinos and untied shoes he shuffles away from the door and into the kitchen. I follow on through and am rendered speechless as I gaze around the room at the mountains of stinking dishes, overflowing trash bags and piles of grimy horded shit. There’s a substance on the vinyl floor which makes for a ‘tack!’ noise every time a foot is lifted and there’s not a clean surface in sight. “This is my place,” he mutters as he beckons me through to the lounge. “Kinda busy huh?” I reply in an effort to appear unphased by the filthy squalor in which he resides.
It’s dark in the living room and the floor is strewn with… things. I would call it junk, but that wouldn’t be correct. It’s not all junk. There are old photographs, random drawings, cans of beer, pot plants, an old Schwinn Joey Garcia frame, video cameras, CD cases, lap top chargers, clothes, rags, cushions, single shoes and a whole host of other accumulated tat. A creative mind is a busy mind and the room is definitely busy. I’d like to call it organised chaos, but it isn’t – it’s just chaos. “I’ve cleaned a spot for you” he croaks and motions over towards a semi clear spot on the couch with a half arsed hand gesture. “Gee thanks… too kind… really you shouldn’t have” I utter under my breath but very much out loud. I have no fear of my sarcasm being heard as the room is filled with very loud and very black hip hop. “Thanks” I shout in an effort to be heard over the din. “What?” was his reply. “Thanks” I shout again pointing to the 3 square feet of clear couch. “What?” he says again, still unable to hear. And this kind of broken exchange would be the story for the next few days. Steven has some kind of compulsion towards loud music, it makes things tough and it’s a toughness that’s unyielding, every sentence is an ordeal. While in his flat – which is 99% of his time – the music is on loud. It’s not always bad music, in fact I took quite a shine to some of it, some of it is great music, but no matter the song the relentlessness just gets to you after a while. It makes conversation a painfully laborious process and sleeping an impossibility. Even in a quiet room it’s a struggle to make sense of the words that eek out of his mouth, but with the music on it’s a chore that’s almost not worth pursuing. The music would make sense if he didn’t want to talk. An impenetrable wall of noise would be a cunning way to stop a visitor asking prying questions. But that’s not the case, he actually wants to talk (it’s clear from the outset that he doesn’t have many visitors, or any visitors, in fact I’d guess that I was the first guest to walk in that flat in months and he seems pleased for my company). When I motion for him to maybe turn the music down a notch or two he shakes his head and when I’ve had enough of repeating myself five times per sentence and having to crane near that mouth to hear him, I turn the music down myself. But the unfamiliar quietness causes him to clam up, uncomfortable and naked in the silence he’s dependent on music being present in order to speak. It’s a condition that severely hampers my efforts to record a proper interview with him, that and the fact he struggles to string two words together. He sits hunched over in his chair, in the corner of his dimly lit room, surrounded on all angles by treasured memorabilia, handing me photos to look at that are lying all around. Always moving and talking very slowly, struggling to put words together, offering me sketch books to read and giving me beer to drink. I need the beer. I wasn’t prepared for this, I knew Hamilton would
“ WHY WOULD
I DO DRUGS DUDE? I’M THE BEST BIKE RIDER IN THE WORLD.
Just a few metres from his door Steven breaks the ice of a days riding with a nose bonk at his warm up spot.
be a bit out there, but looking at this frail and detached man, I wasn’t prepared for this. I need the beer. When planning the first issue of The Albion we’d meet up and fire around some ideas for interviews, and I’d always liked the idea of doing something with Hamilton. I was intrigued by the enigma. After such a dynamic start to his career he’d disappeared rather suddenly and spent a couple of years off the radar but now he was beginning to put out some promising edits on the Internet. It seemed he was moving away form the insane visual ramblings of a madman and was once again showing the promise of some interesting bike riding. I’d heard the stories of drug addiction and the story of his brain altering head injuries after getting beaten up at a party, the stories of his homosexuality and general fruitiness. Hell, I wanted to know the real story behind one of the most interesting bike riders of the last ten years. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know how someone could fall from such grace and most of all I wanted to know if he even considered it a fall at all. So I sent him an email and after a while I got one back saying he’d be down to shoot some photos and have an interview in the new mag. So here I am, sat drunk in his apartment in a rather cold Columbus, Ohio at 3:30am. I wake up what feels like 20 minutes after I went to sleep. The curtains are still closed and the room is still shadowy, but it feels like it might be daylight outside. Hamilton is still sitting in the same chair he was last night and he’s sipping from a 40oz bottle of Bud as he stares my way in a rather unsettling manner. Beer sleep is not the best kind of sleep, but in this apartment is was
clear that beer sleep was the only type on the menu. I shout “Good morning” and after only a couple of repetitions I get a nodded response. Although he’s wearing the same clothes as before and he’s sat in the same spot, I’m pretty sure he’s at least left his chair at some point during the night because one of his side burns is now missing. It’s early, before 9am. Another 40oz is opened and it’s clear he likes a drink. I know it’s early. My aching eyes tell me it’s early. We skip breakfast. I have the feeling that he always skips breakfast. It’s nice to be outside in the daylight, away from the perpetual music and the filth. We get a coffee. I’m on his spare bike and we’re off out to shoot some photos. It’s cold out but nothing crazy, probably around two or three degrees. There’s snow on the ground but it’s not fresh and most of it has been cleared. We make it less than a single block from his apartment before he stops by a bland brick building. “We can shoot here” he proclaims. “Fakie wallride” he says and points to a section of wall with the slightest of inclines leading up to it. I look at him with questioning eyes, half expecting him to say “Only kidding, let’s go pedal slide a rail”, but he doesn’t. He is serious and he does want me to shoot a photo of a fakie wallride one foot up a brick wall. He pulls in second go, sketchy as fuck. Then he calls out a nose bonk on the same set up, and again he does it second try, and again it’s done with an absence of finesse. We ride off and although it was the first spot of the day, I try to put the event behind me and hope that it didn’t really just happen. Not even 50 metres down the road from the first spot and he’s stopped again. “Table?” he asks and points to43
wards a completely standard curb cut on the side of a busy junction. “Sure” I reply, now resigned to the fact that this was going to be a long day. I pulled out my camera again and, to his credit, he popped a couple of nice looking tables. They weren’t high or particularly flat, but they were tables none the less. I was trying to put a positive spin on the situation and outwardly it was working fine, but I couldn’t help but feel a little sad inside. All the way to Ohio I’d been anticipating these riding moments, the expectations had been building and somewhere in my mind I was sure that he’d be riding good and we’d get some sweet shots and it’d be the start of a great come back – the reinstating of a king. But it was now becoming painfully obvious that it wasn’t to be. The next spot we went to was the infamous curved wall at Ohio Uni, the very same spot where he once defined an era, broke new ground and gained the full attention and admiration of every BMX rider in the world. And it was here that I realized once and for all that Steven Hamilton would not be making a glorious come back. It was here that I realized that the Steven Hamilton from the early 2000’s was dead and gone. The King is dead – Long live the king. He takes a few run ups and he’s visually a bit flustered. He’s sweating it and I can tell he’s not comfortable. After a few more bitch runs he’s committed and going in with half the speed he needs, he scraps around the bottom of the wall and managed to just about ride away. It’s a sorry sight to behold. I lived through those glory days, from the first inklings of magic in his own video Inception, to the attention grabbing progression in the Ohio scene video A Day late A Dollar Short (2001) to his Road Fools appearances (2003), to his awesome part in The Day Is Over (2004), culminating in his seminal section in Can I Eat (2004) and carrying on with his slot in Trafaelio – this guy will always be a legend. He will always be regarded as a rider who influenced a generation. But as he rides up to the wall for another try, awkward and uncomfortable, it’s clear that all magic has long since disappeared and only the memories and footage remain. Steven Hamilton’s company is hard company. He fluctuates between long bouts of depressed silence and talking openly and honestly with enthusiasm. One minute he’ll look
DAMN! I KEEP BREAKING MY LEG...I’M ADDICTED TO BREAKING MY LEG.
at you and not acknowledge you’re even there and the next he’ll be cracking an intelligent and humorous joke. His company is too much for me. His constant drinking and complete lack of sleep begins to eat away at my soul after a while. The hours of sitting in his apartment, slumped in his chair with the music on full volume start to feel desperate and tragic. The filthy conditions in which he dwells accentuate the whole sordid mess and it’s as much as I can take. It’s 4am, the music’s still on, he’s still sat there staring, all I want is some sleep and normailty. I can feel the decay setting in. I cut my trip short and high-tail it back to the relative sanity of California. I was sad to leave him. I wasn’t sad to be leaving. But I was sad to leave him. History tells us that the most creative minds can often be the most unstable, the creative thread that runs deep within takes control and surpasses the realms of comprehension recognized by mere day-to-day folk like you and I. Hamilton’s story is by no means unique: Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemmingway: all undeniably geniuses and all pioneers in their respective fields – and all a little crazy too. There is no clear dividing line between a healthy mind and a mentally ill mind and although it looks to be the case, I have no idea if he’s in the grip of a drug addiction or if he is an alcoholic or not (during my time with Steven he drank a whole lot of beer but the only drug I saw him consume was caffeinated coffee). Is he just putting all this on as some kind of charade? Possible, but highly improbable given the severity of his situation. All I know for sure is that he’s not the man that people want him to be. And he’s not the rider people want him to be. But that’s not so bad – because he doesn’t want what you want. During an unrecorded late night conversation, Steven uses a song lyric to sum up his current position in relation to the world of BMX. “People hate you when you’re changing” It’s a thought provoking line from a track called The Dress by Blonde Redhead. I read it as an acknowledgment that he could very well have carried on as he was, he could have kept in the media spot light and kept pleasing people – but that wasn’t what he felt was important. In his own words “What are you meant to do?” After being the self-professed most important rider since Mat Hoffman, earning $4,000 dollars a month, “What are you meant to do?” In Hamilton’s case he’s chosen to sit in his apartment listening to music and updating his blog… he’s chosen to ride how and when he pleases… he’s chosen to skate… he’s chosen to do up his Schwinn Joey Garcia… he’s chosen not to care what you think… he’s chosen to chill in his palace. They might not be the choices you think he should make, but they aren’t your choices. We’re all different, that’s what keeps things fun. And Just remember “There is no great genius without a tincture of madness.”
In a rare window of sanity, Hamilton hops clean over a rail before slipping back into the kaleidoscope that is his life.
Transcribed Interview — The following interview was recorded over two evenings in Steven’s apartment in Columbus, Ohio. Steven: Well if you wanna do some flash photography, that would be awesome… I love flash photography… I love being flashed in public… haha. Albion: I’ll just leave this thing running right down here, ok? S: What do you want me to say? A: I don’t know… just talk I guess… can you turn it down just a little bit more? Otherwise this thing’ll just pick the music up… just like what we just talked about… remember? [Begrudgingly, the volume of the music is lowered again slightly.] A: Right, you were talking about your Ride UK interview? S: Oh right, yeah…During my Ride UK interview… Hang-on, let me turn it up just a little bit more… [he leans forward and reinstates the hip hop to it’s previous communication-proof volume.] A: I’m sorry to keep harping on and going over old ground, but just like what we talked about a couple times already; if the music is up loud then all we record is the music…If you wanna do this then we need to turn the volume down. S: Oh, OK sure [he leans forward and again turns down the music]. Ok, so I’m living in Seattle and I’m getting $3500 a month and I’m not paying rent. I’m not paying rent. So if you divide $3500 by four, which is how many weeks there are in a month… Then you get paid again in a month. So if you divide $6500 by 4… then… Everyday you’ve got… [Pause while he attempts the muddled math in his head]…You’ve got a lot of money to spend. And you’re gonna get paid again at the end of the month. A: Did you spend it all? S: Yeah [Unprovoked, he sets off on a new tangent, and he talks with a weird sense of conviction.] S: You can’t ride BMX and not have worn camouflage. Everyone who has ever ridden BMX has worn camouflage. A: Really? So do you mean, like, actually worn camouflage clothes, like shorts or trousers? Or do you mean, like everyone has to act like a chameleon or something? S: [Massive pause, his attention is lost and he’s back to flicking the tracks around on the computer. After a couple of minutes I try to instigate conversation again with a stock question.] A: So do you still do much front wheel stuff? S: Nah, that was a gimmick.
A: Some people credit you for starting all that stuff – what do you make of that? S: Well I did in a way. In college there was this thing called “Nothing Is Impossible.” This dude did an ad campaign called “Nothing Is Impossible” and my parents had this sticker on their mirror and it said “With God, Nothing Is Impossible” and every time I looked at it I was like “What the fuck.” I liked that song. [The volume has creeped up again.] A: Blah, blah, blah [hard to make out]… tell me more about it… we need to turn that down though. S: Ah, c’mon! [Reluctant to turn it down.] A: I like chatting to you man, but there’s no point in us doing an interview if we’re just gonna rerecord all your records! S: You’re lying in the desert, and all there is to look at is the stars, and the moon cuts the stars in half, as the moon comes over the south western horizon…[Trails off into a long silence.] A: So are you religious yourself? S: No, never. I swear to God. I swear to God. I really do swear to God, I’ve never been religious. [Descends into hysterical laughter.] A: How come you’re not as good at riding now as you used to be? And how come you’re not fussed about it? S: I try to ride my best all the time. People hate you when you’re changing. A: I like that dude, you’re starting to make sense. S: You see I was trying to change, I was trying to become BMX. But I didn’t want BMX to change, and if I were to become BMX then BMX would have to change, so I became BMX, but I didn’t want what I love to change. I love BMX, I honestly love it, I think BMX is super cool. . . and I love drugs! A: What drugs do you love? S: I wish man. If you’re sick you might have to do drugs. I’m not gay. A: Are you gay? S: I am gay. A: Dude, I don’t know whether you’re being serious or not? S: I am gay. A: You are gay? S: I’m gay, I’m not confusing at all. Who knows anything. . . . I’m retarded. A: Man, help me out here, I gotta type this shit up! A lot of people back in England want to know what you’re up to. They want to know what you’re thinking. S: Me? Well I’m just chilling, I’m just
chilling in my palace. I mean. . . look at this place [he proudly urges me look around the room]. Oh yeah, it’s beautiful. I’m not trying to brag about it. England’s cool too. S: The world is round and I’m gonna prove the world is flat. A: What, you’re going to prove that now? Ok, go. S: If you’re in a flat screen television then it’s different to being in a normal television. So the world is flat? A: Because of flat screen televisions? S: It’s flat! A: When was the last time you got laid? S: Last night. A: Really? What was her name? S: [Silence]… She had bad tattoos. Really bad tattoos… A: I guess you don’t want to talk about her then. When was the last time before that then? S: 300 years ago. But I once got laid 3000 times in one night. A: That’s a lot of times man. S: I really did. A: How come nowadays you’re putting out clips that are a bit more… how shall I put it… regular?You know where I’m coming from, it was all a bit abstract for a while. But now I see some stuff and it’s a bit more conventional? S: [No answer – vacant stare.] A: When you put stuff out are you bothered about how people perceive you? S: [No answer – vacant stare.] A: What do you make of BMX these days? S: It’s pretty far gone. A: Do you still enjoy it as much as you used to? S: You see there’s two different ways of looking at it. There’s the way I used to look at it then and the way I look at it now. And right now it’s nothing. A: Do you do loads of drugs? S: No A: Really? S: Why would I do drugs dude? I’m the best bike rider in the world. Do you think I need to do drugs. A: Why do you think I’ve come to visit you? S: To shoot bike photos. A: There’s quite some mystery about you huh? Have you purposefully contrived that? S: Yeah, haha. A: You know I’m sat here right now drinking with you… I’m from England man… that’s a long way away. People want to know what’s up. 47
With BMX simmering away on the ‘back burner’ for a while, Steven pops a casual table from a curb cut as he waits for the sun to come out. S: I like girls [Laughter all round.] A: Dude, I’m beat. What time you normally go to bed? S: My schedule is… my schedule is… I don’t have a schedule. I just do drugs. I just drink a lot, I do my blog, ride, skate, do my photography. A: You drink by yourself? S: Yeah, nah. Well I drink in bars. If I drink by myself I get depressed. A: Have you got many friends you ride with? S: Nah A: Have you got any friends in general? S: Nah. I just want to get laid every night. I can just go out my door and skate. I live in paradise. I can skate for 15 miles to the bar for happy hour or I can skate 4 miles to the bar for happy hour. I just want to skate. I don’t know what else to ask for. Loose-ass trucks, medium soft wheels. A: What do you do most days? S: Train as hard as possible. [Laughter.] I don’t take any drugs habitually.
A: Nah, nor me. Most riders seem to smoke weed these days huh? S: I never wanted to do any drugs, but I just kind of had to it felt like. When I was in college it just came to a time when they almost made me do it. So I just did it. And then they were mad at me for changing. And I was like “Well, you asked me to change.” A: Do you care what people think of you? You were really influential a while back, did you care what people thought of you back then? S: So once you grow up in Ohio, move to Seattle and earn $4,000 a month and not have to pay rent for a couple years. That shit gets pretty boring. What else am I gonna do? I’m not saying I’m trying to kill myself but. . . that’s why I stared skating. A: We should shoot a skating photo? S: I’m not that good dude. Maybe though… I just need a couple years to sort shit out. When the sun was going down, I
was flying down this hill and I hit this tree root by my house and I caught air for the first time. A: Oh yeah, how old were you? S: I was eleven. Catching air is all about hang time. It’s all about the hang time. And that’s when I started practising as I knew I was good. And ten years later I was better than Mat Hoffman. [laughter from me then him.] A: So is that what made you want to ride bikes, did it make you want to get good? S: I just knew I was good. And I was a C-section baby? A: What does that mean? I know what it means, but why does it matter? S: It means I’m always bored. And that’s it. Out of over three hours of conversation, recorded over two nights, this is what was audible – transcribed in chronological order – the rest is lost to loud music and slurred speech.Take from it what you will.
[Editorial note: Steven Hamilton really is one of a kind. He invited us into his life and we jumped at the.opportunity to see what he has going on and to find out what makes him tick.The results may not have been what we hoped to find and we were forced to think long and hard about whether to run this piece or not. But no matter how against the grain Steven lives he seems content doing what he does.This article highlights his present situation and hopefully it’ll help prompt the BMX net to tighten it’s holes.] 48
*Not actual United House.
THE UNITED HOUSE *
CAR CRASHES, BEARDS, HOT TUBS, BIPOLAR PETS AND NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES: FIVE DAYS WITH UNITED AT THEIR NEW WINTER RETREAT.
Ok ok, maybe that intro is a little misleading. It makes it sound like a week with Hugh Hefner and the Manson family. Things were a little tamer than that, but not without incidents. Nathan Williams has the enviable job of being the long-term resident of the apartment in Huntington Beach, California, whilst the rest of the team can come and go as they please. During our stay there, Corey Martinez, Dan Boiski, Luke Peeters and Unitedâ€™s latest pro Christian Rigal all made the most of the long days of unbroken sunshine that for most of us seems like a distant memory. Here are six shots from the five days that The Albion stayed with the guys, as the UK ams held it down against the US pros. Words and Photography by DANIEL BENSON
NATHAN WILLIAMS, Backwards pegs to fakie bars, Los Angeles.
COREY MARTINEZ, Up bank barspin over fence, San Diego.
There are few people as prone to forgetting and loosing stuff than Nathan Williams. He forgot how much to pay for the house’s car and ended up paying twice as much insurance as needed and he would leave most of his belongings littered around any spot we pulled up at. He’d never get angry about any of this stuff, seemingly accepting his scatty nature. Even when I nearly killed his bipolar cat he didn’t seem phased. “Hey Benson, did you leave some painkillers on the table?” “Erm, yeah… why?” “The cat’s eaten them”. “Oh shit! Is it ok?” “Dunno man, if it doesn’t wake up soon I’m guessing that’s it… (silence from me plus a worried look). Don’t sweat it man, it’s cool. The cat’s crazy.”
Corey had been involved in some sort of beard growing race with a friend from back home in Alabama. Maybe this behaviour is big in the South, either way he won, which came as no surprise to anyone. On a whim, he shaved it all off on the last day and took a photo of each stage of the proceedings. He went from ‘man of the woods’ to ninja, to ‘guy you wouldn’t want to leave your kids with’, to hipster and finally to a very young looking Corey whose head, minus the beard, looked like it had been shrunk by that guy on the end of Beetlejuice. If you’re wondering what’s going on in the photo above, Corey carved up the ‘bank’ to get into this barspin. Yep, doesn’t make sense does it? 53
LUKE PEETERS, Over pegs to toboggan, San Diego.
With Christian being from San Diego, he knew where all the good spots were. This particular setup was in an affluent part of the city, not far from the beach. Just up the road from here there’s a house that apparently sold for forty-two million dollars. It’s safe to say that we were probably the sketchiest people in the area, which makes a change from having to watch your back in some of the L.A suburbs. Luke would later jump on the four-peg bandwagon and find he had an ability to grind opposite that he never knew he had. I’d be interested to see if he kept this up when he got back to the UK…
DAN BOISKI, Up rail hard 180, Los Angeles.
The English way of lighting up a spot is very different to the way they do it over in America. Boiski, I’m sure, is much more used to arriving at a spot, turning the Vauxhall Nova, Corsa or Golf GTI to face whatever’s being ridden and then whacking the lights on full beam. At the same time I’m sure he’d be worrying about the rain, the cold and the hordes of bored ‘youth’ who have congregated at the end of the road. In California it was a little bit different. Christian’s van may have been beat up and full of shit, but out the back it was a fully-fledged production wagon. The lights and generator gave enough time for everyone to get a long, uninterrupted session in Downtown L.A, with Boiski finishing the night with this popped up rail to hard 180.
CHRISTIAN RIGAL, Feeble over smith, Los Angeles.
I had Christian down as being a pretty straight up guy before we stopped at a fast food place in Inglewood. He parked up his ratty van and went inside to order whilst I sat on the curb and looked at the various tweakers that always seem to loiter around junctions like this. After a sizeable wait he came out, food in hand, jumped in the van, put it into reverse and…. SCCCHHHKKK… “Oh Shit, I think I’ve just hit that BMW behind us, was there anyone in it?” “Erm no, don’t think so” I replied. “Pleeease, don’t tell me it’s that crazy guy from the food place.” We jumped out to assess the damage. The white, top of the range car now had the opposite markings scrapped down the side of its flank, mirroring that of Christian’s truck, sort of like a ying and yang, but scratched plastic and metal. Knowing that various familes and crazy guys were watching, he ripped some
paper from a magazine and started to look for a pen amongst the junk of his truck. “You got a pen?” “Nope, sorry man” “Shit...” I noticed a woman who must have seen everything sat with her kids in a restaurant across from us; she seemed completely unphased by all this commotion, like it happens all the time. Christian jumps back in the van. “Did you find a pen?” I ask. “Erm, no…” “So what did you do?” “I just put the blank paper under the wiper, so at least people thought I left my details” “What?!” “Man, the same thing happened to me a while ago, so I guess its karma or something.” I can just imagine some guy coming out of the fast food place, food in one hand, the other searching for his keys and seeing his pride and joy all bumped up then getting in the car, fuming with rage and spotting the paper under the wiper and thinking everything’s covered. 57
COREY MARTINEZ, Up Rail To Opposite Smith.
As we rolled up to this spot at around seven one evening, a guy came out of the factory and presumed we were there to work nights in the fruit factory. We pointed towards the rail, thinking he’d understand what that meant, but I’m pretty sure he just thought we were here to steal some of the fruit that filled the bins. Either way, he left us alone and we got the generator and lights set up. Once something like that is up and running, people just presume you have permission to be there, it’s like putting on a hi vis vest to cut down a rail, it gives you authority to do all sorts of manly tasks that you shouldn’t be doing.
FRee Bird MOTORBIKES, GUNS, MUSCLE CARS AND LOOSE WOMEN. FAST TIMES WITH EDDIE CLEVELAND.
“Look out for the Camero”. “The what Eddie?!” I reply down the phone. “The Camero man, it’s blue. You’ll see it.” What the fuck is a Camero? I thought. I walk out of the San Francisco airport terminal and looked around for this car I didn’t know. All the cars look surprisingly European and Japanese, a mixture of Toyotas Prius’s and Volkswagens. A car rolls down the entry ramp and before even I notice the colour I knew it was the Camero - an 80s muscle car that fits into the American landscape almost as much as Eddie does himself. The Camero was loaned from his dad in exchange for a Harley, and would be crashed more than once in the week ahead, one time managing to get a blow out at five AM in Hollywood. Stuff like this became normal. It was the perfect car for Eddie, all rough around the edges. Words and Photography by DANIEL BENSON
e exchange formalities and size each other up. I notice he looks older than his years, ‘heavy paper round’ I thought, whilst Eddie wonders if I am even old enough to drink. I think that must’ve been his first concern. From the get go he was smoking, Camel filters jammed in the ashtray in front of the gear stick, that part never changed. We set off into San Francisco, talking about common ground stuff like people we know whilst Free Bird was playing from the stereo, that or Simple Man. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd or West Coast rap. Everything fell together, it all worked. The car, the music, the smoking and most of all Eddie Cleveland himself. This was going to be an interesting couple of weeks… The interview took place during a six hour drive down to L.A. We stopped at a famous surf spot called Mavericks and watched a few guys get pummelled by huge waves. Although I say we, I’m pretty sure Eddie couldn’t see shit. He told me when he rides and he takes his glasses off, he can normally only see what he’s riding up to at the last minute, a few metres away. “What about contacts?” I ask. “I fucking hate those things man, I just deal with it”. We leave Mavericks and load up on beers and snacks to keep us entertained on the journey down Route One. The sun is setting on the right over the Pacific ocean and to the left its just rolling hills over to Big Sur, Salinas and all these Californain places that remind me of books and movies. I know now why most Americans don’t have passports, it’s all here. Eddie doesn’t have a passport, it doesn’t surprise me. When the sun sets and the view disappears, we start the interview. Albion: When did you turn pro? Eddie: I think I got my first paycheck from Rich [Hirsh- Lotek TM] when I was 18. I was pushing shopping carts in the rain for Albertsons and was fucking tired of doing that. So one day I just left… I left all the shopping carts in the parking lot and went home and called up Rich and said “lets go ride, I just quit my job”. Rich said “Oh shit, you quit your job!? You wanna get paid to ride your bike?” Obviously I said fuck yeah, course I want that. So I got $100 a month and at the time it felt like a million bucks. A: So, when did the FIT thing come along? [Phone rings, it’s some chick Eddie’s been talking up who he’s planning on meeting in L.A a week from now.] E: Hey, what’s up? No we’re driving down to L.A, currently 269 miles from there I’ve been talking about 69ing a lot recently. Hey can I call you back when we’re done with this interview? We have a tape recorder set up so this’ll probably be in print…Okay, cool. Bye. [Hangs up.] E: Damn! That southern accent! [Laughs.] A: Future ex wife? E: Maybe! Damn, all the cars have disappeared from behind us… A: So about the FIT stuff? E: Rich flew me to L.A for the first time, well I went to Disneyland before but that was a load of bullshit, so Rich had flown me down to Santa Ana to be exact to film for the Lotek Mixtape and whilst I was there I met Robbie [Morales] and he was pretty stoked on me, so he first got me hooked up with S&M until he made it official on FIT. That guy sorted me out in the beginning man, he’s got a big heart. I couldn’t believe I was on the same team as Mikey Aitken, Van, Edwin and the rest of those guys. 64
IT’S JUST DRAMA, BMX DRAMA, THE WORST TYPE OF DRAMA.
Barrier footjam whip, Oakland. 65
A: When the split happened, how come you stayed with FIT? Were you asked to be part of CULT? E: Well, to be honest, during that time I was pretty messed up. I was drinking all the time, partying and shit. I just didn’t really know what to think. I was getting a cheque through Moeller and I knew I was set; I was happy y’know? Chris [Moeller] is a great guy; he just paid for my friend [Mike] Hoder to get a new set of teeth! It’s changed his life. He’s become a more confident person. Chris isn’t a bad guy. It wasn’t because I preferred one person to the other [Chris and Robbie.] I was just comfortable on FIT. I couldn’t turn my back on it. I know it all happened because of Robbie, but I wasn’t ready for the change. I like keeping it simple. A: Ah, the simple man! E: Yep, listening to Simple Man, playing out of the Camero and driving down to L.A. [Laughs.] A: So, you’d spent a lot of time with the guys who left for CULT, how did your relationship change with them? E: Yeah, it’s kinda weird now. I used to speak to Chase [Dehart] every day, well maybe every other day I’d text him or some shit and we’d chit chat back and forth. I’d see Dak around and talk to Chase [Hawk] here and there. But now zero communication. I still like them the same I just don’t know why they don’t like me or if it’s something else… I don’t know man, it’s weird, it’s a fucked up situation really. I’m confused about it all, but I try not to think about it. It’s just drama, BMX drama, the worst type of drama. A: Did you get the offer? E: Yeah, Robbie asked me to come and when I didn’t that’s when the weird drama started… Man, I don’t even know if there is weird drama! I just don’t communicate with those guys anymore. A: It’s done now, they’re doing their thing… E: Yeah, exactly! They still kill it. 66
A: Did people start questioning when you didn’t go? E: Yeah, people were all like “Why didn’t you go man! Why didn’t you go!” But I was comfortable you know? I had bills to pay and I just didn’t want to change my situation. I’ve got a few signature parts and the completes and I’m not gonna lie to you, the money is awesome. I’d be doing what I’m doing now, but getting money to ride is fucking awesome. A: When you stayed, did your relationship with Moeller tighten up? E: Dude, it was good anyway. We’ve always had a good relationship. We rode down to Mexico on choppers with Magoo and got wasted. I’ve got a lot of time for Moeller, Magoo too. He made it known when everything had settled by giving all the riders a nice little bonus. A: Really?! E: Yeah, how do you think I got that chopper? [Laughs.] A: You mentioned earlier about drinking too much and the other day you said people had been talking shit on you for not riding. In fact, some people were surprised you were even riding at all, right? E: To be honest, living in San Francisco, I ride with two people, that’s Marco (Svizzero) and Wolfman [Tim Hartley] and the people who talk shit on me don’t know me. A: I was expecting a way bigger crew when I came to SF to be honest E: Nah, it’s just Marco, Wolfman and me. They’re my homies, we ride and hang out with a load of chicks who live nearby and to be honest, I’d rather put up with their girl drama than BMX drama. A: That girl drama is probably because of you though Eddie, because they’re all friends. E: [Laughs]. Yeah, that’s true. I end up getting fucked over. I just wish girls didn’t catch emotions as much as they do…
A: So you don’t? E: Sometimes, for the right chick. For the number one girl, but it’s always fun to have a couple on the side. But I’m over that now! I’m gonna shack up with this girl in L.A. – the future ex wife… A: That is bullshit! E: [Laughs.] Ahh, I’ll probably be over her in the first two days, first two hours. A: You’ve got a week to wait until she’s here man, that’s pretty committed in my book. E: I know, right!? Fuck, maybe I’ll leave. A: If you weren’t meeting up with this chick in L.A, do you think we’d be driving down? E: Nah man, you’d probably be on a plane! [Laughs.] E: Really though man, I just want to see all my homies down there, when I lived here before I was the laziest fucking guy. People would come over to try and get me to go ride and I just wouldn’t get off the couch to go ride. Now that we’re going back I’m gonna take advantage of having a roadworthy car and go to all the spots I was too lazy to visit before.
I THINK IN A PREVIOUS LIFE I WAS EITHER A BALD EAGLE OR A MARKSMAN
After a good weekend of riding and hanging out with all his old buddies, Eddie decided to move back down to L.A. It was that easy for him, he just jumped ship, sold a load of stuff and moved back down to Echo Park. It seemed like a good move, right away he was keen to ride. San Fransisco was good, but here he could walk to the bars, fix up his motorbike with Davey [Cooperwasser] and Pinzone [Luis] and go riding with a bigger group of people. E: I just realized the other day, like I had some sort of epiphany or some shit. There’s all these pro’s out there who just put out amazing web videos and sections and I’d just totally forgotten that you need to do that shit to stay a professional bikerider. A: What brought this on then? Shooting the interview or… E: I don’t know, it just came into my head today. A: So are you gonna try and get stuff done for this Lotek section? E: Yeah, that’s the idea. A: But not today? E: [Laughs.] Maybe not today, we hit it a little too hard last night. A: Where did you go? A: So we sort of hit on this thing about you not riding, then you saying you want to put more stuff out. Why did you slow down in the first place, you were injured right? E: Yeah, exactly that man, that’s the goddamn reason why I haven’t been riding so much. My back, that’s what made me want to drink so much, because of the pain from my back. I know it sounds pathetic, my uncle used to bitch about his back all the time. “Oooooh, I’ve gotta bad back! This is why I don’t work blah blah blah.” I always thought he was fucking lazy. Then I hurt my back and… no bullshit, it really fucking hurts. 67
(left) Downside whip, Los Angeles. (below) Double Rail Fastplant, San Francisco.
THE LAST BIKE I BUILT UP, I SAT IN MY GARAGE AND SMOKED A TONNE OF WEED AND LISTENED TO BLACK SABBATH AND WHEN I BUILT IT UP IT WAS BLACK, REALLY FAST AND FUCKING DANGEROUS 68
A: So is it better now? E: Erm, no not really. It’s been about the same now for about a year. A: Do you have health insurance? E: I just got health insurance, thanks to Chris Moeller. That dude hooked it up. A: So when are you gonna get it checked out? E: The way insurance works over here is that you need to have it a certain amount of time before you can make a claim. You can’t get it without telling them about any preexisting problems beforehand, basically. So I think I’m just gonna jam to the E.R one day and start wailing, “Argh, my back, my fucking back! [Laughs.] A: Now you’re in L.A. again, has it helped your riding?
E: Man, when I was in SF I was a waste. I moved up there thinking I was gonna ride more but it was the exact opposite of that. I actually just ate burritos and laid on the couch smoking weed and drinking beers. A: [Laughs.] Sounds pretty good to me… Why was that anyway? E: I just wasn’t motivated… Call me crazy but I can’t just go out and ride the flat outside my house practicing whip hops or whatever… I prefer to ride specific things… and I guess more than that, I just needed to get psyched on riding. Since moving here, riding with Jesse [Whaley], going to the Heights [Quintin warehouse] for private sessions, it’s been so fucking good dude. A: Is it a good scene down there?
Bump jump to wallride over door, Los Angeles.
E: Yeah, its been amazing. It’s so good to take your bike out and not just ride it to the bar. [Jade and her friend walk in, Jade was the girl he originally traveled down to L.A to go on a date with.] Jade: Hi Benson A: Hello Jade, so Eddie, is Jade your girlfriend now? Jade: Yeah Eddie, am I your girlfriend now?! E: [Obviously uncomfortable.] Erm… C’mon now. We’re good friends y’know? Erm… [Later, when Jade had gone to sleep I’m told that the reason they were both staying was that Eddie had ‘big ideas’ for the pair of them coming over. “I thought, maybe I can pull a ménage a trois.”] A: Ok, change the subject! Have you got that motorbike working?! In fact, what is it with all you guys and motorbikes? I know you mentioned before how 70
Moeller is into them and how you went to Mexico and a lot of the L.A BMXers have them too. E: Ok, so remember when you were like fourteen and you were so psyched on BMX, it was everything you lived for. Any new little part you bought, you’d check out other peoples bikes and know everything on there. I get the same feelings from motorbikes man, it’s a good rush. It doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about BMX, you can’t take away the feeling of going out riding with friends, but motorbikes are fucking fun man! Jammin’ down to Mexico with Davey, Ol and Moeller, it’s fucking pure… It sounds cliché and corny but it is freedom, being on that fucking bike, hauling ass down to Mexico with some buddies. A: Nah, I get it man, I see it. America is made for that stuff.
Whip over fence, Oakland.
E: You know man, I’m no artist and I can hardly even spell… but… fuck this is going to sound corny again but building up my bike is like my art… The last bike I built up, I sat in my garage and smoked a tonne of weed and listened to Black Sabbath and when I built it up it was black, really fast and fucking dangerous. [Laughs.] A: It’s surprising just how custom they are, it really is like putting a BMX together. Davey had one half built in his bedroom. E: Yeah, one cut of a tube and some little details makes that bike your own; it’s gratifying. A: I can see why it appeals to BMXers in that respect. E: You can go as crazy as want with a motorbike and nobody will fuck with you. I’m gonna make
some handlebars for my new bike that are a big ‘6’ and a ‘9’. [Laughs.] With a BMX if you do anything crazy people are gonna hate on you. A: Do you think in any way it’s related to your bike style. Not specifically, but you kind of changed how people ran their bikes. Big bars and slammed seats, I don’t think anyone was doing that before you. I remember seeing on the Lotek Mixtape when you truck a hip and your knees are nowhere near the seat. I’d always been told to nip the seat, but you didn’t and it still looked good. Where did all this slammed seat and big bars come from? In a way you kind of did make a big change and people followed it. E: Oh shit, I guess I never really thought about it like that… Thanks for that though. The big bars thing 71
was from Justin Inman and Darin Reed, they had giant handlebars and it looked so good when they cranked tables and turndowns. This dude gave me a pair of beat up and bent to shit Standard bars but that didn’t matter, these things were wide. I never really had a high seat… Erm, I had a Haro Backtrail and for some reason the seat was slammed… It’s the northwest trails style man, I give it all to those guys. A: I was watching one of your old videos the other day, the one that Marco made… E: Cuttin’ It deep? A: Yeah, that’s the one, what the fuck was that gap about on the end of you section? E: That’s actually a good story. Andy Mareo, OG Portland legend. He was like “Dude I know this little gap. It’s a kicker over a wall into a parking lot, you could totally do it man!” So I was like “Ok, lets go check it out.” When we got there I said “No fucking way,” but Andy was like “Dude, I promise to smoke you out, get you drunk
etc…” and he basically talked me into it. When I was riding up to it, strike me dead if I’m lying, I actually closed my eyes as I took off. It was too big in the end man, I couldn’t hold on. A: I’m not surprised, it’s fucking crazy! E: Yeah, it’s Stricker-ish, not pulling your banger. [Laughs.] Nah, no offence man, I love Stricker. A: I’m sure he’ll get the joke. E: Dehart was trying to talk me out of it, he was like “Don’t do it man, it’s fucking crazy!” I took Hoder there and he wouldn’t do it either. I know Hoder could fucking three over that thing. A: He’s up next for an interview. E: He will give you the craziest interview, hands down. He’s like a loaded gun. He’s got way more confidence with those shiny new teeth. [Laughs.] On that note we call it a day. Eddie had better things on his mind anyway. The two girls from earlier were falling asleep in his bed. “Man, if this works out, then this is my banger, this is the big finale the interview needed.”
Casual Barspin, San Francisco Bay. 72
© 2011 SIMPLE BMX - PHOTO: PERRAUD
• JEREMY MULLER • SIGNATURE
MAT HOFFMAN “I NEVER INTENDED BMX TO GO ANYWHERE BUT MY BACKYARD.”
Words and Photography by GEORGE MARSHALL
Introduction It’s Thursday evening in Oklahoma City, a dust town deep within Bible belt America surrounded by great plains of nothing. I sit quietly in a run down bar, waiting to meet the most famous BMX rider of all time. Sharing my table are Hoffman riders past and present, laughing at jokes I only half hear – my thoughts are elsewhere. I can’t relax. The excitement I once had has descended into anxiety. Never before have I felt so nervous about meeting anyone. In my head I question everything. Will I be able to get the photographs I need? Is he still riding? What’s left of his brain after a lifetime of head injuries? Will he spare me any time? Will I be able to form a sentence when he arrives? As the final minutes tick down ending months of planning and discussions, I realise the full magnitude of the interviewing the greatest rider of all time, and fear it. In he walks, the great Mat Hoffman, The Condor – the man who reinvented freestyle as a young teenager, pulled the first hand rail, dreamt up and landed the first flair, the first 900 and invented over a 100 more tricks, the man who revolutionised the design of the freestyle BMX, defied all preconceptions of what was possible on a bicycle with the first big air ramp, kept BMX alive in the dark ages of the 90s and ran contests that paved the way for the X-games; the man people call the father of extreme sports.Yet, as this man enters the busy room his head is hung low, his gaze jumps about the floor as he finds his route to the bar. His clothes are scruffy, his beard is turning grey and unkempt – a humble looking man. His semi-paralysed right arm hangs at his side, disconnected and lifeless. He looks underweight but alert and strong, like an ageing man who’s endured some long winters. He orders a drink and pulls out not a wallet, but a wedge of bankcards and his I.D. clamped together by a single bulldog clip and walks over to our table. The bar is a traditional American style saloon, dusty and dark. The food is greasy and cheap, the waitress chews gum and tells bad jokes, not the glamorous Hollywood palace you’d expect an American household name to call his local. Rather than A-listers, the bar is full of everyday Oklahoma people and, whether they realise it or not, every person in that bar, from the mechanic sat dining for one wearing oil stained dungarees, to the over worked Mexican cook in the kitchen, they’ve all seen Mat on TV, walked past his action figure in the toy aisle of a supermarket, seen a newspaper with Mat promoting milk on the back cover, played his computer game or seen him in the multi million dollar grossing film Jackass The Movie. Mat Hoffman is an American icon and one of the very elite superstars who have made the leap from their backyard into the global media, joining the likes of Tony Hawk and Travis Pastrana. Yet here he sits, modest and content with his Guinness. In between drinks and reminiscing with old friends, I manage to ask him a few nervous questions. His responses are short, funny and well polished. Undoubtedly a method Mat has learnt over 25 years of quick fire interviews for the likes of MTV and ESPN, all of which seem preoccupied with listing his many broken bones, number of concussions, stitches and surgeries, catering for a mainstream audience of channel hoppers. Despite having written a book and the release of the film The Birth Of Big Air, both of which document his life, questions about Mat Hoffman remain unanswered, stories remain untold and opinions unvoiced. Over the last two decades Mat has made influential decisions that have steered the course of BMX into the vast industry it is today, decisions that were sometimes frowned upon by the BMX community and damaged his reputation. He is a man commonly perceived as possessing a death wish that few can relate to or understand. Regardless of being at the forefront of a rapidly expanding global industry since the late 80s and sac76
rificing so much for its longevity, Mat has never made the great financial rewards most would expect him to, enjoyed instead by others off the back of his hard work and progression. Over the last few dying weeks of autumn, Mat was keen to talk about the harder unspoken subjects of his life in depth, to burrow well beneath what has been said before, to discover some fascinating darkness, and to give his honest account of the stories – some inspiring, some painful – that have shaped his life and the course of BMX as a whole. The Dream House I arrange to interview Mat one cold evening at his new house out of Oklahoma City and on the edge of the vast empty plains that surround. Far from being finished, his new home is little more than a building site. The house, previously owned by a meth addict, has been gutted, colourful wires dangle from the ceiling, walls have been torn down to reveal the odd gunshot hole left by the previous unhinged owner. Mat pulls up two dirty old plastic chairs, and we sit down almost outside in a room without walls, I switch on the recorder and he disappears to get some drinks. I sit there trying to think of some comfortable questions to start with, nervous how he will respond to the more sensitive subjects I have scribbled on my arm. I gaze over his chaotic building site of a home for ideas. The place is uninhabitable, nothing is finished but a 500ft zip line from a tree and a huge vert ramp; I ask him why. “Yeah the vert ramp is the whole reason why I’m here…it’s what brought me here.” Mat tells me, sipping down a bottle of Guinness and laughing at the order in which he’s building his new home. Until his new house is finished, Mat and his family still live a few miles down the road at his old home as outcasts in a wealthy gated community of rules and regulations, a ‘hypocrisy democracy’ as he refers to it. Every drive there is decorated by expensive cars that patriotically surround an American flagpole. Every drive, that is, except for Mat’s, where instead a defiant vert ramp used to stand to the irritation of his conservative neighbours. As anyone would hope, Mat’s old home is full of historical BMX relics from his past. The garage is part BMX museum, part Dad’s messy shed. A dusty assortment of old AFA trophies sit next to some weed killer, old chrome BMX frames and bent rakes stand side by side amongst snapped propellers from various crash landings aboard his flying machines and a child’s plastic scooter leans up against a rare Evel Knievel signature Harley Davidson motorcycle. Every object in that garage tells a story about him and gives an insight into his life either as a BMX legend, daredevil or father. Discarded on a shelf sits a dirty framed photograph signed by Cameron Diaz, his old helmets sit side by side, each ironically squatted by a nesting family of birds, his first body armour sits beside numerous inventions that never made it to production such as a locking detangler brake system, where a U-brake clamps from the stem round the giro so rotation of the bike can be stopped mid air, and below sits his novel Bamboo frame. His attic too is full of history: X-games medals rest next to the battered chrome frame he pulled the very first flair on in the UK. That entire house holds everything important to Mat Hoffman but one item: his beloved vert ramp. “That house was my dream house. I lived there for eight years and raised a family there. I had my vert ramp in my drive and my kids Jet and Gianna were learning to pump on it, my whole life has consisted of one surreal moment after another but that was a really amazing moment. Then the neighbours took my dream away by saying I can’t ride my ramp. I thought, you’re going to tell me I can’t share that with my kids? I’ve lived for more freedom than that.” Mat’s life is led very independently, without much regard for how others make decisions or act. He sees every challenge from a unique perspective. He is a man dedicated to stepping into
“ I WANT TO PLAY UP IN THE
STARS. I’M GOING TO GET UP TO THE STRATOSPHERE SOME DAY, CHILL, HANG OUT AND LOOK AT THE WORLD, UMP BACK IN AND LAND IN MY BACKYARD.
MAT HOFFMAN, backyard table.
the unknown, progression and freethinking; a true believer that nothing is impossible. This quality in him that explains his unique accomplishments in life and why he plans to build a runway on the roof of his new house, to take off from with his paraglider. Even building his family home is not approached in a conventional way. “This house is a playground in the making. It reflects my life in many ways. Building it is like when we first built the big air ramp, we didn’t know if it’s possible but we just built it and figured it out. For me it’s backwards to learn about something and then do it. It’s a weird world building a house, you have to hire designer, an architect, engineer then they hire contractors to build it. I was like fuck – why don’t I just find someone to build it and tell them what I want to build, fuck all these people. That was the way I saw Haro – I’ve got to tell all these guys to build what I want, instead of just building it myself.” Leaving Haro Before Mat started Hoffman Bikes he rode firstly as an amateur for Skyway and later as a professional for Haro, his childhood dream sponsor. Many would have been content with Mat’s life as a pro rider, earning a salary of $50,000 a year in the late 80s, with little responsibility and all the freedom to devote to riding. However, Mat was never satisfied riding for someone else, he wanted to do more for the BMX than just riding. “When Bob [Haro] left in 87, I was there 88 and 89, now it’s Jim Fordes company and Jim has to make money and these people don’t know where they’re going with Haro, they don’t know how to reinvent. Haro weren’t about reinventing, they were just about growth, and I was about reinventing. I was the reason why Haro had a bash guard and had pegs coming out of the forks, they were my designs. I was trying to do new things for Haro, but I would design something and by the time it got to the table and back to me, it was not what I was saying. I was getting knocked out daily, often because of bad parts. Whenever it was about designing parts, I can’t tell someone how to do it, I have to do it myself. I could have stayed at Haro and it would have been easier but I would never have got what I believed in, I’d always have to compromise. I never got into BMX to compromise. I got into BMX to dream and keep it pure whatever I dreamed about.” A Circus Education Frustrated by their lack of drive to advance freestyle frames and parts, Mat left Haro and all the financial security and freedom it provided. This move was to be the first of a long series of big decisions Mat has
made throughout his life, purely motivated by not what is best for him personally, but what he thought was the best for BMX. Uneducated and still in his teens, Mat started Hoffman Bikes. At an age where most are concentrating on losing their virginity and trying to pass their driving theory exam, Mat dove head first into the politics and financial hardship of the BMX industry, wholly unprepared, pushed purely by nothing else other than his passion for the progression of what he loved. “I started with an entertainment business doing shows when I was 17, and that’s a little easier when you’re selling a service. I perform, provide a service, and they give me money. I am making a trade with you right here. Done. Deal. But when you get into making bikes, you have a crazy business that spans from marketing, engineering, manufacturing, producing, innovating, accounting to guessing what colour the customer wants. When I started out at 17 I had just a simple business, and when Hoffman Bikes came in, it was like a circus, it was a circus education.” At that time Mat was pushing the progression of freestyle riding at startling rate doing higher airs, more spins and more tricks than anyone else before. With bigger tricks came bigger crashes, and the forces applied to the bikes became more destructive. Mat was breaking frames quicker than he was getting punctures. The technology had not kept up with the progression of riding and the bikes of the day were not fit for their purpose. Free from the restraints of Haro, Mat devoted himself to the creation of a revolutionary new freestyle bike. “Linn Kastan was the one to make the first Condor prototype for me. We got that prototype right. Mike Devit owned SE racing and did the PK ripper, which was a beautiful frame, outside of just being well crafted – you could see that every weld on the PK ripper was really thought about. Mike Devit was one of the original masters of building bikes. I got real lucky being able to get both Mike Devit’s and Linn Kastan’s influence. I was in an insane position because I didn’t know anything about building bikes but I told them bars that have 0.49 wall thickness need to have 1.25 or 1.5 thickness, just something stronger. They’d say ‘No, no, handle bars have never been made like that, you don’t need it,’ and I’d say, ‘Well mine break all the time right here’. It was hard to get them to produce some of the stuff I wanted.” Happily out of his depth, the young Mat Hoffman designed the legendary Condor frame, combining Kastan’s and Devit’s years of experience with his detailed knowledge of a bicycle’s weaknesses that he’d learnt the hard way. “We just took a 79
bike and every place where we’d been injured because a bike’s had malfunctioned, which was a lot for me, and especially watching your friends get their necks broken because of a fork malfunction. We looked at the bikes and said, ‘Dude that needs to be better’. We just rethought everything through the idea ‘my life depends on everything on this bike’. It was so hard to get people to make it for you even then.We were just thinking out of the box that people like to think in. The only way to make what I wanted a reality was to not be dependent on anyone else, so I was like I’m going to start a machine shop, how am I going to put this together?” Yearning for independence to create better bikes, Mat opened the first in-house 80
machine shop for a freestyle company. The idea of the machine shop was characteristically innovative of Mat’s D.I.Y. and uneducated ethic. Although nothing new to the racing world, the idea of manufacturing bikes in-house was unheard of in freestyle for a small company, and long before the likes of S&M and Standard. Despite being the first, Mat’s workshop is generally overlooked when crediting other companies with starting the in-house machine shop for a freestyle company. I ask Mat how he feels about that, and his reply is short and genuine. “I never really thought about the credit. I’m going to get a beer, you want one?” He asks and walks off into the darkness and rubble of his half built kitchen.
Taiwan Once up and running, the machine shop gave Mat complete control over production and the freedom to evolve the design of the bikes, using the machine shop as a lab to develop new concepts. Over time Mat refined the design of his signature Condor frame and parts, but now it was the manufacturing process that was frustrating him. The machine shop employed a band of jailbirds and riders all operating sub standard machinery found in classified ads and bought on a limited budget. The production line was slow and unreliable. Long delays were frequent, orders were lost and the business struggled as a result. Ever searching for ways to raise the standard of his bikes, Mat looked beyond US shores to
make a big decision that would change the BMX industry forever. “In Oklahoma I bought a mill that cost me seventeen hundred bucks and I had a lathe that cost me twenty three hundred bucks, and three cheap welding machines. I had all this sketchy equipment that had large margins for error. You want to put a bike together in the best possible way, accurately fitted with the least possible weld. When I educated myself about how a bike is made and manufactured, I realized there are other parts of the world, like Taiwan, that have so many things go through their factory that they are able to afford million dollar CNC lathe machines, to put all your product through and cut it perfectly. The standard of the product would be superior than what we could build in Oklahoma, as long as you get the right material to them. We imported the same military established 4130 chromoly from Japan, before the Taiwan manufacturers were using it. Once you make sure they have the right material, you then let them run that through their perfect machines and watch their welders tig weld, make comments and have someone there policing the whole time, and you just have a way better product. Now I won’t be waiting on my 200 frames that were six months behind. So it had to happen. I had to jump in there and figure a way to teach the Taiwan industry how to produce bikes that I trust my life with.” At the time Mat was working hard to teach the Taiwan bicycle manufacturers how to build strong, reliable and quality frames, the general perception of a Taiwanese made BMX was associated with the low-end complete bikes of Mongoose and GT that originally made the move to Taiwan. The BMX community simply regarded Taiwanese made frames as cheap and weak, unreservedly inferior to anything with an ‘American made’ sticker on. The other reputable companies of the era, namely Standard and S&M, heavily marketed their frames proudly as American made, as Hoffman Bikes had done originally. To Mat’s frustration, the BMX community was hard to convince that the quality of a frame manufactured in Taiwan, made with the identical material, with highly accurate machines operated by skilled craftsman, would be as good, if not better, than a frame made in a sketchy workshop of old machines operated by excons in Oklahoma. It was as if Mat’s old marketing tactic of proudly branding his bikes as Made in the U.S.A. had created a patriotic myth in BMX that was now coming back to haunt him. The general percep-
tion of the move was that Hoffman Bikes had lowered the standard of their products and sold out. With his reputation and business on the line, Mat came up against a wall of criticism. “Jeeze. I still get flack for that, but I didn’t do it for what anyone else thought about it. It’s like sorry bro, sorry I’m now the bad guy of the neighbourhood, but guess I don’t belong in your neighbourhood. I’m doing things for the progression of what I believe in and not for what you believe in. It was a bummer though. I’ve done that my whole life, to make those decisions for the best interest of BMX, and then watch those decisions shatter my image or whatever. I’ve had to make a lot of what people think are bad decisions.”
I DON’T VALUE WINNING OR LOSING. I VALUE JUST NOT GOING TO THE HOSPITAL ON THAT 900.
In the early 90s the name of Hoffman Bikes was synonymous with strength and high quality craftsmanship. This reputation was built on the success of the Condor frame and the Superfork. When made in Oklahoma, the Superfork had a name for being heavy and unbreakable in an era when strength mattered above all, making the Superfork the leading selling fork of the time. Unfortunately, relocating production from Oklahoma to Taiwan came at a cost. The first batch of Superforks made in Taiwan were noticeably weaker than before. The aftermath proved highly damaging to the reputation of the Superfork, crippling their sales, and highly damaging also to the reputation of Hoffman Bikes. Unsure how he will react, I ask Mat if he can remember what happened. “Was that the one? The Superfork? I wondered what it was, where we didn’t become the cool kids on the block, and
the kids who learnt from our frontiering became the cool kids on the block.” Mat pauses, recalling the memories and staring into thin air, showing a rare moment of frustration, but quickly shrugs his disappointment off with a grin, collects his thoughts and continues his point. “What is for the best interests of your product is not in the best interests of your reputation. OK it took a little bit of work. Even though if the Superforks weren’t as strong, that’s because they used the wrong material, and if they used the wrong material, they bent – they didn’t snap. Still, I made a fork that if someone messed up manufacturing it, it wasn’t going to hurt my friend, it would be a cushion that bent since there was no welding in the steerer tube. So sorry if that happened, I remember something happened with the Superforks at some time but I’m sure we took care of anybody and gave them new stuff when it was returned and it was hard to keep the doors open. But it’s never about business. It’s never about business dude. It’s never about money.” Mat pauses again, thinking it through and stroking his beard, as if he’s trying to make sense of it all. “I ride my bike completely for myself, and when you have a business you do it for everybody else. To keep the business alive you have to be conscious of everybody else. In that time of my life I was just conscious of what the best thing is for our sport.” Almost two decades after Mat’s first presumably laboured phone calls to the Far East, today very few frames are still made in the U.S.A. The vast majority of the high-end frames and parts are all made in Taiwan. The price of bikes has fallen, the BMX market has been able to expand, and the quality of cheap complete bikes has drastically improved, making BMX more accessible for kids starting to ride. Just as the likes of Mongoose and GT had shown the industry it was possible to manufacture cheap low quality bikes in Taiwan before, Mat successfully showed it was possible to manufacture high-end BMX frames in Taiwan for the first time. It just took that first company to step into the unknown, do the hard work, risk their reputation, and take the inevitable mistakes and criticism. The hard lessons learnt by Mat and Hoffman Bikes paved the way for almost the entire BMX industry to move production to the Far East. Hoffman Bikes failed to really capitalize from the Taiwan revolution they created. With the benefit of hindsight, I ask Mat if he has any regrets over the decisions he made regarding Taiwan. Again, he pauses, tak81
ing a second to reflect, thinking beyond Taiwan, he then speaks slowly, with conviction. “I live with no regret…at all. Everything that has failed, and everything that most say they would regret, I’ve learnt a priceless lesson from. The only way I learn is through failure. Fuck it. I love failure.” Making A Dollar In the days before the interview, I was worried that Mat would find the questions regarding Taiwan to be sensitive and he would be unhappy to discuss the ins and outs. Throughout the conversation, even though the issue was a costly experience for him, Mat was open and cheerful. Many would have been understandably bitter, but Mat Hoffman isn’t one of the many, his underlining motives differ from the many. “To give to something to make it better is not giving me any money back. But it’s not about making a dollar, it’s about giving back to what made you what you are. You can’t make business with your passion, because your passion is not about the values of business. I would have closed doors a long time ago if it was about business.You can’t make can’t money in BMX. I’ve been doing it for 20 freakin’ years, and I can’t figure out how to make money in BMX.” While Hoffman commits endless thought, dedication and sacrifice for his love of BMX, his bank balance sits in the shadows of a frantic mind, forgotten and ignored. He lives a comfortable lifestyle, but he’s far from the multi millionaire many assume him to be. There was never the six figure Vans contract or the Fox endorsement that would settle a mortgage. Being of an independent nature, Mat has always only ridden for himself and any sponsorship deals have been relatively underwhelming compared to likes of his understudies Dave Mirra and Travis Pastrana. At numerous points over the days I spent with Mat, he often sarcastically thanked the trade of narcotics for his income and lifestyle. He thanks the meth addict who lowered the price of his new home, and he thanks the fact that Oklahoma sits on the trade route for drugs from Mexico to the East Coast, as the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics pay a premium rate to rent the old Hoffman Bikes warehouse, well financed by their seizures on the highway. Mat occasionally visits that old warehouse, to see it full of unmarked police cars and huge piles of millions of dollars stacked up where his vert ramp used to be. Mat seems almost proud of his failure to reap huge financial rewards from BMX, and proud of the failure of BMX to make money in comparison to the other richer cycling industries. I ask him if he thinks the lack of money is good for BMX. “Totally. I think it cleans out people who aren’t there to represent the spirit, it takes those people away. They don’t have any interest in the spirit of BMX, they just want to make money.” The Recession In the late 80s BMX was rich — rich with money and ‘those people’. But in a short space of time BMX went from living the high life to being flat broke and living on the streets. Bike sales flat-lined, magazines went bankrupt, competitions dried up – the money and ‘those people’ disappeared. Mat was on the front line of the collapse and thinks the recession was caused the by the very nature of the foundations of BMX. “In 89 it started fading out. 90 it was almost gone. 91 it was in the hole. The Taco Bells of the world had another trend to follow. The marketing industry that had latched onto BMX was stronger than our grass roots. Back then we didn’t have control over BMX, it was in the hands of whoever was marketing with it. BMX didn’t have its own foundation and it became a fad, it wasn’t real.” Prior to the recession, BMX had been a largely mainstream sport, at its peak funded by mainstream corporations that regarded BMX as a marketing tool with which to promote their product, be it a fizzy drink, cassette player or breakfast cereal. 82
However, Mat always held contempt for corporate America and was happy to see it the back of it. “Going through a recession was the best thing to happen to BMX. Not being cool anymore, nobody could market it with their soda or whatever. It allowed us to take it back and become independent.” In the early 90s freestyle left the public eye and corporations left BMX for dead. Riding went underground, kept alive by a small core of riders who began to build more solid foundations of independence on which BMX now thrives. In an attempt to reach out and inspire the next generation of riders, Mat toured the country performing half pipe shows with his team of now legendary riders, such as Dave Mirra, Jay Miron and Dennis McCoy. Although referred to as the dark years owing to the lack of money, it was in this period that riding saw great progression and, free from the distractions of money, it is considered by some to be the purest era of riding. It was in these years before foam pits and without a wealthy sponsor to pay his medical insurance, that Mat was setting the boundaries of what was possible on a bicycle. Those boundaries stand to this day – most of today’s pro riders still haven’t achieved what Mat was doing 20 years ago on his homemade big air ramp. A Definite Clash Always on the hunt for new markets, spectacles such as the backflips and 24ft airs attracted the attention of the American sports media giant, ESPN – the creator of the X-games. Previously, ESPN had only worked with professional representatives of Basketball or Baseball, but now looked to expose the new world of extreme sports. With no knowledge or understanding of the other, the first meeting between the core BMX community and ESPN resembled when Columbus met the natives — a group of suited businessmen and media tycoons with their expensive lawyers ready to sue when things turn ugly, versus a group of punk street kids who’d go for the jugular. “That was the first interaction between cooperate America and hardcore ethics that we’d fostered for 15 years. It was like WOW BAM. It was a definite clash. At first ESPN were like a baseball coach telling you how to live in your own world. I thought wait a minute, I’ve lived my whole life not to have to abide by someone else’s rules. But I saw the power of media and I knew the power of exposure on a mass level like that. I thought wait, this wall isn’t going to break down, they’re going to take whatever I believe in unless I tell them how to believe. I knew I had to work with ESPN and try to give them what they needed, or they’d completely take our sport from us, and bastardise it for whatever they think it is.” At the time of ESPN’s first interests in BMX, the core community was defiantly opposed to anything mainstream. There was a fear that the integrity of BMX would be lost through involvement of a company as big as ESPN. Being the face of BMX, Mat acted as a middleman between the two contrasting sides. Once again his reputation and the future of BMX was on the line, and Mat came under criticism from all sides. “It was another Taiwan. The start of the X-games and sudden attention from ESPN was in the best interests of who we are and what we needed as a sport, but I had to take a load of flack for it. I had to tell people, ‘You don’t understand the reality of it and sorry you don’t, but this is in your best interests’. I always had a bunch of those moments where I really had to go forward, even though everything I believed in and what the BMX community believed in were two different things.” The involvement of ESPN and the introduction of the Xgames brought a slicker version of Mat’s touring half pipe show to every living room across America. Mat had found the exposure for BMX he craved. Bike sales grew, public interest in BMX made a comeback, and so did the corporate interests of companies such as Levis, Toyota, and numerous energy drinks. The step into the mainstream became a catalyst for rapid growth of
THE CONDOR, No-hander.
I DREAM OF ANOTHER RECESSION.
BMX. What was a small and poor community quickly grew into the mass industry it is today. Having pushed forward for the steps that enabled BMX to become what it is today, I ask Mat how he perceives the current state of BMX. “I dream of another recession.” Mat jokes sarcastically, looking up to stars as if to be looking to god for a miracle. “Just kidding. It’s a different game now. We all noticed that we need to grab the reigns of our sport, we need to manufacture our bikes, we need to run the contests – it needs to be our soul that creates what we are. We need to keep a hold on BMX. When BMX started to grow again the corporations started coming to us saying ‘Hey you guys are cool again, I want this, I want that’. They couldn’t take BMX from us because now we have terms. That’s what I tried to tell ESPN, ‘Let the core be the voice of what it becomes, and you can’t tell the core how to be, even though you’re bigger and more superior because of your finance and titles, you’re still milking a system you have no control over – don’t even try to understand it.’ We have to stay on our rock 84
and say this is who we are – you can come to us. It was our generation that taught that to the corporations. I hope BMX continues to grow and shows a different way the commercial world can coexist with something that is original and great, and the commercial world doesn’t turn that into something that is generic. I think BMX has grown well, better than any other art, or action sport. Skateboarding is a great influence but it’s always had an industry wrapped around it and never got to become completely independent like BMX. Skateboarding always catered to something else, it’s not pure. That’s why I think BMX is the purest of any action sport, because we decided who we are in a split second in our backyards and kept our independence.” When Mat speaks about the various decisions he made over ESPN or Taiwan, or even leaving Haro, he gives the impression he has a clear vision of what BMX is and where it belongs. Is BMX in 2011 the vision of riding he held as a 13 year old boy who went unnaturally high? Is this what he sacrificed his body
for and dedicated his life to? I ask him, is this where he intended BMX to go? His reply is immediate and humbly honest. “I never intended BMX to go anywhere but my backyard. I was just trying to hold on so they didn’t take it from us and make it into something that I had not subscribed to. BMX is so much bigger than where I came from that I can’t really compare it. I can’t compare the industry now to the original thought I had as a boy, even though that thought is still there with me. BMX is everything now. I decided to BMX because it was nothing, except for what my heart and soul told me, now it’s everything beyond that. People always ask me can I believe how big it got? I say ‘Dude, I can’t believe it took so long’. I believed BMX was greatest thing in the world when I was 13 years old. And now I’m 38 and people ask me if I ever believed it was going to be this big? I believed that for the last 25 years this shit should have been this big. “BMX…I will have no control over it. It is its own animal. But I’ll always believe and be what BMX is. If anyone ever wants to check back into that, they can, I’m always going to be that. That’s what BMX is: the freedom to not get along with anybody. That’s the beauty of BMX. Yes it’s huge but it can be whatever it wants to be through the eyes of whoever does it. There’s always been that good pocket of our community that isn’t distracted by anything, and follow their soul, and their heart.”
The Purity Of BMX
In other conversations I had with Mat, he often refers to a jock side of the BMX aside from his punk influenced side, but I was wrong to assume he didn’t regard the more competitive side of riding as pure. “BMX today is not completely pure as what I define the purity of our sport to be. I’ve seen the sport go from having no distractions like money and sponsorship, and there was no interest, all there was only the value of ripping. That’s one thing about BMX, is that it doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re ripping you earned that seat off the purity of BMX. You don’t get back on your bike after you’ve jacked yourself up a millions times unless you love it, and you don’t get that good unless you’ve jacked yourself up a millions times. If someone is freakin’ ripping it on a BMX and going big, they earned that, they earned that through their heart and soul because that’s no smoke or mirrors. When I see someone rip, I think bro you know what it’s about, because this what you love, it may not always be what I loved, but it’s what they love. It used to be a small community where we loved the
same thing, now it’s a big community and we love different things.” When Mat started riding, everything was different, the tricks, the bikes, the style, but larger still, public perception. Nowadays BMX is accepted, the Olympics recognize racing as a sport and barely a music video passes without a foot jam whip. In contrast, what attracted Mat to BMX in the first place was the break from social acceptance. “I started riding because I had no interest trying to be the cool kid on the block. I saw BMX for something I could for myself without anybody trying to accept me. I decided to bow out of the social race in schools, or getting on teams or stuff like that. I saw BMX as a way to escape that.”
I WOULD MAKE DECISIONS FOR THE BEST INTEREST OF BMX, AND THEN WATCH THOSE DECISIONS SHATTER MY IMAGE.
” Mat’s natural talents quickly took him to the top contests and to a new world of competitions, interviews, fans, press and the very attention and acceptance he sought to avoid. “I was 13 or 14. I friggin’ hated it. I was this shy kid that wants to ride his bike so I didn’t have to deal with anything else. It was the first time someone else judged me. I had that problem when I was a wrestler and doing judo. When I would lose, it would always bug me. Bike riding was so great because it was mine and I didn’t have to lose or win, I just did it. I didn’t want to compete. I’d rather just ride. I don’t value winning or losing. I value just not going to the hospital on that 900, or just trying to hit that ramp as hard as I could and just look down and just hold on, get as tweaked with whatever energy I have. But whether I crashed or won a comp, I fucking went for it, and that’s the only thing that makes me happy. Whether I went to hospital and everyone’s sad or I won the contest and everyone’s happy, I was always pretty happy.” The Death Wish Mat’s disregard for winning and losing, is rooted by a rare, possibly eccentric outlook. He is devoted to seeing the world through his own eyes, and his eyes only. He’s a man
with a brilliant mind that is quick fired and unique. He bears a talent for fantasy and holds a wonderfully reckless imagination. Such minds are rarely satisfied by the simple black and white of winning and losing. Mat has a hunger to question and challenge everything, none more so than gravity, reality and death. “The sky is a great environment of unknown possibilities.” Mat says looking up to the night sky with a childlike fascination. “It’s wide open because of the taboo and fear of falling to the earth. With the mass up there that you can control and play with, you can get some of the most incredible superhero feelings. Street riding made me originally see everything for a different purpose and what made me want to base jump was to be able to look at the world without any barrier or any limits around me. It makes you look at skyscrapers, bridges and antennas as a playground. If I’m on top of a building and I wanted to run off that, I could do that. Or if I wanted to take a parachute and ride a volcano up to the stars from the thermals it puts off, I will figure out a way to do that. I don’t have to play under the conventional rules anymore, I can play everywhere, in fact I want to play up in the stars. I’m going to get up to the stratosphere some day, chill, hang out and look at the world, jump back in and land my backyard.” Visions of a 38 year old man wanting to play in the stars could be interpreted as a mind lost to dreaming and fantasy, but that is not so. Mat Hoffman lives his dreams. After my visit his emails to me were punctuated by the previous day’s head cam video of him running off the edge of mountains in Huahine, or taking his family up in a hot air balloon and jumping out the basket to the disbelief of his young daughter and son. In his lifetime Mat has jumped from hundreds of planes, bridges and towers, with and without bikes, flown over coral reefs and volcanoes with nothing but a big fan and a parachute strapped to his back, all fulfilling the burn in his heart when his injured body can’t support riding. Throughout his riding and leaps into the sky, death is very real and very close. Never more so than when he attempted a double back flip off a notoriously deadly cliff, the Kjerag in Norway, and he found himself falling 3,200ft at 150 m.p.h. flipped upside down on a bike with his trousers caught in the chain. His assessment of what is possible and what is dangerous is a rare trait of a rare breed – the daredevil. His mind is in the dangerous state where pleasure and danger are blurred and overlap, it is both euphoric and self-destructive. But what is his driving force and reasoning? What was it about the boy from dusty old Oklahoma that made him the great Mat Hoffman? 85
“Once you’ve dreamed without any fear of death or dreamed without any limits, then you can’t dream any other way. I’ve dreamt that way my whole life. I don’t have a choice. I have all these dreams, but they’re a blessing as much a curse. I’ve crossed the line so many times. I’ve done stuff that really bums me out to think how close I’ve come to dying so many times. Those are the memories when I think how did I survive that? And I think I shouldn’t be alive doing this interview right now. I always try to analyse myself why I make these decisions, but I really just go from the heart, and instinct is what keeps me alive so I just trust it. That’s just the way it is. But I respect the dangers. I know when to call the line. But I keep getting surprised about how much I can do, and anybody could do if they dreamed like that. I don’t have a death wish, I have a life wish.” He says, quoting himself, like a golden rule he lives by. “I’m so grateful of the life I have, even though I’ve had a lot of trials and tribulations. I’ve become content and I think I’m lucky I got this far. Tomorrow is all extra.” At the peak of his riding and base jumping Mat started a family with his wife, Jaci, whom he married at just 21. The change prompted him to re-evaluate his life and discover a hard truth. “I started trying to dream a little more conservatively but I just can’t. The way I celebrate life is living life. My kids coming into the world made me want to celebrate beyond anything. One minute Jaci is pregnant with Gianna so I thought I should chill out, then the next minute she’s born and I’m riding my bike out the back of a plane and I’m at falling from 16,000 feet going ‘Woohoo I’ve got a daughter’. I had to come to accept I will never change, that’s who I am. I think I need to chill out but at the same, just because of the nature of who I am – chilling out is what will kill me.” Car Accident On the afternoon of October 29th 2008, Mat set off in his car to collect his children from the nursery. He never arrived. Within a mile of his home Mat’s small car was hit by a truck that had run a stop sign. Having survived his many base jumps and skydives and having flat-lined from bike crashes, his life was almost taken by this seemingly mundane everyday act. “When a semi truck runs a stop sign at 50m.p.h. and broadsides you and nearly takes your life, and should have taken my life, it’s like ‘that’s my life’. I’ve come really close and looked at the grim reaper in the eyes many times and I’ve taken it back. When it’s on someone else’s terms, or someone else jumps in the picture and they try to take your life out of your hands… it’s like that’s my life and I’m going to keep it.” He tells me this with anger in his voice, anger at being cheated. He describes the accident as if talking about a burglary or a furious parking ticket. He pauses, calms down and continues his story in a quieter tone. “The semi truck hit me at 50m.p.h. and ran over the front of the car. If I was six inches further along, the truck would have gone into my car and killed me. The truck went over the front of the car, and the back wheels of the truck kicked and spun me eight times and about 100ft into some trees. The tree impact knocked me out. Before, when I’ve woken up from a crash, I’m used to that coming-to feeling and having someone I know around me. I had no one around me. It was weird and tragic. I thought, holy shit my kids are in the car, and I looked in the back and saw the baby seats and all the windows smashed out…I was tripping man.” Mat relives the moments with a degree of pain and sorrow. I feel uncomfortable for putting him through those moments, my mind races to think of a question and how move on, but he is fixed in those bad memories. “A guy pulled over and he had his daughter in his car and 86
he wouldn’t help me because he thought my head was cut off. I said to him ‘I just went through that, don’t tell me my head is cut off’. I didn’t have my seat belt on though, which is why I tore my rotator cuff [shoulder muscles] all off. My arm is partially paralyzed now, it doesn’t really work. Even though that accident happened – bummer – but I’m still alive. I’m kind of sick of those memories, but they just keep coming.” New Boundaries Mat’s partially paralyzed arm is the latest addition to a long, heavily documented list of injuries, adding to the countless concussions, broken bones, dislocated joints, torn spleens and comas that have all threatened to take riding from him, but failed. However, getting hit by a truck was to be different from his previous injuries. The truck accident opened a new chapter in Mat’s life and demanded a new appreciation of his limitations. “There have been a lot of incidents where I shouldn’t have ridden again, but the only one I actually believed in was when I got hit by that truck, because my arm didn’t work. I thought, how do you ride a bike with one arm? What I had to find out was that now it’s not about progressing beyond the boundary, but it’s about reinterpreting that boundary with a whole new set of tools that create all these impossibilities for me that I have to overcome. My boundary is now barely being able to brush my teeth in the morning because I can’t hold my arm up, and wanting to do a big no handed 540 with that same arm later that day. “The truck accident has created a new era of my riding. There’s the first era where I was winning everything, and then there’s the second era where there was a lot of awesome people out there, you got the Bestwicks, the Tabrons, the Mirras, the Jays [Miron], the Dennis’ [McCoy], and people like John Parker. All these guys are amazing, that was an era of us pushing each other and throwing down hard. And now there’s the third era where I got hit by a semi truck and had to fall out of the web, because I can’t play there anymore.” Since the accident Mat wears a shoulder brace that holds his upper arm in a T-Rex position, safely in the joint but movement is heavily restricted. Without it, a mere handshake has been enough to rip his arm from the socket. Like his other serious injuries before, he has defied medical opinion and found a solution that allows him to ride. At the age of 38, his body is almost worn out, resembling a Frankenstein like project, held together by donated parts, titanium pins, synthetic ligaments and yards of scar tissue. Still he continues to ride, unable to walk away from his bike – the source of his injuries. It is doubtful any other single person from any sport, be it rock climbing or Moto-X, has suffered so much damage to their bodies over such a prolonged period of time, has overcome those injuries and is still alive, walking and pushing themselves to this day. But for Mat all the pain and suffering is entirely justified. “When you haven’t ridden in a while and you’re injured, you are tempted to look at bike riding from a negative perspective. I’ve been beat down, I’ve almost lost my life, I’ve flat-lined, I’ve been in comas, all from that bike. I’ve come back to it and I say to myself, ‘What the fuck do I do this shit for? Come on man, really? I’m still doing this? You know where it’s going’. The first day when I ride my ramp after not riding for a while, it’s hard to get myself to ride. But once I do ride, I’m like woo…that’s what it is. Then the more I ride the less I can stop. And then I realize, OK wait, this is why I ride. I ride because I am completely free right now. I make every decision and my life depends on it. I have no limits but what my mind tells me. And I can challenge everything right now. I feel like this is what life is, it’s about the soul. Bike riding is so demanding on my mind and my focus that everything else disappears. It’s all about finishing this task in front of me, and
Look back can can, Oklahoma.
A GUY PULLED OVER… AND HE WOULDN’T HELP ME BECAUSE HE THOUGHT MY HEAD WAS CUT OFF.
being happy how that felt, and crafting it into something I’m proud of. Now everything else in the world that might be poking at my mind and distracting me doesn’t even exist, because this very moment is the most important thing in my life. Some people like to mow the lawn, it’s the same. Riding is a way to go back to something that is truly peaceful.” Before I met Mat that first evening in the dusty bar, I had heard rumours that too many hits to the head had left his mind with a loose grip on reality, and that undertaking a full interview would be unrealistic. I was also told that watching Hoffman ride was terrifying, that he didn’t have the same bike control since his three year break after the truck accident and his reckless mentality was defiant as ever, fearing that every ride could be his last and he wanted go out in a blaze of glory. Undeniably damage has been done and a lifetime of slams has taken its toll. At some point, presumably whilst knocked out on the flat bottom of a ramp, Mat lost the ability to perceive hunger and cannot taste food. He has to remind himself to eat, like you or I remind may remind ourselves to brush our teeth – occasionally we forget. When he does remember to eat he swamps his food in hot jalapenos in the hope the potent spice will kick start some sensation on his unplugged tongue. His conversations can drift into the unknown, into the stars and beyond, but would always end with a reflective laugh at the expense of his own genuinely wild mind. Regardless of his ungrounded imagination and tasteless diet, the rumours of him being unhinged or having one hit too many to the head were untrue. Throughout our conversations he was articulate, funny and engaging. His riding too was flawless. Throughout the sessions on his backyard ramp he was smooth, went high, and didn’t crash once, all without his shoulder brace on, having left it in Paris, riding with his arm unrestricted for the first time in years. My perception of Mat very quickly went from him being the world famous Condor who I was nervous to talk to at first, to a very generous and funny older rider with a shaky tattoo gun, who likes to drive his electric car fast round corners, whilst his responsible eight year old daughter disapprovingly whispers “Daddy”. He has the carefree and spontaneous character of an irresponsible teenager, a character that is infectious – most of the riders that spent time with him whilst I was there returned having jumped out of a plane with Mat
and bore a prison style tattoo drawn by Mat’s semi paralyzed and drunk hand, his only preparation for which was typing ‘how to tattoo’ into the internet. Above all, what is striking about Hoffman’s character is how humble and modest he is of his many achievements. As a rider no one has ever been so far ahead, dominated for such a long time and been the source of so much progression, with only the failure of his health stopping him
independent contests such as the Bicycle Stunt series, and he was instrumental to the success of the X-games, which became the catalyst for the creation of the global extreme sports industry and a huge driving force behind massive growth in BMX. Throughout all his dealings in big business, Mat has retained the hardcore ethic of independence and his D.I.Y. approach. Without Mat it is hard to imagine the great Dave Mirra would be wearing diamond encrusted watches, and countless other riders who have profited greatly from BMX would be where they are today. Having helped the fortunes of so many, Mat has profited comparatively little. But for a man who lives for freedom, follows his heart, and gets his trousers stuck in the chain whilst riding off 3,200ft cliffs, money is worthless, it is only a fuel that drives his ideas. Hoffman’s wealth is not a fleet of Hummers in the garage, but his memories, legacy, purity and self-respect. “I’m proud I’ve never done anything that wasn’t straight from the heart. That’s why I have so many great, brilliant, loving friends, and they see me make decisions for the better of something that doesn’t contribute to anything that is beneficial to me. It drives a lot of my friends crazy, and I guess it makes my life a little harder. But I can only do what I believe in. That’s what I’m proud of, that I believe in what I do. “I’ve done a lot of tricks, I’ve performed on every stage, I’ve lived all that stuff. I’ve played all those games so much, there is nothing I care to accomplish now. I’m lucky I have no interest in living any of that anymore, apart from what got me there. I now look back at all of it and re-find that very original root of why I ride. I’ll be glad that for the rest of my existence that I got to ride all those rides, to question challenges, I got to see everything and know it’s what you believe in that is important, and you can do anything.” These days Mat Hoffman typically rides alone, only his dog ‘Shocker’ looks on from the side of the ramp, occasionally scratching his ear with his back foot whilst a couple of horses munch grass in the field beside. 25 years after that same young boy first rode a quarter pipe in dusty Oklahoma, the grown man has returned to his backyard ramp. Having accomplished every challenge, broken every boundary, inspired thousands and given so much to BMX, Mat has returned to his original root. Once again he is the dreaming kid riding his in backyard, for no one but himself, for nothing but the moment – pure BMX.
ONCE YOU’VE DREAMED WITHOUT ANY FEAR OF DEATH OR DREAMED WITHOUT ANY LIMITS, THEN YOU CAN’T DREAM ANY OTHER WAY.
from progressing further. Granted, riders today are doing more whips and flips and spins, but if you judge a rider relative to the level of their peers and the era, few could deny that Hoffman is greatest rider of all time. It is hard to see how any one rider could repeat the same domination and revolutionise BMX in the same way. That is in my eyes anyway, but my eyes are closed. Another Mat could come along, with a new unique vision as he did, who can see beyond what everyone else regards as boundaries. It’s a natural process of evolution, long periods of slow progression are interspersed with huge leaps by very rare and talented individuals – Mat Hoffman is one of those individuals. Mat’s achievements go beyond riding. With Hoffman Bikes Mat raised the standard of bikes, led the way with the first freestyle in-house machine shop, and took the first steps to manufacture highend bikes in Taiwan, from which we all now benefit. He contributed greatly with
Gazza's PaRadise DUB / MAJORCA
There is not a soul to greet us. Not an ageing dog walker, suffering jogger, leathery skinned sunbather, or a single moving car…not a soul. Everything is quiet. It’s midday on a Friday and the streets of Magaluf are empty. Nothing moves but the cold wind that freezes the pale faces of the Dub riders who just flew in from Liverpool’s John Lennon airport. The view resembles a street scene more fitting of Chernobyl than a Spanish holiday resort. The beach is deserted, overlooked by countless high-rise hotels with corridor after corridor of empty rooms, their dirty main entrances are chained up, the shutters are down and neglected swimming pools stand half full of green stagnant water — it’s a ghost town. Words and Photography by GEORGE MARSHALL
DUB IN MAJORCA Scott Ditchburn, Chris Mills, Josh Roberts, John ‘Frenchy’ Williams, Dub Jack and Dan Lacey
It’s winter in the beach resort of Magaluf, on the Spanish island of Majorca. The postcard view of a clear emerald sea meeting a golden beach ending in a row of palm trees bares no relation to the ice cold air or lifeless atmosphere. The arrival of Dan Lacey, Josh Roberts, Chris Mills, Scott Ditchburn, Frenchy and Dub Jack has just doubled the local population. The town is in a coma. Dead streets are lined with bars and hotels, all shut for the profitless winter months and are gathering dust. The only signs of life are a queue of optimistic taxi drivers that sit asleep—their engines ticking over to keep out the cold and a single amusement arcade is open on a street of otherwise closed shutter shops, the colourful lights blink but there is no one’s attention to attract, no one is here. We ride through the deserted streets on that first day, to get an early uncertain grip of our home for the next week. As we enter the heart of Magaluf we pass hotel after hotel, nightclub after kebab house, and pub after strip bar, all sat closed in hibernation, with stories to hide from the summer gone. The bars and nightclubs remind us of somewhere painfully familiar, like a bad memory of somewhere we’d left behind, somewhere very British. Many places in the world bare the mark of us British, but few as ugly as Magaluf. Only a few generations ago the Victorians colonized, invaded, destroyed and rebuilt just about every country in sight at some point, all in the name of the Queen, a strong hot cup of tea and we tried to make the world British. We invaded and imposed our culture of table manners, cricket, Shakespeare, crumpets and doilies onto the world. We shared the best aspects of British society across the empire. Sadly, the only British export Magaluf inherited from us is the hooligan, the slag and a national thirst for alcohol, drugs and tramp stamp sex. The streets of Magaluf are lined with defiantly English, Irish and Scottish 92
‘family owned’ pubs that bring a taste of Doncaster to paradise, and make as much effort to fit in with the local Spanish culture as Mark Webb made in school. Pub after pub stand with great unapologetic neon signs of the St. George’s cross, the Irish cloverleaf or a cartoon drawing of a British Bulldog drinking a pint of frothy ale. Nowhere else in the world could you see such patriotically British pubs, where they offer 6 for 1 shots and a head butt is on the house.
MAGALUF IS A SKEGNESS WITH A FAKE TAN, A PIKEY’S UTOPIA; GAZZA’S PARADISE.
Their names say it all; The Three Lions, The Tartan Arms, Wee Magee’s, Linekar’s Sports bar, Benny Hill’s and lastly The Prince William Bar that if you’re hungry offers the catchy named ‘Prince Harry Food To Carry Kebab Special Deal’, try ordering that after two and a half Garys, three lines of Charlie and twelve pints of Stella. The signs of the kebab houses and imitation KFCs are spelt out in big glowing English writing and target the stupid, a beacon for the intoxicated and chemically euphoric alike. The town is a grim salute to our nation’s obsession with binge-drinking, the fist fight, and the unadmirable situation of waking up naked in
a small puddle of bodily fluids next to a permed stranger with whom you share nothing in common but the question “did we?”. Simply, the likes of Stephen Fry does not go on holiday here but of those that do, none return virgins. Magaluf is a Skegness with a fake tan, a pikey’s utopia; Gazza’s paradise. The town is a sight that makes you feel about as proud to be English as Trisha and the Birmingham accent. “You can tell this is where it all kicks off… bet it’s mad here in summer.” Says Ditchburn, looking at all the bars and clubs sat dormant awaiting the summer onslaught of thousands of English eighteen to thirty five year olds, hell bent on cheap booze and casual sex, that take over the town, fill up the local Spanish hospitals, police stations and demand British grub and Sky satellite television. For now those crowds are gone. It is the calm before the summer storm. On that first ride round we quickly realise that only second to the amount of pubs and strip bars in Magaluf is the amount of spots. Being on a hill the small area is littered with endless rails, banks and steps. This combination of good spots, bearable winter temperatures, a lack of people to confront, rock bottom hotel prices and dole friendly flight costs has made Magaluf a regular winter haunt for skaters, but seems to have been overlooked by riders. The skaters have had it right for years. In Magaluf you are completely unchallenged and unhindered, as if the outside world is on pause or wiped out. Nowhere is off limits. Only once did we up meet some hostility, and it showed us an ugly side of what the local people think of us; the English tourists. Millsy was setting up to do an access gap beside a hotel, he’d given it a test run and managed to hang up both wheels but landed safely in his signature ‘beanie over the eyes’ style and needed a second try.
SCOTT DITCHBURN, No hander, Sa Pobla.
CHRIS MILLS, Magic carpet, Magaluf.
CHRIS MILLS, Broken nose.
A cleaner on her fag break had given us a friendly approving wave, nothing was likely to get damaged other than Millsy, everything was good. Just at this point, a distinctly Spanish looking middle-aged man drove into the car park, blocking Millsy’s run up and gets out to shout at us. Millsy politely asks him to move, even putting his hands together praying for one more attempt, appealing to man’s Catholic upbringing, but still he refuses. Suddenly the atmosphere begins turns ugly when he shouts, “Go back to your own country.” Lacey ignites into rage, despite his arm being in a sling with a shoulder injury. “You what bruv? You racist cunt.” Lacey shouts back, trying to contain himself as the man sees the anger in Lacey’s eyes, jumps back into his car, locks himself in and gets on the phone, presumably to the police. “Time to go mate” Millsy says to me, grabbing some of my camera gear. From the few local people we met, there was a consistent feeling of hatred towards us. Seeing a café or shop owner’s face abruptly U-turn from a welcoming smile to blunt disgust upon recognising your accent was a daily ritual. We were simply regarded as scum and who can blame them? Not all local people were so unwelcoming; from the moment we landed to our final day the local riders gave up their time to help us. Usually local help on trips is essential for showing spots, but on this trip, being a Dub trip, their knowledge was more vital than usual. When people think of Dub BMX they think of weed. The two go hand in hand like Sly Stallone
and steroids, Paris Hilton and cocaine, and Paddington Bear and his addiction to his beloved Marmalade sandwiches. Smoking in videos, leaf print T-shirts and Rizzla inspired logos have come to define Dub, and the UK’s young impressionable minds can’t get enough of it, buying enough shirts to make Dub BMX the UK’s number one selling T-shirt brand. But before I knew Jack and the rest of the Dub team, I never knew how much of Dub’s strong association with smoking was just clever branding, and how much of that lifestyle they project to live is genuine. This question was answered when planning a destination for this trip. When deciding on a city, there are always needs to be met and boxes to be ticked, such as spots, good weather, a cheap hotel and flight, is it safe? But none of the usual prerequisites were Dub Jack’s primary concern. The number one concern when deciding where to go for a Dub trip was the availability of weed. Without a source found and a contact made, we weren’t going anywhere. Without wanting to advocate or condemn, but to just give an honest account of the strong association Dub has with smoking, it’s safe to say the Dub team live the lifestyle they portray. For Scott Ditchburn it is nothing but a lifestyle. Ditchburn is under the influence of weed every waking hour, of every day. In the mornings Ditchburn would awake on the sofa, with a TV that’s been switched on all night and one foot from his face. Before breakfast or a shower, he sits on the balcony of our apartment with a pint of tea in old pot noodle tub, skins up, lights up
“ YOU SCREAMED
LIKE A GIRL BUT YOU TOOK IT LIKE A MAN
SCOTT DITCHBURN, Gap to manual, Palma.
and spends the next twenty minutes coughing up the crap in his lungs from the day before. The day is then spent riding and smoking, the drug never leaves his system, barely a thought is created in its absence. Many people would be left shaking under a car with paranoia if they had smoked the same amount, not to mention the numerous UK riders such as Jerry Galley who is rumoured to have suffered mental illness triggered by smoking weed. But Scott is alert, articulate and rides hard every minute he can, with an intensity that few pro riders could match sober. Contrary to popular belief not all the Dub team smoke weed. “I don’t smoke weed but everyone thinks I 96
do because I ride for Dub.” Millsy tells me, but Millsy is in the minority. Anyone who has met Dub Jack will know of his passion for smoking. Rarely have I met anyone so devoted and methodical about anything whether it is BMX, photography or even model train sets. He has a true passion for the entire process, he’s constantly thinking ahead, stashing, budgeting, rolling, splitting, grinding, bagging, sniffing and even sometimes actually smoking. Ask any question related to smoking and you will find yourself happily locked in a lecture of detailed plant anatomy that could put a professor of botany to shame. Jack’s devotion and love for weed has come at a cost. A few days before
leaving for Majorca, the Dub house in Liverpool was raided for drugs, as Police officers on a foot patrol smelt it walking past. “Right…Ditchburn,Lacey,Munger, me and my bird were sat in the living room having a smoke, and I heard the front door open. I went to see who it was and there were five Matrix bizzies (Liverpool anti-gang police who apparently don’t need a warrant) rushing up the stairs. They grabbed me and took me into the living room, then made us all sit down while they searched the flat. They only found a few 20 bags on the coffee table. Me, Ditchburn and Munger were arrested and taken to the police station. After a couple of hours we got released with
JOSH ROBERTS, Last day rail, Magaluf.
JOHN ‘FRENCHY’ WILLIAMS, Empty hotel access hop, Magaluf.
cautions or fines and walked home. When we got back from the station we found the bizzies had stolen £80 from Scott’s room, but they didn’t find our proper stash.” Jack proudly tells me. To fuel his passion Jack had to make a local contact before he was happy to book the flights to Majorca, and that man was Charlie who ran the island’s only BMX shop. Charlie organised to get Jack what he thought would be plenty of weed for a week, which Jack paid for with a box of assorted Dub t-shirts and hoodies. A few days later Jack had run out of weed and all local Spanish kids looked like they were out of a Dub clothing catalogue. Our days riding quickly ended with sunset at six in the evening, becoming dark and too cold to ride. Whereas on 98
most trips the evenings are usually spent in bars or nightclubs, the Dub guys preferred to stay in, smoke and watch TV. Those long evenings were spent in our hotel watching cows explode against rally cars on Eurosport and listening to Lacey tell stories of a riding mate who beat up an inmate with a bar of soap in pillow case on his first night in prison. The atmosphere in the apartment was relaxed and more civil than you’d expect; Frenchy would be talking about expanding his internet pet shop, Lacey would be washing up one handed, Jack would be handing out Haribo sweets, and Ditchburn would be bullying Josh. “I’m going to ride your mum like a snow bike, I am Josh” Ditchburn would shout at him, before jumping on him and pinning him to the ground. “Josh is my apprentice.
JOSH ROBERTS, Tooth hanger, Magaluf.
“ DO IT THIS
TIME OR I’LL SMACK YER
I found him in Flint, and I’ve taken him under my wing. I’m looking after him.” Ditchburn would say. Whilst riding, Josh is under the constant critical eye of Scott, shouting at him and pushing him. In Palma, Josh wanted to do a truck out of a flat bank, but was taking too many bitch runs for Ditchburn’s liking. “Do it this time or I’ll smack yer,” Scott shouts at him like an over enthusiastic Dad at a school football match. Josh pulls it next go. Ditchburn smiles and turns to me, “See that? That’s fear that is.” As hard as Ditchburn is on eighteen-year-old Josh, there must be method in his approach. Josh is probably one of the most talented and underrated street riders the UK has seen since Scott himself. I ask Scott why Josh isn’t sponsored yet and he lays down the law. “Oi I know you London types. He’s not going on Amity or anything shit like that. Let me tell you. Not our Josh, I’m keeping an eye out for the lad.”
WE WERE READY TO FLY BACK TO A FROZEN UK, TO EITHER ANSWER BAIL OR VISIT THE HOSPITAL
The only real damage the Dub riders caused was to themselves. The trip was heavily hit by injuries. None more so than Chris Mills – the slam sponge of the UK scene. The very first day he came home with a blood stained T-shirt and a nose as bent as the copper who stole £80 from Scott’s room. But worse was to come. Towards the end of trip we rode a velodrome that managed to take out Ditchburn and Millsy within minutes of each other. Firstly Ditchburn thought he had broken his foot after falling awkwardly. As Ditchburn sat inspecting his foot Millsy got his leg wedged between two parallel rails, and hung from the rail placing his body weight all on one knee. It was like watching someone clamped in a torture device from the days of the Spanish Inquisition, as he dangled screaming at the sensation of his tendons and ligaments tearing and popping. “I thought I felt my leg snapping” he said afterwards. “You screamed like a girl but you took it like a man” said Ditchurn, trying to cheer him up. The locals suggest taking him to a hospital. “Fuck Spanish hospitals, they demand cash upfront. Give me the NHS anyday. We’re BMXers - we don’t have insurance,” says Lacey as we try to see how bad Millsy’s knee is. Without the money to go to hospital, Millsy decides to just rest it for the final day and go straight to hospital when back in the UK. “If it’s fucked, I’m fucked. If I can’t work, I can’t pay rent, then what?” On the last day, only Josh was left riding with everyone else injured or exhausted from a hard week and were ready to fly back to a frozen UK, to either answer bail or visit the hospital. Despite riding every day and covering some miles of the island, I felt the sense there was more to see, more empty streets to cruise down, more hotels to scope out and more rails for Millsy to crash on. I mention it to Ditchburn to which he replies, “Yeah we should come again next year. It beats winter in Liverpool. We should come for a long time. Do it proper and rent an apartment for winter. We’ll definitely come back to this shit hole.”
I imagine the average group of seven English lads come back from Magaluf with stories of waking up on a jail floor missing some teeth, have a looming rape accusation, do serious damage to their health through hard alcohol and harder drugs, receive and spread a good dose of STDs, and generally uphold the bad reputation of British louts in Europe. In contrast, the Dub guys are role model boy scouts, who just enjoy the occasional smoke and grind a few ledges. The most trouble any the Dub guys got themselves into was probably something like waking up to some blood stained sheets from a fresh shinner and not being able find a lighter. Their ‘Chillz not Pillz’ approach is far less destructive and imposing on (Right) SCOTT DICHBURN, pegs to the local community than the average over splash, Son Moix Velodrome, Palma de Majorca. boozed up gang of lads. 100
Cake or Cat Sick MOVING ON WITH THE FIT TEAM
Life is hard straight after a break up. It’s especially tough when the relationship was once such a strong one. It’s made even harsher when the split was so sudden and so public. Your whole world is ripped apart and you’re left sad, confused and lonely. In the months following a break up you tend to become a social recluse and lock yourself up for a while – all hateful and conceited. But as they say ‘time is a great healer’ and soon enough the injured soul emerges from its dark cave of self pity and walks into the light of a fresh start. With this rebirth it becomes apparent that a whole new realm of opportunity has opened. Gone are the shackles that bound you; a new lease of confidence is realised. Next thing you know you’ve got a big smile on your face and you’re back down the pub with all your mates having the time of your life trying to shag anything that moves! It’s been a year and a half since Robbie Cult filed for divorce against Chris Fit and with that time well and truly passed, the Fit US team have burst from the bedroom and are officially out down the pub on a bender. The brand has had an overhaul, with new products, a new brand manager, a new aesthetic and a handful of new team riders. So with all the changes now in place and a new direction tapped into the company Sat Nav, it was time to get the ingredients in a van and hit the asphalt with a choice selection of riders from both the Pro and Am teams to see if they made a tasty chocolate cake or a sloppy pile of cat sick. Words and Photography by STEVE BANCROFT
he crew are a right eclectic rabble, a right blend of fruity styles and unconventional approaches. With the majority of north America firmly in the arctic clutch of winter, the plan was to head south to warmer climes and film a section for the third and final instalment of the Fit Trippin’ DVD series. Still surfing the wave of his awesome Anthem ll reception, Stew Johnson was recruited to capture the cooking and reported for duty in a good mood (the only thing on his mind was where to clear a spot for his NORA cup). At the helm of the token windowless panel van was B-Dubs, AKA Ben Ward; he’s the freshly appointed Team Manager and this trip was to be his first tour of duty as Robbo’s replacement. I’d like to say it was plain sailing for him on his debut: but it wasn’t. Let’s just say, at one point Fit Trippin’ nearly got renamed: ‘Power Trippin.’ The route included stops all round southern Texas and Arizona. From big metropoli like Dallas, to trendy spots like Tuscon, to fuck-shitbackwards places like Picos and Abaline. Just like the crew, the route was all over the place. One minute we’d be sat in a swanky bar sippin’ on $9 dollar long drinks and the next we’d be waking up in stinking roach pit motels with meth lab bathtubs. One morning I woke up in the van and had frost on my pillow. Two days later I had sunburn. It was like a fucking seismograph in New Zealand on this trip. So although cold at night under the clear star peppered skies, the daytime desert climate was ideal for riding bikes; long cloudless blue days and spots for miles. But there’s a price to be paid for all this, there’s one unwanted extra about southern Texas, and that, is racism. Enter
Qunicy Dean, the self-confessed “Only nigga left on Fit”.
Qunicy is black. Turns out a lot of Texans don’t like that. “Ya’ll ain’t from around here are ya’ll?”, “Who gone done brung the nigger!” But it takes more than funny looks from tough men in cowboy boots, jean jackets and Stetson hats to wipe the smile of Qunicy’s face. He took it all like a champ and it was all laughed off, even the time when we all went into a restaurant, sat down, ordered and everyone’s food came out apart from his! “What a surprise! No food for the God damn only nigga on Fit.” It was sad, but like I said though, he’s tough, he can take it. At one spot in Abaline, he was trying a rail-to-rail gap, got it all wrong, and ended up hitting his head on a metal sign real hard. He went down and it was such an impact that there was real concern for him. Everyone rushed over to check he was alive. Two minutes later he’s back on the trick and gets it in a few tries. “Shit! Qunicy, are you hurt, that looked savage, take it easy, sit down man!” Qunicy gets back on his bike. “I’ve been smacked in the face enough times to know when I’m hurt”. It’s wasn’t only the colour of his skin that got him funny looks though. At one petrol stop early in the trip he says to Stew “Man, I get the strangest looks off folks.” “Maybe it’s because you’re sat on a petrol pump smoking a joint?” replied Stew.
QUNICY DEAN: The Last Brother on Fit.
(top) SHAWN ‘SHITTY’ MCINTOSH , L Hop Grind to Nose Manual, Tuscon AZ. (bottom) PAT KING, Toothpick, Tuscon AZ.
PAT KING, Curved Wall to Bars, Tuscon AZ.
Eating on the road in America is bad. When asked about food, “I have no idea what a calories is” says Shawn. “I eat because it’s good fun” chirps in Pat. “All I know is that you have to put stuff like this in your mouth all the time otherwise you die” expands Shawn as he sinks another burger. My hands and face and clothes are covered in a fluorescent dusting of sticky orange Cheeto residue from the large sacks that are constantly foraged from in the van, it’s like me and everything I touch is radioactive. There are a lot of fat people in Texas. It cost $3 for two Big Macs and all there is to eat are Big Macs. Shawn man!! Shawn ‘Shitty’ Mcintosh really is something else. At the start of the trip no one really knew one another. The vibe was cool but no one had really hung out before so it was a little chilled, people were a bit standoffish. But as soon as Shawn shows up, any ice there was is smashed to pieces, never to refreeze again. If he’s not rapping or singing or drinking or smoking or laughing or dancing then he’s on his bike doing something amazing. He really is nonstop – the first one up and the last one down. On day one he was so hungover when we picked him up that he ended up puking in a carrier bag in the van ten min106
utes down the road, that kind of set the precedent for the rest of the trip. It’s impossible not to like Shawn. He is impossibly good on a bike and has an interesting background. He’s spent time on meth, he’s spent time in prison, he’s worked seven day weeks to support loved ones. He really has been all around the block. Now he makes a living riding bikes and he’s genuinely thankful for that and he’s going to make the most of it. I recorded a few minutes of typical conversation from him in the van. Within the space of two minutes it ranged from taking the piss out of Van Homan to his face “Oh, I’m sorry I’m just a poor kid. . . I’m sorry I don’t ride for Orchid!” to “I feel like I’m on drugs” (which he was) to “Hey look! It’s Eddie Murphy” (pointing at Quincy), to “I got 99 problems but a ditch ain’t one” (which was his way of complaining about the huge number of ditches we rode). Never a dull moment. Pat King is Shawns right hand man, united by the ‘need’. . .The ‘need for weed’.The two of them can always be found passing joints or the ‘monster truck game’ around. Pat is from South Carolina, there isn’t a tarmaced road within two miles of his house; it’s dirt tracks all the way. He lives out in the sticks with only the alligators, wildcats and
SHAWN ‘SHITTY’ MCINTOSH, Rail Hop, Dallas TX.
panthers to ride with. Although he started out as a child protégée in the limelight, he’s chosen to tread his own path and now spends his time riding and filming with the Banned dudes from down Orlando way. With no spots and no one to ride with, it really is supernatural just how good this guy is on a bike. He’s just a mellow guy who is happy to just keep himself to himself. He has no concern for mainstream BMX media, no interest in being famous – all he needs are two wheels that roll, a bit of tree and the ‘monster truck game’ and he’s content for weeks at a time. In a display of just how unfazed by BMX he is, one evening we were all sat around at dinner and BDubs kind of has a bit of an announcement to make. You can tell that him and Van are excited about this supposed ‘big news’, you can tell they’ve been waiting to tell him. “Pat, we’ve been thinking and we want to give you a signature frame.” Their eyes look on
YOU JUST PUSH THE LITTLE RED BUTTON, I’LL TAKE CARE OF THE REST.
with apprehension, waiting to see how Pat will react to the big announcement, the big news that he is being granted his very own signature frame, the most prestigious status symbol in BMX. . . Pat just sits there and looks up from the hand held ‘monster truck game’, does a little smile/shrug, and goes right back to trying to beat his best time. It was funny to watch as an outsider. B-Dubs was expecting an emotional hug or for him to start welling up with pride. But it wasn’t until Shawn explained that his own signature frame would mean more money, which would mean more tree and a ‘monster truck game’ of his own (he borrowed Shawns phone to play it), that he sort of smiled again and muttered ‘ok, thanks’. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not arrogant. Far from it. In fact that couldn’t be further from the case. He’s just not that bothered about stuff like that. Pat is so unfussed that it took the saviour of us all, Van Homan to give him pointers on what would make a good clip and what would be a good Fit t-shirt to wear. Van is a veteran of the filming trip – if they gave out medals then Van would be the most decorated veteran there is. Not long back on his bike after a crash during the 2010 X-games Van was stoked to be riding again and it was obvious he was keen to get back up to full speed. 107
TOM PERRY, Post Bonk, El Paso TX.
At one spot-filled school in Tuscon, Van got stuck trying an L-hop to ice down a big rail – he kept trying it over and over but was struggling to get the perfect lock-in. After a solid hour of trying, after at least ten savage crashes, he finally admitted defeat and called it a day. While over by the water fountain washing the dirt from his bloodied limbs he reflects on what’s just happened “I feel bad walking away. Yeah, I’m disappointed, but it sure does feel good to be fighting again.” Stood there, dripping with sweat and blood, battered and bruised, Van Homan actually compared riding BMX to fighting! I feel sorry for that rail as he’s made a mental note promising to return for a rematch. Back in the van the conversations are varied and colourful. And with Stew and Homan being the old wise owls, with decades of experience and adventures under their belts, the younger generation are keen to hear stories. As the small metal box streaks across the barren desert in a haze of tree smoke and Cheeto dust we talk for hours about Criminal Mischief and what it took to produce a section like that, about behind the scenes stuff like how the manual-tap to second stage ender was impromptually filmed by Garrett Byrnes as they were on their way to the local shops. And we talk about Road Fools and what it was like to be in the bus in the early days, Stew has hundreds of stories and the young Fit team are keen to hear what it’s like to ride and film with some of the big names. My favourite account by far was regarding Dave Mirra on Road Fools 9. He found a decent sized handrail that he wanted to grind and upon calling it out, in order to get the right angle, Props owner/filmer Marco Massei asked a few questions about what exactly he planned to do down the rail. Dave’s response was “You just push the little red button, I’ll take care of the rest” – haha, priceless.
VAN HOMAN, L Hop to Pegs, Tuscon TX.
(top) QUNICY DEAN, Toboggan, Picos TX. (bottom) PAT KING, One Foot Table, El Paso, TX.
(top) SHAWN ‘SHITTY’ MCINTOSH, Rail Ride, Tuscon TX. (bottom) VAN HOMAN, No Foot Step Thru, Picos TX.
THE SMALL METAL BOX STREAKS ACROSS THE DESERT IN A HAZE OF TREE SMOKE AND CHEETO DUST.
The van forces people to get on. Its windowless confines offer no distraction and the only thing to do is swap stories and get to know each other. A pressure cooker on wheels. And for the most part the team gels real well. Tom Perry, the quiet unassuming young guy from San Diego has a degree of bike control way beyond his years, his shy demeanour and quirky idiosyncrasies set him a part from the other – rather more brash – team members, but he fits right in nonethe-less. Also in the bus is Dan Conway, he comes from up in Pennsylvania not far from where Van lives, so he’s used to the stories by now. He admits to having spent a good portion of his youth tracking down and visiting the spots from Homan’s now sacred section from Little Devil One. Dan’s style is not too dissimilar to Van’s either: big moves, easy on the tech and it’s a style that left him a little worse for wear by the end of the trip. Covered in abrasions and bruises Dan worked hard for his clips and his relentless attitude was mirrored in all the young dudes. Everyone was keen to push it, keen to impress and move things forward. Random Incident: Late one night a few of us are sat out on the 1st floor walkway of our motel drinking and smoking when from the quietness of the carpark below comes an alarming noise. We look round to watch a meth head cutting the lock off our trailor while his junky mate smashed the window of a nearby truck. “Hey muthafucker!” shouts Shawn in his bellowing loud voice as he runs along the walkway towards them. The two jittery fuck-ups jump in their car and peel off out the lot. If Shawn had been able to get to them in time then he’d have knocked ‘em down for sure. The excitement of the incident mixed with the beer and the already testosterone fuelled sausage fest led to a conversation about fighting that lasted long into
the night. Ironically, and much to the team managers dismay, instead of being unproductive and negative, that night staying up late smoking and drinking actually saved all the bikes and kit from being stolen, a fact that Shawn didn’t let B-Dubs forget in a hurry. This trip was all about interaction and some of the most interesting ones occurred between B-Dubs and Shawn. Mr McIntosh is both a team managers dream and nightmare. On his bike he’s a fresh and original loose cannon with a style that appeals to kids. Off his bike he is a loud and relentless loose cannon with a penchant for criminal mischief. Living proof for Ben that you can’t have your cake and eat it. Tempers were tested and BDubs nearly lost control of proceedings, but despite an attempted mutiny, an intoxicated Shawn and chronic illness, the new TM came through and the future looks good for Fit. The future’s bright. The future’s bright orange, like my Cheeto stained hands. The Fit Trippin’ Desert Trip 2011. Proof that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
VAN HOMAN, One Handed Table, Tuscon AZ.
Strays JUSTIN SIMPSON, Backwards Duster, Barcelona, photo by Daniel Benson.
JOSS FENN, Crook,Vauxhall, South London, photo by George Marshall.
SHANE WESTON, Pole Jam to No Foot Can, Oklahoma, photo by George Marshall.
MARV, Curved Rail, Lisbon, photo by Joe Cox. 118
JAMES CARLUCCI, Train Toboggan, Long Island, New York, photo by Keith Romanowski.
RICHIE GOFF, Ride Over, Setubal, Portugal, photo by Daniel Benson.
RUBIO, Wallride, Barcelona, photo by Daniel Benson. 121
LLOYD WRIGHT, Luc-e, London, photo by Daniel Benson.
TIM ‘WOLFMAN’ HARTLEY, Wallride, San Fransisco, photo by Daniel Benson.
MIKE TAYLOR, Curved Rail, Long Beach, California, photo by Steve Bancroft.
JOSH BEDFORD, Gap, Barcelona, photo by Daniel Benson.
VAN HOMAN, No foot step thru, Stoke, photo by Steve Bancroft.
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Video Days — Shaun Butler needs very little introduction. Simply put, he is a modern trails legend who’s riding genuinely stands the test of time. As part of the extras of Anthem II, Stew Johnson included a selection of legendary trails videos including ‘Barspinner’ Ryan Brennan’s video Soil. This 1997 West Coast classic had many characters on there, but it was a young Shaun Butler who many people remember the most.
Interview and Illustration by RHYS COREN Albion: Yo! Shaun: Alright! What’s going on blokes? A: Well, I’m Rhys, this is Marv, over there are Benson and Tom and this is James who rides for S&M S: Yo, what’s up family member? James Cox: YO! A: So, are you still riding? S: Yeah man, I never really stopped, I just kinda stopped riding where the cameras were. A: But have you still got the barspin? S: Well, I just bought myself a Gyro. I took my Gyro off a long time ago just so I could go back to school and learn some trails style. But I’m about to put the Gyro back on, spin the bars and get back into the zone! James Cox: I started doing barspins because of your barspins in Soil and I was wondering what or who made you want to do barspins? S: Wow! I am an honoured you said something like that. I would have to say something like Chris Moeller and Fuzzy Hall. I originally learnt how to do half barspins and I would grab the middle of my handlebar with my hand underneath and back to front and I would just twist it and grab again. Then I tried to learn full barspins like that but nearly died trying it that way. But that’s how Fuzzy was doing his first barspins. I was very influenced by the P.O.W. [the pros Of Westminster] riders and Chris Moeller lived at the P.O.W. house with Brian Foster, Alan Foster and Todd Lyons. But James, I appreciate that, it means a lot. A: What do you think of kids just passing them these days? You used to proper chuck it. S: Well, I prefer it when you chuck it, but people
like Moeller and Barspinner Ryan used to do the bus driver, and I learnt it that way too. I learnt it every which way possible, but, you know, if you chuck it it’s quicker and you just get the job done a lot faster. Can you guys see me? A: Yeah. S: Were you guys just looking at a shadow then? A: A kind of silhouette. S: Why didn’t you say something!? You guys must’ve just thought I was real dark, huh? A: (Laughs) So, who had the fastest barspin at Sheep Hills? You or Ricky Ratt? S: Well, Ricky did the busdriver, so how do you want to do this? A: OOOOOHHHHH, controversial. S: You know Ricky Ratt did the first triple busdriver that I’d ever seen but, still, that’s a triple BARSPIN in the books! A: Did you ever do a triple barspin? S: Nah, two and half but never a triple. A: You did a sweet suicide barspin on your Soil section too. The bars went round so slow you almost had to grab them turned and bring them back. S: Exactly, but that’s just Soil for me. A: Can you remember a lot about your section? S: Yeah, but watching it last night was just like watching it for the first time all over again. I had forgotten about a lot of what we did for that video. Even to this day, people come up to me and say ‘Don’t Call Me White!’ from my section song. We’ll be out somewhere and that NOFX song will come on and like ten heads will just turn and look at me.
A: Did you choose the song for that section? S: Absolutely not, no. That was a joke. Ryan [Barspinner] thought it’d be funny. I’ve never gotten to choose a song for anything I’ve done. A: Are there any tricks that you think you may have invented? S: Um, I think I may have been the first to do a barspin to turndown. Erm, I had Bestwick tell me that, that he learnt that trick from me. It’s amazing, you see people like Chris Doyle doing that trick now. That trick and maybe the frame man (superman frame grab). A: So what do you remember most about filming for Soil? S: Just a lot of fun times. A: Almost too fun could you say? S: Well, there was a lot of… let’s say a decade of time… that was real blurry. We did so much in so little time that I still have people come up to me and say, “Hey, I met you at this comp in San Diego”, and I’m like, “I don’t remember the contest.” They’ll then describe the jumps and everything and even tell me I won… A: Haha! S: And I don’t remember ever being there. A: How the hell did you win a comp and not remember it? S: That was just my typical modus operandi at the time, I was just around to meet people and enjoy the experience. I took traveling, meeting and hanging out with new people far more seriously than winning a contest. A: Actually, we spoke to Amos, Ian Morris and Dean Hearne and they all told us to ask about your time in Hastings for the Backyard comp?
S: That was probably one of my most memorable times. A: On Thunder you had a load of clips riding trails here, yeah? S: Sidley Woods, Ashford… A: Dean Hearne’s trails… S: We were just riding around with Boyley and Amos and we stayed at Stuart Dawkins flat. That was pretty entertaining. Stuart sleep walks. I remember one time he walked out to the balcony, butt naked, pissing off the side of his flat in his sleep. A: Haha! S: I was just a little grom, and I was just like WOW, I saw Stuart as the Moeller of England at that time. It was pretty crazy, Stuart would fall asleep every time we went to the pub and, soon enough, when we got back to the house, he’d be walking and talking in his sleep. A: So, did you ever live in the H.B. house? S: No, but everybody thought that I lived there because I was there every night, sleeping there every night. A: What sort of stuff happened there? S: Ha, probably the same bunch of stuff that happens when you guys all live together! You know, I lived with four guys, with three always on the coach too, we had mice and no one wanted to do the dishes or get groceries. I was kind of the mum of the place and it got old real fast. A: So, when you filmed for Soil, did you know you were working towards a video or was it just an assortment of footage caught over a certain period? S: Good question… Barspinner at the time just carried his video camera everywhere. He always had it with him and always talked about maybe one day making a video. But we didn’t really take him serious. Even to this day he talks about a Soil II. But, we took it in our stride. Then he’ll show me some old clip that I’d totally forgotten about, old X Games stuff and that. I think he thinks it’s too old to use. A: Did you ban tricks from the trails? Dig had a list of banned tricks around that time. S: Yeah, but some people would get a pass. Brian Foster was allowed to do the nac-nac, and Matt Berringer was allowed to the candy bar. Bestwick and him could both do the candy bar. I think that definitely came from Steve Crandall at FBM. A: We think [Jon] Dye too. S: I can see that. A: What’s the drunkest you’ve been and still got through some trails? S: Uuuuh, now…Drunkest or most wasted time that I have gotten through the trails? A: Well… S: Because wasted includes EVERYTHING! Because one time there was this Christmas classic in Columbus where I painted my whole face. You’ve seen that? A: Haha, yeah… S: I thought I would paint my face up for war, but it backfired on me as everyone thought I was a convict. I was trying to be punk rock, you know… Mike Ness… Sex Pistols. But it ended up making me look even more wasted… I missed qualifying by one point and I was jumping jumps seeing double, I don’t know how I was making it through, I was on shrooms I think. Then this video guy told me he wanted to do a big interview with me after I took off the face off, but I basically told him to shove
it, if you’re going to do an interview with me you’re going to do it with the face paint, so… it never happened. A: So, family life, are you quite domesticated now? S: I have been with my wife now for 14 years, so pretty much straight out of my trip to England, maybe just before, my time frame is a little off as I was still traveling around doing the X Games, but shortly after we met I had withdrawn myself from the scene. A: Marv wanted to know, in the end Credits of Soil, you’re all covered in water or dirt or something and your chinos are all dirty… what happened? S: That was… uuurggh, the KEG! A: Haha! S: Somehow the keg ended up all over me. Actually, right after that situation, they banned me from Las Vegas. A: Haha! what?
Me and Stricker were best friends until our early 20s until he ended up moving away. But we did everything together, hung out, rode street… even though he was like five years younger. But he was the guy who always went big, um, but he didn’t have a whole lot of tricks up his sleeve, his mum would always annoy Chris Moeller going into S&M trying to get him to sponsor Stricker. Moeller would just roll his eyes, but sure enough once Moeller dropped Troy McMurray, myself and a load of other guys, Stricker got on S&M, so his mum got her wish. He was always into just pedaling fast and doing high airs and big gaps. Stricker was like our little puppy, he was the grom; the youngest one out of us lot like Marvin Loetterle, Barspinner, Ricky Ratt and all the other S.H.L.s. A: Do you still ever have yellow hair? I doesn’t look like you do right now in your picture. S: I stopped doing that a long time ago because people kept calling me Dennis Rodman. A: [Laughs] S: So I was getting really pissed off about that and slowly started taking all my piercings out too. A: What about your nicknames? Like ‘Goldie’ and ‘Torpedo’ and ‘ Lumber’? S: Well Goldie is my real name. My name is Goldie LeShaun Butler. I had a pretty funky name growing up so in school I just shortened it to Shaun. Goldie is on my driving license. Torpedo I got from the racing days and everyone had these cool nicknames on their leathers. I came up with Scud Missile, something stealth like that, then that changed to Torpedo as you never saw me coming. Lumber came from the racing days also when I was up at the gate getting ready to race AAPro, next to Gary Ellis, the ‘Lumberjack’, so they would say, “Hey, there’s the Lumberjack and there’s the Lumberblack!” And, to this day, some people still call me Lumber. A: To end, did you think Soil would ever get so big? S: No, and I would like to thank Barspinner for taking his camera everywhere and also thank Moeller for sponsoring this little, short black kid and creating this image that allowed me to travel and meet people. I really thank him for it all as I never planned on going professional or making it onto a video and sitting here doing something like this interview. I just loved riding my bike and that’s all that mattered to me. It’s weird now at 34 years old and I think there was this hype around this Shaun Butler character that’s hard to live up to as an adult. A: You don’t have to worry at all! S: I’m not wasted, I’ll not forget I did this interview and it is a positive change for me. I just want to work on my health and ride for as long as I can ride. At that rate I couldn’t have kept riding. I tell kids today, what you see other guys doing doesn’t matter, find your own program. For me, drinking doesn’t work, I get out of control but some people CAN handle it. A: At the time, was it worth it? S: I wouldn’t change a thing. A: Shaun, it’s been emotional and amazing. If only we could all be in a room together we could hug. S: I’ve just got a lot of love to give to the BMX family.
EVEN TO THIS DAY, PEOPLE COME UP TO ME AND SAY ‘DON’T CALL ME WHITE!’ FROM MY SECTION SONG
S: Just the BMX spots. A: What happened? S: Dunno. We were there for the weekend and, I’m not sure, there was beer on the ramps. The owner didn’t drink. It wasn’t just me, all the Sheep Hills locals were involved. A: You’ve calmed down a lot I hear. Do you still have a drink ever? S: Maybe a glass of wine or a beer once every few months. I don’t even think about it anymore. We had a little girl to raise and a lot of the sponsors were either dropping me or I had to quit. I remember leaving Osiris because they wanted me to slow down with drinking. I told them to piss off. So, at that point I realised I just wanted to go into hiding, sober up and face my problems and stuff. I had to deal with it… and that’s what I have done. A: What about hanging out with Stricker? S: Wow! that’s a whole seperate interview!
Quitters: Caleb Kilby — The Albion tracked down one of Hastings greatest loose cannons and quizzed him about hanging up his boots.
Words and Photography by DANIEL BENSON
It seems like yesterday that Caleb was throwing himself down some of the biggest and most unforgiving obstacles along the south coast. His style and riding gave a nod to some BMXing greats, people like DaveYoung, Lou Rajsich and Jeremy Davis. In turn he held his own and produced some solid sections, including my personal favourite on ‘Number 10’ whilst he was still riding for Metal Bikes. Albion: So, have you sold your bike? Caleb: Yeah I’ve sold my bike. I was in a tight spot for money when I moved to London. A: How much did you get for it? C: About £300 I think. A: That’s pretty good. So that’s it then, you’ve no interest in getting back into it? C: I’m always interested in it; I’ve still got a lot of respect for BMX. It’s been a massive part of my life for so long. A: Has it been hard to distance yourself from it? C: Definitely. I mean, I haven’t ridden for over two years, but I’ll still see a rail… A: Or some massive gap? C: [Laughs] Yeah, something like that, or a set of stairs. I’ll be like “That’d be a sweet spot to ride.” So yeah, it’s always going through your head. Actually taking it up again though, I just can’t see myself doing it. A: So why did you quit? C: Well, it’s a bit of a long one… [Laughs]. Basically I was in a relationship with some girl for a long time and it went downhill massively. I ended up getting really depressed over it, I lost a whole bunch of weight and I couldn’t even ride. Then I went on that United Trip to Australia and I had the pressure to ride and it really got to me. I was like, “Something’s happening here.” So once we were back I went to Ian [Morris], “Look Ian, I can’t do this anymore.” Ian was cool about it, he told me to take some time off. I’d been speaking to Jimmy [Levan] and he offered to put me back on Metal, so I took that offer up, thinking it’d be better if the pressure was off from United, but things continued to go downhill.Things in life weren’t good at all. I just didn’t want to be a part 136
of something when I was letting somebody down. So I spoke to all the guys and I just said give somebody else that opportunity, I’m out. [Laughs]. A: So you moved on from it. C: Yeah, I moved on. Getting out of Hastings helped with all that. A: What about your style of riding?You sent some big shit on that Number 10 section [old Seventies video]. Did it feel hard to keep up with that style and level of riding? C: That goes back to the United thing. Whilst being on that team it was hard to keep up with that standard of riding. Ian said it was good to have somebody who rode the way I did on the team, but I just couldn’t intertwine with it all. A: Do you follow riding at all now? C:Yeah, its hard not to. I don’t want to be one of those riders who say they’ve moved onto bigger and better things. I’m not going get all Dan Price about it all! [Laughs]. A: Hastings has thrown out quite a few quitters hasn’t it!? C: Ha! Yeah, I guess it has. A: Do you have any regrets about riding? You invested a lot of time into BMX. C: As far as regrets go, then no. It’s all swings and roundabouts. I miss going by spots and thinking, ‘I could do that’ and being able to do it, but now I know I can’t. I just feel really lucky to be part of that scene; being sponsored and traveling around. I really thank Ian for all of that. He was hard at times, we didn’t always see eye to eye [laughs], but thanks. It’s nice looking back on magazines and videos and it’s like looking back on your youth. I guess this interview is almost closure on that. A: Final chapter? C: Closing the book [laughs].
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How to Start a Cult AN INFORMAL CHAT WITH ROBBIE MORALES
A poor but not necessarily homeless looking gentleman approaches us as we’re sat on our bikes chatting on the promenade in Huntington Beach. “I got on the 29, and it wasn’t until I was sat down on the bus that I realised I was going the wrong way” he says with a well rehearsed desperate but not pushy tone. “Oh really, that sucks man” replies Robbie with genuine concern. “Yeah, I just need a dollar twenty five to get back home you know, can you help me out man?” Everyone frowns a bit and puts out their best ‘sorry mate, I’m skint’ body language. “Ere you go mate” says Benson handing him some change, playing into the guy’s ‘just pay me and I’ll go away sales pitch’. “Charity, I like that… I like that Benson” says Robbie as the guy walks off happy, in the opposite direction to the bus stop. “Yeah, it’s OK though, it’s Ride UK money. It’s the last bit.” “Hahahahaha” Robbie’s genuinely amused by the cheek of Benson’s honesty, “The circle of life, I like it, I like it.” Interview by STEVE BANCROFT & DANIEL BENSON Photography by JOSHUA LUNA
DAKOTA ROCHE,Wallride, Blackbox skatepark, Carlsbad, CA. When you show up to a private skateboard only park you tend to tread lightly, I guess Dakâ€™s idea of treading lightly is a 6 foot wallride.
Benson: Yeah, I did this thing called BMX Basics for Ride UK, I didn’t put my name on it, but the money I made from that is what’s paying for me to be here now. Robbie: I can feel that. I feel like if you’re starting something new then you kinda gotta have the day job almost, ya know? Like I’ve been working part time at Fox, and I split my time between there and working on Cult, you just gotta get on with it you know? Do what has to be done. Benson: So there wasn’t any like six months off between leaving Fit and starting Cult. Robbie: Nah, it was quick. Towards the end it was just kinda ‘get the video done for the last company’ and then take a look and see where I fit into the brand and it just didn’t pan out so we just left the day after. The team were quick to jump onboard because they were passionate about what I’d done. They knew the creation story and they knew the strength of passion that we all shared, they know we all give a shit. I mean, even now, people are like “How can they all be high fiving each other when they pull a trick.” I mean how the fuck do you even have to be asking that question. It’s because we care. It’s cliché to say it I know, but we’re just like a family. Banners: Well do you just want to repeat what you said about why you left Fit, what you said before we stared recording? Then we can get that out the way and talk more about Cult. Robbie: Yeah sure. Well there’s no other way to say it, the brand had gotten too big and it needed so much attention. It wasn’t what we originally intended it to be and we were trying to keep up with something that wasn’t our initial vision. Then, instead of being a creator, you become an employee. And if you started the brand, and you’re the face of the brand, and it’s all your ideas and passion in the beginning that built it… and then you get pushed into an employee position… that causes a disconnect and it just breaks you down. Banners: Like you lost sight of the reason why you’re even doing what you do everyday?… Sounds familiar.
Robbie: Yeah, and on the scales you weigh over 300 pounds and you fight everyday, you don’t ride any more… You’re just not in a good place. It just completely breaks you down and then you’re like “What the fuck! How did this happen?” And I just decided to pull up my socks and get back to what it was originally meant to be, and that’s what we’re doing now.” Banners: When you say you were fighting everyday, was that just fighting to try to get back on track with the original vision? Robbie: Totally, just trying to push ideas through and take care of the riders. I think that as companies grow it becomes less about the riders; they
HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO BE ASKING THAT QUESTION. IT’S BECAUSE WE CARE
don’t listen to the riders because they think “What does a rider know about business?” But if it’s your passion, and it’s what you believe in and it’s your lifestyle. . . how can you not listen to those people!? I don’t want to listen to a dude who’s not out there. and if someone thinks I’m weird cause I’m damn near 40 years old, hanging out with a bunch of teenagers, I don’t give a fuck! It’s what I do. I’ll always do it and I’ll never change. I still feel like the goal is the same and that’s just to go out and ride and enjoy BMX. Banners: So now you’ve moved away from the fighting and gotten away from that whole thing, do you ride a lot more?
Robbie: Yeah, the dudes make me. What they do, it’s inspiring. I don’t pretend to be a pro by any means, but I’m gonna ride everyday and if one of my peers or team riders is into something I do, then I’m gonna listen to them. I’m not going to listen to some kid on a message board who says I’m fat and shouldn’t do table tops anymore. It was that way through my whole career. When I was at T1, I wasn’t the best pro. I only had five tricks. I’ve never pretended it to be any different, but if Joe Rich believed in those five tricks then I’m gonna believe that, that’s the reality of it. I mean, Joe, Taj, Ruben… They were all into it. I mean, Ruben has given me props, and it sounds cheesey to say, but I fucking believe him! Because he knows what riding is, I fucking believe him! Dehart, Hawk, Dak, the whole team, if I’m out riding then they’re gonna support what I do because that’s what BMX is. I can’t believe that for a lot of people it’s gotten away from that. The powers that be are setting too many rules you know. “Cut your handle bars like this. . . cut them like that. . . hold them on the inside” Dude, what the fuck! I’ll run my handle bars however the fuck I wanna run ‘em. It’s my rules, it’s my BMX and that’s the way it should be for everybody. Benson: Did you get a bit of that when Cult first came out? Because the initial response to the logo and that wasn’t all good huh? Robbie: Totally. But it comes down to me having faith in the people who started this. I mean, Adam Roye, he’s the designer, he’s the brainchild behind 90% of the brand and I’m never gonna back down on what he does, regardless of whether someone doesn’t like the logo or doesn’t get it. The creation story is amazing. With the zine already runnin’, he came to us. It was unanimous. It all came together so organically. Everyone wants to know “Chris Cole: is it money going into skateboarding? Is it money going out of skateboarding?” I mean, are you people fucking insane! Chris Cole won a bunch of contests, had a bunch of extra cash and said “Hey, I believe in what you’re doing, I wanna help you get it off the ground.” 143
Banners: So he’s a friend of yours right? Robbie: Totally, it’s not his brand, he doesn’t want to run the brand, he just wants to be part of something his friends are doing; and the proof is in the pudding, the dude rocks the gear over companies that pay him to. He just does it because he wants to. He knows, potentially, he’s never going to get his money back. He invested in something that he wanted his friends to be successful with. Robbie: One real quick story. . . I want to tell this one: I was filming in a ditch for Stay Fit with Dakota and Chase and my lawyer called me and it was when I was having negotiations, and the lawyer was like “It’s not looking good, you may have to move away from Fit.” And I got emotional and I was upset and Dak and Hawk were down at that very moment. They we’re like “Hey, let’s go right now, we’re with you, we’re backing whatever you do next.” That moment was super pivotal for me. So when all the dissention came with the brand I was like ‘fuck it, I don’t care’ because I knew all these people were passionate about it and gave a fuck, and wanted this to happen. Banners: Just to clear this up, obviously you played a massive part in starting Fit, but was it solely owned by Moeller, right? Robbie: The long and short of it is, there was a handshake deal ten years ago that I would do the front end and he’d do the back end. And essentially money talks! It was built with my ideas on his money. Banners: And what you were saying about the lawyer, were you waiting to hear if you were entitled to any of it? Robbie: Yeah, yeah, totally. There’s still a case. I mean, I still own the domain name for the website! I mean, if I own the domain name, if it wasn’t my brand then why the fuck would I own that? He’s a smart businessman, he’s smarter than me with that shit, he knew how to slowly pull me out of it. It’s a lesson learnt. It hurts. I was like “Fuck man, we shook hands at the tittie bar, I thought that was legit, I thought it was on.” [Laughter.] You try and tell your lawyer that! Banners: That’s not gonna stand up in court huh. [Laughter.] Robbie: “I shook his hand at the tittie bar!! We were having a chicken sandwich watching titties!!! I thought it was fucking set in stone.” [Laughter]. Robbie: There are some people who are all like “You should fight for it.” But it’s all just rear view mirror shit for me.
I SHOOK HIS HAND AT THE TITTIE BAR!! WE WERE HAVING A CHICKEN SANDWICH WATCHING TITTIES!!
Banners: I guess you can take a lot from it, and make sure Cult doesn’t go down the same route? Robbie: Exactly. That’s what’s kept me real grounded with Cult. That’s one silver lining. I’m thankful, I’m not bitter.This may read a bit bitter but I’m not, I’m real happy. Banners: The name Cult, did you chose to go with that because it means kinda like minded people…believers? Robbie: Exactly, when it came up I knew straight away. Banners: It’s fitting because most cults are kind of frowned upon, made up from weirdos… like, no mothers are stoked when their kid joins a cult. [Laughter.] [The conversation drifts off into a discussion about ownership and how Cult is built on stronger foundations and how important it is to keep the brand from following the Fit route and stick to the original ideas at all costs. The topic swings around to manufacturing…] Banners: So you guys really seem to have it dialled with a focus on US frames, but with an overseas option available as well. Was it important for you to have product made in the US? Robbie: Yeah 100%. BMX has always been that way for me. I mean, I rode for S&M back in the day, I rode for Standard and I rode for T1, all those frames were American made. It’s what I grew up with and it’s what I believe in. Banners: It seems you have some strong links to and influences from skateboarding? Robbie: I never wanted to be a skater, but I just look at their business model… and it’s worked, so I just take clues off of that. The difference with the ethics is that the skaters took control of their industry early on and we lost out to the suits early on. And the suit’s point of view is always cut throat, it’s always about the bottom line and the suit doesn’t look at things from a rider’s point of view; I never want to be like that. [The conversation continues on talking about the ball-aches of getting product made in the US and eventually swings around to how compromises have to be made in order to give team riders the opportunity to travel the world and enjoy living BMX: namely offering complete bike ranges, joining up with other brands such as Fox and Vans, and even going as far as tapping into the energy drink thing.] Robbie: People don’t know how hard these riders work. People don’t know that Dak rode at a pro level for four years before he got anything, and people don’t know that Edwin took a bus to Cali from NYC… They don’t know what people have sacrificed to get where they are. People don’t like to publicise that, but to me those are the stories that will help the next generation understand that just because you can do a tailwhip you don’t get what that guy gets. Hopefully those are the kind of stories that you guys can publicise? Banners: Sounds good to me… tell us some more. [More rags to riches stories follow.] Robbie: BMX doesn’t owe you shit, but if you learn to move within it, then you can live a fucking exciting, fucking passionate and fucking fun life.
ROBBIE MORALES, Warming up for the river gap with a hefty road clearance in Santa Ana, CA.
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Published on Sep 1, 2012