In the late '80s, Brian Blyther was a Haro-sponsored vert rider that possessed natural ability on a BMX bike. Instead of concentrating on tricks, Blyther opted for style, speed and height. The tricks naturally followed, but they were never forced. In fact, Blyther was one of the first riders that seemed to work with (instead of against) his bike in mid-air. During his heyday, Blyther's approach to riding dominated the vert ranks, and to this day, his name is often brought up in the same sentence with words such as "style" "height" and "speed."
Although Chase Hawk wasn't around to witness Blyther's reign (Hawk was born in '86), the two share many of the same traits aboard a BMX bike. Hawk doesn't necessarily ride vert, but his riding is nonetheless, very Blyther-esque. And like Blyther, nothing is ever forced. Hawk was born and raised in the Austin, Texas BMX scene, and his natural abilities can attest to the legendary influences that shaped his earlier years, including Joe Rich and Taj Mihelich. Now 24 years old, Hawk is a respected name in the pro BMX scene. But guess who he lists as an influence on his riding? None other than Brian Blyther.
Recently, we caught up with Hawk to discuss X Games, Cult and life around the Austin area. Read on.
ESPN.com: Hey Chase, what are you doing?
Chase Hawk: I just got out to California yesterday, I'm at Vans right now.
What are you doing out there?
X Games. Practice starts today so I'm going out there in a little while.
What's it like for you on the deck, with all these dudes doing crazy front flips when you're just flowing around?
It's awesome, I love riding with everybody that's there. I think that the bowl idea is awesome as opposed to your typical Dew Tour course. There's a lot more creativity involved with what they built for the park courses. There are so many lines and a lot of thinking that is involved. The fact that it's all cement introduces new factors for everybody too. I don't think it's really easy for anybody. And I think it's awesome. I do not do a lot of contests in general and I feel lucky that this gets to be one of them, because it's super fun.
Do you get nervous at all?
I try not to but, I don't think it's nervous, probably more excitement. I try not to let any of it get to me because it's just riding a spot and the less that you try to think of it and the more fun you try to have with it, the easier it works out. You're not stressing about everything. A lot of people do that and you might sit there and try to plan out everything that you're going to do, but when it comes down to it, you're just riding a cement park. I usually just find stuff that is fun for me to do and that's what I go to.
Switching it up, you had a part in that Cult video and you were riding pegs and doing all sorts of grinds. What made you want to switch it up?
I put them on and off and I get bored sometimes not having them and other times I get bored having them. It just has to do with switching your bike set up and the way you ride; just trying to keep things fresh basically. Pegs are nothing new for me. Before I took my brakes off, I pretty much had pegs on every bike that I had. I've ran pegs for ten years or so, it's nothing really new to me. I just like to take them off and put them on sometimes. It's real random for me.
That part was awesome by the way. I was psyched on it.
Thanks, I was super psyched on it too. I was just really happy with the way that whole video came together. It didn't feel rushed and it wasn't help up to a certain type of standard. Basically we just went on two different trips and everyone had a blast. We were just kind of like on the same page with everything. And there was no confusion with anything, so everyday, stuff just got done. We would show up to a spot and instantly everybody would feed off of each other and stuff would be happening all over the place. That's pretty much what every session felt like. From start to finish, it took four and a half months.
You look at the time span that it takes for a video to get made these days; we have been working on the Empire video for three years now.
Well that's because of Dave Parrick.
Yeah I know but, either way that's true. It's not just Empire. I don't think there is any other company that is putting videos out that quick, you know?
Yeah, you can tell when you watch it that there's this whole team, there's like this organic kind of feel. It wasn't forced at all.
Exactly. The best part about it is that there is so much more to come. That's just the very, very beginning.
Switching it up again, would you want to talk me through a typical day in the life of Chase Hawk at home in Austin, Texas?
I probably get started a little later than most. The last couple of months I have been waking up before noon. I usually try to get out of the house before 1 p.m. I try to meet up with people and go ride. Pretty much all I have been riding lately the T-1 ramp. Joe gave me the key probably a year ago, and I ride there four or five times a week. I just cruse around the city, or I go to the Springs and just try and eat a lot. I eat a lot of good food.
Are you the type of person that needs to put in a certain amount of hours a day or do you just go with whatever happens?
I usually just do whatever everyone else is in the mood for. Nobody really likes riding by themselves. I usually try and meet up with the crew, and whatever everyone else feels like doing is what I usually end up doing. It's Austin, it's laid back, everyone knows that and everyone that has been here knows that. It's a city that you can be on your bike all day, but you don't necessarily have to be doing much.
So if you're not on your bike, what are you doing?
Usually I'm at the Green Belt or Barton Springs; I probably play more video games than I should. I've been playing Skate 3 a whole bunch. I'm usually riding quite a bit.
What is it like to live with Aaron Ross?
Aaron is a good guy. It might get a little crazy sometimes, but it is awesome and I like riding with him. He's a good dude to have around, and it's freaking crazy to go riding street with him because of the crazy stuff he does right away.
With a big smile on his face?
Not normally. He will try something twice and if he doesn't do it, he will go into bike throwing mode, but I guess that happens to everyone.
He doesn't have any weird nervous ticks or anything?
No, he doesn't.