Paddy Gross is a super nice guy who also happens to be a Pro BMX rider. I had a chance to sit down and chat with him about his career and his life. He has a lot of wisdom for someone so young so enjoy this second section of his interview.
CM—What do you love about the sport?
PG—The freedom. That’s probably the biggest part of it because I can do whatever I want, whenever, wherever.
CM—What do you mean by that? What do you mean by “do whatever you want?”
PM—I can be my own artist. There’s no special type of tricks that are given to you that you have to do to do this sport. It’s all up to you so you can do freestyle. It’s all up to you. There’s no real training or training times like something you do when you’re in a football club. No coach telling you, “Okay, we’re going to run around for four hours and do this and that, and then we’re going to stretch here and there.” There is no stretching. There’s just your own mind, your own creation of things. You think about something and you make it happen. That’s the freedom I have with it. Nobody can judge me about it because there are no rules. And if I crash, I cannot blame anyone else but me, because I’m the one who is in charge.
CM—So what do you dislike about BMX?
PG—The thing is I don’t really dislike anything about it because everything has its price; everything in life has. I got told when I was a kid and I started doing this, the guy said, “If you don’t crash you don’t get any better.” And he was right. You have to learn working with your fear and you pretty much teach yourself to jump over that fence of making your dreams come true kinda. Like, willing to do this and not give up and keep trying and trying and trying and then when you actually pull something, this is feeling I cannot explain. It’s something you do for yourself, you wanted to do this, you gave it a lot of time and I remember that some tricks took me years to learn. But then “I got it!” and that was like, wow! It’s like giving the whole world a hug and saying this is the best thing about life having these kinds of feelings. To know you can accomplish something if you just want to, so you can make it happen if you want to. So you pretty much teach your own mind so even crashing and hurting myself, I can’t say I’m disliking like it. Well nobody does, nobody likes pain, but you get used to pain. You learn about pain, you pretty much become your own doctor because after a while, you know what it could be, if you have a bruise or a broken bone. Crashing and hurting and pain is a part of it, so I accepted it as a part of it. About riding itself, there’s nothing I dislike, more about the industry is one of the things I dislike, because too much money ruined the sport. The kids sell themselves for nothing. Everyone wants to have a Monster Energy sticker on their helmet you know and want to act like they’re sponsored just because Monster Energy says, “Oh, we’ll give you fifty cans of Monster Energy every month,” and the kids are like “Hurray! I’m sponsored.” They’re risking their lives for a company that has so much money and they don’t even care about the kids. They are just another kid that helps them make money just so the kids can have that stupid green ‘M’ on their helmet. That is what I dislike about it, there’s no more competition now a days about getting sponsored. It’s not easy to get sponsored by the real companies, but very easy to get companies like the energy drinks that just want to make money off the kids.
CM—If a manufacturer that you really liked approached you would it make a difference about your feelings about accepting sponsorship because of the genuineness of the relationship or would it depend on the product?
PG—If it would be a product that I’m already using and like then it would make sense. If I know it’s something good, not just some company that pretends to be good because they taste good and put a lot of flavors into them. There’s a company I really like and I like them so much that I actually approached them and asked them if they want someone who represents them. It was not about money, it was about the thing itself. Have you heard about Walla? Walla does only natural drinks, protein shakes, like that. I think it’s a Portland brand. Even the bottles are 100% recycling and all that stuff. I recommend them to kids, and tell them that if they want to drink something healthy that is just made out of fruit which only has food ingredients instead of numbers and digits of stuff that you don’t know what it is, try this. This stuff is just amazing. It tastes good and you have a good feeling about it. I don’t feel guilty drinking it because it tastes amazing. The company turned me down, but they’ve been super nice about it. They said they don’t do that. They’ve been really humble and they really appreciated it, but I wasn’t just interested in them sponsoring me. I do workshops at Woodward’s and I said, What about just giving us a box of this stuff to pass out between rides instead of a coke. I said, “Your stuff is natural and would be perfect for the sport.” It doesn’t make any sense to drink coke between rides. On the one hand you do something healthy and on the other you drink something unhealthy. But they said, “we’re not doing this”. I don’t think they have anyone who takes care of that kind of marketing. They don’t even do huge commercials, but people know about them. But back to your question, if I had a company that I knew was good and didn’t just pretend to be good, I would work with them for sure.
CM—Tell us some more about the companies that do support you and what you like about them.
PM—Well Vans started out being a skateboarding shoe company in 1966. And I got sponsored from them like 7 years ago. I remember I was buying Vans shoes even before that because they’ve been super comfortable and my feet felt safe because they’ve been solid shoes instead of not being too thin or something you’d ruin after a couple of weeks. The thing is, what I love about Vans is they saw the potential in BMX with their shoes that a lot of BMX people were wearing their shoes and they started moving into the BMX area a little bit more. And they started sponsoring BMX and the most amazing thing is that they were actually asking pro riders to help them design shoes. They were like, “Hey, you love our shoes to ride your bikes so what do you want us to change so BMXers can wear these shoes?” They were not just, “Oh we want to make money, just keep on going the way we are because people are already buying our shoes”, but “Hey, let’s ask these riders what they want and make it the perfect BMX shoe.” Even Vans and Colony did a collaboration last year, a Colony-Vans shoe last year just because Vans liked Colony a lot. I’ve know the owner of Colony for over twelve years and we been riding contests and demos all over the world. He’s one of my best friends since a long time. He even gave it a shot living in Germany for over a year just because he wanted to know how it is. And what Colony does for me, does for all the team riders is pure awesomeness because he’s a rider, he knows exactly what we need. He’s running the company not like a product, like any other brand out there. He’s really unique with the things he does with products and he’s always asking team members, “What do you guys want me to change? I’m not going to tell you guys what to ride so I want you to tell me how I should change this on the frame and that on the fork and how to design this and that.” So he’s always concerned about what we want. He’s like a Dad, he’s pretty much taken care of each one of us and super supportive in anything. I mean, we have a distribution in the states of Colony. Well, let’s say they’re not doing a too good job, not promoting the company in the right way. And not carrying the clothing of Colony for example because they think they cannot sell them or something.
CM—So Colony has bikes and clothing?
PG—Yeah, just shirts, just shirts with their logo so if I ride contest I can wear something like this.(Points to the shirt he is wearing) You know it’s not typical today that a brand like Vance or Colony comes up to you and asks you what you want. They typically do what they think is the best, like “either love it or hate it,” something like that. Colony and Vans are two different companies. One does clothing, like Vans. Well, they came from a skateboarding company and they changed to a BMX, which is growing and the reason I like riding for Vans is because I know that the guys from Vans actually thought about the shoes they created. They actually thought about it in the first place to help BMX and help the kids and give them an idea of what you want to ride in. It’s not just a skateboarding shoe, it’s a BMX shoe and it is a pro rider who rides for Vans that designs this shoe. For the kids it is a good thing because they say, “This is my favorite rider so I’m going to get his shoes,” and Vans says then everyone gets a piece of the cake. Colony is 100% BMX. It’s not a big bike company who does BMX lines just to make money, it’s what they have always done. It’s 100% pure BMX. They focus 100% on BMX and they’re pretty much; well, Clint Miller is the owner of the company and he is 38 and he’s still riding. He still rides hard and tries to keep up with the kids, but it’s not going to work. (He laughs) On every tour we’ve been all together. That’s an important thing about Colony, it’s family. The team riders are all well chosen, they all have a great personality, and a great outlook on life itself. It’s just full of smiling people and funny people, and it’s amazing and everyone gets along with each other as if they’d known each other for 20 years. It’s just amazing to know someone who owns a company and you tell them, “Hey, I would like to have this part changed or this thing a little bit lighter.” It’s great to be able to have an opportunity to get signatures like bike parts the way that you like. You give them the idea, it’s not like we can do this for you, but you have to do things this way. No, it’s like I can give them my idea and they make it happen. So that’s what they do for a lot of riders, for a lot of team riders. It also depends on how well known you are in the BMX world. It’s not like every team member gets his own signature frame and parts because it wouldn’t make sense. If people know you it’s easier to sell products. Since he’s running the whole company, he has to draw the line somewhere.
CM—Tell me more about Afray.
PG—Afray is a small company in Australia. The guy who owns it, his name is Mikey. He was just tired of everyone’s doing the same things. Everyone was doing the same design of shirts and pants and stuff. He thought about it long enough to know exactly what the riders need to be comfortable in a pair of pants. Now a days, the pants have gotten a little bit more slim, they’re not a baggy as they used to be back in the day. You know, I was judging it to be honest. I was like, “Hey these are like riding with their girlfriends pants. It’s weird.” And then I was on a trip and ripped the only pair of pants I had and one of my friends gave me a pair of his pants and they were like slim and all that. But it was better than nothing so I was wearing them. And then I figured what was good about them-their stretch. That is the key on these pants, their stretch, so it feels like I don’t even wear pants. They are super comfortable and I can wear my pants underneath which is super important because it makes the seat comfortable and things flexible. Afray figured that there would be a lot less friction and that you have to do things this way and that way to have full use of the pants. Mikey is all BMX and that is where all his ideas were coming from. He was able to watch the scene as he is a rider also. It’s a small company. I used to ride for Carhartt and they dropped their whole team because of money. And I was riding for Carhartt Europe for them for 7 years. They are out of Detroit, Michigan where they were founded and then they sold their patent to Europe for the street wear. In America it’s work wear, in Europe it is street wear. They were into skateboarding and then BMX and then management changed and they didn’t see the reason to be sponsoring BMX. They say it’s not a skateboarding or BMX company so why should we sponsor them? So after 7 years, they made a cut and said, “That’s it.” I actually got paid from them. The 7 years I rode for them I got paid for 6 years, like a small paycheck from month to month, but it helped with expenses. And I didn’t even want it, but they said, “No, no that’s fine.” They did a lot of stuff for us so it was all good. We appreciated what they did for us, but now it’s a money thing and they dropped their whole team a year ago. So when I was in the Colony tour last year in Australia, I met Mikey and I said, “Hey, I really like this stuff,” and he said he was just going to hook me up. No money or something, just a few things here and there that helps me a lot. Because these pants are amazing, I haven’t even ruined one of them-not yet! They’re comfortable, durable and exactly what I want.
CM—One more question. Any advice you have for kids wanting to start out in BMX?
PG—I would go to a professional BMX store. Don’t go to Wal-Mart. I’m sorry, but some of the most important components are made out of plastic. I have constantly seen customers coming into shop saying, “Oh, I bought this bike from Wal-Mart a week ago and now this is broken; this is bent.” And now I’m saying, “Now you are actually spending a lot of money in the long run going to a shop to fix your bike all the time.” What we do at our shop, it’s like our thing, the bonus we do is lifetime service on bikes for anyone who buys the bike from us. Like all the tune-ups in the future are free. And we’re like, “If you would spend maybe $200 more in the first place you would actually have a quality bike and you wouldn’t have to pay anything in the future to fix it.” Wal-Mart seems cheap and nice, but then umm… So kids, don’t buy your bike at Wal-Mart. It’s better to get a bike from people who ride bikes themselves, like BMX. And also get a helmet. That is the most important thing to get the right helmet. Make sure it is a BMX helmet and not a wakeboard helmet. If your brain doesn’t work, nothing else is going to work either. A lot of kids think wearing a helmet is not cool, but hitting your head on the concrete is not cool. The internet is so crazy now a days. Yeah, it helps a lot, but it does an awful lot of bad things too. Kids have access to everything; it’s so easy to see all this bad stuff. All these web clips and edits of BMX riders, somehow it’s a good thing to keep you up to date and you see what kids are doing, but some kids will get the wrong impression of it. They watch internet and think “I’ve got to learn this and this and that trick” to be a part of the community. That’s not it, and then they say they have to be sponsored. That’s the first three questions you get asked by a kid now a days, “Are you sponsored?”, “Can you do backflips?” and “What pros do you know?” For the kids, I would say be original, be yourself. Do what you want, not what internet says. Are you familiar with the name Matt Hoffman? He is THE BMX legend in America. He owned Hoffman Bikes. He was this kid from Oklahoma, he didn’t have any foam pits or resin pits to learn stuff he just did it the hard way. He got himself mattresses and put them on ramps and stuff to learn all this stuff. The picture you took of me of the trick on the flare thing, he invented it. He created this trick and the way I’m doing it is almost old school. Because how many kids can do this trick now a days? They have all lost the originality of it. It is supposed to be a back flip 180. A back flip and a 180 degree turn back into the straight. The kids now a days instead of doing a back flip, they do a barrel roll, they just kind of turn sideways. They don’t go off, but they go sideways. To them it seems like the same trick, but it’s not. I’m following my wheel over and it’s just from watching that Matt Hoffman video when I was a kid. That video came out 1991 I think and I was watching it every day, every day. And that’s the way I learned some of his tricks. He’s one of those guys that rides the burr ramps, the really big ones. I found the video in a flea market. That was ridiculous. I saw a photo of a BMX rider on the cover and decided I was getting this. It was his video and I was constantly watching that thing. This guy did so much for BMX, he had over 50 broken bones. And he invented 60 % of the tricks that the kids do now a day.
CM—Are kids doing things safer because of him? Is there a way for the kids not to break their necks?
PG– Most kids don’t even know who he is. It’s getting crazy every year. It almost seems like gymnastics. The thing is that there’s the technical part of the riding and there’s the stunt part of the riding. I would say that a trick like a double back flip, well it’s not standard, but it’s getting there. Let’s give it another 2 years and a double back flip is one of those tricks every third kid can do, just because the time is telling or creating a different style of riding. If you watch contests like the Dew Tour or the X Games; I was riding X Games in ’98 and I was able to qualify for this. I had to ride a contest in Germany and then qualify for this and the first three place people got invited to the X Games. Now a days, you don’t qualify for this anymore. The kids get invited who have sponsors that sponsor the event, it’s a money thing. The Dew Tour, you have to qualify for, but the Dew Tour is like this do or die contest kind of thing. The kids are getting insane. All you see is helicopters. There’s no more style. There’s still riders out there who still focus on style so it looks good, how they move and how they move their body. The others just focus on tricks, boom, boom, boom. No more style; doing double, triple, what not. See, my ride doesn’t fit in one of the contests at all because I like to do technical stuff. I like to do a couple of stunt things, but not too much. If you do the stunt things you always have to be 100%, 100%. If you don’t pull your stunt stuff, it’s gonna hurt. And a lot of the technical things I do are way harder than stunt stuff. It takes way more balance and precision and repetitiveness over and over again. This stunt stuff is all going high and crazy. It takes hard work to learn technical things. For the kids, don’t give up. Everything has its price. When I was a kid I was told, “If you don’t crash, you don’t get any better.” You don’t put on your helmet and get on this bike and everything happens. No, you’ve gotta learn how to control your bike, your balance, even yourself. It’s funny how your mind works ‘cuz as soon as you pull something, your mind knows how to do it. You can do it another time and the more you do it, the more your brain gets used to telling your body what to do. And then you come to a point where you don’t even have to think about it anymore. You want to do something and you don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. The thing about doing the hard tricks, they get easier and you are training your mind. It’s how to train your mind and it tells your body what to do. That is one of the most amazing things for me personally in life, that I can move my hands and what not and do whatever I want. If I see someone in a wheelchair, I’m like, man I don’t need all the money in the world, I’m so rich already. I don’t need any help with anything, nobody has to do things for me. I can do things myself. I can get up in the morning and everything is adjustable. But if you’re sick or unhealthy, paralyzed, you cannot do anything about it. There is no money that can pay you to get you back the way you’ve been.
There’s more Paddy to come that you won’t want to miss. To catch a video of Paddy in action click here: Paddy