Freedom has a precise feeling for me.
It is flowing through the air on your bike, riding a set of trails you and your friends carved out of dirt in the woods.
I grew up in a small rural Ontario town. I spent most of my time outside, riding bikes for the pure enjoyment of it, with no real thought of where it could potentially take me . Our town had a baseball field and a soccer pitch, so most of the kids were playing there, but I was always drawn to going fast on two wheels.
We had everything we needed. A core group of eager riders, our bikes, shovels, dirt, and the will to create a place we could ride. After school every day, we would go to the farmers’ corn fields or the woods, and we would build dirt jumps to see how high in the air we could go or how far we could gap. We were trying to learn as many tricks as we could. Usually failing and landing on our faces. A mouth full of dirt and a huge smile. It was the best thing ever! I counted down the minutes til the school bell rang and I could get out and ride. Our dirt jumps were the hangout spot, and we all felt free there.
I remember the moment I knew I wanted to be a pro BMX rider, It was just before my twelfth birthday. My family brought me to the Toronto bike show, where I watched my first ever bmx contest. I'm sure I watched the whole thing with my jaw dropped. Double backflips.
Triple tailwhips. Things I didn't think were even possible, happening back to back! My mind was blown. I finished watching the contest and immediately told my dad that i need a BMX bike for my birthday. That night at the bike show he got me a black Wethepeople Crysis with chrome bars and green rims. I could not have been more happy.
A week later, I went into the woods with a couple friends on a beautiful Saturday to ride the big “trick booter” that we made. It was probably five feet tall, and ten feet foot long. I remember my buddy and I bet a can of pop on who would be first to land a 360. Neither of us had ever done this before. We went shot for shot, trying this 360 for about an hour. We were slamming, over and over. We were both completely covered in dirt and sweat. Then suddenly, I did it!
I could not believe it. I stomped it for the first time. I can remember it so vividly, how the sun was shining on the landing, how the wind felt as I was spinning through the air. and the sound of everyone yelling when I landed it. I was so happy, I just launched my bike into the bushes and let out the biggest scream. I was so hyped. I claimed my prize, and chugged it, then went home and told my parents I had landed a 360. My mom’s first words were, “What happened to you?!” I looked like I had been rolling around in mud for hours. I showed her the video of my jump and she said “Just please never try a backflip.” I remember that I was honest with her: “Don't worry…I will!“
It is an exciting time for our sport, now that Freestyle BMX has been introduced in the Olympics for Tokyo 2020. It's a huge step for BMX. The sport shines in the spotlight, and people are going to be excited to see it. Kids relate to our sport now more than ever before.
I think it will really help more kids get unplugged, off the couch and back on bikes. It might even encourage more small towns and cities to build more bike parks, and hold more events, and ultimately give more people more places to grow and ride.
Freestyle BMX is maturing. You have to put in the work, train for hours, develop new tricks and make sure you are pushing the limits of what is possible on a BMX. Extreme intensity is the expectation for a one minute run. You have to be fit, riding and hitting the gym. Diet comes into play too. Being a serious athlete is all about the ability to do what you love most… in this case, ride! I don’t feel that any of this takes the ‘free’ out of freestyle. It has always been about having fun.
No matter how seriously I am taking my competitive spirit, as soon as I step on the bike, I always feel like that twelve-year old kid who just landed his first 360. That’s the freedom: just riding your bike with friends.
(First two large photos submitted by Jaden Chipman; bottom large photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
The Jaden Chipman edition
Q: The best book you've ever read?
A: The Rise of Superman. Really good. It's all about extreme sports and the flow state of mind
Q: Must-listen podcast?
A: Roll-back BMX with Kyle Carlson, of course!
Q: Best advice you've ever received?
A: If money weren't an object, what would u wanna do with your life?
Q: If your life was a movie, what would it be called?
Q: What word or phrase do you over use?
A: Oh my God!.
Q: What is a skill you wish you had?
A: I wish I could play guitar. Just keep puting it off.
Q: What's something no one would guess about you?
A: I love cats.
Q: What scares you?
Q: If you could have the ultimate influential dinner party, who would you invite?
A: Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Jim Jeffries, Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Morgan Freeman.
Q: What makes you cry, every time?
A: Nothing! I'm Hard.
Q: What's the next goal you want to accomplish?
A: Ride my bike for as long as possible, stay healthy, travel the world, and have fun!