I had the enormous privilege to spend some time getting to know Paddy Gross, World Cup Championship winner in 2006 and professional BMX rider/jumper. Extremely unassuming and just an all-around nice guy, Paddy has overcome some hardships in his life and emerged a winner. He’s determined not to be ruled by his past or whatever life may throw at him and so this 30 year-old BMX rider has recently gotten married to a woman he describes as someone with “a great, loud laugh”, that he loves and “we perfectly mesh together”.
CM—You’re German and Australian, but all the media has you from Germany. Have you ever lived in Australia? Your accent is not strictly German.
PG—Yeah, yeah, the main time of my BMX career was in Germany, but I did live in Australia for a time.
CM—Since you have recently become married (seven months ago) and now you’re a family man, tell me what you do for a living?
PG—I work at a bike shop. One of my best friend’s Mom has a bike shop and since I used to live in Germany for a couple of years, the Germans have a system after school you do a job education or you go to study. I chose the job education in bike distribution for four years so my final degree was as a businessman in import/export and it was pretty much perfect when I came here (the US) because my friend’s Mom has a major health problem so she was not able to work in shop any more. When I came she said, “Oh, that’s perfect, we need help” and I said “yeah, good, let’s do it.”
CM–Is that here in Portland? What is the name?
PG—Yeah, here in Portland. It’s called The Outer Rim. It’s five minutes from here (Lumberyard) so it’s perfect. I’m sending a lot of kids over to this place because it’s perfect. And they come to us to get their bikes fixed at the shop.
CM—Mostly BMX bikes?
PG—Yeah, BMX and mountain bikes. Even road bikes, we pretty much sell all kinds of bikes.
CM–You said your wife was a surfer. Does she compete? What’s her name?
PG—No, she doesn’t compete. Her name is Casey.
CM—And did she take your last name?
PG—Yeah, yeah, but we actually had a name change. We took, our new name’s Wyatt. It’s my Australian Grandma’s last name and there’s a writer, from England and the 1500’s. His name was Sir Thomas Wyatt. He was a very sensible and sensitive guy and the things that he wrote for that time was way ahead. Because my wife and I like to read, we like poems and stuff. We’re both very sensitive persons. My Mom from Australia, she told me that my Grandma’s favorite writer was Sir Thomas Wyatt. And so we had a chance to look at stuff he wrote and it was amazing.
CM—So, you’re a sentimental guy too?
PG—Yeah, I guess so. I don’t take anything for granted for nothing is. I try to take care of my friends and my loved ones. Well, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to do the right thing. Try to see a difference. Ya you know, try not to be too serious about things and not getting in fights, stuff like that. Because there is always a way to get out of like, difficult situations, you could get in a fight or anything. In my eyes there’s always a way to be nice and to respect things and people and take your time with things and to not judge anyone just because they’re different. That’s what the world is about, everyone’s different and every place is different and that’s awesome. It’s the most amazing thing in life because you know if you go somewhere else it’s not going to be the same as it is at home. Well, the aboriginals used to say, “we only here in this place to observe, to learn, to teach and someday we will return home”, so it’s actually pretty simple, life is simple, if you want to make it simple. The more you accept that mistakes are a part of life and that life itself is put together with constant problems every day. Because every day you have to deal with things and people, but if you learn to find a way to accept it and treat it with love, like it’s really easy. It’s the only one I have (life) so I don’t want to waste it being angry and frustrated and all that. I don’t want to waste a heartbeat on things and people because stress isn’t healthy. I don’t want to die a couple of years early just because I was stressing myself so much. Yeah and Casey and I are pretty much the same that way.
CM—You know it takes most people a long time to learn that sort of thing.
PG—I have learned so much about life just because of riding this bike. Things like never to give up and things take time. Everything goes step by step. It’s like being a baby, you crawl first and then you start walking. The same thing with riding and everything else in life, you just have to get used to it. Take your time with things and not stress too much. So, Casey and me are pretty much the same thing. We never had a fight at all, not even like a frustrated discussion. We always find a way to work it out with love.
CM—Are you still doing the BMX as a Pro level?
PG–Yeah. I still have my sponsors and stuff so I want to return the favor. I didn’t expect to get sponsors and everything. I was just always having fun on my bike. And I’m still that little kid there. You know, I sat at home and watched the ET movie and saw all those kids and they’re jumping around on their BMX bikes and I saw that movie and I was like, “yeah, I want to do that! I want to jump with my bike as well” and that was the best feeling I’ve ever had on my bike and my whole career when I lost the ground for the first time with both of my wheels. So sponsors, it just happened and I was super thankful, but I didn’t take it for granted. I still don’t.
CM—Colony and Vans are your two sponsors?
PG—I actually have three. The other one is a clothing company called Afray. They’re from Australia as well. The thing is they help me out a lot with clothing, shoes, bike parts, plane tickets, hotels and all that stuff. I don’t even have to pay anything so the thing is I save a lot more money then I actually make with it. I had the decision to make if I wanted to make money with it and make it a 100% full time job and I decided not to because I wanted to keep the fun I’m having with this. I still decide what I want to do, whatever and whenever. I don’t even have to ride contest but I do because I want to return the favor by shooting photos and filming web clips just to make them see that I appreciate everything they give me. And it’s also good for the kids, a good example to them too. I’m not the typical pro like other riders are. Somebody told me I’m the Pro with the Heart. (He laughs) The thing is being ignorant and arrogant doesn’t make any sense to me at all. The time while I’m doing this (BMX rider) I want to make friends instead of enemies. It’s temporary (his career). There’s going to be a point in my life when I’m too old for this and my body says, “Hey, that’s enough, I can’t take it any more”, so I would still love to have my friends. If people tell me all the time you’ve been riding your bike you’ve been an idiot, arrogant and whatnot, you thought you were special and all that stuff, so then when you’re done you don’t have anybody. I’m not a religious person. I’m not going to church, but I believe in God. I have a different view of Him in my life. Because what I just said, like making friends instead of enemies. Um, that’s heaven and hell for me. Pretty much we’re all sitting in a waiting room somehow and when my time’s coming I know that I tried to be good as much as I could and I made a lot of friends. There’s actually people who’ve said that I’m actually going (heaven). There’s people who will miss me and that would actually give me a smile, thinking hey, this happened. But if no one cares at all (when you die) and you screwed up your whole life, you’ve been lying and stealing and breaking people’s hearts, and whatnot, that’s hell. Going all alone, leaving this place and knowing you didn’t do anything good. You’ve pretty much wasted your only one chance so I try not to make my life not hell and try to make it heaven.
CM—The older you get do you find your sport easier or harder?
PG—The older you get, the wiser you get. You start thinking about things a little bit more ‘cuz it takes a little bit more for your body to heal up. So I’m trying to do a lot of fitness and extra riding. I swim and do extra workouts and stuff, to prepare my body to maybe do this sport a little bit longer. Because I know my body has taken a lot of impact and I told myself if I would wakeup one morning and everything hurts for no reason, I’m gonna stop. It’s probably going to be the sign for my body to say, “Hey, I’m tired”.
CM—Have you had any serious injuries?
PG—Yeah, I did. Broken ribs and I still have a metal plate in my wrist and I had a pretty bad crash six years ago on my head. So, the helmet is the most important thing. I’ve always worn a helmet and if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet at this time I would be dead for sure, that’s what the doctor told me. Because I had a brain bleeding and all that stuff. I’m very lucky.
CM—As I nurse I’ve always been a big one on protecting your brain. Your body injuries you can live with, but if your brain is gone….
PG—Yeah, your brain is the main-board and if it doesn’t work, nothing is going to work. And I was really lucky. Even though I had a brain bleed it was a tiny one, I didn’t have to take any medication, I didn’t even have a headache my whole life, even after my injury. So that for me was a reminder of life and God telling me hey, if you don’t feel safe about something, don’t do it. Think about it before you do it. And don’t go in and take it for granted because you’ve been doing it so long. Anything could go wrong. Because I was riding demos in Germany, in Hamburg, Germany, and it was windy and it was dark and I decided to ride. I just made the wrong decision.
CM—I saw some of the videos you have online and out of all the guys riding, you were the only one wearing a helmet. The other guys, nothing, and some of them were crashing.
PG—It’s funny you saying that ‘cause I told a kid this morning at the Burnside Park, almost the only country park around here and when I had my crash six years ago I had a helmet on that wasn’t made for BMX. Everybody thinks it’s a BMX helmet or steeple but it isn’t either one of them. It’s a wakeboard helmet. It looks nice and fits nice, but it’s super soft and doesn’t take the impact. And I saw this kid this morning at this park and I said “Hey, get yourself another helmet. I used to have that helmet and I had a crash six years ago.” I told him what I had (concussion). The thing is there was this kid three days ago, I think he was from Indiana. He’s one of the YouTube riders. He’s really amazing, really talented. He’s seventeen years old and he’s famous for being insane on his bike. And he had a crash three days ago with that helmet on his head and he’s in a coma, brain bleeding and whatnot.
CM—Were you ever in a coma?
PG—I was out for thirty minutes. That’s good enough. It could have been a lot worse. I was in Germany at the time so I didn’t even have to pay for my medical bills. There were a lot of good things about it. The best was that I survived and that I was able to get back up on my bike. But I have this new respect. I told the kid this morning, “It doesn’t matter if you do this trick 100 times, one time could go wrong.” And he was like, “Oh wow, I didn’t know that. I’m going to go and get another helmet.” The thing is that concrete is not forgiving.
CM—When did you start BMX riding?
PG—At what age? When I was twelve. That’s when I saw ET. It was a great movie and when they were escaping with him in the basket, they were on BMX bikes and they started jumping over little hills and stuff and I was like, I want to do that! I used to have a BMX bike with fenders and stuff. When I saw that I said, “Oh man, you can jump with this?” That’s what I wanted to do. I took the fenders off the bike, got in trouble with my Mom. I had to hide my bike forever and she was like, “No you have to ride it with your fenders and lights and all that stuff.” But then she saw that I created a love for this sport so then she was fine with it. Well, I was not doing the things my so-called friends used to do, getting into alcohol and smoking weed and all that stuff. I skipped this whole thing because I was always riding my bike. It seemed more interesting and healthy to me than doing that other stuff.
Look for the next section of this interview and learn more interesting tidbits about Paddy’s life. To see video of Paddy showing off his moves click here: Paddy