I have been racing BMX for 17 years and at the Elite level for 6 years now and have seen a huge amount of riders leave the sport in that time – but also the other side where they reach the top level of the sport.
I love BMX racing, enough to continue through multiple major injuries and major set back and still continue to progress every year.
Although often when I say I am a “professional bmxer” the response is usually oh so you get paid to ride your bike? Which usually follows with a “yeeeah so about that’.
I have been fortunate enough to have a large amount of product support from sponsors but that’s about the extent I have been able to attract in my career so far. I have never felt entitled to deserve money from anyone, rather viewed it as I need to keep working harder and try to build consistent results and looking into ways I can be a value to a company.
The reality is, to be a pro, I have had to work part time jobs, hope on funding and at 23 years old still rely heavily on my parents to help keep the dream alive.
I have massive dreams on being the best in the World, but with a goal as big as that, the cost is high when you have full intentions on giving and doing everything you can to reach the top of the sport. I am not the sort of person to half attempt something, I am either 100% in or not. I know too well, if you aren't fully committed to this, you are simply wasting you time - if your intention is to be the best you can be.
This year I set out to do a full dream season to test myself after a few years off of consistent racing due to injury. This included 4 Australian races, a month in Europe and six weeks in USA.
Thankfully, I received funding to cover all the flights to Australia through East City BMX with the help of Jude Eades and Elette Flemming. The rest though was up to me – costing close to $18k (nzd).
The way I am able to survive – and afford this is due to a large amount of people who support me. The De Vries family helped me on my journey by basically adopting me last year, giving me a place to stay in Auckland. East City BMX helped employ me as club coach plus paying for my Wolrd Champs entry and jersey, the group of riders and their parents who support me in the way of coming to me for weekly coaching and my girlfriend Aimee for helping me not lose my shit emotionally. Also through large amounts of financial help from my parents is a major part of how I realistically continue racing as a pro in BMX.
Without the help and support of this, the dream would be merely that, a dream. I can actively pursue and take steps forward to achieving it with the help of these people supporting me. There are a lot of other riders in similar situations as me, but not as fortunate to have the same amount of support to keep going.
Although none of this is easy, with constant back and forth thinking of am I wasting my money and time on this? Sometimes feeling like an uphill battle and the negatives certainly begin to stack up. Being dropped from the New Zealand high-performance team in 2013, multiple elbow breaks, concussions, dislocated shoulders and a shoulder reconstruction. Recently with the scrapping of the NZ team earlier this year by cycling NZ, it adds another level of uncertainty. In terms of support in NZ, I fit in a weird middle ground with a focus of development athletes only. Which is great seeing support for younger riders – the same that I got as an under 19 athletes, but now I am 23, and do not fit within that development criteria. Where in all reality, I am surviving on absolutely nothing, having to go out in search of my own support (Physio, Coach, Strength trainer, Sport Psych, Chiropractor) which I am paying for myself, or with the generous support of their time to help me out.
I find myself thinking, “why am I doing this?” when I get into my car and I don’t 100% know if it will turn on, or when my credit card is maxed out when I get home after a trip and spend my time in NZ trying to save up for the next race.
But I have taken a step back and taken a different look at my whole involvement in the sport. Too often I can get caught up with the money and performance side of it. I have been to over 15 countries for BMX racing now, met some awesome people and have friends all over the world. Although still at a cost, I am able to continue to do what I love most of all, which is race and ride my bike. There are very few people in the World who have got to experience a life like this, along with creating memories that I'm sure I will look back on in amazement.
There are so many positives to take out of my situation that far outweigh the negatives. With the huge amount of struggle and perseverance, I had to learn a lot of life lessons very quick. I understand the value of money, how to be my own manager, coach, mechanic, travel agent, and how to plan out my life to continue training at a high level, fitting in work to pay for BMX expenses and also fitting in time to study part time for my Sport and Exercise degree. Not only that, but it has led me to meet a whole range of awesome people who have helped me along the way in the past 5 years.
As a younger rider, I was fortunate enough to get in the NZ high performance team at age 15 until 19 and learn how to live and train as a high performance athlete. Further more being able to work with Paul Caldwell at the Compound in Texas opened a whole other world of training that I had not seen. From that I was able to use it to my advantage as I knew how to train but had to be self motivated to do this on my own and hold myself accountable. No one was going to drop me if I didn’t do well, I would just have a bad result with only myself to blame. And that’s what drives me and continues to motivate me. Along with the experience from being in the NZ team, I began to incorporate physical and mental aspects to my training that I had been learning while studying Sport and Exercise part time since 2012.
To continue with this dream, it’s not going to be easy, I will be competing against racers who’s job it is to train and race.
But I refuse to pull the victim card to this and don’t see that as a disadvantage. We all have the same amount of hours in the day and I truly believe I can out work anyone.
Especially given an amazing team for the 2017-18 season behind me who I believe can help me reach my best potential and guide my effort into the right direction.
Not only that, but I realise my time in this sport (as a pro) is running out at 23, so I am heading into the next season with the mentality to enjoy every moment and make the most of every opportunity I can take. After the past 5 years of racing at the elite level, I know to well the future in BMX is unpredictable but I will be along for the ride and do everything I possibly can to reach all my goals and enjoy it along the way.
I will do my best to document my journey on the way - stay updated on the following social media accounts along with my site to keep up to date!
Leading into the 2017 World Champs, we were deep in winter in NZ and riding was relatively inconsistent. So I decided 4 weeks out I would head out to USA to begin training and riding again for what most likely was going to be my last trip of the year, so with the support financially from my parents and my credit card I set off to Denver to stay with my friends out there and have fun for 10 days on the bike. The scene out there is awesome, with a bunch of public bike parks and BMX tracks and is a city I really love being in. I was able to survive here fairly low cost thanks some great friends (Boo Huff, Anna Sibley, James Sheely, Kenny G – Lance and Jill McGuire) and let me stay for free and drive me around. After getting comfy on the bike I headed out to ride to some SX in Rock Hill.
At the start of July I headed out to Rock Hill for 7 days to get some big hill time, and some good training on the Rock Hill track. For this trip, I was travelling on my own. So to travel on a budget and on my own I needed to get fairly creative with planning this. To survive within budget, I booked an Airbnb that was a 36 minute bike ride from the track. Yes – there were hotels close to track, but the costs add up when you account for laundry, eating out and your sanity when alone for long periods. Fortunately the house I stayed at on Airbnb was perfect, and she was able to drive me to the grocery store and to the track occasionally. Apart from that, I had to bike 36 minutes in 90% humidity in 35 degree weather with all my race gear. I did the trip about 7 times and thanks to friends (Sarah Walker, Mika and Anthony, Pierre, Peel family) for some rides saving me big time!
I wanted to stay in the humid weather and same time zone, but Rock Hill closed 2 weeks prior, so I decided to book a flight to Tampa and continue my training on the Sarasota SX track. Again on a budget I had to look at Airbnb for the stay in Tampa and Sarasota until I met up with the Martin family from Hawkes Bay. The cheapest house I found in Sarasota was 10km away (38min) bike ride and I had to brave the nuts humidity and heat. Randomly enough, without knowing, the owners of the Airbnb were Australian and an American who had actually been to Auckland a whole bunch of time. Travelling on your own is hard but they were awesome and helped me out and is always cool to meet people outside of BMX when overseas.
After arriving completely wet with sweat biking 40 minutes in 34 degrees – 90% humidity and with all my gear, the sessions were great. Thankfully the Peels and Japanese team were there also and was able to get a ride back with them some of the days, otherwise I may of passed out haha. Johan Lindstrome at the Sarasota BMX academy was awesome in letting us ride the track an opening it during the day for the whole week I was there.
Worlds week we drove to Charlotte from Sarasota (about 9 hours) with Amy and Jodie Martin from Hawkes Bay, and stopping half way. I met up with Matt Cameron and the Petch family at the hotel in Charlotte and begun my worlds countdown. Other than a few mishaps with the elevator breaking and 7 of them being stuck in the elevator for 15-20 mins and fire department having to come, it was an awesome stay. Big thanks to the Petch's for helping out with a lot of the planning for the worlds trip! I had prepared as well with consistent SX sessions and with some good riders around me to train with.
Worlds practice went awesome, and I was excited for the next day of racing. Race day came around and a quick practice went great and set me up for the race day ahead. I had to qualify for the 1/8th finals by going through 3 qualifying motos first. We had 5 man motos, with my lanes being 7-6-1. I got out great on my first moto and high lowed the first turn to almost take lead into the 2nd turn ending up 2nd. I went 2-4-2 in my motos and easily qualified.
Once the qualifying went through, it came down to business time with single elimination from 1/8ths. I came into it feeling great, I had my normal gate and first straight and put myself in good position on first straight to slot in to a qualifying position. It got tight and a made some little mistake into first turn and that’s about all it took for 3 others to get past.
It was a bummer to end it like that but I was happy with how the whole weekend went. It had been a massive recovery process for me, when 12 months ago I had only been just getting my nerve back riding pro sections again, with no idea at all if I would ever be able to get back to speed, let a alone faster.
After Worlds, I headed back to Denver, Colorado to do a bunch of riding and race the Grand Junction USABMX SX race. The track was huge, with a massive triple as a first jump, and one you really couldn’t push through as hard as a normal one. It was an awesome weekend of racing, finally getting to the point where I genuinely was enjoying racing. I finished 5th in the semi on Saturday and 7th in the semi on the Sunday.
After that it was back to ride some trails in Denver and then head back to NZ. 6 weeks on the road basically couch surfing in and out of friends’ houses I’m well ready to be back in NZ. Thanks to my girlfriend, Aimee for being supportive of me on these trips when I’m away for so long. Mum and Dad for helping out big time and coming over to support me at the Worlds, The DeVries for helping me in Auckland so much, that I can actually get out there and gain the experience I need. East City BMX for helping me with an opportunity to give me the track and tools needed to survive as Pro where my only income is coaching. Matt Cameron - @nine4ninebmxcoaching for helping me out in realising how much I can still do and the help at the Worlds, excited for the future ahead.
I’m not exactly sure what’s next for me, I sure know what I would like to be doing but in the real world I have just simply got to get back to work and plan for next year. I’ve come away from this trip motivated and even hungrier to do everything I possibly can.