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!