In 1982, I was eight years old, at least for the last few months of it anyway. I was in second grade if I’m not mistaken, and it was the same year E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was released, complete with the epic moon scene, kids riding Kuwaharas across the sky with an alien in a milk crate. I was hooked early on by the mystique of these magical BMX powers. I rode a bike my parents had bought me at a garage sale, as well as borrowing a neighbor’s modified Schwinn Scrambler. It wasn’t until the local bike and mower shop had BMX bikes my folks could afford, that I would have a proper BMX. That would be a year or two later.
Some 26 years later, I found myself in a small town in the Outback of Australia called Dubbo. We had driven six hours inland on an FBM tour, on the word that there was a crazy skatepark we had to check out. When I was eight, I hadn’t ever heard or thought of a skatepark; my idea of a ramp was anything that wasn’t flat that I could ride off of. It was probably a safe bet there weren’t many parks back then, let alone “local parks.”
Any rate, we get to Dubbo. It’s the evening, it’s hot as all get-out, and there are dozens of kids of all ages having a blast at the park. It was awesome. By the end of the session, this youngster named Fred gets on some one’s bike, and starts roasting around the bowls, nearly looping the 18-foot cradle. I was stunned, I don’t think he even had his own bike, he just used whatever someone would let him ride. I asked him how old he was, and he said “Eight.”
“WOW,” I thought. He just rolled away, totally oblivious.
Obviously things have changed over the years, but man, I sometimes don’t realize how much. While the 40 year-old weirdos are online, collecting old Kuwaharas and such, talking about the good old days, I can’t even begin to think about how even just a few short years ago, things were so much different. Yeah, the old days were good, but the bikes were marginal in comparison, and you rarely saw a skatepark, let alone some random town with a fullpipe and tons of kids laughing, hanging out and unknowingly pushing the progression of bike riding.
I was happy to see Fred carving that bowl, with little or no idea about BMX, aside from getting on someone’s bike and doing it. Pure, unadulterated and innocent. Call it what you want, I saw an eight year-old kid riding and smiling, with no thoughts of Nintendo, the Internet, an iPhone, or what anyone else thought about him. It was pure BMX!