In the late '90s, Spanish BMXer Ruben Alcantara traveled to the U.S. and struggled to make it as a pro on the BMX scene. After countless nights spent sleeping in warehouses and on friend's couches, coupled with riding sessions during the day, Ruben eventually came to be known as a progressive rider. Then, almost overnight, things changed in a big way for Ruben. He ditched the heavy bike, focused more on style and advanced the realm of tailwhips and wallrides beyond what was once thought possible. The accolades followed, including sponsorships, signature products, contest wins, groundbreaking video parts and being named as one of the top five most influential riders by Ride BMX Magazine.
But then, Ruben did something unexpected. He moved back to Spain. He certainly didn't stop riding, and he maintained sponsorships from T-1, etnies, Fly Bikes and Fox, but the U.S. was no longer being spoiled with monthly coverage of Ruben. Things seemed to take a turn for the worse after Ruben started suffering major back problems in the mid '00s, but he still managed to deliver an awe-inspiring section in the 2007 etnies video "Grounded." The past several years, Ruben has maintained a residence in Malaga, Spain, and is steadily on the mend from ongoing back problems. He may not be in the magazines every month or producing a Web video every week, but Ruben Alcantara has managed to remain one of the most influential riders of our time. Now, at age 36, Ruben balances his riding with surfing and acting as a tour guide for the many BMX teams that visit his hometown of Malaga. And recently, Justin Kosman caught up with Ruben on home turf to see what's new in the life of a true BMX influential.
This is Ruben Alcantara. Be thankful he decided to do some skids and wallrides after getting out of the Spanish military. Interview by Justin Kosman.
ESPN.com: What have you been most psyched on riding lately?
Alcantara: Mainly trails and bowls.
How is the scene in Malaga growing?
It is growing very fast, especially with the addition of a new skatepark.
How important has chiropractic been to your riding in the last few years?
It changed my life. I was having back problems about six years ago and the last two were so bad that I thought I'd have to get surgery. But then this chiropractor in Malaga "Amaya" found the problem and life is so much better now.
What's the last epic spot you rode and what went down?
I would say the new Bonzai Hip that we built at the trails and I just did some whips and tables, but it feels so good that I can't think any trick that will feel better than those.
How has the surfing been over there? Are you getting barreled?
We don't get many waves here but it's been okay. I've been traveling to Portugal for some barrels. It's still super fun to be there for a couple seconds.
Tell us about your side job as a BMX team tour guide in Malaga.
In the last few years, it's been crazy busy. It's really cool for me and the riders here to experience that. Teams have been through include Fly Bikes, etnies, Fox, T-1, United, the UK FBM team, Vans and many more. It's always fun to see crazy riding going down in your town.
Any Fly Bikes trips coming up?
We have some plans up in the air. We will see.
Riders that you looked up to growing up?
There are many of them. And I like them for different reasons. I could never think of just one. I loved BMX and many people were doing a great job, including Mat Hoffman, Taj Mihelich, Joe Rich, Dave Freimuth, Jay Miron and many more.
Two riders you see that are pushing BMX style now?
Chase Hawk in the air and Nathan Williams on street.
Malaga Tour Guide
Top place for breakfast: Magic Toast in La Bobeda, in the town at the Montains Mijas
Coffee: Coffee or chocolate with churros in Casa Aranda
Most interesting tourist attraction: The Romans and Arabian ruins in the old town
Best Tapas: Las Garrafas and Pepa y Pepe
Best place for a drink: El Pimpi
Want more Ruben? Check the Retrospective gallery we posted in June with El Pollo Loco here.