For a brief window in time, I was again a young man. Standing beside a boy, no older than 15, we discussed jumping the 10 or 12 foot gap from the bowl and then to the infamous Rampfest box jump. That box jump has seen some stuff. But neither the young bloke nor I had managed to get there smooth enough to consider jumping it too.
The weekend of March 13th & 14th played host to the 2021 Freestyle BMX Championships. The easy highlight was the professional riders. They’re the draw card. But for a few local and loyal Rampfest diehards, they were lucky enough to witness the true excitement from the weekend; The BMX Masters & Junior classes.
Over two days, riders of all ages and from all corners of Australia met at Melbourne’s Rampfest Skatepark to battle it out for the top spot in their category. While the competition was fierce & the saying “if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough” echoed through my thoughts, in true BMX style, the weekend was not exclusively about competition but the strong & supportive scene that is freestyle BMX.
While the level at which people were riding was unreal, it was clear that more was to come. Those who attended both days, be it competing or spectating, could talk for days or even weeks about the flow & effortless style of Josh Dove. Or could go on about the creative mind of Jason Watts – who helped design and build many of the ramps being ridden – and how he can see lines that are invisible to most others.
"coffee, cheesy nachos & fist-bumps"
On day one, the Saturday, it was dark, rainy & perfect for a comp at an indoor skatepark. Standing out and brightening the day were Ams Rampfest manager Ravine Kelly and commentator Harrison Sealey. If it wasn’t the burley tricks from Harrison that caught your attention, it was the effortless flow and racer speed from Ravine. Oooh and Ravine’s tyre grabs. So damn good!
Behind the scenes, the flow was a little different. It was the coffee, the cheesy nachos and the constant stoked fist-bumps that were flowing. No matter your age or ability, if you were there, you were included. Young or old, riding or spectating & despite the seriousness of the event, you were made to feel like an important part of the proceedings. With qualifying done and the promise of more the next day, we packed up and awaited the wildness of the finals.
With a raised thumb from Wade Bootes, competition for the finals began on Sunday morning. Early risers were greeted with a bit of bonus practice and that’s where the supportive backbone of the BMX community really shone through. Bigger crowds, louder cheers and even more limit-pushing BMX! Anyone competing was made to feel invincible. The pressure was mounting for anyone signed up to compete in the national championships but as practice rolled along, it felt more like a casual jam than a competition.
The Under 12’s & 15’s. Far out. BMX is in good hands. Young Tyler Phillips on a tiny 12” BMX took to the course like a seasoned professional & carved up the bowl like it was nothing. In the Under 15’s, a key stand out was young man, Ryder Lennane. Over what is normally the resi-box, Ryder blew everyone away with a clean & stretched candy bar. For the unsure, this is when you extend a leg over the top of the handlebars and back. Not for the faint of heart. Ryder is also the shredder who’s encouragement helped my efforts in Masters.
fighting the effects of ageing
The Masters Class. The blokes who’ve fought and keep fighting the effects of ageing by staying young at heart and continuing to ride BMX bikes. This is the class that, next to the obvious pro class, got the most conversation. Clearly just happy to be out and riding bikes, riders 30 years & older took it back to 1999 with a trick list that would have won most comps easily in their day. Rampfest owner Chris Bierton even took to the course. Without a single full pedal revolution, Chris flowed the course like he owned it. Effortless style & tricks that’d make kids in the mid 2000’s jealous but it was his turndown from bowl to bank that really stood out. Did someone say “Clicked?” Yes. Yes they did!
While the Masters class throw single tricks and flow, moving to the Ams and Pros you start to see where BMX has developed over the years. It get’s super hard to photograph these guys & girls because every trick is a combination of two, three or even four tricks. Where it used to be normal to see a big 360º, in the Ams now you see a 720º. In the Pro field, that’s a 720º double whip. The progression is fast and large.
Tricks are now done four or five feet higher and landed smoother so as to link into the next trick over another jump. Logan Martin. Far out. Is there anyone that can throw more tricks into one jump? And Josh Done, at just 17 years of age, was easily airing the highest with the most flow and style. His stretched nac-nac over the box was a clear standout in practice.
The level of riding was simply unreal. 1080’s were thrown mid run like they were nothing. Multiple tricks were combined with spins and flips alike but it seems like it’s just the beginning. See, there weren’t that many crashes. There were a couple of spills here & there but with the riders pushing themselves pretty hard in the finals, it’s hard not to think about what else is possible. It seems we’re only just seeing the beginning.
effortless style and tricks
So what’s next? Who’s next? After the Freestyle BMX Championships this year, it’s clear BMX still has a lot to prove. The future is looking bright and with AusCycling helping drive the sports progression, alongside super hard working crews like those at Rampfest, who knows what is over the horizon. But it’s going to be great.
As the weekend drew to a close, comments and conversations took place that suggests next year will be even bigger. More tricks, more Pros and more importantly, more young riders and even more Masters. Are you in? Are you going to test your skills next year?
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