So I had to cut NYC rider Jason Leder's head off — it's something I never wanted to do since I spotted the first photos of him in Freestylin' Magazine in 1987, but for the sake of Instagram squares, it was necessary. From what I can gather, he got enough photos in the magazine that Schwinn's Yo! program took notice, sent him a bike and started sending him to AFA contests around the country, including the AFA Masters in Austin, Texas in the spring of 1988. And then Windy Osborn took him to the most inopportune sidewalk in all of Austin to shoot a backwards decade photo. (Seriously, it's a sidewalk on a heavy trafficked bridge.) I went by there earlier today, and all I could think was that the skyline had broadly changed in less than 30 years. This town is a mess, I'm partly to blame, and I wouldn't be surprised if I end up back in Redondo or Hermosa because of it. Also, it's cold and windy today, so ignore my whining.
Between Freestylin' Magazine's coverage of the AFA Masters at the Austin City Coliseum in May of 1988 and the 2-Hip King of Vert in Austin in July of 1988, I became acquainted with the non-competition riding scene of Austin, Texas. There were ditches, wallrides, fountains to jump out of, parking lots to be ridden, and lots of locals that were good at all types of riding. Of course, back then, a teenage kid in New Jersey had to wait for his favorite editorial crew in California to travel to Texas, report on a scene, get back to Torrance, write, edit, develop, layout, proof, print, et al, before getting the actual magazine in the mail some five to six months after the magazine's initial trip to cover the competition in the first place. And of course, I was more interested in the non-competition photos shot while the Freestylin' crew were on their various excursions. Basically, they knew that the comps were just an excuse to explore a new place and show the true side of bike riding. Dave Voelker arrived in Austin to compete in 19 and over expert ramps. He got fourth place in the contest and then shot this no-footer out of the fountain on the University of Texas campus with Windy Osborn. It's been burned into my brain ever since. I think the wait for the magazine was worth it.
Who woulda thunk it? Ron Wilkerson has a brother named Sean that also rode and was featured as a sponsored amateur 'Spam file' in Freestylin' Magazine sometime in 1987. I don't think he got too much coverage past this one two-page profile, but he definitely visited Torrance Beach once upon a time and busted out some tweaked no-footed cancan endos. Towards the end of my tenure in Redondo, this became my go-to riding spot, and I am eternally grateful that I shared the pavement with so many legendary names in a parking lot overlooking the PV Peninsula. (Sometimes I don't have the greatest story to create surrounding these things, but that was one of my favorite spots to ride ever…)
On the left is Pete Augustin tire bonking the end of a rail atop the International Pier in Redondo Beach in late 1987 shot by Spike Jonze, and my photo on the right from the same location in mid-September of 2015. Pete Augustin was/is an enigma to me. After spotting the first photos of him in Freestylin' Magazine in 1986, I could sense there was something different about his persona and his riding. He wasn't about to stand in line, wear a uniform and do the trendy tricks of the time. He shaved his head and he had tattoos. He seemed to have trouble keeping bike sponsors, he didn't do great in contests, and when the first street competition finally arrived in early 1988, he was quoted as saying, 'This is not really street — it's an obstacle contest.' I get the feeling he was more at home cruising the streets, jumping curbs, hitting wallrides and exploring the streets of Hermosa and Redondo on whatever bike he could get his hands on. And because of that approach, he became one of the first true street riders without having to put a label on himself, pushing BMX in to a more organic place, away from quarterpipes, uniforms and definitions. Also, he's doing a friggin tire bonk on a rail in 1987 — a trick that most people can't comprehend even now.
I moved to Austin several months ago and got drafted into a few more jobs than I had signed up. July arrived, and all indications of a vacation from work disappeared. I had arrived in the last few days of January and had pretty much worked from there straight through until the middle of October. And then it dawned on me to take a week off while I could, so I did that. Continue reading Armed Robbery Attempt: Oct. 14, 2015
For 8 hours on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, I received no emails at all and I still tell that story like it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. That has nothing to do with this photo of Jess Dyrenforth in downtown Austin 360 nose picking a spine ramp, but I just had to vent about email somewhere. Apologies. Jess Dyrenforth was a unique one to say the least. He came from the U.K., he adapted early to mini ramp, street and everything in between, and then he disappeared to become a professional inline skater/inline skate magazine publisher when the bottom fell out of BMX. Circa 2001, I end up in Bangkok, Thailand with Jess Dyrenforth to do demos for the Asian X Tour. He was inlining, I was riding a BMX bike, and I remember wanting to hate him for leaving BMX behind, but I instead just quizzed him about the old days and how things were, and he was super cool about it. A day later, he jumped on my bike, pedaled at an 8-foot quarterpipe, and perfectly nosepicked the ramp first try. I was impressed. Last year, I looked him up in Southern California, and he's since become a holistic health teacher that specializes in a lot of massage techniques that could benefit from the rigors of everything he's experienced in BMX and inline. Again, I was impressed. I know everyone takes different routes in to and out of BMX, but I thought Jess's story was pretty cool and still respect the man's skills on a BMX bike.
Craig Grasso stalls a no-footed abubaca on top of a shopping cart at the Fatburger Banks on PCH in Redondo Beach, as shot by Spike Jonze in 1988. And below is not the actual bank in the Grasso photo but it's the bank that would be under Grasso's foot in the original photo, near the back of the building. (I tried cropping the actual bank into this square and it just looked like a random piece of pavement, but I can assure you that it's the same location.) These days, I feel like modern BMX is all about the trick being pulled on video, with style, execution and the various characters within BMX taking a backseat to the trick getting done. And that approach kinda sucks. I want to see the characters in BMX, I want to see the various styles, and if it comes with a sick new trick, even better. Freestylin' Magazine understood that, and pushed Craig Grasso's riding and personality onto the readers because he wasn't just there to pull the trick — he was a character, with style, that was pushing BMX in a new direction. The homogenized Insta BMX generation of today have no idea.
Admittedly, this location looks completely different between 1988 and now, but look at the bricks lining The Strand — they're exactly the same. This was shot in Hermosa Beach originally in 1988, and after seriously studying photos of Rick Moliterno riding a Hutch Trick Star in an older how-to from 1986, I recognized the yellow awning above Park Carter's back wheel. I then googled the signage, found an address and ultimately stumbled onto the location thinking to myself that this couldn't be right. But, the red bricks on The Strand match up perfectly and I'm going with it. I don't ever know what became of Park Carter, but the trick was insane, so the wardrobe and bike setup was eventually emulated by myself at age 14. I never did figure out how to do backwards Miami hop-hops though. I may be wrong here also, but I think the same dude also did one-footed scuffing puppets, basically sitting on the headtube, scuffing the back wheel with his other foot off, which blew me away.
In 1988 and 1989, Craig Grasso was part of the first generation of BMX riders to be documented pursuing a 'new' discipline within BMX: street riding. Because he was progressive, stylish, rebellious and not afraid to smash up a good sprocket, the editors of Freestylin' Magazine naturally turned their cameras on him at every obstacle Grasso adapted his riding to, including this bank to rock in Hermosa Beach, California, as shot by Spike Jonze sometime in late 1988. By the early '90s, Grasso had faded from the scene but his influence remains to this day. In fact, I even did a sweeper on that bank to rock to pay tribute (made tougher by the railroad ties at the bottom of the bank.) A few years back, Grasso fled on foot from a routine traffic stop in Vermont and was then caught by police in NYC. From what I can gather, he spent almost two years in prison, turned to Jesus and entered into a rehabilitation facility. My whole time in Redondo and Hermosa, I felt like I was chasing Craig Grasso's ghost. I think it's pretty cool that he's confronting his own.