Saturday, May 27, 2017

Support the creative people who stoke you


At fifty years old, I'm way overweight after years of taxi driving and bad eating habits.  I'm starting to lost the weight.  As an old BMXer, I went looking online for a good bike to get me riding again.  I kept seeing Todd Lyon's posts on Facebook, he's the SE Bikes brand manager now.  I checked out his video for the SE Fat Ripper, and that's when I found this clip by Seth's Bike Hacks YouTube channel.  This video is the reason I decided to start saving up for a Fat Ripper.  I've become a fan of Seth's YouTube channel.

As most of you reading this know, I've been telling old school BMX stories in my blogs since I moved to North Carolina in November 2008.  Moving here,  I lost all my bike videos and DVD's, I lost all the master tapes to videos I produced, and I lost dozens of hours of raw footage ranging from 1989 to 2007.  I had been planning to make my own documentary of BMX freestyle at some point.  Because I couldn't borrow money to get my stuffed shipped from California, I lost one of the best raw footage collections in the freestyle world.  All I had left were memories.  So I started blogging.

In the last nine years, I've written about 800 posts about the early days of BMX freestyle, and I have lots more to tell.  I'd like to thank all of you who've read and enjoyed my bike tales over the years. 

When I came to NC, I couldn't find a decent job.  It was late 2008 and the bottom was dropping out of the economy, so I wasn't alone.  I eventually drove a taxi here for a while, and spent a year struggling to survive while living in my taxi.  I've also been selling my Sharpie artwork here and there to make a little money.  I'm too old to get hired at entry level jobs here, and my "eclectic"work history seems to keep me from getting a good paying job in some other area.  But I spent most of my life in highly entrepreneurial Southern California.  When I couldn't find a decent job, I thought, "OK, I'll create my own job."

But the truth is, I wrote most of 800 or so posts on the different versions of Freestyle BMX Tales while I was homeless and looking for work.  At the same time, I've been educating myself on how writing and art works in today's world.  It's a completely different industry than when my zine landed me a job at Wizard Publications in 1986.  In today's world, many magazines have died, websites have taken over, and most make money from ads and links.  But something else has happened thanks to the web and today's crazy technology.  Millions of people have started websites, blogs, YouTube channels about things they are actually passionate about This blog is one of those things, and so is Seth's You Tube channel above.  Today's tech let's creative people in little niches create all kinds of stuff to share with the world.  But there's been one huge problem.  Money.

Either creative people need to finance their creative work from their job, and do it as a hobby.  Or they need to dumb it down for a mass audience and try to be one of the small number of people who makes a ton of money on YouTube from ads or through affiliate links on blogs and websites.

But there's another option.  With a service called Patreon, you can support creative people doing cool stuff in a way that doesn't require us to dumb stuff down or sell our souls just for advertising dollars.  You can now support people just because you're stoked on what we do. 

I've done a lot of things over the years.  Telling stories about the early days of BMX freestyle is not my main focus now.  My main focus is writing zines, blogs, and doing artwork to encourage people to build creative scenes.  After reading lots of books that would bore most of you, I've learned that "creative scenes," like local bike scenes, skate scenes, art scenes, music scenes, actually play a huge role in creating jobs in today's world.  We got into BMX freestyle in the 80's because we liked this weird, new, creative sport-type thing.  Along the way, we formed little local scenes.  We also discovered the DIY ethic and started shooting photos, putting on shows, making zines, videos, magazines, and bike companies.  Because we liked riding, we created an entire industry that created a ton of jobs.  The same thing happened in skateboarding, snowboarding, high tech, and dozens of other creative areas. 

But now we're in a world where tech is taking over human jobs by the millions.  One industry after another has lost jobs to new forms of technology.  The high paying factory jobs of our childhood are gone, and no one is replacing them.  People looking into the future are really worried about jobs for humans in the next few decades.  I see one viable solution.  Millions of people will have to create their own jobs, in new businesses in dozens of new industries.

I'm taking what I've learned from being a part of many creative scenes, and taking those ideas to a new generation of creative people.  Some will be middle-aged geezers like myself, but most will be younger people who create stuff, but haven't experienced how a creative activity, like BMX freestyle, can turn into a whole new industry.  This is my work.  Writing and drawing IS MY JOB NOW.  If you want to support my work, you can do it on my Patreon page.  You get goodies, by the way, for different levels of support. 

You can also support Seth's YouTube channel on the link at the end of the video above.  Welcome to the world where you can directly support and communicate with the creative people who do stuff you're stoked on.  You now have the power to support the people doing the things you think are good in the world.  Go for it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"No one got hurt, no one got arrested" How early NorCal freestylers changed EVERYTHING


The late Dave Vanderspek  schools the cops and the news media on the difference between a skate contest, a sticker toss, and a riot.  Normal people just didn't get it back then. And we liked it that way.

On Facebook recently there was a promo for an upcoming book about BMX freestyle, and it listed the names of riders that would be featured in the book.  There were a lot of great names on the list.  But I noticed one glaring omission, there was no one from NorCal.  You just can't tell the story of BMX freestyle without the San Francisco Bay Area riders.  They didn't invent freestyle, but they left an lasting imprint on the whole freestyle scene.  I'm not just saying that because I was part of the scene for a while.  I'm saying that because BMX freestyle wouldn't be BMX freestyle without Golden Gate Park, the Curb Dogs, the Skyway team, the Ground Control crew, and the attitude that rose from the crazy streets of San Francisco.  Here's a look at the NorCal influence through the videos of NorCal riders.

Blogger's note:  I just saw the link to Dom Phipps' book, and on the website and it DOES mention the Curb Dogs and Maurice Meyer.  It was the Facebook post that didn't have any NorCal reference that was my spark to create this post, which I've been working on for a few days now.  

Many of you have been reading my blogs for nearly a decade.  For as little as $1 a month, you can help support my work here.

The Pro Riders
Dave Vanderspek was unquestionably the charismatic leader of both the Curb Dogs and the Golden Gate Park Freestyle scene.  He was also a good skater, and was the first person to really bring the skateboard and punk rock influence into freestyle.
Maurice Meyer, aka "Drob" was a solid, always underrated rider BITD, but not the outgoing promoter that Dave was.  I always thought of Drob as the "assistant manager of NorCal freestyle."  He was kind of the second in command guy in the Curb Dogs, the Skyway factory team, and Golden Gate Park scene during my time there.  His brother was freestyle skater Ray Meyer.
Ron Wilkerson was one of the most influential riders of the 80's, and ever since.  He started as part of the Golden Gate Park scene and with his 2-Hip Trick Team, and got the very first cover photo on FREESTYLIN' magazine riding there.  He soon landed on the Haro Bikes team as a pro rider, and moved to Southern California.  He brought lip tricks into the vert world, started the first series of halfpipe and street contests, and went on to own Wilkerson Airlines and now 2-Hip Bikes.
Robert Peterson became known as the Mater of Balance for his array of stationary balance tricks.  He was also team manager of the Skyway Factory team for quite a while and a mad scientist inventing freestyle tech.
Rick Allison added a showman style to early freestyle riding.  The thing that sticks out in my mind about Rick is that he could do the fastest surfers I've ever seen anyone do.
Oleg Konings (1:01 in this clip) was a freak among the freaks.  At a time when nearly every rider had a original tricks, Oleg came up with tricks that were totally unique and weird.  He invented the first scuffing trick, too.  Really.  That's it in the clip.  "Oleg, put your helmet on!"
Hugo Gonzalez is last, but definitely not least.  Hugo was the craziest ramp and skatepark rider in the early days, bar none.  Before anyone even used the term "Huck it," that's what Hugo was doing.  If there was a crazy jump to be attempted, Hugo was the guy to try it.  He constantly was pushing the limits of what was possible with a BMX freestyle bike in the air.  And landing was always optional to Hugo.

NorCal rider contributions to BMX freestyle
-Golden Gate Park Scene was the most cohesive scene I ever saw in freestyle.  There was no other scene like it.  It had a totally different vibe than any other.
-The Curb Dogs bike/skate team was the most popular non-factory trick team of the 80's.  They routinely placed above most factory teams in magazine polls.
-The terrain of San Francisco, combined with punk rock and skateboard influences promoted by Vander and the Curb Dogs was the main, initial thrust of BMX street riding.  The San Diego riders soon followed suit.

-Vander showed us that motocross style uniforms were stupid.
-First scuff trick ever was invented by Oleg Konings (see Oleg clip above).
BMX freestyle balance tricks were made popular by Robert Peterson, who invented most of the early balance tricks.
-First wall ride-type trick was Hugo Gonzalez' fence ride at Pipeline Skatepark.
-First BMX halfpipe contest was put on by Dave Vanderspek
-First BMX street contest was put on by Dave Vanderspek
-First BMX halfpipe series, 2-Hip King of Vert, was put on by Ron Wilkerson.
-Second BMX street contest, and first BMX street contest series, 2-Hip Meet the Street, was put on by Ron Wilkerson.
-The first made-for-TV BMX street contest, the Huntington Beach Street Scene, was put on by Scot Breithaupt and myself (Steve Emig) in 1989, and aired on ESPN, six years before the X-Games.

NorCal and Golden Gate Park influence on video:
Hugo Gonzales and the NorCal trick team- 1982
Robert Peterson and his hovercraft on Super Kids- 1982
BMX freestyle in Golden Gate Park- Just Kidding- 1983 (sorry, no audio)- Dave Vanderspek :49, 1:20, 1:44, 2:06, 2:38; Maurice Meyer 1:17, 1:50; Rick Allison 1:27, 4:05, 4:49; Darcy Langlois 2:30
Curb Dogs/Skyway demo with English riders, Brighton, England- 1984
2-Hip Trick Team- Evening Magazine- 1984
Curb Dogs/Skway demo in Brighton, U.K.- 1984
Maurice Meyer flatland- AFA Venice Beach, CA 1985
Skyway Promotional video- Part 1- 1985
Skyway Promotional video- Part 2- 1985
Hugo Gonzalez AFA ramp run- 1985
Skyway Team freestyle demo- Redding, CA, 1985
TG14 segment - 1985-  3:33- Darcy Langlois, 3:45- Marc McKee
Tommy Guerrero- Bones Brigade Future Primitive- 1985- Curb Dogs member
Hugo Gonzalez flatland run in the U.K.- 1986
Hugo Gozalez' endo drop-in bail at Pipeline- 1985
Dave Vanderspek's Curb Dogs- Evening Magazine- 1985
BMX freestyle at Beach Park Bikes- 1986
BMX freestyle in Golden Gate Park- Pacific Currents- 1986- Maurice "Drob" Meyer 1:43, 4:50, 5:09; Karl Rothe 4:04, 4:22, 4:37; Chris Rothe 1:31, 4:33; Marc McKee :58, 1:16, 4:43, 5:05; Darcy Langlois 1:10, 4:06, 4:48; Mike Perkins 4:26; Me (Steve Emig) 5:07.
BMX Freestyle with the Curb Dogs- Part 1- 1986
BMX Freestyle with the Curb Dogs- Part 2- 1986
BMX Freestyle with the Curb Dogs- Part 3- 1986
Ray Meyer freestyle skate run- Oceanside, CA 1986- Curb Dog- Drob's brother
Interbike Trade Show Freestyle Demo- 1986 featuring Robert Peterson, Maurice Meyer, Dave Vanderspek.  (I know the tag says 1987, but I was riding at interbike in '87, this is from '86, the video was released in 1987).
Robert Peterson on Merv Griffin Show promoting the movie RAD- 1986 
Hugo Gonzalez on KNTV news- 1986
Chris Rothe flatland run- AFA Masters in New Jersey- 1987
Karl Rothe flatland run- AFA Masters in New Jersey- 1987 
Tommy Guerrero and the Bones Brigade in San Francisco- The Search for Animal Chin- 1987
Fisher-Price video camera commercial- 1987- featuring Norman Chuck's radio
Vision Street Wear's Freestylin' Fanatics- 1987- at 11:19 Dave "Marius Q." Vanderspek does a bike/skate flatland in an AFA contest.  I apologize for the horrible voice-over, I wrote most of it, but they fucked it up when recording it.  Dave's followed by Ron Wilkerson messing with a Brian Blyther interview.  I worked at Unreel Productions, and hated this video when it came out because it was all old footage and it was pretty goofy.  But they gave me two credits at the end, so I couldn't escape responsibility for helping to make it- Steve Emig.
Karl Rothe flatland run- AFA Masters, Arizona- 1988
Marc McKee flatland run- AFA Masters- 1988 
TV News report on Dave Vanderspek's death- 1988- Dave was a influence on the whole BMX freestyle world, as well as many riders (myself included) individually.  Addiction can kill.  Do your best to avoid it people, and help your friends the best you can if they get caught up in it.  Many times the most amazing and talented spirits that come into this world are the ones who struggle the most.  R.I.P. Vander
Marc McKee flatland at Venice Beach- 88 or 89???
Tommy Guerrero- Ban This- 1989
The Man Who Souled The World- Steve Rocco/World Industries documentary- 2007- Marc McKee- 22:32, 37:23, 37:40- Steve Rocco talking about Marc's art, 53:11, 1:13:53, 1:14:52
Censorship is weak as F##K- Art show- featuring Marc McKee's work- 2009?
Censorship is weak as F##K art show- Marc McKee (and Sean Cliver) mini-interview- 2009?
Tommy Guerrero- Transworld Skateboarding Legends- 2013  
Tribute to Hugo Gonzalez- 2015
Tommy Guerrero at the Golden Gate Park casting ponds- 2015
Robert Peterson- San Diego- 2016 
Vince Torres at Old School BMX Reunion 2016- Woodward West

NorCal freestylers in FREESTYLIN' magazine in the early days...
The Premiere- Issue # 1 of FREESTYLIN', Cover: Ron Wilkerson at Golden Gate Park (in San Francisco)- Summer 1984
 FREESTYLIN' #2- Hugo Gonzalez pull out poster- fall '84
FREESTYLIN' #3- Robert Peterson interview- winter '84-'85
FREESTYLIN'#5- The Great NorCal ramp series- May '85
FREESTYLIN' #6- Cover: Hugo Gonzalez (and fellow Skyway rider Scott Freeman)- July 1985
BMX Action- Cover: Dave Vanderspek- November 1985
FREESTYLIN' # 12- Cover: Dave Vanderspek, Maurice & Ray Meyer interview- May 1986
FREESTYLIN' #13- Interview with Dave Vanderspek, Robert Peterson's bar extender- June '86
FREESTYLIN' #15- San Jose Stylin' (my zine) named top freestyle zine in the country- August '86
FREESTYLIN' #16- Photos of Maurice Meyer, Dave Vanderspek, & Oleg Konings- September '86
FREESTYLIN' #19- My mini interview with some skater named Rodney Mullen- December '86
FREESTYLIN' #21- Robert Peterson interview (which had a 43 page transcription)- February '87
FREESTYLIN' #24- Golden Gate Park Flatland- May '87
FREESTYLIN' #26- Marc McKee undergrounder, tricks by Robert Peterson and Karl Rothe
FREESTYLIN' #31- Ron Wilkerson interview (lived in SoCal then)
FREESTYLIN' #46- Cover: Ron Wilkerson (SoCal guy then), R.I.P. Vander piece- March 1989
FREESTYLIN' #47- Vander Memorial Jam- April '89
Go: The Rider's Manual- Vol.2 #4- Ron Wilkerson- February 1991

Vander would ride it.  "Slam, bang, crash 'em up, do it again."
43.




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

BMXers who rode in my taxi

I'm working on a big zine telling my crazy taxi driver stories, which is why this blog is on hold this month.  You can read the post about the well known BMXers and other reasonably famous people I gave taxi rides to here:

The White Bear's Stuff

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Journey of The White Bear...

I'm at a transition point right now, I'm moving out of the apartment I've been living in at the end of May.  Not sure where I'm moving to yet, I'll likely be "floating" for a while.  I'm also spending the month of May 2017 to tell a bunch of my stories of unusual adventures I've had.  This is a lead up to publishing my first big zine of crazy taxi stories and opening an online store to sell my writing and artwork.  So I won't be posting in this blog for the rest of May.  I'll have a new story nearly every day, some from the BMX world, in this blog:

The White Bear's Stuff

I'll come back to Freestyle BMX Tales in June...

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Retail Apocalypse is here... and will hit the action sports world at some point

Around 5,000 retail stores, all from major chains, have closed in the last year, are closing now, or scheduled to close this year.  What Napster did to music, Amazon and outlet malls are doing to department stores and mall stores.  Here's an update on my Get Weird Make Money blog. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Jeff Cotter Flatland run in 1988


I met Jeff Cotter in 1987, while working for the AFA.  He was part of the Lakewood posse that included Ron McCoy, Nathan Shimizu, Ron Camero, his little brother Tim Cotter, and Derek Oriee.  All of those guys were good riders, and always at the SoCal local AFA contests.  Jeff was sponsored by Ozone at one point, and by Vision Street Wear.  None of that crew became top pros, but they were always good, polished, flatland riders.  They often came down to the Huntington Beach Pier on the weekends where Mike Sarrail, myself, and a few of the Vision freestyle skaters would ride for the crowds. 

So why am I showing a clip of one of the hundreds of good flatlanders from the heyday of 1988?  Because Jeff went on to take a job riding in Ringling Bros. Circus not long after this.  He flew to Japan and was doing shows with Jose Yanez, the inventor of BMX backflips.  When Jeff came back to SoCal in 1990, I was shooting footage for my first self-produced bike video, The Ultimate Weekend.  Jeff told me he could do backflips into water, and I went to Long Beach to shoot footage of him.  While he was flipping into the lake, I asked him if he'd ever tried backflip variations.  He said he never really thought of it, so he gave it a shot.  He did a stretched one handed flip into the lake, and a real quick no hander, which made him the first actual freestyler to do any kind of backflip variations.  Mat Hoffman was doing backflip fakies and flairs on vert then.  But no one in the BMX freestyle world had done flip variations on video.  Jeff Cotter, Lakewood area flatlander, wound up being that guy. 

I shot the footage of Jeff flipping into the lake right as I was getting ready to edit my video.  Back in those days, I had to pay $25 an hour to rent the edit equipment, and I set a solid deadline to stop shooting footage.  Jeff called me a week after that deadline, and said he had learned flips ramp to ramp, making him the first freestyler to do so.  But I was just getting ready to edit, and I didn't go shoot footage of him for the video.  That was my mistake. 

Jose Yanez was a rider from Arizona who learned flips and then double backflips into water, back when everyone thought that was impossible.  But Jose wasn't a serious racer or freestyler.  Jeff, the flatlander from Lakewood, became the first freestyler to do flips ramp to ramp, and to try one handers and no handers.  In the weird world of BMX riding progression, you never know who will break new ground with the tricks that change everything.  Jose did it first.  Mat Hoffman took flips to halfpipes first.  And Jeff Cotter brought flips into the mainstream freestyle world. 

At 44:11 in this clip, you can see Jeff flipping into a lake in 1990.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Gravity Racer World Record... NOT!


just ran across this, and the first minute or two of this clip is pretty amazing.  Until I got to the part where Guy Martin heard the "World Record" for a gravity racer... 84 mph.  You think we should tell him that when he was in kindergarten, BMXers built pieces of crap out of spare parts called GPV's, gravity powered vehicles.  At the Palm Springs tramway race in 1987, Tommy Brackens passed the camera motorcycle on his GPV, which was doing 85 mph... in a turn.  I've personally watched GPV's hit around 90 mph and skate luges hit 110 mph+.  Here's the next video, where Guy "breaks the record" at 85.612 mph.  Just fast forward til the end.  Then he crashes trying to go faster.  It's a good crash, worth the watch.

Hey Guy, it was a cute little go kart you guys built... but this is how you go fast using gravity:


I went to this event with NorCal friend John Ficarra, who didn't fair so well.  On that day engineer Dan Hannebrink's fairing won the day.  There were a few other events, and Hannebrink crashed hard in one.  He had the technology, but not the balls of pro BMX racers like Tommy Brackens.  Here's the lead up to the video above, starting 5:10 in the clip.  You were 5 years old when this happened Guy Martin.