As far as I can tell, the first barspin ever done on a BMX bike was actually a half barspin. It was June of 1987, and a Redline vert pro by the name of Todd Anderson introduced the half barspin into his vert routines. I honestly don't remember much about Todd Anderson's riding, aside from the fact that he rode a coaster brake/no back brake/front brake setup, was the first person to I saw do a tailtap 360 barspin over a spine, and that he blasted pretty damn high on quarterpipes. He made an appearance at the launch party for the Freestylin' book last year, but since I wasn't there, I didn't get a chance to ask him about the half barspin. But he got it out there first, as far as anyone I've asked can tell.
A few short months later in the Spring of 1988, Maryland-based vert rider Jeremy Alder seemingly got "tricked" into doing the first real barspin air. The following story, as told by Jeremy Alder, was spotted on 23Mag: "A guy names Saber would go around saying all kinds of stuff. Stuff that would later prove to be lies. He would say he pulled a trick when no one was looking and we would say, "Do it again" and he would say "No." We would get frustrated with his lies. I had seen Todd Anderson (Redline) do half barspin airs and I loved them. I learned to do them and put them in to contest routines. Sabre then said he could do 360 barspins. He always said he could do them and when asked to do it he always declined. Even at contests he would NOT do them. I/we would get so mad at his lies so out of frustration, I thought about and was tempted to do them. I thought how it would work in the air. I was convinced that I could do it but the risk factor scared me. There was a local contest at the Anne Arundel county fairgrounds. So me and my bros went. At that contest there was no one to compete against me in my class. The guy who runs the event asked me to do a little demo after the contest was over. I was a sucker for showing off...so I said yes. My bro was announcing to the crowd as if it was a show and then when I was done asked the crowd if they wanded to see me do a 360 barspin. The crowd cheered loud and so I took a couple practice tries and then signed that I was going to attempted the barspin. The first time I tried it I almost got both hands on and crashed, but I knew at that point I could do it. The second attempt I pulled it and tried it a third time and when I grabed the bars I also put on th rear brake and my weight went to far forward and I fell after I rode off the bottom of the ramp and then pulled my forth attempt. I have all this on video and a guy was taking still pictures of this and sent one onto Freestylin' mag and it was published in the next mag. I do not remember off the top of my head what issue, but I do have a copy. That's the story."
As with most aerial tricks of the day, they were first done on vert. To a degree, actual dirt jumping, street riding and launching off of random objects hadn't really come into its own yet. But that all started to change in 1989, when street and dirt began to emerge as a recognized outlet for BMX. With this emergence, tricks that were once reserved for vert began to transcend into the streets and dirt jumps. No one knows for sure who first made the connection, but they did. Some point to S&M owner Chris Moeller, who pulled a "Busdriver" in 1989 at an ABA National Race in Reno, Nevada, but Moeller states otherwise: "People had been done barspins out of fly-outs but I was the first to do them over doubles as far as I know. We called it a busdriver because at the time, the S&M team van was a VW bus and the bar-spin looked like someone doing a U-turn with that big flat steering wheel." Check out Moeller's section from the 1991 S&M vid Feel My Leg Muscles, I'm A Racer. There's a feeble to barspin in there plus a ton of other wild tricks that hadn't been done yet, including the first up rail attempt (while wearing an Allroy Saves t-shirt.)
For a fairly long time following the barspins move into dirt, the barspin would be known as a "busdriver." (Much later on, and somewhat off topic, the 360 barspin came to be known as a "Truckdriver," which has remained a staple name in BMX even though "Busdriver" has since become "Barspin." I'm no linguist, so I don't know how these things happen...) Regardless, the barspin arrived with a different name on a different terrain. And to say it flourished would be an understatement. The "Busdriver" became THE trick everyone did in much the same way that tailwhips are today. Within a few short years, there were variations in and out of the barspin, combinations and way too many complicated trick names for me to list here. I could probably go all day writing a dissertation on the various ways in which the barspin was interpreted the world over. But I don't want to do that. I'm simply trying to pinpoint the evolution of the basic barspin from vert to dirt to street.
And that's where I start to come up dry. There were barspin drops as far back as I can remember. Moeller was doing them in '91 and even pro flatlander Chase Gouin was doing barspin drops in Homeless Trash, but as far as the first person who figured out how to pull up, tuck back, spin the bars and catch, I'm a little confused. I know that Mark Gonzales was doing wallrides to barspin in as early as 1991, and I'm guessing that the actual barspin bunnyhop came as a result of that, but I can't say for sure. (They don't have Wiki-BMX-pedias on the Internet just yet.) Maybe Gonz didn't get to it first, but I'm making a guess and asking anyone that knows better than myself to get in touch and straighten out the mess. I also need to mention Rooftop, who pulled a barspin out of a handrail in Dave Parrick's 1994 production Dirty Deeds. Not quite a hop to pull, but the basic motion was there. I've also probably gotta mention Mike Griffin in here as well since he was probably out on his own doing barspin hops in a parking lot and not really caring about it. There were others as well that might've been the catalyst: Mat Hoffman, Ian Morris, Butcher, Troy McMurray, Luc-E, the list is long and legendary. And this tiny bit of info comes from Peter Adam: "The Gonz possibly cited [Dave] Clymer as an infuence to that trick in a Props interview."
Basically, I'm at a loss, and going to forget someone important, so again, get back to me and I'll edit this mess.
Anyways, by 1995, the barspin bunnyhop had arrived. And I think the first actual documented footage that I can remember watching of it was from the first FBM video, Ring of Fire, courtesy of Stew Johnson and Jeremy Reiss. I'm sure there were others, but at this point, there were tons of tiny scenes sprouting up everywhere, with new riders not afraid to try new moves and not enough cameras to document the progress. Then the tiny world of BMX went into barspin overload. And the rest is fairly well documented history.
(Sorry for the mess of an ending here. But well, I started searching for a concise "Who did the first hop barspin" and came up totally confused and running in 15 directions at once. Like I said, I'm still looking for some answers, so if you've got them, please e-mail me or register and comment below. Thanks!) -Brian Tunney
Edit: I knew this was coming, additional info about the origin of the barspin hop. This comes from East Kilbride, Scotland's own Gordon Reilly: "The first guy I ever saw doing it was a guy called Dave Proctor, who is one of George French's friends. This was at a contest in Barrow, U.K. in 1992 sometime. I learned the trick that same day and got a video grab sequence in BMX Now, which was a shame because it was Dave's trick."
Thanks for the info and the honesty Goags!