I know Gary too well, so at times I struggle to write about him in the sense that I forget not everyone knows every waking detail about his life like I do. So, I think just coming out and making some strong statements may just suit this intro quite well. Gary, at 33, is an anomaly in BMX. He’s been a professional rider for nearly 15 years, continues to ride on a daily basis, holds it down as a super dad to his two kids, and even though he refuses to admit it, has put out the best video part of his life in Illustrated. Gary’s staying power in BMX is growing increasingly rare and if you think about it, he’s in a very elite league of pro riders who are able to sustain a level of fucking awesomeness that transcends all the Instagram-follower and YouTube-view bean counters out there. I think the interview you’re about to read offers up a real version of Gary, where he’s at with his riding, what it takes for a seasoned pro to put together a heavy video part, along with a hint of the future…

Text/Interview By Ryan Fudger

Gary found this wild gap-to-ledge thanks to the birth of his son and fired it out in between dad duties... PHOTO: FUDGER

I could be wrong, but wasn’t Vans pretty much your first sponsor?

I think it was Odyssey, but Vans was right there. I got to go on an Odyssey trip, and then later that summer, Vans gave me some cash to just go on a road trip. So I was gone for like two months and just basically traveled the U.S. and just cruised around…

Was that the road trip where you listened to that Metallica CD nonstop in your car?

[Laughs] Yes. Ride the Lightning. Basically, I got in the car and drove to Chicago with Ryan Sher. I think he flew somewhere after that and then I went to a contest in Denver, then up to Salt Lake, and then to Woodward. I stayed in Salt Lake way too long. I had to be at Woodward—a thirty-something hour drive—and I stayed right up to the point when I needed to go because Aitken invited me to go ride a park and I was like, “Damn, that’d be awesome. I want to go ride with Aitken.” It was that Proving Grounds Skatepark, and anyone who’s seen the Square One video knows that he murders that place. Anyways, so I rode there and then got in my car and drove and only stopped for an oil change [laughs]. I drove thirty hours straight, and I swear, I started hallucinating and car lights turned into dinosaurs. It was just Ride The Lightning blaring in the speakers with the windows down for thirty hours…

How did you originally get hooked up with Vans?

Um, basically all my sponsors are pretty much through an introduction from Vic Murphy. He was on both Vans and Odyssey back then, and he’d just be in there like, “Hey, I got this kid!” And I was the kid [laughs]. So yeah, I really appreciate that. Thanks, Vic. I didn’t find this out until years later, but I guess Odyssey invited Vic to go on this trip to England, and Vic just said, “Oh yeah? Bring Gary, too.” And then Vic got out of going on the trip [laughs]. But that was essentially the trip that made it for me to like…become a professional. The trip was for a Backyard Jam and I wound up making finals…I think I was somewhere in the top five. Then we did a trip with RIDE UK and Dig for a week. And it ended at this other contest, Bike 2002, and I won that. So, when I came back from that trip Vans and Odyssey were both stoked and they were like, “Hey, do you want to do this more?” I was going to school at the time, so I had to put that on hold. That was kind of a hard decision for me because I knew I wanted to get my education one day, but I put that on hold and it’s been spring break for fourteen years now [laughs].

I mean, how many sponsorships last fourteen years?

[Laughs] Dude, yeah…a fourteen-year sponsorship in BMX is pretty unheard of. I mean, I can think of one other person that that makes sense. Nyquist? Anybody else? I don’t know. Umm, but yeah, I’m psyched.

Does it still seem…I don’t know if surreal is the right word…but has it ever gotten normal?

I still can’t tell people what I do when they ask. “Oh, I ride kid’s bikes. Whatever.” I don’t know. It’s not that I’m not proud of being a professional bike rider, but I always felt like it was a little, uh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Not presumptuous, but…

Almost like you’re proud of it, but you don’t want to say it because it feels like you’re automatically bragging…

Yes. Basically. Pretentious was the word I was looking for. But yeah, I don’t want to come right out and be like, “Yo, I’m a professional bike rider. This is the greatest thing and I’m living my dream!” Even though that’s how I feel on the inside. But umm, when I meet other people outside of the BMX industry, even little kids at the park that are like, “Oh! Are you a pro bike rider?” It’s super humbling, and I’m still like, “Yeah…I am.” But those questions have always made me feel uncomfortable for one reason or another.,,

It’s understandable. I feel like Vans has a history of talking about making a video, but never actually making a video. As somebody who has been there for fourteen years, I feel like you probably have pretty good info on that…

When I officially got on the team, we started taking about making a video. Aitken was on at that point and he was the dude. They were talking like, “Oh, we’re going to do a video. It’s going to be like the core guys. It’s going to be awesome.” And then it didn’t really get much traction for whatever reason. I think we started one at some point after that…I think Badders got a video camera [laughs]. Years later, after we pressed about it further, we had to wait on the skate team to finish their video. They said that the skate video only took three years, but I swear that thing just kept going and going and going [laughs]. But once they were finished, it was like, “Alright, 2016 is our 50th Anniversary and we want a BMX video to go along with it!” That was in 2015 and it was sorta like, “Oh…alright!” and it was game on. The opportunity to do all these trips: Japan, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and all over the U.S...it was just such an honor. We were so psyched just to finally be able to do a video project that we had been talking about for so many years. The team is so big and there’s so much talent on it, so that’s going to really show in this video, just because everyone’s so gnarly.

The video is obviously made for BMX, but it’s going to have a much larger, wide-reaching audience, right?

Pretty much anything with Vans is going to reach wide. It’s just such a huge company, and it has access so many more channels of getting its media out there. It’s going to be released on iTunes and there’s going to be a world release with an hour-long show. This is going to be a lot of people’s version of BMX for a little while…like, they might be a skateboarder or a mall rat that’s like, “Oh, Vans has a BMX team?”

Obviously you’re hyped that the video is going to happen, but part of you had to be like, “We have just a year to do this?” How much time do you generally like to have when doing a full-blown video part?

I think, ideally, two years would be a good number to do a video just because it gives you a chance to really think about the things you want to do and go get some attempts in, and you don’t have to feel like you’re behind the eight ball. When it’s one year, you’ve got to film as many clips as possible and only towards the end can you start getting picky. In the beginning, I’m just trying to bank footage. But yeah, I was really fortunate that Kosman is local to me. So I was able to film with him on a number of occasions, and go out and film with you [Ryan Fudger] and a couple of my friends, and they were able to get some clips of me, too. Actually, my banger was filmed by you, Tom [Perry], and Hoang [Tran], so thanks dudes! But basically, a year to make a video part what you want it to be is stressful, especially when you have to worry about injuries and everything, but it worked out and I’m stoked on our final product.

You said “getting picky,” do you want to go into that process? How do you film something without thinking that you’re going to do better later?

I always have dream tricks, but you’ve got to find the right setup. And then sometimes you find the right setup and then you get kicked out…there’s all these factors that play a role on whether a trick’s going to make it into a video or not. When I first start a video project, I get worried about injuries, but I still want to have a presence in the video, so I’ll play it a little bit safer on the first trip. And maybe that’s not the greatest plan…I don’t know. But when you only have a year to operate, that’s what I do. So, the first trip I went on was in Chile, and I remember seeing a couple things and being like…do I want to say this out loud? That’s bad [laughs].

No, I mean, that’s real…

Totally. So basically, in Chile, there was this setup that was a really tight vert wall that had this hole in the middle—it was just such a unique set-up. While I was there I couldn’t decide how to ride it… I ended up doing a tooth inside the hole-to-fakie back in, and the tranny was super tight, so coming back in on it fakie was pretty scary. But, had I been further along in the filming process, I think I would have tried to go either ice or pegs fakie—that seems like it would have worked. It would have…I don’t know. A lot of times when I film clips, I have to pay the toll. A lot of times it’s a gnarly clip that if it doesn’t come first try, then your body is taking…you’re paying for it.

So is that Chile spot an actual regret?

Yeah, sorta. When I was on the flight home, there was a big part of me that was just thinking about that one clip. Where I’m like, “Man, that would have been cooler had I done it differently.” But, then I can fast-forward to Japan where there are clips there where I wouldn’t do anything differently—it was exactly what I wanted for the spot and I’m psyched. I saw the setup and I knew what I wanted to do. I don’t know if that was just a change in focus or what, but for me, at that point, I was more committed to the project…not that I wasn’t committed before.

You’ve already told me about that curved wall-to-table…that was the spot where you guys were driving and everybody almost passed it and you had to force people to pull over. That is the opposite of Chile—you made that happen. Why be passive about one spot, but aggressive about another?

Why does that happen? For me, the way a spot looks plays a big role, but really, it’s all about if I feel I can ride it differently. Like, if we go to a spot that is super famous and I’ve seen a million things done there…unless there is some part of it that I think I can really make my own, it’s hard for me to get excited about it. I’ve had the opportunity to go on enough trips that I know the things that I like. And so when we were on that Japan trip and we’re driving—we were the car in the back—and we’re literally just lost in a neighborhood. I spotted the curved wallride-to-wall and I was like, “Whoa, that was kinda cool. We should check it out.” And Colin, he didn’t stop because we were the car behind, and I was like, “Uhhh, no, no…we need to go back. Colin, you’ve got to get the other car’s attention!” It was far from perfect; if you ever look closely, the blocks are super rough and if you took the wrong path, some of the blocks were inset. When we first showed up, I thought it would be cool just to do it, but then as I started riding and sessioning the spot, it was like…”Oh! I can get into the tree!” And any time that I can incorporate like another aspect, especially trees, I always think that getting into trees is super cool…

You mean like…

Like hitting leaves and stuff. That just makes things so much cooler to me. So yeah, that made it into something I wanted to do—especially being able to be a part of that tree [laughs].

Let’s talk about your end result. Is a video part just a collection of things that you wanted to do in the moment or is it more than that?

So, for this Vans part, I really just…I wanted it to be really good, obviously. There are always more things that, if you had more time, you’d go do. But with this part, I thought hard and basically came up with spots that I knew about here in San Diego, and I just wanted to do bigger and better things. And I was really, really stoked when I was able to start crossing some of them off. Because some of them had been on my list…I swear the rail-to-rail had been on there for ten years. Like, it was one of those things where I just wanted a good excuse just to go do it. And there was even a time where we went to go look at it and it was like, “I’m gonna do it now,” but the lighting was wrong or something. There was something about it that was like, “oh, alright, I shouldn’t do it now.”

I remember that. It was before DSLRs could really handle lowlight. The footage and photos would have been bad…

Exactly, so this was the first time that I was like, “Alright, I want to do this for something.” Sometimes you just need that inspiration or motivation to really decide it’s time. I can finally go to my list and check these things off and, yeah, I just lucked out being able to do that time and time again.

Let’s talk about the gap-to-ledge, since it’s obviously not the way that most professional bike riders find spots…

[Laughs] No, it’s not. So, in May of last year, I was going to the hospital for my son’s birth and the parking lot was under construction, so I had to park across the street a little ways. And while I was there, I stumbled across this ledge. It was no joke, but it had everything: the run-up was perfect, it looked gnarly, the run-out, though, was kinda terrible, but it made sense in my head. Anyways, the only reason I knew about that ledge was because of my son’s birth and so it only seemed fitting that when I went to prep it I…um…I brought my son with me to brick-rub it. Like, you’re not going to kick out somebody holding a child, right? People won’t think twice about the dad carrying the baby [laughs]. So, I definitely brick-rubbed the ledge with Lincoln in my arms like, “Thanks for the ledge, buddy!”

And then I picked you up from your house one random day and you fired it out right away…

Yeah, it was the first spot of the day so I had to get the blood going. So first try, I just jumped into the stairs. Then second try I gave the ledge an attempt, but since I didn’t want to hit the building that’s straight off of it, I just let my pegs sit on the ledge and then quickly got off. I landed it, but I was kind of looping out while I was turning and was headed right for a tree, so I laid it over and kicked the tree. It was one of those ones where it almost counted, where if we got kicked out right there, it would have been hard not to keep the clip. But, it wasn’t the clip that I wanted, so I ran back up there—I didn’t even look at the footage—I was just like, “I’m turning around and going right back to it.” I just ran back up there and was able to lace it clean. That day was something special, because we ended up going directly to this wallride-to-wallride that was a heavy one towards the end of my section. I had done the wall-to-wall in an Odyssey edit and I wanted to 180 out of it…I had actually talked myself out of doing it a couple years prior for a web video. But after I already had the hype going from the Lincoln ledge, I just decided to keep the good vibes going and I was able to get that one, too. And I left with enough time to make it back and pick up Leena [his daughter] from school, too...

That was, by far, the most interesting thing to me about that day. I don’t understand how you can turn it on and off so quickly. How do you juggle playing with your kids to doing a second stage gap-to-ledge and back again?

I definitely compartmentalize my life to a certain degree. I put on different hats and when I’m home—my dad hat—and pretty much put my phone away to a certain degree. And then there’s my pro hat, like, let’s go film some clips! You have to kind of be creative and make it work for yourself, but that’s been working for me.

Kobe, Japan was good to Gary—it was good to the entire crew, really. Gary managed to get three clips from his part all within view of each other at the same spot. This roll-in down the top ledge-to-gap pegs on the lower ledge being the first. PHOTO: ZIELINSKI
The scene in San Diego is one of the heaviest in the world, so it says a lot that this rail-to-rail setup has remained untouched until now. The Vans video gave Gary the motivation to check this one off his list after ten years. Rail ride-to-gap feeble with a short run out for a little extra danger. PHOTO: FUDGER

Has it been a learning process?

It’s still a learning process. Having kids makes me appreciate the time I spend out riding more and I try to make the most of it. Whereas, before I had kids, I’d just be like, “Hey, let’s spend all day out riding.” Now, I have this free time to go ride and I’m going to make the most of it. It’s a challenge, but it’s also very rewarding…and having the kids to come home to is the greatest part. I never thought that there was going to be something that over-shadowed riding for me, but yeah, kids are great.

You have a broken foot right now…how does that factor in? Even on daily level when you come back and you’re sore from trying that wall-wall-180 fifty times...Does it affect certain parts of your life at home where you don’t have energy?

Energy has never been an issue. But when I’m sore and beat-up from riding, as long as I am physically capable of doing dad stuff, I do it. When I hurt myself to the point where I’m not physically capable, it definitely puts more pressure on my wife to pick up the slack. Unfortunately with the broken foot, that means she gets more diaper changes and she’s been up a lot more when Lincoln is crying in the middle of the night. But yeah, we all make sacrifices and I am very appreciative of the ones that she makes so I get to do what I love.

So your birthday is tomorrow and you’re going to be 33 years old. You got on Vans fourteen years ago and, maybe halfway through, did you ever have the thought, “Maybe I have a couple more years left.”

For sure. For a professional athlete on any level to last five years is crazy…and I’m getting close to three times that. I can’t believe that I still get to go out and ride kid’s bikes and be a part of the industry that’s done so much for me personally. It’s been such a life changing experience…traveling riding and everything in between. I could’ve never imagined that when I got on Vans that it was going to last for as long as it has. I’ve thought many a times, “This has to be the last year, right?” And then it’s not. I keep getting to ride and do amazing things…and I still feel like I’m progressing. BMX never lost that fire for me. I continue to want to do better, cooler, different things, and make it my own. So, for that, I’m very appreciative. That one, my body has lasted this long, and two, that BMX has kept me around this long. So thanks for all the great times!

You said you still feel like you’re progressing…do you feel like you’re a better bike rider than ever?

I’m definitely more talented now than I’ve ever been, but I’m not pushing the sport like I was earlier in my career. Before, I feel like I cared a lot more about coming up with, or inventing, new tricks. Lately, I’ve been more into finding setups and doing things that are just inherently me. I feel like I’ve found myself as opposed to before where I was like, “Oh, I need to come up with a new trick so I can stay relevant.” Now I know who I am and what I like to do. Soo…I don’t know where I’m going with that…but I’ve found my niche and I’m very happy with it.

So, that idea, does it transfer into how you film a video part?

It still comes down to finding stuff that I get excited about. I know I can squeeze something at most spots that I go to, but at the same time, I’m not that interested in riding foot tall ledges. What those types of riders do is incredible, but that’s not what appeals to me. I can appreciate it, but that’s not my version of BMX. We are different artists. My version of BMX is going fast, transitions, wall rides, and gaps. With that said, the spots are harder for me to find because it takes a special looking setup for what I really want to do. And when I don’t find that, there will be times where I’m like, “Well, there’s nothing for me at this spot.” And part of that is wisdom; I don’t want to waste my energy and be dead when I do find a spot that I do want to ride. And part of it is just the general disinterest in jibbery…

Yeah, but we jib all the time…

I’ll ride my bike and jib all the time, but I’m not going to film a bunch of jibs because I’m not jibbing like these kids [laughs].

Japan was a dream trip for Gary and he took full advantage of all the odd, un-touched setups out there. Fakie wallride down an eight stair in Kobe. PHOTO: ZIELINSKI

Yeah, they’re next level. How does your video part rank in…I don’t even know how many video parts you’ve had.

I don’t know either.

Let’s guess. Five?

Sure [laughs].

Thanks [laughs]. I guess that doesn’t really matter. Do you have a favorite video part and how does the Vans video rank in there?

So I think my video part that made biggest effect on BMX was my Ride part that I did, Drop the Hammer. I think that’s when I was the most progressive and doing the most tricks that weren’t being done at the time. I was just riding bigger sprockets and generally going faster, so I was part of that changing trend during that time. But nowadays, this video part, I think is much more polished than that riding, and it’s more fluid. But comparing them…I don’t know, I was at different points in my life. Um, ya. I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer for that I guess.

I guess the answer is that you can’t really compare them…

Yeah, you can’t really.

What do you think of your Illustrated part then? Like, is it representative of…

I feel like my Illustrated part is more of a timeless section…that sounds weird to say about myself. But, I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like you’ll be able to look at the tricks that I chose to do in my part and be like, “Wow, that’s pretty gnarly.” And then, years later, it’ll still be like, “Yeah, that’s still gnarly.” Like when you watch Van’s Criminal Mischief section today, it’s still gnarly. And not that I’m comparing my section to Van Homan’s section in any way. But, what he did back then is still gnarly and there’s no taking away from that. If you watch Van’s most recent section, he’s obviously gotten better, is doing harder tricks, and is more refined, but the section that he puts out today isn’t as impactful as the one he put out back then. So, I don’t know. That isn’t a bad thing it’s just a changing of…

I know what you’re saying. If you looked at it black and white and compared the tricks in each video part, his later sections are way better. But no matter what, Criminal Mischief will always be Van’s best video part.

Right. Exactly.

I got ya…it’s definitely hard to compare the two. So you’re still doing what you want to do, but how much longer do you think you want to continue doing this? Umm, well, I don’t know. I’m not ready to throw in my hat just yet. It’s hard to be ready for the next chapter in life without changing your focus, and my focus is still on riding. I mean, right now I’m on crutches and I found this spot yesterday and was like, “Aww, I want to ride this spot so bad.” So that hasn’t changed for me... I watch a park contest now and the kids are doing double flairs and wild moves that I have no interest in learning… It’s crazy and whatnot, but that was never BMX to me. So if I can continue doing my version of BMX and people are happy with it, then sweet. But if they’re not, and it’s time to move on, then I understand. I had a good ride… You didn’t think it was going to last this long, but obviously BMX still loves you. Vans will probably support you for life, so I think it’s going to be your choice… Yeah [laughs]? I don’t know…right now I have my dream job that I love. I know that one day I will have to grow up and do something more forgiving to my body, but to be honest, I’m not sure what that is yet. I find myself interested in so many things and I would like to find something that benefits BMX, because it’s given me so many opportunities and I find myself wanting to give back to the industry I love. I just don’t want to be the dude holding on when it’s time for the next generation to take the reigns. And, I need to save some parts of my body to be able to enjoy my kids growing up. So, I don’t know when that time will be...I’m just going to try to listen to my body and take it one trip at a time. Have any thanks? Huge thanks to the filmers who put in their time. Filming a video part is very stressful and quite often times you lose your mind, so thanks for sticking with all of us and being a part of helping this whole thing go down. Colin, Justin, Tom, Hoang, Calvin, Ryan, even Walter; I stole one of the clips that I filmed here in San Diego from the Sunday video video just because it was one that I really wanted for the Vans video. So thanks so much to Sunday for being cool about giving over that footage. Thanks to Jerry for sending us all over the world to film. That’s huge. Van Doren and Vans for funding this thing. It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure. I’ve gotten to meet so many new people, experience new cultures, and ride sweet places over the last year or so…I’m very stoked to be a part of this one. I’m really, really thankful to my wife for letting me still be a part of doing all this. When we started dating in high school she didn’t sign up for all this. I was like, “If I ever get the chance to ride bikes, that’d be cool.” And no way did we think it was going to last this long, so she’s a trooper for sure [laughs].

The High Desert has lots of the following two things: amazing spots and thorns. Unfortunately one doesn’t come without the other and after about five tubes, Gary was able to snag a couple of clips (including this icepick) on this gem of a spot… PHOTO: FUDGER